Elder Randall K. and Sister Shelley W. Bennett
General Authority Seventy
Elder Randall K. Bennett was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 2, 2011. He served for four years in the Europe East Area Presidency in Moscow, Russia, and for three years previous to that as mission president of the Russia Samara Mission. He is currently serving as an Assistant Executive Director in the Priesthood and Family Department and assists in supervising the North America Northeast Area.
Elder Bennett received a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Alberta as well as a Master of Science degree in Orthodontics from Loma Linda University in California.
Elder Bennett served as a full-time missionary in the France Paris and France Toulouse Missions. He has served in various ward and stake callings as well as branch president at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
Randall Kay Bennett was born in Magrath, Alberta, Canada on June 17, 1955. He married Shelley Dianne Watchman in 1977 in the Cardston Alberta Temple. They are the parents of four children.
ELDER BENNETT: My dear brothers and sisters, my wife Shelley and I are deeply grateful and blessed to be with you today. We feel of your incredible spirits!
We really wish we could sit down with each of you personally and visit together. Knowing that wasn't possible, as we prayerfully prepared, we felt prompted to have you ask yourselves three eternally significant questions:
1. Who am I? We don't mean, who does the world say you are or should be, but who are you really and who were you before you were born?
2. What are my greatest desires? By that, we don't mean your desires about classes, school or even dating, but what were your greatest desires before you ever came to earth and what are they now?
3. What are my highest priorities? We don't mean your priorities about your chosen profession or career, but what were your highest priorities during your premortal life and what are they now?
Let's start with your identity—who you really are. I testify that each of you is a beloved spirit daughter or son of heavenly parents. You are the very "offspring" of your Heavenly Father.1 Each of you has a divine nature, identity, and destiny.2 Before being born on this earth, you grew and progressed and you learned to love eternal truth.3 You rejoiced in your Heavenly Father's plan, by which you could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately become like Him.4
Because of your faithfulness during your premortal life, you were specifically reserved for this time on earth. Here, you can continue to grow as you make correct decisions and learn from and repent of incorrect decisions. The eternal truths you loved and learned in your premortal life will help you overcome or endure any challenges you experience here.
We invite you to think often about and remember your divine nature, identity, and destiny. We invite you to study your patriarchal blessing. We promise you that understanding who you really are will be a key to having righteous desires and priorities, which make possible your return to your heavenly home.
Perhaps we can illustrate this best with some of our own experiences. I would like to invite my wife and beloved eternal companion Shelley to join me.
SISTER BENNETT: Please understand that my husband and I did not come from perfect families or ideal backgrounds. My mother was baptized three months after I was born, but my father never joined the Church. My father died when I was 17, and my beloved oldest brother died four years later. My husband's parents divorced when he was a young man. We both have siblings who are not active in the Church today.
Our own circumstances, and the false philosophies, values, and teachings of the world, can distract and blur our vision of who we really are. When we were your age, we tried to stay focused on who we really were. We decided not to be limited by our circumstances. We also established new traditions and patterns of gospel living for ourselves and our eternal family.
ELDER BENNETT: Regarding the second question, "What are my greatest desires?"5 I testify that among your greatest desires during your premortal life were returning to live with your Heavenly Father, being exalted, and becoming like Him. We invite you to make these your greatest desires now. We promise you that if you recognize and act according to your true, divine, and eternal self, you will be taking an essential step in returning to and becoming like your Heavenly Father.
SISTER BENNETT: When I was your age, I knew I was a beloved daughter of God, and my desires came from wanting to be true to that identity. I was attracted to my future husband because I could see that he was clearly guided by his identity as a son of God.
Yes, we each have difficult circumstances and challenges, but we are not our circumstances—or our challenges.6 We are beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
After my father passed away, I decided I wanted to serve a mission and become a nurse. I was preparing to serve a mission while enrolled in nursing school and decided one evening to attend an institute "ice cream social." While there, I noticed a seemingly shy returned missionary who had been home for only 24 hours. I felt compassion for him, filled a bowl with ice cream, approached him, and said, "Hi, I'm Shelley. Would you like some ice cream?"
ELDER BENNETT: When Shelley offered me that bowl of ice cream, I immediately fell in love—with the ice cream! I was, however, curious about this wonderfully confident, assertive, courageous, and beautiful young woman. Over the course of a few months, we became friends; in fact, we became best friends. I learned that Shelley knew who she really was, and her greatest desire was to return to live with her Heavenly Father.
As I studied the scriptures, pondered, and prayed, I realized that my best friend would make the very best eternal companion for me. After fasting, I knew that God approved of our being together forever. So I summoned the courage and asked Shelley to marry me. She smiled and then said, "NO—I promised God I would serve a mission."
I was crushed! How could I negotiate with that answer? Disappointed but not discouraged, I continued studying, praying, and fasting. Several weeks later, I again asked for her hand in marriage. This time she looked very touched, smiled, and after a long pause said, no—again. But I knew what I felt from the Spirit, and so after a few more weeks, I asked again. This time her answer was absolutely not!
