Left-Handed Smoke Shifters (and raising our kids)

[Given by Becky Juchau at the Back-to-School Fireside for Parents, August 2016.]

It was the summer of 1984 and I was 16 years old. My sister was the Girls Camp Director at Camp William Penn, a camp in the Pocono mountains for underprivileged children from Philadelphia. One of her counselors needed to leave abruptly before the last 2-week session of camp and I was asked to fill in. A few days after my arrival, our 9- and 10-year-old group went on an overnighter which consisted of walking about a half a mile around the lake, heading into the woods, and camping in tents for the night instead of in the regular cabins. When we had almost arrived at our camp site, the head counselor of my unit asked me to return to the main camp for the forgotten left-handed smoke shifter.

Now, I’ve never been accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed and, remember, I was 16 and the new kid. So I dutifully headed back to camp to retrieve the left-handed smoke shifter from the nurse who’d reportedly had it last. Surprisingly, she didn’t have the left-handed smoke shifter, so she sent me to the Activities Director who sent me to my sister (Benedict Arnold) who sent me to the Head Cook, who finally took pity on me and told me that there was no such thing as a left-handed smoke shifter.

Well, I went to my cabin, laid down on my bunk, and pouted for a while; then returned to the camp site and took my revenge.  But that is a story for another day….

So I ask you:  What are the left-handed smoke shifters of our day? What are the views the world presents to us as fact and truth, which simply are not?

How about:

  • “Wealth = happiness.”
  • “If you’re busy, you must be important.”
  • “You CAN have it all.”
  • “You’re an unsuccessful parent if your children can’t read, multiply single-digit numbers, and play the hymns on the piano before they go to kindergarten.”

Tonight I’d like to address one left-handed smoke shifter that I feel we sometimes struggle with as parents in Highland, Utah. It’s the lie that our children need to be good at everything or the best at something; that our main job is to keep them busy, whatever the cost; and that being at home is somehow second best. (So I guess that’s actually three lies!) I think buying into these lies stems from the harmful practice of comparison and the sin of pride—both of which I’m sad to say, I know about first hand!

I know that all families are different. All children are different. Only you can know (with the help of the Holy Ghost) the best way to avoid the worldly lies that you might struggle with. But may I suggest six things we did in the Juchau home to combat those dreaded left-handed smoke shifters. And if you’re tempted to leave feeling depressed or inadequate; please don’t. These are just ideas that you’ll hopefully consider.

Before I begin, let’s be clear. We were not and are not the perfect parents. Here are some painful examples:

How about the time when our daughter Sarah stepped in a hole while playing night games and came home with a swollen toe and a big cut on the bottom of her foot. We looked at it, pronounced her fine, told her to “walk it off” and sent her to Girls State in Cedar City the next day. When she came home a few days later and we finally took her to the doctor (because her foot was oozing, bruised, and still swollen) we found that she had a broken toe and an infection in the cut.

Or the time our daughter Anne left on her mission and Chris and I both sent our emails to her old email account so she didn’t receive an email from either of her parents her first week.

Or the literally hundreds of times I’ve called one of our kids by the wrong name (mostly I got them mixed up with each other, but sometimes I called them Otis, who is the dog).

Or the times we disciplined out of anger.

Or the times I was impatient when one of our normally quiet kids felt like talking—usually around 11:00 at night.

Here’s a note our daughter wrote to us when she was in first grade (she was very precocious).



[“Derar family, I Do Not Want To Give you enethin Agen Bekols No Won Is Paeien Atenchen To Me.  From: Emily”]

I don’t know what’s more pathetic:  the content of this note or that I think it’s kind of funny.

Here’s another note (from Anne; with each letter glued onto the page separately, serial killer style).



Anne must have spent an hour painstakingly placing all of these stickers.  She probably had plenty of time after she was sent to her room for her misbehavior.  (Please don’t tell President Scoresby that we sent our kids to their rooms!)

We aren’t the perfect parents. We don’t have perfect children. We didn’t do the following six things perfectly. But we tried to do them (then tried again when we failed) and I think they were all important.

#1:  “Quiet time”

Every day before our kids went to school, and also in the summers when they were school age, our family spent one hour a day having quiet time. This was time to nap (for young children) or to quietly play by themselves or to read. Through this practice, our kids learned how to amuse themselves, they learned to be creative, and they learned to recognize that they could be quiet for a little part of each day. It wasn’t a punishment because we started it way before they knew normal people didn’t do it and we were consistent.

The world today has so little peace. Children need to learn how to be reflective and how to be by themselves (and not have to be entertained by electronics!). I found that we even got along better after an hour apart each day. And maybe children have a greater capacity for reverence at church when they spend some regular time being quiet at home.

I recognize that most of us are past the stage of very young children and an official “quiet time” isn’t an option, but I hope you’ll recognize the need for older children to have time to be quiet, too. At the Mt Timpanogos baptistry they encourage all patrons to spend a few moments in the quiet chapel even if the font is empty when they arrive. The temple presidency believes that our youth need time to sit quietly, read the scriptures, and think.  I agree.

Psalm 34: 14 says: “…seek peace, and pursue it.”

#2:  Family Home Evening

Prophets have been counseling us to have Family Home Evening since 1951—that’s longer than most of us have been alive! It’s hard, I get it! If it was easy, we’d all be perfect at it and we’re not.

My husband is an organized fellow. This is how he handled family home evening assignments for many years.


Every Sunday night this spreadsheet would appear magically on the refrigerator. We would look at our assignments for the following evening and prepare to varying degrees. Sometime after Chris became a bishop, the spreadsheets stopped appearing on the fridge. As time became more limited, our family home evenings became a lot more casual. Now, many years later, with just Adam at home, our family home evenings consist of prayer, a calendar review, a short gospel discussion, and scripture reading. Sometimes we go to a movie or we go bowling. Sometimes we go out for a treat.

Family home evening, no matter how messy or imperfect, teaches our families that we try to follow the prophet. It teaches our families that we have a desire to share testimony and gospel principles with them—that we don’t just rely on the church to instruct us. It shows a commitment to Heavenly Father and His plan.

