Over the last few weeks since General Conference, I've seen a LOT of negative feedback about Elder Ballard's talk, "Where Will You Go?" I chose this talk this week because I really loved this talk and I want to invite people to read it, watch it, or listen to it again. I've linked it a few times throughout this post but you can also find it here.
In his talk, Elder Ballard referenced a conversation between the Savior and one of His Apostles (Peter). The conversation went a little like this:
(I'm paraphrasing, by the way)
Christ: Peter, will you leave me too?
Peter: where will I go? You have the words of eternal life. And I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.
Elder Ballard then posed Peter's question to all of us: where will you go?
I don't want to start a debate, but I really don't think Elder Ballard wrote his talk intending to hurt anyone's feelings or to offend.
As I reread Elder Ballard's talk, this quote really hit me, especially in reference to the responses that I read:
"My heartfelt plea is that we will encourage, accept, understand, and love those who are struggling with their faith. We must never neglect any of our brothers and sisters. We are all at different places on the path, and we need to minister to one another accordingly.
Just as we should open our arms in a spirit of welcoming new converts, so too should we embrace and support those who have questions and are faltering in their faith."
Something that I think a lot of people forget is that ministering doesn't always mean preaching verbally. We can minister to people by simply loving them or listening to them. I love the quote by Saint Francis of Assisi that I first heard from President Uchtdorf, "Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words."
Guys, I know that feelings can get hurt at church. I KNOW. I know that there are some things that are hard to understand. I know that people sometimes aren't the best at being good humans-- even church leaders.
But like Elder Ballard said, "In that moment, when others focused on what they could not accept, the Apostles chose to focus on what they did believe and know, and as a result, they remained with Christ." And like Elder Holland said in the April 2013 General Conference, "In moments of fear or troubling times, hold to the ground that you have already won, even if that ground is limited." (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland; Lord, I Believe; April 2013)
For me, that ground is eternal families. For some reason, I have zero doubts that families can be together forever. I know that with my whole being. I will know that and hope that for my entire life on earth and I will work for that because my family is everything to me. I want them all with me in Heaven. I want to have every single one of them at family dinner every Sunday for the rest of eternity. And I fully believe that will be a thing. And because I know that one thing, I trust the rest. Side note: I believe and know other things too, but when those doubts and fears hit, I always, always, always fall back on eternal families. And here's the kicker: I know people who, eternal families is where their doubts and fears lie. Their parents are divorced or they weren't married in the temple or their sibling fell away from the church, so what then for them??
I'll be real. I don't know. But I do know that God has a plan that includes every single one of us. And a HUGE part of that plan includes the freedom to choose. I won't force you to stay, (and neither will God) but like Elder Ballard, I will ask you where you're going to go. I won't hate you if you leave, but I will continue to share my love for the gospel with you. I won't criticize you for having doubts, questions, fears, or disbelief but I will try my best to help you understand, strengthen your faith and belief in the Savior.
If you choose to leave, I will be sad. Because the gospel truly has brought ME the most peace during the trials in my life. And I want everyone to have those blessings! I have been incredibly blessed and honestly wouldn't have 100% of the blessings I have in my life without it. I really do attribute all of the blessings in my life to God and His hand in my life. Neither of which I would have without a knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Choosing to leave the gospel and/or church is your choice and I will respect that; "We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God, according to the dictates of our own conscience and all allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." - Joseph Smith Jr. [Article of Faith Number 11]
I love you and care for you. And I sincerely hope that if any of you ever have questions or concerns about the gospel, that you will ask. I would be so happy to answer or help you find answers to your questions and concerns.