Blown Away

Dear Will:

As I think I may have mentioned, my daughter Bryn left her job dancing for American Ballet Theatre and enrolled in BYU in the Fall. Although at first it was tough to adjust to Provo after having lived in Manhattan the previous year, Bryn took immediately to college. She loved the chance to explore new ideas, meet new people, and feel like a “normal” person for a change.

So imagine our surprise when she called us in October to inform us that she had accepted a job dancing for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in Wellington. Starting December 9. A week before the end of the semester.

Suddenly we found ourselves trying to help Bryn figure out how to move to New Zealand without failing all of her classes. Our efforts were mostly ham-handed, I must confess, as we found it difficult—the amazing Internet notwithstanding—to determine where to live, how to set up a bank account, what to do about phone services . . . the list goes on.

Fortunately, we have a missionary serving here in our ward who is from (it’s hard to believe) Wellington, New Zealand. When he heard our exciting, perplexing news, he immediately contacted his family and just like that we had new friends in Wellington offering to help.

(An aside: If you haven’t met Elder Savaiinaea yet, you should make a point to do so. He is one of the most charming, delightful missionaries to come through here in a long time.)

It then occurred to me that there is a family from New Zealand right here in our stake. I barely know him, but I approached Brother Broederlow and told him of Bryn’s impending move. Within 24 hours he had reached out to friends in Wellington, and before I knew it I was corresponding with Leonie and Peter Brunt, who offered to pick Bryn up at the airport, show her around the city, and give her a place to stay until she figured out a permanent solution.

(Another aside: When Bryn departed LAX, we knew we’d have no way of corresponding with her until she reached out to us somehow. So you can imagine how I felt when I got an email from Leonie which included a picture of her and Bryn on a windy hill in Wellington. I wanted to cry. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to know that someone was watching out for my little girl.)

Bryn and Leonie

I could go on for pages about the Brunts, but they are not the only people who have reached out to Bryn since she arrived in Wellington. When Christmas arrived, Bryn spent several days living with the Charions, a wonderful family she met at the ward there. While it was very hard for us to be apart on Christmas, it was wonderful to see Bryn gathered in by another loving family as she tries to find her place in a strange land far from home.

As I contemplate all of this, I am blown away. No one could reasonably expect this sort of selfless regard by strangers for my daughter’s welfare. The Savaiinaeas and Brunts and Charions are simply living the principles that Jesus taught—and as a consequence their actions cause me to feel His love as well. After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said, “Go, and do thou likewise.” Which is precisely what they have done.

What a blessing it is to associate with people such as this: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my brothers and sisters in a very real sense.

PW

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Cold Turkey

Dear Will:

It’s Thanksgiving morning. My mother is coming over, and so are my in-laws, which is another way of saying that Dana has been worrying and stressing and prepping for this day for weeks. The last couple of days have produced a frenzy of kitchen activity, most of which I have observed from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy. But today I got my chance to step up and actually contribute. Today my lone assignment was to get the bird into the oven. Not wanting to screw up this seemingly simple assignment, I even got up extra early to be sure I got it right—only to discover (about an hour too late) that I had miscalculated the roasting time. So I did great, except that it looks like the main course will be done long before any of the guests arrive.

“What’s the best way to get people to quit coming to your house for Thanksgiving? Cold turkey.”

As perhaps you can sense, we’re really no good at this stuff. We have one or two go-to menus that we haul out pretty much every time we have guests over, but we decided we really can’t get away with grilled salmon or marinated flank steak today. So Dana has turned to The Pioneer Woman for counsel, plotting and scheming a menu so elaborate that we’ll still be eating leftovers when next Thanksgiving rolls around.

Speaking of Thanksgiving rolls, every year my sister Nancy makes these potato rolls (key ingredient: lots and lots of butter) that have become my boys’ favorite item on the menu. Which is great except that Nancy won’t be joining us this year. Now Dana’s no idiot: She knows that it would foolhardy to take someone else’s signature recipe and try to replicate the magic, so she declared early on that this year there would be (alas) no potato rolls. Her husband protested but to no avail. When Luke and Seth protested, however, loudly and vehemently and with technique refined over many years of practiced manipulation, mother-love trumped reason and Dana agreed to give it a go.

So there’s hope, in other words—hope that the day will not be a total fiasco after all. What I’m banking on is that Dana’s rolls will be so tasty that maybe everyone will forget about the cold, desiccated turkey. Or at least the boys will—which will at least solve the potential whining problem. That’s certainly something to be thankful for, right?

For that, and for the pie. I think if you performed some sort of anthropological reconstruction of the history of Thanksgiving, or ran some kind of elaborate regression analysis of data going back to Chief Massasoit himself, you would come to the indisputable conclusion that pie is the central reason that the Thanksgiving tradition persists. To me, you could pretty much skip the stuffing and potatoes and parsnips (especially the parsnips), ditch the cranberry sauce and the other 12 dishes we are somehow supposed to get onto a single plate, and still have a hugely successful feast. Rolls for dinner. Pie for dessert. Nap on sofa. Who could ask for anything more?

That, in any case, is my official position on the day in which the turkey went into the oven three hours too soon. We’re all here for the pie anyway, right everybody? Right? Who’s with me?

PW

Given with You in Mind

Dear Will:

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my family room watching the Church’s semi-annual General Conference on television. As I listened to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, I thought of you. I scribbled a note to myself in the margin of my notebook that said, in essence, “Send a copy of this to Will.”

This is me following through on that prompting. I acknowledge that this is longer than my usual monthly note, so if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, you might want to consider watching the video instead (it’s less than 20 minutes long). You can find it here.

I hope you’ll read or watch this talk. I truly believe it was given with you in mind.

