Sharla Goettl is the author of “Spiritual Resilience: Leading Our Youth to Go and Do,” available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She has been a youth leader almost every year of her adult life. Sharla currently serves as a stake Young Woman president in Oregon. Download for free, “The Goal Maker”, her personalized questionnaire on how to determine your next best step in strengthening your faith in Christ. Sharla also did a podcast with Leading Saints on how she leads as a Stake Young Women President.
I want to tell you a story about my grandfather. His name was George Michael Papa. He grew up in a family of Croatian bootleggers, making beer for Al Capone’s mob syndicate during the years of Prohibition when alcohol was illegal. His family and close-knit neighbors were all staunchly Catholic.
When he was a young man, and drunk, he met a young woman who wanted nothing to do with him. Beatrice was intelligent, educated, and graceful. She was also the only daughter of the stake president of all northern Arizona within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
With Humility Comes Change
George’s first introduction to Christ’s church was when she literally threw missionary pamphlets in his face and slammed the door. He picked them up off the ground and he read them. He came back the next week, sober and clean shaven, and asked to learn more about what was written in the pamphlets.
Being baptized into Christ’s church started a long process of changing his heart to listen for Christ’s direction and to follow it. George was a mighty proud man. He was imperfect, stubborn, and intimidating, but with God he was humble and submissive. He expected to receive direction and he did not hesitate to do exactly what was asked of him.
Eventually, George and his wife, Beatrice, were ready to be sealed in the temple. They needed to catch a bus from Snowflake, AZ to Salt Lake City. They packed their bags and waited by the bus stop carrying their new baby boy, but the bus never came. They waited and they waited, and it never came. Finally Beatrice took their baby home, but George said he wanted to wait “just to see what would happen.”
A few minutes later a car drove up. The woman inside asked if he knew the bus was not going to come that day.
“Yes, ma’am”, he said. Then she asked if he would like to buy her car, for the exact amount of money he had in his pocket. Within ten minutes George was on the road to the temple. After all, the car already had a full tank of gas. He traveled to the temple to make covenants he knew he could keep. This experience gave him the confidence to know that he could trust Christ and His process.
Each Generation Improves
My grandfather did not need to be close to perfection to teach his five rowdy sons that Christ is real and active in our lives. He did not need to figure out the solution to every problem to find progress. He taught his sons that they needed to humbly ask Christ what to do one day at a time and follow through with the direction they would be given. Christ’s ways are more effective than we can see ourselves.
Our children, yours and mine, are part of an important generation. Stronger testimonies, the gathering of Israel and more frequent revelations are all part of their future. It will not happen simply because Christ will decide to grant us more blessings. It will happen because younger generations will improve upon our actions, testimonies, and strategies.
Youth will have better answers to tough spiritual riddles. They will more fully answer Christ’s directions. As their parents, we need to support them the best way we can. We can do this by focusing on humility and following the personal direction we are given by Christ.
It is in homes throughout this world that a child will learn they are loved by Christ on a personal level. It is by watching their father and mother that they will learn how to react to an unexpected problem. It is from their parents that they will learn Christ has a significant amount of help available to them while in their imperfection.
We Do Not Need to Fear
We do not need to fear being alone because we can be baptized into a church fellowship. We do not need to fear losing our way because we can be guided by the Holy Ghost, the prophet, and the scriptures. We do not need to fear making mistakes because we can repent continually through the sacrament. We do not need to fear being good enough because of our destiny described during the temple initiatory ceremony. We do not need to fear death because of the plan of salvation and the knowledge given during the endowment ordinance. We do not need to fear our insignificance because of the power given to men and women in priesthood ordinations and temple ceremonies.
As we consider all the tasks that are on our shoulders, and the added burden of the current pandemic, please remember that Christ has a plan for you and your family. Christ would not have taken time from in-person church instruction if at-home learning would be less effective. Christ would not have inspired Come, Follow Me, Children and Youth, For the Strength of Youth or the adjustment to ministering, missionary ages, and the Church Handbook, if these changes were not the best way to lead families from where they are right now to where He needs them to be.
The Next Step
We have every reason to be spiritually resilient. Christ has given us the tools to take, at least, the next small step toward better integrating the guidance He has given us. These adjustments will lead to the answers you have been praying for on behalf of your family. Every family is in a different situation, but the Holy Ghost can lead you to the next step which is right for you. A drunken sailor and son of a bootlegger does not have more access to the Holy Ghost than you do.
George was who his family needed him to be. You can be exactly who your family needs you to be.