In my church members are asked to speak and are given a topic to speak about. I recently spoke based off of President Utchdorf’s talk a Yearning for Home . If you would like a teaching help (activity and coloring page) for this talk you can find it here. The following are my thoughts about my own understanding of the journey home based off of this talk.
A Yearning for Home
As you read the following passage, please try to picture it in your mind.
“Nearly a century ago, a family from Oregon was vacationing in Indiana over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) away—when they lost their beloved dog, Bobbie. The frantic family searched for the dog everywhere but to no avail. Bobbie could not be found.
Heartbroken, they made the trip home, each mile taking them farther away from their cherished pet.
Six months later, the family was stunned to find Bobbie on their doorstep in Oregon. “Mangy, scrawny, feet worn to the bone—[he] appeared to have walked the entire distance … by himself.” Bobbie’s story captured the imagination of people across the United States, and he became known as Bobbie the Wonder Dog.
Bobbie is not the only animal who has baffled scientists with an amazing sense of direction and instinct for home. Some monarch butterfly populations migrate 3,000 miles (4,800 km) each year to climes better suited for their survival. Leatherback turtles travel across the Pacific Ocean from Indonesia to the coasts of California. Humpback whales swim from the cold waters of the North and South Poles toward the equator and back. Perhaps even more incredibly, the arctic tern flies from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica and back every year, some 60,000 miles (97,000 km).
When scientists study this fascinating behavior, they ask questions such as “How do they know where to go?” and “How does each successive generation learn this behavior?” and “How is this possible when I can’t even convince myself to get off the couch to go get a beverage from the fridge?”
Okay, so maybe I can’t really call myself scientists. But that last one is an important question.
So in your mind what did you imagine?
What were the things you focused on?
For me it was the positive. It was the outcome. It was magic of the achievement that I focused on. This dog. This family pet, was able to figure out what even the most sophisticated computers still manage to get wrong. Directions home. I thought of the butterfly. So effortlessly fluttering from flower to flower. A British voice overlaid speaking of the majestic capabilities of such a simple creature. Cool, I thought, we have a home and we know how to get there.
I read the rest of the talk and I felt like pulling a Jacob from the scriptures. Abruptly ending after saying: “what can I say more?” I seriously didn’t have any clue as to how to pull a talk out of this talk. But as so often happens, as I thought about the talk though out the week, I realized that there was a lot to this talk that was beneath the surface.
There were four things that stood out to me on closer inspection.
- The thing that we so easily skip over, the hard journey before the happy ending. Jump to this Section.
- What it is about home that we should want to travel to Oregon instead of just getting used to the flatness and humidity of Indiana. Jump to this Section.
- What our internal GPS is like. Jump to this Section.
How in God’s eternal plan of going home, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter. Jump to this Section.
Go back with me to what you imagined versus the harsh unedited reality.
Did you immediately think of that dog’s journey?
Was there a focus on the fact that he showed up mangy, scrawny, feet worn to the bone? Did any of you envision the searing thirst or hunger so strong all you want to do is sleep? What about envisioning blood on his paws where his feet were so worn that he couldn’t stand putting one foot in front of the other? Did you wonder if he doubted himself as he walked if he was going the right way? Or if he encountered a friendly face along the way that encouraged him just to abandon hopes of getting to HIS home and just settle for something else?
I didn’t at first. But as I thought about it during the week this was brought to my mind.
In my own life there was a time where I went to the Lord about a decision and the response I got back was:
If you make this sacrifice you will be blessed
I immediately fixated on the last part totally skipping over the first part. Then later, as I was bemoaning how hard it was I was reminded that indeed there was something that came before the blessings and there was a reason why it came first in the sentence.
Life is full of sacrifices. Life is full of hard work and disappointments and obstacles and mountains. This isn’t just to make us suffer. It is because that is the price we have to pay to get home. But no matter what we are given in life, no matter what circumstances we are given or what state or country or ocean we are dropped off in to make our way back from, God is always an active and willing aid for us. We are never alone as we make our way.