SISTER BENNETT: Now, at no time was he overbearing or claiming to have received revelation for me. He was simply an undaunted returned missionary, and he knew I had to receive my own answer. So he actually did ask a fourth time, but this time he shared a general conference talk with me.
I smile today as I remember him showing me that talk, with the appropriate paragraph well highlighted! The message to me was that a young woman could choose to marry in the temple without feeling guilty about not serving a mission.
He also received a prompting I know was from the Holy Ghost and he followed it. He promised that if I would marry him, we would serve missions together after raising our family. With that promise, I said, "I'll think about it!"
As I read my scriptures and that talk, pondered, prayed, and fasted, I felt a sweet calm about accepting his proposal. I still had fears as our futures were very uncertain. I wasn't finished with university, and he had no education. He also had no job, no car, no home, and no money, and my mother thought he had no future! But faith ultimately overcame fear, and several days after his fourth proposal, I said yes.
I still felt determined to serve a mission, but marrying in the temple was a better decision—the best decision for me—and I trusted that we would eventually serve missions together. He has, by the way, kept that promise!
ELDER BENNETT: This, of course, is our story. Your stories will be different, but as you always remember who you truly are and follow the Spirit, you will be guided along a path tailored precisely for you.
Question 3: What are my highest priorities? Among your highest priorities before coming to earth were obeying your Heavenly Father, following Jesus Christ, and keeping His commandments. But you knew you would not always obey all His commandments and you would make mistakes. You knew your sins could forever separate you from God.7 However, you rejoiced when His Firstborn, Jehovah, volunteered to become your Savior and atone for your sins.
You shouted for joy8 knowing that, because of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement, you could repent, progress and eventually qualify for exaltation.
You knew that your greatest desires would be possible if you made obeying your Heavenly Father and following Jesus Christ your highest priorities.
Let's consider the life of the Savior and the pattern and path He invited us to follow.
Jesus Christ loved and trusted His Father in Heaven and had perfect faith in Him.
His faith in His Father gave Him strength and power to submit fully to His Father's will and live a perfectly obedient life.
To fully obey and show us the way, Jesus was baptized.
And the Holy Ghost descended upon Him.9 The Savior then perfectly persevered until the end of His earthly life. His life shows us the pattern, the covenant path that we must follow.10
This gospel path can be likened to a spiritual stairway leading forward and upward into more and more light. The steps on the stairway represent the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.11
To follow the Savior and come unto Him, we also need to exercise faith in our Heavenly Father and in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Our faith leads us to obey His commandments and to repent when we disobey. Repentance is a joyful process. As we become more spiritually minded and pay less heed to temptation, our hearts and minds are changed and we become more Christlike.
Repentance first leads to baptism and then to other ordinances and covenants.
Renewing our baptismal covenant each week through the ordinance of the sacrament makes it possible for us to have the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. If we have prepared for this ordinance with broken hearts and contrite spirits, because of and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost-as a purifier and sanctifier-can cleanse us and make possible a remission of our sins.
It is also the Holy Ghost who endows us with a greater measure of faith each time we repeat this process.12
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently gave an address here, entitled "Repeat Over Again... the Same Things as Before." He taught that "repetition is a vehicle through which the Holy Ghost can enlighten our minds, influence our hearts, and enlarge our understanding."13
As we repeat the Savior's pattern of living, the Holy Ghost will help us draw closer and closer to God. Continuously repeating these steps is what we describe as "enduring to the end."14
We climb the stairway by repeatedly exercising and acting in faith through patterns such as daily prayer and scripture study. We also continue repenting and keeping our covenants. These steps invite the Spirit, through whom we are endowed with even more faith and other spiritual gifts. Greater faith gives us the strength to continue to willingly obey and keep our covenants. Obediently keeping covenants invites the Spirit and gifts of even greater faith. As we repeat these steps, we spiritually draw closer to God.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently reminded us that we are led back to our Heavenly "Father through the ministry, Atonement, and grace of His Son, with the influence of the Holy Ghost guiding" us home.15
We must be born again and fundamentally changed to inherit the kingdom of God. Accepting and living these first principles and ordinances of the gospel is the process by which we are truly converted. It is during this process that our hearts are changed.16 By living this, the doctrine of Christ, repeatedly pressing forward and upward, we are spiritually born again.17
With each small step upward, we will encounter challenges and adversity. Remembering our true identity and our greatest desires and priorities helps us to rely more fully on Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Following Him will allow challenges and adversity to help us rather than hurt us. With this help, we grow as we endure and take each crucial step along His path.
SISTER BENNETT: If, however, we choose to follow the philosophies, teachings, or values of the world, we will fall and descend. If we don't stop our descent by taking small faith-filled steps upward again, we will descend into more and more darkness and misery, separating ourselves from God's influence.
Remember that Lucifer has power to influence us only if we give it to him.18
Your agency is one of Heavenly Father's greatest gifts to you.19 This is your journey. You decide when to move, how to move, and in which direction to move.
As we exercise faith and follow the Savior's path, our desires and priorities quietly change.20 As we willingly stay on His gospel path, we are increasingly filled with light, peace, and joy.21
ELDER BENNETT: As we relate this next experience, watch how following God's prophets, helped us establish priorities that would bless our lives forever.