#3:  Read with your children

Some of my most tender moments with my children have happened with a book open in front of us—whether it was snuggling with a toddler at bedtime or reading aloud all day the very first day a new Harry Potter book came out. We read to our children every day and our children read to us every day [when they were young]. Our kids received books as birthday and Christmas gifts.

Jim Trelease wrote The Read-Aloud Handbook which was the text used in my Teaching Reading class at BYU almost 30 years ago. He has since printed six additional editions which include lists of great, current read-aloud books. If you want to know why you should read with your kids, read his book. If you want the short answer, Mr. Trelease writes:

“Students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don’t read much, cannot get better at it.” (readaloud.org)

To those of you who can’t fit your children on your lap anymore, may I suggest setting an example for your older children of reading often and reading varied material. They will learn that you value learning and knowledge and education, all without one parental lecture!

Please read the scriptures together as a family. When you do, you send the message that Heavenly Father and His word are a priority in your family.

#4:  Eat dinner together

Those of you who know me well know that around 3:00 every afternoon I am shocked and dismayed to remember that I’m expected to feed people in a few hours. I frankly find it annoying that my family wants to eat every single night and that there should probably be some vegetables involved. Making dinner is not my strength. But I know family dinner time is important. Elder Oaks knows it’s important, too.  That’s why he encouraged it in his talk, “Good, Better, Best.”

Researchers have found it to be important, also. Dr Anne Fischel, a family therapist and professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School wrote in 2015,

“For school-age youngsters, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports, or doing art.  Other researchers reported a consistent association between family dinner frequency and teen academic performance.”

She also wrote:

“In most industrialized countries, families don’t farm together, play musical instruments, or stitch quilts on the porch. So dinner is the most reliable way for families to connect and find out what’s going on with each other…. Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them….” (Washington Post; January 12, 2015)

It doesn’t matter what you make for dinner or how well you make it. It does matter that you are spending time together talking and laughing and listening; that children are learning how to help with food preparation and clean-up. Which leads me to # 5.

#5:  Work together

Elder L. Tom Perry said:

“Teaching children the joy of honest labor is one of the greatest of all gifts you can bestow upon them.” (The Joy of Honest Labor; Oct 1986)

Every family handles work at home differently. Some parents ask their kids to make their beds and have a tidy room before they leave for school every day. Some parents have chore charts. Some parents pay their kids to do jobs and that’s how their kids earn spending money. I’m not sure that there is a right or wrong way to teach your children to work but I do think children should learn to work. They should have responsibilities that contribute to an organized and (at least, relatively) tidy house and yard.

The fundamental reason we’ve had a garden the past sixteen years is to give our kids a job in the summer—we certainly never had any intention of harvesting or actually eating what we grew!

There is nothing better than waking up on an early summer morning and looking out of your back window to see your child squatting over the vegetables, weeding before it gets too hot. Now, to be honest, that only happened a few times over the past sixteen years, but it did happen!

Teaching kids to work is difficult. It takes a lot of consistency and a lot of effort. I’m not suggesting our kids be our slaves and that we make their lives a drudgery, but I am suggesting that unless you were born a Kardashian, you need to learn to work. You need to learn to start and finish something, even if it’s not fun. You need to learn to clean up after yourself. You need to learn to contribute to a household.

Sometimes we think we can do a job better and more quickly than our kids so we just do it ourselves. I have been and still am guilty of this. Make sure you work with your children so you can show them how to get things done.

Sometimes we are quick to hire people to do work in our homes and yards that our children can and should learn to do. We think, “Our kids are too busy.” Or, “We can have more fun as a family if certain chores are hired out.” Or, “We have more money than time.” This is, of course, an individual family matter, as every family’s circumstances differ, but Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

“Work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity.” (Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel; April 1998)

#6: Carefully consider out of home activities

Sometimes we believe the left-handed smoke shifter that says, “If my kids aren’t really busy with lots of worthwhile activities, they’re sure to become overweight, unhealthy, unambitious, couch potatoes who play video games all day and eventually turn to a life of crime!” This kind of frantic and false thinking can come from many sources, all of which lead back to Satan. When deciding which activities are best for your children, ask yourself:

How will this activity benefit my child? Will it benefit our family?

Why do I want my child to participate in this activity?

Is it something I wish I’d gotten to do as a kid, but didn’t?

Am I trying to keep up with what my neighbors are doing?

If I’m completely honest, is my pride dictating this choice?

Will this extra activity cause stress in our home?

Are we already too busy for one more thing?

And maybe the most important questions:  Who do I want my child to be and will this activity help him or her become that?

Picking and choosing activities would be a worthwhile discussion in a family council. Be deliberate and careful in your choices and plan well so you have the time and energy to be a family!

Please understand that I’m not against every sports team and music lesson and dance class.  The Juchau children were involved in all of those (and more) worthwhile activities. Our kids need lots of opportunities to learn and grow outside of the home. I hope, though, that we can be excellent at “intentional parenting” as Elder Nelson has encouraged, and not just let our kids’ activities run our family lives.

Elder Oaks said:

“The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth.” (Good, Better, Best; Oct 2007)

And President Uchtdorf said:

“Strength comes not from frantic activity, but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light.… It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.” (Of Things That Matter Most; Oct 2010)

In Conclusion…

What divine things matter most to your family? How can you pay attention to them?

I’ve never been a big fan of the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, but a few years ago my daughter and I visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and I discovered something that made me appreciate him much more. In that beautiful museum, there is a room filled with Van Gogh’s art depicting houses and rooms and people at home. Apparently, he had a bit of a fascination with every day, ordinary home life. He liked to use the Dutch word, “menessesten,” translated into English as “people-nest.” He loved to think of, and paint, families cozy and safe in their homes the way birds find comfort and shelter in their nests. I, too, love that image. Home should be a place where our children find safety and refuge.

