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.”
President Uchtdorf continues to list “Why anyone would join such a church,” but I would like to express to you why I joined such a church.
To understand MY OWN choice to “Join such a church” and to serve a full time mission, you have to understand a little bit about my past. I have an incredible family. I honestly consider myself best friends with each member of my family. I did not grow up actively involved in the LDS faith, nor did my family. My parents taught us to have open minds and left the decision of religion up to us. I have always been especially grateful that I had a choice, and still made the decision to be baptized as a Latter Day Saint of Jesus Christ.
After baptism I faded in and out of activity in the church. It took me a long time to cultivate my own testimony and faith. I now realize that it isn’t an “Aha” moment that makes faith. Faith is a muscle that has to be exercised or it will diminish and disappear. There is a parable in the Book of Mormon that relates faith to a mustard seed. I abused my poor mustard seed. I would plant it in dry soil by putting myself in less than nurturing circumstances. I would overwater it or leave it in the dark completely by believing the messages of the world that I was worthless. My seed of faith finally took root when two things happened: I was bathed in sunshine when I was sealed to my family for eternity in the temple. And I was planted in rich soil when I found a group of amazing friends.
One friend in particular comes to mind. We met in grade school, but didn’t become close friends until freshman year. Mitch and I are best friends to this day. It was his example and happy demeanor that made me really question my own direction. I made the decision to find a testimony of my very own. I wanted to be as sure of myself as Mitch was.
In our Sunday school class one day there was a scripture mentioned from the Pearl of Great Price in Joseph Smith- History. Joseph Smith is explaining what prompted him to pray in the grove. He speaks of the Epistle of James in the first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
I made a resolve to pray like Joseph Smith did. I was about the same age that Joseph Smith was when he saw God and Jesus Christ in the grove. I knelt in my room after church that day and asked Heavenly Father, “What should I do?” I didn’t see an angel or hear a voice. Something deep within me stirred and I knew my answer: “Come unto Christ.”
I have been striving everyday since then to show my love for Christ, and my gratitude for all he did for me. Every decision I’ve made since then has been based on my desire to “Come unto Christ”.
The doctrine and gospel of Christ has been restored to the earth. This message of hope and love is not meant to only benefit perfect people. You cannot walk through this life with the notion that you must be perfect for God to love you. It is exactly the opposite.
Christ atoned for each one of our sins, our trials, and our downfalls. I testify that He knelt, suffering, in the Garden of Gethsemane thinking of your name, of your face, and the trials you would face in this life. He saw your strengths and your flaws, and he loved you for all of it! Christ loves you more in one MOMENT than anyone could in a lifetime. The debt has been paid FOR YOU! Christ drank the bitter cup, hung on the cross, and broke the bands of death FOR YOU. His love does not only apply to those who fit the mold we have foolishly set for the perfect person. His love does not stop at your strengths, but envelopes every part of you. Even the parts you have kept hidden. He has felt your hurt and your desperation. All He asks is that you love Him in return. He has done all for you because he loves you and all He asks in return is that you come and follow him. All He asks of us is our best effort. He never demands perfection of us, his imperfect disciples.
Elder David A. Bednar said, “There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience FIRST.”
Brothers and Sisters, Turn to him. You are his. And He is yours. Yours to turn to ALWAYS.
Uchtdorf says, “I suppose the [LDS] Church would be perfect 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.
“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.”
We were NEVER meant to achieve perfection in this life. We were given our free agency and sent to earth for this very reason. We have the ability to choose and learn from our mistakes. Uchtdorf then says, “my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, FIRST DOUBT YOUR DOUBTS BEFORE YOU DOUBT YOUR FAITH. 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.”
Someone very near and dear to me has said again and again, “I don’t think I could live up to your standards.”
All the more reason to come! The Gospel of Jesus Christ 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. This gospel of hope and forgiveness has been restored for this very reason! The purpose of Christ’s atonement is to soothe our grieving souls and wash clean our faults.
In the book of John there is a beautiful story of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness.
“The scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Imagine that you are that woman. You are in Christ’s presence and he knows your transgressions, and the desires of your heart. I testify that He will forgive you as readily as this woman in the story.
I would like to bring your attention to the crowd in the story. We have all, at one point or another been apart of that crowd. We are so ready to judge, and condemn, when we have no right! Another person who I love very much has said, “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.”
Uchtdorf said this about so called hypocrites, “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 Christ like 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.”
We join the ranks of the crowd in this story when we condemn others. Instead let us lift one another up. We all have weaknesses, we all struggle, and we all have things we wish we could hide. So why not lighten other’s burdens and help them to overcome sin, rather than condemning them and leaving them to suffer in their heart ache.
I would like to challenge each one of you to look at others and yourself as Christ sees them. Think of that one person who just sets your teeth on edge, and try to see through Christ’s eyes. Christ loves that person more than you can even fathom. He sees their potential, and their true desires. He loves them unconditionally. If you can begin to see yourself and those around you through Christ’s eyes I guarantee that it will become easier to make it through your toughest days.
If you are tempted to give up: Stay a little longer. If this gospel has taught me anything, it’s that there is ALWAYS hope and that there is ALWAYS a place for everyone!
A literal translation of the formal Portuguese goodbye, Adios is “To God.” So everyone, ADIOS!
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, my savior and redeemer. Amen.