I wasn’t expecting this talk to be as comforting as it was.
I’ve always treasured attending church in downtown Salt Lake City. The buildings are historic, the mountains are beautiful, and occasionally an Apostle speaks in your sacrament meeting ... OK, the last item on that list has only happened once, but it was certainly an experience to remember. I mean, at the end of his talk, Elder Neil L. Andersen called us “the crème de la crème, the best of the best.” How could that not leave an impression? And while that moment of loving levity from an Apostle certainly brought a smile to my face, it was a simple statement he made earlier that has brought a lasting sense of joy to my sometimes-confused heart.
Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife were the scheduled speakers in a young single adult ward I attended downtown earlier this month. The bishop of the ward is the Andersen’s son-in-law, and I assume he had invited his in-laws to come speak to his congregation. Sister Andersen spoke first and began her message by sharing an experience she and her husband had many years ago while visiting Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife, Harriet, in their home in Germany prior to Elder Uchtdorf’s call as an Apostle. Sister Andersen described their home as being “idyllic”; a picturesque house surrounded by beautiful greenery. She also said that to this day, she and Elder Andersen still talk about how delicious the dinner was that the Uchtdorfs prepared. Elder Andersen piped up from his seat on the stand and said something like, “We are still waiting for an invitation back!” Soft laughter rippled across the congregation.
Then Sister Andersen told us she had been inspired when sometime after that visit, Elder and Sister Uchtdorf willingly left the idyllic home they’d established to commit themselves to a life of travel and full-time service for the Lord. She also invited us to prepare to respond to the calls that come in our lives.
When Elder Andersen stood to speak, he carried on the theme his wife had started. He explained that after they were married, they moved back to Sister Andersen’s hometown of Tampa, Florida, and intended to stay there for the rest of their lives. With a chuckle, Elder Andersen pointed out the obvious—that did not happen. They’ve lived and traveled all over the world to respond to various calls to serve the Lord. He then said something that, in a way I didn’t expect, brought comfort to a lingering concern of mine.
He told us, a small crowd of young single adults sitting on the first floor of Ensign College where our sacrament meeting was held, that the question we should be asking ourselves is, “When I am as old as Elder Andersen, will I still be a devoted believer?” He said that establishing a spiritual foundation on which to build over the coming decades will be what enables us to stand before God, confident that our mortality was what it was supposed to be.
“Confident that our mortality was what it was supposed to be.” That statement was like music to my ears and sent a rush of calm throughout my whole body.
I sometimes feel like life spins around me like a great whirlwind: career goals, relationship questions, endless streams of information, friends coming and going, church commitments, decisions about where to live and how to spend my time—it all swirls around me so fast that I can’t focus on anything long enough to even know if I’m on the right track. As my 20s tick by, the trajectory of my mortality seems to be picking up speed, and I often stress if I am going to fulfill my life’s mission, live to the fullest, reach my potential, live my best life, etc.
But as Elder Andersen continued to speak, I felt those stressors melting away. Sure, there are a lot of places to travel to and things to experience and choices to make, but when I am his age, there is really only one thing on my bucket list I want to be sure I can say I’ve done: stayed true to my commitment to Jesus Christ. To His teachings. To His church. To His love.
Maybe our world brimful of opportunities can sometimes lead us to miss the point. It’s not about how many countries I’ve walked on by the time I’m 70, how many risks I’ve taken, contests I’ve won, or even degrees I’ve earned. The point is to learn and love and stay focused on knowing Jesus Christ on an increasingly personal level. If I’ve done that, my mortality will be what it was supposed to be. Because when we keep our focus on Jesus Christ, He will “maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2). To me, that means that He leads us to the opportunities that allow us to develop and use our talents to become “a great benefit to his fellow beings” (Mosiah 8:18), and to meet the people and build the relationships that will make us want to “sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26).
After listening to Elder Andersen, this general conference quote from Elder Uchtdorf means more to me: “When we look at our lives and see a hundred things to do, we feel overwhelmed. When we see one thing—loving and serving God and His children, in a hundred different ways—then we can work on those things with joy.”
I know now that I can let myself breathe a bit as I try to figure out exactly what it means to “live my best life.” And as Elder Andersen reminded us that day at church, “It’s going to be a great world. You don’t need to worry about it.”
At the close of his message that morning, Elder Andersen told us that his afternoon assignment was to go home and work on his conference talk. So, I would just like to say, good luck on your conference talk, Elder Andersen. I’ll be listening. I’ll be listening now, and next year, and the next—all my life long.