I like to think of our homes filled with reading and gospel learning. I like to think of them filled with fun family dinners and a little quiet time. I like to think of our children learning how to work at home. I like to think of us being “intentional parents” and helping our children choose wisely the activities that take us away from home and each other.

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said:

“All of us—women, men, youth, and children, single or married—can work at being homemakers. We should make our homes places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.” (Defenders of the Family Proclamation; April 2015)

I pray that this school year and always, we will find ways to make our homes holy.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Our Responsibility to the Poor

[Given by Chris Juchau at Stake Conference, April 2016.]

To begin my talk, let me ask you a personal question:  Are you rich?  I don’t mean in a spiritual sense and this is not a trick question.  I’m not talking about being rich in spiritual blessings or rich in the gospel.  I’m asking if you are financially “rich” in the usual sense of how people use that word.

In 2013, median household income in the world was a little under $10,000.  Median means that half were above the number and half were below the number.  If your household income in 2013 was above $10,000, you had higher income than most people in the world.

In 2014, median household income in the U.S. was $52,000 and in the state of Utah it was $56,000.

How much household income do you have to have to be in the top 1% in the world?  The number may surprise you.  It’s just $34,000.

If your household income is $60,000, you are in the top 5th of the top 1% in the world.  Your income is higher than 99.8% of the people on earth.

If your household income is $100,000, you are in the top 10% of the top 1% in the world.  Your income is higher than 99.9% of the people on earth.

With some, but few, exceptions, households in the Highland Utah South Stake are, by every reasonable comparative, rich.  I think it is important that we accept that fact and that our children understand just how true it is.  They may not need to know your exact income, but they need a proper perspective (not a “Highland vs. Alpine” perspective) on where their family sits on the worldwide scale of relative wealth.  We should not make the mistake of denying our “rich-ness” simply because we know some people—or know of some people—who have more than we do.  About 99% of the world is prepared to be thoroughly disgusted by you and me if we do.

The Savior had a number of things to say to and about rich people.  We should not make the mistake of assuming that He is speaking about someone else.  We should receive his comments about income and wealth with marked sobriety.

In Luke 16, we read the story of a rich man and a poor man:

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

What is the Savior saying here about rich people?  What reason is given for the rich man being in hell?  Is there a difference between that rich man and me?  I might make up one but the story doesn’t provide one.  What is the Lord saying about your and my responsibility toward the poor?

In Luke 12, the Savior speaks about a rich man through a parable, but introduces it with this warning:

15 …Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Then the parable goes like this:

16 …The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?

18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

We might hear that parable and excuse or comfort ourselves because of how it ends, thinking that we are, in fact, rich toward God.  Hopefully that is true!  But we must also ask ourselves what we are doing with our earthly treasures.

We probably all know the story of the widow’s mite.  The Savior is in the temple courtyard…

1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.

3 And he said, …this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:

4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury [“penury” means “destitution”] hath cast in all the living that she had.

When I pay my fast offerings and other donations, I think often of the phrase “all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God.”  That describes my situation and I know it.  I am left to think seriously about whether I give enough.

What do we do with our earthly riches?  Are we really “rich toward God”?  Will the Savior one day be able to say to you and me:

35 …I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me:

Lastly, we cannot forget the Savior’s conversation with the Rich Young Man:

18 …a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? [We need to remember when reading this story that that is the question it begins with!]

19 And Jesus said unto him…

20 Thou knowest the commandments…

21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.

22 [Then the Savior says to him], Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

All those passages are from the New Testament, but modern-day scripture is consistent with the New Testament.  The Book of Mormon reminds us over and over again to care for the poor and warns us against materialism.  As one very brief example, Alma asks in Alma, Chapter 5:  “Will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, in withholding your substance from them?”

The Doctrine and Covenants gives as the primary reason for “few” being “chosen” (even though many are called) that “their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world.”

The Doctrine and Covenants also teaches that “the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.”

In the Highland South Stake, nearly 90% of members pay a full tithe. We are a devoted and faithful people in many respects.

I want to challenge your thinking today regarding our responsibility to care for the poor.  I want to do so because I worry that we too easily overlook this exceptionally fundamental teaching of Christianity.  And then there is this quote from Brigham Young.  He said:

“The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth.”

What is sobering about those remarks is how consistent they are with the teachings of the Savior who also spoke of rich people going to hell.  And how prophetic they are with regard to you and me having become “the richest people on this earth.”

The Savior warned that “it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  We should not try to explain away His point too quickly as not meaning just exactly what He said.

So what to do?  Let us be men and women of action.  Here are three suggestions:

First, let us be certain that God, His kingdom, and His purposes are the most important things in our lives.  You’ll have to be introspective and willing to challenge yourself on this.  With regard to materiality, we should ask ourselves whether we are tearing down barns to build greater barns.  This would make a great topic for a family council.

Second, let us give of our means, meaning primarily our money, to the poor.  It would appear that in our stake, we give, on average, less than 1% of our income to Fast Offerings.  That doesn’t account for the financial support we provide to the poor or to humanitarian efforts through things other than Fast Offerings, but it’s an interesting point of reference.  What is the right amount to give?  Only you may decide that.  My life experience teaches me that the more I give, the more I receive.

Third and last, let us teach our children to support the poor.  Many youth in the stake have jobs.  Many youth and children receive allowances.  We are very diligent about teaching them to pay their tithing.  Teaching them to pay “of their abundance” to help the poor is perhaps something we could do more of.  Statistically speaking, it is very rare for a child or youth to pay fast offerings.  That should probably give us pause.

Brothers and Sisters, I believe that where much is given, much is required.  I also believe in the law of the harvest.  We reap what we sow.  We are judged as we judge.  God forgives as we forgive.  He blesses as we bless.  He is generous with us as we are generous.  “Cast thy bread upon the waters:  for thou shalt find it after many days.”

My Patriarchal Blessing admonishes me to bless others with the “abundance” with which I am blessed.  May I and each of us do so I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



After giving this talk, I received some requests for copies of my talk, “the one about how we’re all rich.”  I also heard references to our being rich.  I heard little or nothing about our need to help the poor.  It left me worried that the primary message of my talk was not effectively delivered.  The main message is not that we’re rich, but that we should be doing more to help the poor.  The fact that we are rich is simply intended to support that main point.  I shall try to communicate better next time!]

