Area Leadership Message

The first truth

Elder Alan T. Phillips
Elder Elder Alan T. Phillips Area Seventy

Society tries to convince us that our identity and sense of worth is somehow tied to possessions, positions of influence, and the recognition of others. It encourages us to focus more on ‘having’ rather than ‘being’.¹ But this path often results in a lifetime of competing and comparing, leaving many of us anxious, unfulfilled, and increasingly isolated. Few escape the frequent and unrelenting messages that we are not enough or that we just don’t measure up.

This is a well-constructed misdirection.

The adversary understands the importance of identity and does not want us to discover or understand who we really are. But we are more than the world would have us believe. Perhaps more than we even imagine or realise ourselves.

The Saviour spent forty days and nights in the Judean desert, fasting, communicating with His Father, and preparing for his formal earthly mission.² It was at this time that the adversary tempted him, enticing Him to satisfy His physical appetite, pursue public recognition, and accept the riches of the world, or power among men.³ But greater than these three overarching temptations, James E. Talmage noted the more insidious temptation⁴ implied by the question 'If thou be the Son of God”. The adversary wanted Christ to doubt who He was.

Fortunately, He remained true and steadfast. Christ knew who He was. And this brought power, strength, purpose, and direction to His divine mission. We witness the majesty of this when he stands in the synagogue in Nazareth, reciting the prophet Esaias, and in clear and certain terms announces his divine sonship.⁵

The words ‘know thyself’ (or ‘gnothi seauton’ in Ancient Greek) are inscribed above the forecourt at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. This brief maxim, just two words long, has been discussed by Socrates, Plato, Emerson, Rousseau, and countless others throughout history. All acknowledge there is power in knowing who we are.

Like the Saviour, knowing who we truly are can help guide behaviour and provide strength and direction throughout our lives. It is why the adversary is so intent on having us doubt ourselves. Doubt is a powerful tool for him and a scourge throughout the world today. He does not want us to have strength, power, peace, and direction. He wants you and I to question our abilities, our decisions, our worth, and most especially, our identity. And on top of that, modern life can sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed, alone, forgotten, displaced, and at times, inadequate.

Jesus with children

But when we truly understand that we are a child of God, we start to see ourselves as He sees us. We see the good inside us and our true potential. And in doing so, we act and think differently. We judge less, forgive more freely, and we find ourselves more inclined to love, serve, lift, and comfort one another. Our primary focus switches from one of ‘having’ to one of ‘being’ and connecting with others. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that the first great truth in the universe is that God loves us. He loves us wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise.⁶

The first truth is powerful. God loves you and you are His child. This is part of your eternal identity. Nothing can change that. Elder Uchtdorf taught ‘you are sons and daughters of the greatest, most glorious being in the universe. He loves you with an infinite love.' ⁷

In a world drowning in doubt, do not question your worth or how Heavenly Father feels about you. Try and see beyond imperfections and self-doubts and recognise who you truly are. ⁸

One purpose of life is to know God and Jesus Christ. ⁹ But it is also important to ‘know yourself’ and to understand your divine identity.

Our most fundamental doctrine is that we are children of our Father in Heaven. This divine relationship is paramount. The New Testament is replete with teachings centred on recovering that which is lost and most precious to Him. The priority of the Father and the Son is clear. This is about you. You are His work and His glory. You are the source of His joy. And the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the greatest expression of Heavenly Father’s love for you. ¹⁰

The first great truth is that God loves you. You are His child and matter to Him. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


¹ Erich Fromm (1976) To Have or to Be. United States. Harper & Row
² Matthew 4:1-11
³ David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct. 1911, p. 59.
James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Chapter 10: In the Wilderness of Judea, 1915
Luke 4:18-21
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, The Greatest Possession, General Conference, October 2021
⁷ ⁸ Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Reflection in the Water, CES fireside at Brigham Young University, 1 November 2009
John 17:3
¹⁰ John 3:16