After my best friend finally agreed to marry me, we bought an inexpensive engagement ring. But I felt unsettled—not about marrying but about what we had learned at a recent general conference. Several of the talks had reinforced the principles of self-reliance and preparedness. To obey the prophetic counsel, we needed to start acquiring a supply of food for emergencies. But we were both students—with very little money.
One day shortly after we got engaged, I felt prompted to sell the ring.... What? How was I supposed to ask Shelley to do that? I had justconvinced her to accept the ring. How would she feel about selling her ring to buy dried milk, wheat, and salt?
SISTER BENNETT: He didn't know it, but I had also felt impressed to sell the ring. What would he think if I suggested it? I'd already said no three times, followed by an "I'll think about it!"
But the prompting was unmistakable, so I brought it up a few days later. We were both surprised and relieved that we had felt the same impression. Miraculously, the jeweler's heart was softened, and he gave us a full refund for the ring. We then used the money to purchase our food storage.
To replace my ring, he made me a leather band that I wore for some time. It became a symbol of our decision to always follow the prophet and the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Now, my dear sisters, you don't need to leave here and sell your rings! Buying or wearing a ring isn't wrong. For us, however, because the Spirit had directed us to follow the prophet by selling my engagement ring, our choice was between keeping a ring or following the prophet. Making this decision helped us establish two patterns in our home from the very beginning: following the prophets and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
We learned to follow the apostles and prophets and not to worry about what others might think. By acting immediately and cheerfully on their invitations and counsel, we have always been blessed. Shortly after graduating from dental school and with two children, we ran completely out of money. Gratefully, we were able to live on the food storage we had purchased.
ELDER BENNETT: Because our goals shape our priorities, and our priorities determine our actions, and what we become, we must change our goals if they are not leading us to eternal life and to what we want to become. When I was 12, I had a goal to be a dentist in Hollywood. Twenty years later, Shelley and I were living in Hollywood, with an orthodontic office in Beverly Hills, California. Goal accomplished, right?
Well, we realized that our greatest desires, eternal life and exaltation, and our highest priorities—obeying our Heavenly Father and following Jesus Christ and His prophets—were at risk because of worldly values and all the material distractions that the world claimed would make us happy and fulfilled.
We realized that our greatest desires and highest priorities in eternity must also be our greatest desires and highest priorities now.Thus, Heavenly Father's plan for our family required us to move. We prayed for and were eventually blessed with another opportunity that was more ideal for our family.
SISTER BENNETT: Brothers and sisters, don't let any desire, plan, priority, or goal—even if it is an interesting academic or professional one—get in the way of your exaltation and eternal life.
Make righteous plans and then be willing to adjust them, knowing that Heavenly Father has the best plan for you. We invite you to follow the promptings of the Spirit and faithfully work as you wait upon the Lord, pressing forward in faith as His plan for you is revealed. We promise you that great joy will be found on your journey if you act in faith and patiently trust Him.
I love you, my dear brothers and sisters. You are incredible, and you are a great example to us of valiant, faithful sons and daughters of God. I bear my testimony that Heavenly Father lives, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's prophet. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
ELDER BENNETT: I promise you that living Apostles of the Lord, Jesus Christ are on the earth today. I promise that they are doing exactly what the Savior is directing them to do.22 I promise you that you can trust the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, no matter what the world, the Internet, or social media say.
I bear my witness that you have a Heavenly Father, and He loves you and is aware of you. I bear my witness that Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our great Exemplar. I bear my witness that our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith and that, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the gospel was restored to the earth. I promise you that God speaks today through His living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. These absolute truths I know and testify of, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. See Acts 17:28.2. See Romans 8:17.3. See Doctrine and Covenants 138:56.4. See 3 Nephi 12:48; "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."5. President Howard W. Hunter explained, "Our purpose in life is to find and follow the path that will lead us back to our heavenly home in the presence of the Father of us all" (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter , 56).6. See 2 Nephi 2:26.7. See Alma 42:9.8. See Job 38:7.9. See 2 Nephi 31:7-10.10. See 3 Nephi 27:27.11. See Articles of Faith 1:4.12. See 2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 27.13. David A. Bednar, "Repeat Over Again . . . the Same Things as Before" (address given at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Jan. 26, 2016).14. See 2 Nephi 31:15-16, 20.15. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Knowing the Godhead," Ensign, Jan. 2016, 34.16. See Mosiah 5:2.17. See Alma 5:14. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that being born again "doesn't happen in an instant, suddenly. That . . . is a process. Being born again is a gradual thing. . . . We are born again by degrees, and we are born again to added light and added knowledge and added desires for righteousness as we keep the commandments" ("Jesus Christ and Him Crucified," in Brigham Young University 1976 Speeches , 5).18. See James 4:7; 1 Nephi 22:26.19. See 2 Nephi 2:27.20. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained, "If we keep the commandments and press forward with steadfastness after baptism, then degree by degree and step by step we sanctify our souls until that glorious day when we're qualified to go where God and angels are" ("Jesus Christ and Him Crucified," 5).21. See Mosiah 2:41.22. See Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.