Joy in the Gospel

[Given by Chris Juchau at the Saturday evening adult session of Stake Conference April 2016.]

You have already been asked tonight to do a couple of things.  I’m going to ask you to do one more thing, which is to believe the gospel.  Let me tell you what I mean by that.

The word gospel very literally means “good news.”

In the first chapter of Mark, King James Version, the first words we hear from the Savior are these: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”  (In many other translations, those last words read: “repent and believe the good news.” In the New Century Version, the Savior says, “Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!” – exclamation point!)

We need to believe the good news.  We need to receive it and accept it.

What is the good news?  The good news is that, because of the Savior, His Atonement, and His Grace, we have a clear path back to our Father in Heaven.  But there is more.  The good news includes that this path is not impossible.  It does not require perfection in this life—nor does it require us to be constantly or even frequently weighed down and disheartened by our shortcomings and weaknesses.  The good news is that the one who will ultimately judge us is the same one who will be our advocate.  The good news is that to all of life’s other challenges we do not need to add the burdens of feeling inadequate, unworthy, and imperfect—even though we are all inadequate, and imperfect.  Rather, we are free to embrace the Good News and all the joy, positive anticipation, and buoyancy that comes from believing it.

Am I suggesting that we get a free pass and don’t have to do anything?  No, but between the lie that you don’t have to do anything and the lie that you have to do and be everything (which is the lie I’m trying to address here) is the truth that the Lord wants our commitment to our covenants and He wants our hearts to be humble, contrite, sincere, and—in a wonderful and liberating sense—broken.  He requires our striving, but He does not require our perfection right now and he does not require you to beat yourself up over your imperfection.  In fact, what He wants is for you to believe the gospel—the good news—which is that if you give him your sincere, broken heart and your sincere effort in support of your covenants (and surely many here today do), then He has you and your inadequacies and deficiencies covered.  His grace is sufficient.

Consider D&C 88:33.  I talk about this little verse a lot, but I don’t think I’ve been teaching it very effectively, so I’m going to keep trying.  In this verse, the Savior asks this question:

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him and he receive not the gift?  Behold, he rejoices no in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

Alternatively:  For what doth it profit a woman if a gift is bestowed upon her, and she receive not the gift?  Behold, she rejoices not in that which is given unto her, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

A gift has been and is being offered to you and me.  It is a gift of kindness, a gift of generosity, a gift of mercy, a gift of grace, a gift of perfect love.  Will we receive it?  Will you—do you—really believe the gospel, the good news?  Jesus once dined with a man named Zacchaeus and said to him:  “This day is salvation come to this house.”  Brothers and Sisters, salvation has come to your house.  The question is whether you will receive it.  And to fully receive it, you’re going to have to “drop your burden at His feet and bear a song away.”  You’re going to have to believe that He has taken your burden.  You will have to be yoked with Him, but His burden is light.

A few weeks ago, I decided to read Pilgrim’s Promise by John Bunyan, written in England in the 1600s.  It is an allegory about a man and his wife making the difficult journey to heaven.  At the beginning, the hero (his name is Christian) labors down the strait and narrow path with a heavy sack on his back that he is unable to shed.  But there comes a point early in his journey when he encounters the traditional symbol of the Savior: the cross; and when he comes to it and worships there, his burden miraculously falls from his back.  He is not done facing adversity.  He still faces difficulties and tests and he still has to avoid making major mistakes along the way, but from that point on, he does so without being crushed by the weight of his own imperfection.

It is a good allegory.  You and I will have plenty of adversity and difficulties and tests during our life.  Repentance from all of our sins should be constant, lifelong effort.  If we sin in particularly egregious ways, we should turn to the bishop for help right away and he will help.   But there is no need to face life’s many challenges with the unnecessary burden of our defects and petty sins weighing us down.

In our particularly intense LDS culture in Utah County, we are especially adept at setting aside the good news in favor of the bad news which we tend to heap upon ourselves which weakens the quality of our lives.  We do things like this:

  • We insist on comparing ourselves to others as a means of depressing ourselves almost like we’re addicted to it. In doing so, we reject the truth that the standard we really need to measure up to is the generous and compassionate one the Lord offers us.
  • We insist on appearing as near-perfect as we can toward each other. We over-stress about our outward physical and spiritual appearance and the appearance of our things and we keep our challenges so private that we create the destructive illusion of being virtually problem-free.  We sort of air-brush the outward appearance of our lives to others lest we will not be accepted.

Two siblings will sometimes play a game of “villain and victim.”  One pokes the other and then the other screams and whines about being poked.  Mom gets upset with one who then blames the other and everybody gets lots of attention from Mom.  We sometimes make a similar arrangement with each other.  I decide I’ll try to look perfect and you decide to believe that I’m perfect.  I get to enjoy the pride of someone thinking I’m really great and you get to enjoy the misery of feeling inadequate.  Like the two children, neither of us really ends up happy.

  • We take the concepts of self-reliance and works too far. Are you supposed to do all that you can do?  Of course.  Are you supposed to give it your all?  Of course.  Should good works accompany your faith?  Of course.  Will you save yourself?  No chance.    Will your good works save you?  No chance.  None.  It is good to humbly do our very best while living a religion of complete and total surrender to and reliance on Him who becomes the father of our rebirth.  We are totally dependent on Him and we ought to acknowledge that and rejoice in His perfect reliability.
  • We pound ourselves with what seems to be the literal meaning of Matthew 5:48: be ye therefore perfect.  I reject the apparent meaning of that verse as it stands alone.  Do I hope to become perfect one day like my Father in Heaven?  Do I think that I should strive to become perfect?    But I believe the rest of the doctrine taught in the scriptures about perfection, which includes the fact that He will perfect me; He will make me whole and complete as I yield my heart to Him.  I cannot insist on my own immediate perfection and, at the same time, receive the gift He offers me, which gift is the very means of letting go of the burden of my imperfection.
  • Lastly, we judge others too harshly. We forget that the gift that is offered to us is also offered to them and that the Lord sees things in their hearts we’ll never see.  He also knows all the background and backstory.  His bowels are filled with compassion and mercy toward the broken-hearted.  We would do well to judge enough to keep ourselves safe—and little or no more than that.