The Trust Trip
Many years ago, I was traveling from Oregon back to school in Utah (Brigham Young University) after Christmas break. I was traveling by myself and in the middle of Idaho my car started having troubles. I was able to get to an auto store, and with my dad on the phone I was able to buy a new alternator and replace it. It was very difficult for me to do outside in the cold with limited tools but I did it. I went to start the car but it wouldn’t even turn over.
The auto part store was about to close. No progress forward could be made home and I could not continue working on the car that night. Knowing what was wrong now was beyond me. I was stuck. One of the men at the auto store offered to take me home and let me stay with him for the night. I felt by the Holy Ghost that it was okay and after some precautions were taken I took off with him in his car.
As we drove further and further into the country I began to doubt that everything was okay. As we drove deeper into the blackness I mentally prepared myself to wake up in a bath of ice missing a kidney or two. We got to the house and rather than a sham operating room awaiting us it was just his lovely wife with lovely hospitality. I left the house the next morning with all organs intact. When I got back to the car to investigate what the new problem was, I found that it randomly started up right away with no indication of the previous night’s betrayal.
The Second Trust Trip
A week later (different car) my roommates and I head to their house a couple hours away. In the middle of nowhere the car starts having problems. A snowbank consumes the car as I try to pull to the shoulder. Without a tow truck or a college football team the snowbank now owns the car. While trying to figure out what to do, a car pulls up that is headed towards where we live so I send one roommate back with them.
The next vehicle that comes by asks us where we are trying to go. Miraculously they are headed the same place as us! I feel no warning. I feel no danger. Just a calmness.
Entering a small town the two men in the pickup ask if they can stop for a smoke. We agree. They turn up the radio before exiting. Despite my best efforts no texts can escape my phone. They get back in and proceed on. After a few moments they inform us they will be stopping at the next rest stop.
Just before the exit a cop pulls them over. Long story shorter: It ends up that these men have long and violent rap sheets including violent crimes against women. The police confiscate several handguns stashed in the truck and on them. One man has an outstanding warrant. We practically beg the police to let us ride with them to the next closest town.
Riding with the policeman, he tells us how he saw the pickup in town and had a bad feeling come over him. He followed the truck until it went even just a mile over the speed limit so he could pull it over. He commented that due to these men’s previous convictions most likely they were planning something nefarious for us.
That night safe in my roommates’ house I found that I could not sleep. Being the crav maga obsessed, native over-inflated ego of a rugby player that I was at the time I didn’t understand why I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t that shook up over it. When the spirit prompted me out to the living room, I heeded it. There on the table were scriptures laying oh so innocently in the corner. I picked it up and flipped it open.
I don’t remember the scripture I opened to but I will forever remember the message. It basically said, do you not know in who’s hands you are? In that moment God was showing me many truths.
Red to White
First, that I really was a lot less powerless in this world than I thought. Things would happen that even though I was strong and fierce and smart would wipe me off of my feet. Things that could and would happen that could have the potential to ruin me. In this instance God directed things to save me from the path of evil men. But even if he had not or if in the future I was not spared, he still would have been there with me. By my side, to strengthen me and help me find a way to turn scarlet red to snow white.
Secondly, as I wondered why God had not warned me that these men were dangerous I learned that while God’s ways are not our ways they
usually are always the best way. It was a blizzard of a night, in the middle of nowhere, no cellphone service and very little to no traffic on the road. One car to get one roommate back to Provo and the other to get us to a point where we could be assisted to another point where we were able to phone their dad to come get us.
God used these evil men to bless us.
What would have been our other option? Waiting in the car all night and freezing? Walking miles in the snow? Another car hitting us by accident? God is wiser than we are. He has our best interest in mind. God is not some Greek God hurling lightning bolts at us for pleasure or when his emotions get out of control. He is a loving, guiding father who loves us and wants us to be successful in our journey.
Muck and Toil
This journey will be hard. Don’t expect to roll up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes with your hair expertly done and with long perfectly manicured fingernails. Like wonderful Sister Hinckley, expect and be perfectly content that you arrive with a filthy minivan that says wash me, with peanut butter smudged on your shirt and pants, dirt under your nails, sticky kisses on your cheek and the tears of a friend on your shoulder.