PW

 

Come, Join with Us

BY PRESIDENT DIETER F. UCHTDORF
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church

Once there was a man who dreamed that he was in a great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered. He realized that each religion had much that seemed desirable and worthy.

He met a nice couple who represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked, “What do you require of your members?”

We do not require anything,” they replied. “But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.”

The couple went on to explain about Church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare and humanitarian service, and assignments to teach.

“Do you pay your people for all the work they do?” the man asked.

“Oh, no,” the couple explained. “They offer their time freely.”

“Also,” the couple continued, “every six months our Church members spend a weekend attending or watching 10 hours of general conference.”

“Ten hours of people giving talks?” the man wondered.

“What about your weekly church services? How long are they?”

“Three hours, every Sunday!”

“Oh, my,” the man said. “Do members of your church actually do what you have said?”

“That and more. We haven’t even mentioned family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early-morning seminary, maintaining Church buildings, and of course there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.”

The man said, “Now I’m confused. Why would anyone want to join such a church?”

The couple smiled and said, “We thought you would never ask.”

Why Would Anyone Join Such a Church?

At a time when many churches throughout the world are experiencing significant decreases in numbers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—though small in comparison with many others—is one of the fastest growing churches in the world. As of September 2013 the Church has more than 15 million members around the world.

There are many reasons for this, but may I offer a few?

The Savior’s Church

First, this Church was restored in our day by Jesus Christ Himself. Here you will find the authority to act in His name—to baptize for the remission of sins, to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, and to seal on earth and in heaven.1

Those who join this Church love the Savior Jesus Christ and they wish to follow Him. They rejoice in the knowledge that God speaks to mankind again. When they receive sacred priesthood ordinances and make covenants with God, they can feel His power in their lives.2 When they enter the holy temple, they sense they are in His presence. When they read the holy scriptures3 and live the teachings of His prophets, they grow closer to the Savior they love so much.

An Active Faith

Another reason is because the Church provides opportunities for doing good.

Believing in God is commendable, but most people want to do more than listen to inspirational sermons or dream of their mansions above.4 They want to put their faith into practice. They want to roll up their sleeves and become engaged in this great cause.

And that is what happens when they join with us—they have many opportunities to transform their talents, compassion, and time into good works. Because we have no paid local clergy in our worldwide congregations, our members perform the work of ministry themselves. They are called by inspiration. Sometimes we volunteer; sometimes we are “volunteered.” We see assignments not as burdens but as opportunities to fulfill covenants we gladly make to serve God and His children.

Treasured Blessings

A third reason why people join the Church is because walking the path of discipleship leads to precious blessings.

We see baptism as the starting point in our journey of discipleship. Our daily walk with Jesus Christ leads to peace and purpose in this life and profound joy and eternal salvation in the world to come.

Those who follow this path faithfully avoid many of the pitfalls, sorrows, and regrets of life.

The poor in spirit and honest of heart find great treasures of knowledge here.

Those who suffer or grieve find healing here.

Those burdened with sin find forgiveness, liberty, and rest.

To Those Who Leave

The search for truth has led millions of people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, there are some who leave the Church they once loved.

One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”

Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.

Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.

In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.5

Unanswered Questions

Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.

Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.

Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.

Mistakes of Imperfect People

And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”6

This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.

It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the councils and workings of this Church, I bear solemn witness that no decision of significance affecting this Church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking the inspiration, guidance, and approbation of our Eternal Father. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course or fail to fulfill its divine destiny.

There Is Room for You

To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.

Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.

Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”

It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.7

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.8 We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some might say, “I just don’t fit in with you people in the Church.

If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.

Some might say, “I don’t think I could live up to your standards.

All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.

Some might say, “I know a member of your Church who is a hypocrite. I could never join a church that had someone like him as a member.

If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be. But we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and the tendency to sin. With our heart and soul we yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!

Come, Join with Us!

In spite of our human imperfections, I am confident that you will find among the members of this Church many of the finest souls this world has to offer. The Church of Jesus Christ seems to attract the kind and the caring, the honest and the industrious.

If you expect to find perfect people here, you will be disappointed. But if you seek the pure doctrine of Christ, the word of God “which healeth the wounded soul,”9 and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, then here you will find them. In this age of waning faith—in this age when so many feel distanced from heaven’s embrace—here you will find a people who yearn to know and draw closer to their Savior by serving God and fellowmen, just like you. Come, join with us!

Will Ye Also Go Away?

I am reminded of a time in the Savior’s life when many abandoned Him.10 Jesus asked His twelve disciples:

“Will ye also go away?

“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”11

There are times when we have to answer the same question. Will we also go away? Or will we, like Peter, hold fast to the words of eternal life?

If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: Come, join with us!

If you have left the faith you once embraced: Come back again. Join with us!

If you are tempted to give up: Stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.

I plead with all who hear or read these words: Come, join with us. Come heed the call of the gentle Christ. Take up your cross and follow Him.12

Come, join with us! For here you will find what is precious beyond price.

I testify that here you will find the words of eternal life, the promise of blessed redemption, and the pathway to peace and happiness.

I earnestly pray that your own search for truth will impress upon your heart the desire to come and join with us. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Notes

  1. See Matthew 16:18–19Helaman 10:7
  2. See Doctrine and Covenants 84:20.
  3. See 2 Nephi 33:10.
  4. See “Have I Done Any Good?” Hymns, no. 223.
  5. See Articles of Faith 1:11.
  6. Title page of the Book of Mormon; see Mormon 8:17.
  7. See Hebrews 11:1Alma 32:21.
  8. See F. F. Bosworth, Christ the Healer (1924), 23.
  9. Jacob 2:8.
  10. See John 6:66.
  11. John 6:67–68.
  12. See Matthew 16:24.