Why is it that so many good people trying so hard hesitate so much when asked the temple recommend question, “Do you feel worthy to enter the temple?”

I was so thrilled to hear Elder Bednar’s talk in this last General Conference.  Quite frequently I have asked people during interviews, “Is it possible that you could be sitting here with me right now just as clean as you were when you exited the waters of baptism?”  Many people seem confused by the question.  It does not seem to register that they could be spiritually clean today.  But how else could any of us possibly have a hope of making it to heaven, into which no unclean thing may enter?

Elder Bednar taught that it is possible, as King Benjamin taught, for us to always retain a remission of our sins.  You and I can be retaining a remission of our sins right now, at this very moment.  Surely a great many here are doing exactly that.  Yet too many are unwilling to believe the Good News and say with humble confidence, “Yes, I am worthy to enter the temple.”

Notice that in the same verse from King Benjamin which references “always retaining a remission of your sins,” these two phrases are also present:  1) “[ye shall] be filled with the love of God” and, 2) “ye shall always rejoice.”

We frequently teach that covenants are “two-way promises” and we correctly focus on the promises we make through covenants.  But the Lord would like us to receive the gift of his promises to us and He would like us to rejoice in them.  Remember, that when we receive the gift, He also rejoices “who is the giver of the gift.”

We have a tendency to under-appreciate the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  He will testify to us of the Savior.  He will help bring all things necessary to our remembrance.  He may provide warnings to us on occasion.  But He also sanctifies and cleanses us as we remember and follow the Savior.  Elder Bednar speaks of the Holy Ghost providing “ongoing cleansing” for us.  In that we may rejoice, indeed, and be of good cheer.

In the time I have spent outside of Utah County, mostly in Seattle, I have been close to two groups of notably religious people:  Mormons and Evangelical (or “born-again”) Christians.  I have long noticed and been impressed by the smiles and happiness of my born-again Christian friends.  I have also been impressed, though not in a particularly good way, by the muted happiness of so many Mormons.  Clearly, the true doctrine and restored authority within the LDS Church should make us the most Christian people on the earth.  And therefore nobody should have a greater understanding of the reasons why—or greater reasons to embrace the reasons why—we may feel so much joy inside ourselves that it is also outwardly noticeable.

Brothers and Sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of joy and peace.  That joy and peace isn’t just for disciples of the Savior who have no problems.  All disciples of the Savior have problems.  Some of them are very acute. You may have worries and struggles right now that are just eating you inside out.  You may be struggling with health, with employment and finances, with testimony, with addiction, with your marriage, with loneliness, discouragement or depression—or perhaps even more difficult, you may be intensely hurting for loved ones who are struggling with those things and whose struggles you cannot remove.

The good news of the gospel extends both to you and to the ones you love and worry about the most.

The message of the gospel includes hope and optimism and trust.  I join so many of you when I say that when we place our trust in God, when we lean on Him, when we receive His gift and drop our burden at His feet… in those moments our trust is well placed.  It is, in fact, perfectly placed.

May each of you feel a great sense of joy and life and hope and buoyancy through the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May you receive the gift with both humility and confidence in Him.  May we trust in Him who is perfectly trustworthy and who has your very best interests (and those of your loved ones) as His interests.

I testify that John the Baptist, Joseph Smith, President Monson and 14 other living special witnesses—and the Savior, Himself—have come bearing Good News.  I pray that you and I will believe it, accept it, and allow Him to lift the burden of our shortcomings and failures from off our backs.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Magnify through Ministering

[Given by Chris Juchau at Stake Priesthood Meeting, March 2016.]

Before getting to my primary topic tonight, brethren, a quick word about PPIs…

Please take advantage of PPIs.  One good reason to do so is to sustain your Elders Quorum presidency or High Priest Group leadership.  But there are other excellent reasons, including realizing the benefits that come both from being accountable to and sharing your goals, challenges, and concerns with a priesthood leader.

Men do too much alone.  If two men go to sit down in a row of three chairs, you can bet your mortgage that the empty seat will be the one between them.  Big mistake.  When life’s challenges come, too many men internalize things, limit or shut down communication, and turn themselves into a pressure cooker, which is neither necessary nor healthy.

You don’t have to tell your deepest darkest concerns to everyone.  And I don’t suggest you share personal things with someone who has not yet earned your trust.  But I have been on both ends of PPIs and I have very much appreciated the sincere love and concern I have felt from my priesthood leaders.  I have appreciated that their concern was genuine to the point, in some cases, that they would ask me questions about things that matter.  PPIs in my life, though too seldom throughout the years, have blessed me.

You young men leaders—and I’m not talking about young men advisors.  I mean those called as leaders: you young men who are in Deacons Quorum, Teachers Quorum, and Priests Quorum presidencies.  I think we old men and you young men share the same goal for you, which is that you become mature men and feel successful in your manhood.  I encourage you to work with your bishop or his counselors to establish PPIs in your Aaronic Priesthood quorums.

You need to learn while you are young about the spiritual and emotional benefits of having a support system in your life and not trying to do too much alone.  You need to learn what it is like to sit down with a peer, one on one, face to face, and care deeply about each other.

Now to my main topic…

Magnifying Through Ministering

When we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and are ordained to the office of Elder, we enter into the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.  Many of us received the Melchizedek Priesthood with only the vaguest idea of what the Oath and Covenant should mean to us.  That problem continues in the Church for too many young men and sometimes happens still in our stake, though it should never happen.  This is why we hold a class every winter for graduating seniors and other Melchizedek Priesthood candidates.