Life is hard. That is one of its primary characteristics. Jenkins Lloyd Jones said this about marriage but it applies to life in general:
“There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young [men and women] who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and [beautiful] wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear the divorce courts are jammed. …
“Anyone who imagines that bliss [in marriage] is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed.
“[The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. …
“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.”
This dog endured 6 months of agony.
Yet we still celebrate today those few moments of sheer joy and jubilation when that dog appeared on the front stoop.
Value of Home
That brings me to point or thought number 2: What is it about home that is so enticing that we would want to make that journey? Why not settle for a little less? A little less effort, a little further from our true home?
When I thought about this I thought about myself, what is home to me? Home is:
Familiarity. Love. Being understood. Comfort. Laughter and joy.
It is a brother who makes a joke and a sister who laughs hysterically. He feels satisfaction that someone gets his joke so well when others don’t. It is a wife and a husband dancing together with their precious little son. Watching him as he grins at the new thrill of being twirled around by his father in his mother’s arms. It is having a hard day and having someone who holds you while you cry for a while until the sadness leaves you.
President Utchdof says:
“God knows your every thought, your sorrows, and your greatest hopes. God knows the many times you have sought Him. The many times you have felt limitless joy. The many times you have wept in loneliness. The many times you have felt helpless, confused, or angry.
Yet, no matter your history—if you have faltered, failed, feel broken, bitter, betrayed, or beaten—know that you are not alone. God still calls to you.
The Savior extends His hand to you. And, as He did to those fishermen who stood long ago on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, with infinite love He speaks to you: “Come, follow me.”
If you will hear Him, He will speak to you this very day.”
That is home. Perfect understanding. Perfect love and patience. Always an open door. Truly everything good that we associate with home is found in its perfect form in God the Father and Jesus Christ.
When I’m feeling down and not so motivated I will occasionally say to myself, you know I don’t really care about the crowns and the glories and the creating my own worlds. Maybe the Celestial Kingdom isn’t really where I belong. I’ll be happier just putting around as a single angel in one of the lower kingdoms. This might be true, but the point isn’t to have the crowns and the glories and the status.
It is being close to a perfect being that feels a billion times better than what coming home to a good home feels like.
Our Internal GPS
So yes, home is worth the 600,000 mile journey. But then how do we do it? How do we navigate the murky waters of uncertainty? How do we not doubt that we can find our way or that we actually had a home prior to this? What is our GPS system? This is President Utchdorf again:
“I believe that every man, woman, and child has felt the call of heaven at some point in his or her life. Deep within us is a longing to somehow reach past the veil and embrace Heavenly Parents we once knew and cherished. Some might suppress this yearning and deaden their souls to its call. But those who do not quench this light within themselves can embark on an incredible journey-a wondrous migration toward heavenly climes.”
Trusting Imperfect Guides
Another thing that my two subsequent car trips taught me was that I we need trust in this life to get back home. There will be some people who we shouldn’t trust but there are many people we should trust. Everyone currently on earth is imperfect. They will say some things that are not true. They might in some things lead you off the path. Whether they are evil men or misguided men. If you listen and obey Heavenly Father this will not matter. He will make it for your good. If we are tuned into the spirit and have ultimate trust in Heavenly Father then he will show us the truth of all things.
How can we make sure God guides us not ourselves? We need to make sure that daily we are re-calibrating our spiritual GPS by reading our scriptures and praying.
The Calibration Challenge
Let me extend a challenge to you. Tomorrow morning when you rise take note of how you feel. Then say a prayer and read scriptures.
As you read your scriptures take notice and examine yourself again. Do you feel any differently?
I believe that you will find that something small will grow within your breast. The home fire’s glow. For I feel the Holy Ghost that way, not necessarily as a burning but like the radiant warmth of a large pile of glowing embers. The warmth of a heavenly hug that, when on the right path continues to expand until it fills my entire being.
It’s like God is playing hot and cold with us. When I am doing that which is right for me, he is yelling hot burning hot!
Our Role in the Lives of Others
Now to the last part that I would like to talk about. How in God’s eternal plan of going home, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter. In President Utchdorf’s talk he pointed out that:
“On your journey back to Heavenly Father you will soon realize that this journey isn’t just about focusing on your own life. No, this path inevitably leads you to become a blessing in the lives of God’s other children—your brothers and sisters.”