You boys—who will become men as you learn to focus more on the well-being of the people around you, starting, but not ending with your families—it is critical that you understand that receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood means committing to an entire lifetime (and beyond that) of devotion to God and to helping Him fulfill his purposes.  Two years on a mission is typically the beginning of that devotion, but it is not intended to drop off after your mission—nor ever in all eternity.

Whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods… and magnifying their calling…”

According to the Oath and Covenant, we are required, if we want to receive all the blessings Heavenly Father offers us, to “magnify our callings.”  To what calling is the Lord referring when He says that?  Broadly speaking, there are two:

First, as Alma indicates in the Book of Mormon, the Lord is referring to the priesthood itself.

As holders of the priesthood, we have specific duties.  One of those is to home teach.  There are duties related to the sacrament and other ordinances.  There are duties to provide service and help where needed.  There are specific duties to fulfill when we are asked to take specific assignments, whether that be a shift at the cannery or setting up chairs for a meeting or helping a family get moved in or out.

But we also have a broader but very critical duty to help everyone around us come to the Savior.  We do this when we care about the Savior and when we care about people enough to extend ourselves to them.  It is, in my opinion, part of true manhood.   We do it by setting an example, by teaching (sometimes formally, sometimes informally), and by taking sincere interest in individuals.

Secondly, when the Lord talks about magnifying our callings, he is surely also including specific callings that we receive and are sustained and set apart to perform.  That may mean being a counselor or secretary or teacher in a priesthood quorum.  It may mean teaching primary or Sunday School or being a clerk or family history consultant.

What, though, does it mean to magnify?  Well, we all know that to magnify means to enlarge.  I find it helpful to contrast the idea of magnifying with the idea of minimizing.

“Magnify” ≠ “Minimize”

To minimize a calling, we do as as much and as little as necessary.  We attend only the meetings we feel absolutely compelled to attend.  We may not actively drive the success of those meetings.  We lay low when volunteers are requested.  And we do no more than explicitly required.  We move when told to move—or we resist moving (either actively or passively) when we think the person asking us to move has exceeded his or her authority. Where we are talking about that our responsibility for helping others come to the Savior, as referred to a moment ago, specifics are often lacking; so if we are in minimize mode, we don’t reach out to people any more than we have to.

I want to focus for a few minutes on magnifying our callings as that relates to helping others coming to the Savior, sometimes referred to as missionary work or reactivation work, though we could also be talking about reaching out to fully active members.

There is a statement in the Handbook that marries two critical “M-words” (one of which is not “minimize”).  You’ll remember my talk tonight if you remember that it is about “M&Ms.”

In Chapter 2 of Handbook 2 (which is available to everyone online) “magnifying” is defined in large part as “ministering.”  We find this statement:

“Priesthood holders magnify their callings as they minister in their own homes and to other Saints…”

In connection with that statement is a description also that we should “lift, strengthen, and nurture” others.

We also read this:

“Like the Savior, [priesthood holders] seek to minister to individuals and families, both spiritually and temporally. They care about each person…. They reach out to new members, less-active members, and those who may be lonely or in need of comfort.”

Lastly, from the Handbook, we are given some very specific examples of what is included in “ministering.”  What does lifting, strengthening, and nurturing others look like more specifically?  Well, here are four strong suggestions, again from Handbook 2:

Ministering to others includes:

  • Remembering their names and becoming acquainted with them (Yikes! Please forgive me!)
  • Loving them without judging them. (We have a lot of work to do in this area.)
  • Watching over them and strengthening their faith “one by one,” as the Savior did. (Notice the emphasis on one-on-one.  Good things can happen in Sacrament Meetings and Sunday School classes, seminary classes, and priesthood quorum meetings. Good things can, should, and do happen in those settings, but there is something critical about one-on-one ministering where especially good things can result.  I think I will probably remember certain PPIs that I have had more than lessons I have been taught.)
  • Establishing sincere friendship with them and visiting them in their homes and elsewhere. (Note that there are important places to minister to others besides within the walls of the church.)

Now, brethren, I would like to show you a video…

[“Reach Out with Love“]

What did we see in that video?

We saw a young man begin to do something out of a sense of duty.  Though he was obedient, he didn’t initially see the person on the other end of his assignment.  He did not know that to magnify his assignment, he was going to have to minister to a person—a real person who has struggles and problems and who responds to love.  And he could not minister effectively (or really at all) without becoming sincere in his desire for friendship with Steve.

Was his heart in his response to the bishop at first?  Perhaps, but not to the extent that it would be after he began to know and care about Steve.  His first attempt was actually not that bad, but something was missing which appeared in the end.

What made his heart begin to change in this assignment?  Do you remember when he asked the bishop, in frustration, “What’s the point?”

The bishop responded by quoting Mormon’s teachings about charity.  Moroni admonished:

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ;“

The bishop then commented, “Some wounds are large and they take time to heal.”  Guillermo found out Steve was dealing with something real and something difficult— and then Steve switched in Guillermo’s mind from an assignment to a human being.

Guillermo’s heart changed.  Friendship became the primary issue—not trying to get somebody to do something.

Brethren, part of what we’re talking about tonight is about human connection and happiness.  It is hard to have happiness without real human connection—and that connection doesn’t have to come as much from someone loving us as it has to come from us loving someone.  When we do, reciprocation is not guaranteed, but is common.  Part of “living after the manner of happiness” is loving others—or, as the handbook calls it, “ministering,” which is what we have covenanted to do when we agreed to “magnify” our priesthood.

[“Magnify” = “Minister”]

This week I received a text from a friend of mine who is going through some very hard things and is struggling with herself.  Her text came unexpected in the middle of the day and it said, “One who loses his life shall find it?  How does one lose his life?”

One loses his life by becoming concerned for the welfare of others and by ministering to them.  In the perfect example, this is what the Savior did.  If we will follow his lead and attempt to the same—if we live up to the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood—we will receive all that He has.

With regard to some practicalities… There may be a million ways we can love and serve other people in various contexts.  Let me just throw out a few ideas…

If you are a home teacher, you can…

  • Drop in on your family between monthly visits—even if you’re 14 years old.
  • Find time—somewhere / anywhere—to spend a few extra minutes visiting with Dad about his family.
  • Do something socially with the family or share a Family Home Evening together or just a bowl of ice cream sometime.

If you are a Primary or Sunday School or Priesthood Quorum teacher, you can…

  • Stop by the home of a class member who couldn’t make it on Sunday.
  • Support a class member at one of their activities.
  • Send a note or drop by just to tell someone how much you enjoy their being in your class.

If you are husband, you can…

  • Do something nice for your wife that she would appreciate but wasn’t expecting.
  • Make sure you have a weekly date with her.
  • Be sure to spend quiet time with her just talking and listening and making sure you understand how she feels.

If you are a father, you can…

  • Spend one-on-one time with a child.
  • Make sure your child hears much more that you love them and are proud of them than they hear criticism.
  • Talk to your children about their goals and dreams.
  • Lead the family in prayer, scripture reading, and Family Home Evening.

If you are a son, you can…

  • Do something kind for your mother.
  • Tell your parents you love them and give them a hug.
  • Spend one-on-one time with a sibling—whether older or younger.

If you are teenage young man, you can…

  • Invite someone into your circle of friends who could use some friends and some validation.
  • Begin smiling and saying hello to people you don’t normally smile at or say hello to.
  • Make sure that you stand up for the absent when something judgmental or unkind is said about them.

If you are a neighbor, you can…

  • Share that bowl of ice cream or dinner together.
  • Provide a listening ear when times are tough.
  • Pitch in with the yard or whatever when help is needed.

Brethren, my message tonight is very simple.  There are two reasons we should magnify our callings:

  1. By virtue of the priesthood, we are under covenant to do so.
  2. It is one of the key ingredients in the recipe the Book of Mormon refers to as “the manner of happiness.”

Magnifying your calling means ministering to individuals.  It means:

  • getting to know them
  • judging them kindly or not at all—being inclusive and accepting
  • showing personal, sincere, one-on-one interest in them
  • becoming a real friend, regardless of their choices for or against the Church.

My invitation to you tonight is to magnify by ministering.  Magnify your calling in the priesthood by ministering to individuals and families around you.  My testimony is that you and they will feel edified and uplifted.

I am deeply grateful to those brothers and sisters who minister to me and to my family.  I feel their sincere love.  If you ask me who loves me and my family, I will place my home teacher, my High Priest Group Leader, and my Bishop at the top of the list—not alone, but among many dear friends who do not have a specific leadership responsibility for me or our family right now, but who are accepting, non-judging friends nevertheless and whose ministering to our family strengthens us.

May we go out of our way a little bit to establish friendships and communicate love and encouragement to those who are close to us or should be is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Missionary Work

[Given by Chris Juchau at Ward Conferences in the Highland Utah South Stake in early 2016]

We are delighted to be with you today.  We are enthused about the theme of this ward conference:  missionary work—and about the workshops that will follow this meeting.

I have six things I would like to say on the topic of missionary work.

First, your participation in missionary work will bless you and the generations of your family that come after you.  Missionary work, however you do it, will bless your life.

I had an amazing experience as a 14-year-old Teacher.  My father would very dutifully take me home teaching with him on the first Sunday of every month.  I did not look forward to going.  What a drag to go sit with a bunch of adults (mostly) and chit chat for a while and then have a lesson!  BO-RING!, I thought.  But something interesting happened.  I came to discover that my father really cared about those people.  And even more amazing to me, I came to discover that they cared about his caring about them.  That chit chat turned out to be a lot more meaningful than I’d realized.  Their worries were my father’s worries and the more mature I became, the more their worries became my worries, too.  I remember coming home from those home teaching visits feeling good, rewarded, and so happy that I had gone.  Over time, my distaste for going was replaced by my interest in those people.  In fact, the more I got to know them, the more interested I was.

I am certain that we cannot participate in any form of missionary work that involves caring about someone, even if it is “just” God and our duty to Him that we care about at first, without the experience strengthening and improving us.

Second, the more I consider the phrase “missionary work” and what it means, the broader my definition becomes.

Certainly, missionary work means, first and foremost, trying to share the gospel with those who are least familiar with it.  No matter how broad our definition becomes, we should not let a broader definition become an excuse for not reaching out to non-members.

Missionary work includes any effort to lift, encourage, cheer up, buoy up, or teach others.

There is missionary work to do at home, at school, at work; in our wards and out of our wards; over the internet, on an airplane, and during vacation; irrespective of people’s status with regard to church membership or activity level.

Every person around us needs love and friendship and encouragement.  We should seek to be non-judgmental and genuinely interested in those we don’t know well—or in those we do know well but judge harshly. I have found that dislike for a person is frequently born of ignorance for that person and his or her life experience—and that fondness for a person is hard to avoid, once given a little insight into who they really are.

Recently, my wife decided to make dinner and bring it to a family in our ward.  She decided to do that before she decided who she would bring it to.  She prayerfully chose a couple in our ward—one who seldom seems to be at the center of attention—called the sister, and told her she’d like to bring dinner over.  When she arrived, she was met by this wonderful, tearful sister who said she felt touched that somebody was thinking of her and her equally wonderful and quiet husband.  To my first point, you can easily guess who came home from that experience feeling touched and lifted, herself.

This was an act of missionary work.  Missionary work includes expressions of love and attempts to uplift and encourage anyone—regardless of the status of their faith or the outward expressions of their faith.  The Savior served people from many varied backgrounds and situations.

Third, I would like to encourage the adults in this ward to get onto senior missions—and I am not just talking to people in their 60s and 70s.  If you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s, you should be actively and anxiously making plans to serve a mission as soon as circumstances permit.

We send out a lot of young missionaries in this stake.  We consistently have more than 100 missionaries serving.  The demographics of our stake and the devotion of our members are such that we produce lots of wonderful and committed youth.