When I first read the talk I basically took away the message of you need to help others get back home. The enthusiastic part of myself gets a little too enthusiastic and I decide that I’m going to organize a party and lead the way and yell at people if they step off the path. At times we want to strap that dog onto the top of the car and go across the country. But we will be mocked for this and it isn’t the right way.
We live in a fallen world. We are all lost. It is part of the plan. Satan planned to strap us onto the top of the car without a choice to go home or not. Each of us will journey in our own way. Yes, we are in families and congregations and are brought into other people’s sphere of influence so they can teach us, guide us, call over to us, and invite us back to the path. But each of us have our own journey that we have to endure and figure out in order to get home.
President Nelson has lovingly reminded us that:
“The development of faith in the Lord is an individual matter. Repentance is also an individual matter. Only as an individual can one be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Each of us is born individually; likewise, each of us is “born again” individually. Salvation is an individual matter.”
All too often I forget this. Because of my great love for those around me and my perceived ability to know the path at times, okay more often than not, I find myself looking back to see if everyone is on the path, yelling at them not to get to close to the edge. Insisting that I am going the right way and no don’t go over there by the lake. If someone goes off the path that I love, I might have a tendency to get mad, irritated, frustrated, or sit on the trail weeping and waiting for them to return.
God is the Guide
The truth is, is that this is not a part of God’s plan. He is the ultimate trail guide, not me, not you. Expect that even though we are in families, our paths at times will diverge. We are not all exactly the same and we might need different things. God might bring you close to the sea to view the ocean as you travel while he might bring me through the mountains. Let it be in God’s hands and don’t try to force others to take your exact same path.
What is our role then in helping others along the way? It is to be a tool in God’s hands. President Utchdorf says:
“How encouraging it is to know, though we are imperfect, if our hearts are turned to God, He will be generous and kind and use us for His purposes.
Those who love and serve God and fellowmen and humbly and actively participate in His work will see wondrous things happen in their lives and in the lives of those they love.”
We must first turn our hearts to God, then be humble and actively participating in listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost show us what we must do. Not what others must do but what we must do.
Looking to God
Recently it came to my attention that someone who I loved was doing something that in my opinion was very wrong. My initial reaction was to call them out on it and basically demand that they stop doing that thing. The Holy Ghost told me No. Me = flabbergasted.
What? No? But look what they are doing?? That is crazy! I need to stop them.
The spirit told me No again.
So I listened.
The spirit reminded me of a time when I was doing something that I shouldn’t be doing. Then the spirit asked me: if someone confronted you and told you that they knew what you were doing. Told you that you needed to stop. What would your response be? I admitted that it wouldn’t be much good and most likely I would be mad at that person and push them further away from me.
The spirit nodded, probably, I felt like he nodded. And then He whispered to me, Love them. Love them so much. Fill your relationship with love and acceptance and the good feelings that come with righteous behavior. That conversation totally changed me. I wanted to push them back on the trail. God showed me that I would be a better tool for him if I did what he wanted me to do instead.
“The Lord has established The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help you in this commitment to serve God and fellowmen. Its purpose is to encourage, teach, lift, and inspire. This wonderful Church provides opportunities for you to exercise compassion, reach out to others, and renew and keep sacred covenants. It is designed to bless your life and improve your home, community, and nation.”
How to do it right
“Individual progression is fostered in the family, which is “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service. There a husband is to love his wife, a wife is to love her husband, and parents and children are to love one another.
How can we best teach our children? The Lord has given us specific instruction:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.”
When a child needs correction, you might ask yourself, “What can I say or do that would persuade him or her to choose a better way?” When giving necessary correction, do it quietly, privately, lovingly, and not publicly. If a rebuke is required, show an increase of love promptly so that seeds of resentment may not remain. To be persuasive, your love must be sincere and your teachings based on divine doctrine and correct principles.
Do not try to control your children. Instead, listen to them, help them to learn the gospel, inspire them, and lead them toward eternal life. You are God’s agents in the care of children He has entrusted to you. Let His divine influence remain in your hearts as you teach and persuade.””
This is how we should take our path. May we all be kinder, braver, longer sufferinger, and endure to the end well.