However.  We are all getting older.  And our children are getting older.  We are getting closer every day to empty-nester status and retirement.  This stake is a powerful engine for producing strong young missionaries who serve tremendously well around the world.  We must also be a stake that is is an engine for producing the seasoned senior talent that is so much needed around the world.

Recently I was told that the Church needs 10,000 senior couples and they have just 6,000.  Opportunities for senior couples are vast and varied and provide for great flexibility and even greater rewards. I know of two opportunities available right now.  We are, in fact, anxiously looking for two couples for specific missions.

One is needed in Oakland to serve in the mission office with President and Sister Frandsen for 12, 18, or 24 months.  It’s 40 hours of office work each week with evenings and weekends free.  This couple is very urgently needed for the smooth running of that mission and to keep from having to staff the office with younger missionaries.

Another opportunity is very different from that.  It is as a full-time “stay-at-home” couple serving within the boundaries of our stake—but this is a very real thing.  You wear a name badge.  You work 32 hours/week including morning study time, church meetings, and weekly temple service.  You will do meaningful work, but you do not have to be physically fit for Nepal or Cape Verde.  Ours is one of two stakes in Highland/Alpine/Cedar Hills which does not have this couple in place.

One of our sessions in the next couple of hours will be for people preparing to serve a mission as a senior couple.  There will be limited room in the classroom.  I hope it will be filled by adults of all ages.

I invite every person here today who is past the age of serving a mission as a young elder or sister to make real plans and undertake the appropriate preparations so that you will be able to contribute as a senior to the many missionary needs of the Church and of our brothers and sisters.

Fourth, I would like to point out that not all missionary efforts result in fairy-tale-like stories to be retold in the Ensign—though I would hesitate to call any missionary effort a failure.  Not all missionary efforts follow the perfect script.  But all sincere efforts to share the gospel and to lift others are good.

To wit… My family and I were on vacation in Southern California last year and I’d had a Book of Mormon in my bag for quite a while and I was anxious to give it out.  On the last day of our trip, we spent some time walking along a path near the ocean.  We were walking back toward our car and we passed an older couple sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean.  They looked contemplative and I imagined that they were considering something serious.  I debated within myself how they would receive an attempt from me to engage them.

I walked my family back to the car thinking about them and grabbed my Book of Mormon and headed back down the trail.  When I got there, I started a small conversation with them and soon invited them to take my Book of Mormon and discover its message.  The man was initially receptive and we chatted about an LDS person he had known many years ago, but the woman was immediately defensive and she got her way, so I kept my Book of Mormon and moved on, a bit disappointed.

Did anything good come of that little exchange?  Well, of course I like to think that a seed of some kind was planted or maybe stirred a little.  And I felt good that I’d made an effort.  Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that that couple will join the Church, but the fact is that some efforts will be positively received and some won’t.  No effort is wasted.

A year and a half ago, I knocked on the door of a man who I thought might not want to see me.  I felt a little nervous, unsure how he would receive me.  I didn’t have to introduce myself very much before he politely but very firmly told me to get lost.  I knew that arguing or asserting myself was unlikely to soften his heart at that moment, so I assured him he had my respect and I got off his doorstep.  A few months went by and we started to coincidentally find ourselves in the same place.  I made a point of saying hello when I would see him but not trying to do more than that.  To make a long story short, this man’s heart began to thaw a bit and hellos became small talk and small talk turned into real talk and he discovered that my interest was genuine and I discovered lots to like in him that just further developed the sincerity of my interest and so now we are friends and I can hopefully be a useful friend to him.

Fifth, missionary efforts do not need to be forced.  In simply being genuine and kind with each other—and looking for opportunities to share the gospel and to lift people we truly care about—good things will happen.

As a missionary in Germany, I got to work one Saturday with my best friend in the mission.  We were in his area and he had made an appointment with a man in his early twenties for about 10:00 that morning.  When we got to his flat, we rang and there was no answer.  We rang again and waited and were about to leave when we heard the sound of someone coming to the door.  This man, not much older than we were, had probably been partying the night before.  He’d obviously just gotten out of bed.  He was only wearing a pair of shorts and his hair was all over the place.  My friend asked if he remembered that we’d be coming.  He said yes and motioned for us to come in and sit down while he headed to the kitchen.  As he went in, he called out behind himself, “You guys want a beer?”

Now imagine you’re a full-time missionary.  How do you answer that question?  It’s obviously the perfect lead-in to the Word of Wisdom and a discussion about the evils of alcohol, the importance of spirituality, and how different we are as Mormons.  My mind quickly spun with where his question should take us.  But my friend, who, by many measures, including some that really matter, might be considered one of the most successful missionaries in our mission, simply answered, “This early?!”  To which the man replied, “Yes, of course, you’re right.”  And he came and joined us and heard a lesson about a Heavenly Father who loves him and a Savior who does, too.  I was struck that morning by the lesson I learned from my friend that missionary work is about people and relating to them and not about over-lecturing on the commandments.  It’s about what we have to offer more than it is about how we need to correct others.  Specific teachings can come at the right time.

Lastly, brothers and sisters, may I encourage you to embrace and adopt for yourself the very first sentence in “Preach My Gospel”?  The first sentence on page 1 says, “[My purpose is] to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

I don’t believe that statement applies exclusively to full-time missionaries at all.  I believe it your purpose and my purpose as common covenant disciples.  It also encompasses our responsibility as members of the Tribe of Ephraim.

The Savior compared you and me to “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”  Salt that has lost its savor is, to soften the language of Matthew 5 a little, not as useful as it could be.

You and I must accept our role as “salt” in its full meaning and we need a sense of urgency.  We must wake up in the morning and think and pray and and say to ourselves, “Who can I lift today?  Who can I encourage?  How can I share the light of Christ and the message of the Savior with someone?”

We must accept that our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ.  We must be “other-minded.”

I close with my testimony that the restored gospel yields fruits of happiness and that missionary work blesses us and yields some very specific fruits of happiness.  It will bless your life and it will bless your family.

May we constantly look for ways to act in the interest of others.  May we desire and seek love for them.  And may we exercise enough faith to show that love and share goodness with them.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.