Sunday, December 09, 2018

Stake Conference Talk December 2018

I am Diana Sagers. I am married to Geoff and we live in the 18th Ward with our 5 awesome kids. Our oldest daughter, Becca, was sent in a body that does a great job protecting her spirit and, due to Cerebral Palsy and a hand full of other big words, provides us with countless opportunities to serve one of the Lord’s elect and elite spirits. She has two younger sisters and two younger brothers who also have incredible spirits and I am proud to be their mom. We work hard and laugh hard together.

I am very humbled to VERY recently been called to serve you as the Stake Relief Society President. Heavenly Father has blessed me so much already and I am in constant awe of all of the little every day miracles He is sprinkling in my path. My amazing counselors, Tiffany and Juli and our secretary Mikale and I have been taking our vitamins and we’re excited to serve and get to know you. Please come up and say hi and introduce yourself! Heavenly Father has drastically been renovating and remodeling my comfort zone so that there’s room for everyone!

Have you ever had someone trust you enough to share their beliefs with you? I’m not talking about a loud one-upping kind of discussion. I’m talking about a quiet back and forth sharing heart to heart talk about things that are really important. We create opportunities like this all the time in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We divide up into classes after Sacrament meeting to participate in discussions led by our friends and neighbors who spent the week in prayer and preparation. We visit each other in our homes and bear testimony and practice charity often. We reach out when we haven't seen someone in a while and we make sure they’re okay and show an outpouring of love. We live and share our beliefs on a regular, daily basis with each other. So, why do we get so nervous about sharing the gospel with people we know and love? We do it, literally, all the time.

But, Sister Sagers, you’re thinking,  it’s easy when I’m sure they want to know. They showed up to Church, we were in the same place at the same time and it was simple.

We are commanded to love one another and each of our conversion stories is different; Whether we grew up being comfortable on our knees asking for confirmation of tough questions, or we grew up with a different faith that our family participated in or whether the first time we really prayed and felt things and began building a strong belief system was when we were an adult, the result is the same; we come to Church together and continue building our testimonies. We continue to seek and we support each other in the finding.

I have been talking to friends who grew up in other faiths and have been asking a lot of questions. I haven’t served a mission yet and I love to hear people’s stories. No one's story is the same. Some start with questions and a discontent with the way things are and a desire for something new and more complete. Some left religions they had grown up in and have found new joy in Family History work among other things. Many start with friends who shine a light and draw people in. Some bring people with them; one reactivated his wife as he encouraged her to live her beliefs more fully the more he learned about it. All of them found peace, love, familiarity and joy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The things they were learning felt right and made everything click and fit together. I listened to one friend describe going to a different Church as a young girl and not feeling as connected as she does now to both people and doctrines. All of the people I talked with needed to feel loved and needed in the gospel. All of them needed friends to sit by and leaders and teachers that cared.

When families and individuals come back or join us in the gospel, they touch every auxiliary in the ward. We all ought to make sure our arms are wide open on Sunday and every other day to receive them. Never should we think, “I’m sure someone else has got it well in hand” without next thinking, “I’d love to get to know them, too” and reaching out our hand as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever been the that person who reached out, but why should they have all the fun? As soon as you learn about someone that is coming back or investigating the Church, find out more, offer your help.

What did that look like for me? When my friend’s 9 year old son started taking the missionary discussions, I asked if I could come and bring my sons who were 8 and 10 at the time. I took turns taking them individually. They were able to share their testimony and stretch and grow along with their friend. It was a wonderful experience that I highly recommend!

In the handbook we read that “All members of the Church, particularly new members, need three things to help them stay active in the Church: friendship, opportunities to mature and serve in the Church and nourishing by the word of God.” ALL members of the Church need these three things no matter how many years or hours it has been since our baptism.

First, Friendship. All of us need to see friendly, smiling faces of friends we love catching up with each week. It’s been a while for a lot of us since we have had to find a place at a cafeteria table, but we all remember the feeling. Let’s make sure we say hi to new faces in the pews and in the Sunday School, Relief Society and Elder’s Quorum chairs. We all need to feel loved and needed. The handbook also encourages us that “investigators are more likely to be baptized and confirmed and remain active when they have close friendships with Church members.” Pretty soon, they’re coming because they want to be there because it feels so great and the first anxiety we had about sharing the gospel has taken care of itself. We are there in the same place with a desire to do what’s right. By small and simple things like sharing hymn books, whispering the scripture coordinates, engaging them in the current discussion and a text or call when you didn’t see them at Church has people coming back for more.

Second, we all need significant opportunities for growth in the gospel. We need to learn together in environments where we are encouraged to ask questions and discuss the answers. As often as possible, we need to be in the appropriate classes filling up our spiritual buckets. I’m very, very excited about the “Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families”. Our old familiar testimonies are going to grow and stretch in new and exciting ways! I can hardly wait! We need to make sure we ask and answer lots of questions whenever the opportunity arrives. I am here because of countless testimonies shared through comments during Relief Society lessons, Young Women discussions, Primary teachers who cared, and other tiny boosts of faith that really add up!

My favorite word in the third thing that we all need is “nourish.” We need nourishing by the word of God. In plants, as in us, nourishment cannot happen once in a while. It is a state of mindfulness. It is listening to a prompting and it is truly sharing our hearts with each other as we share testimony, lift and encourage others along our way. I am most happy when my spirit is well-nourished and I am able to nourish others along my way. Heavenly Father creates so many opportunities to connect with each other. We serve in callings together and participate in discussions together and meet together to find the best ways to serve each other.

During a Ward Council meeting, you may feel prompted about someone specific in your organization that could be encouraged to help reach out to someone in a family your ward is fellowshipping. A Primary teacher may see the person behind the name on his role with no check marks and make an effort to get to know him and his family. A whole family could be led to minister and fellowship a family with a similar dynamic. Spread the love, encourage charity and love to flourish in your ward and our stake and help out the brothers and sisters who hands are so often raised to volunteer. Their hearts are huge and they will love all the help they can get!

When we trust ourselves and lean into promptings we receive we will be given the things we need to say in the moment we need to say them. Sharing the gospel comes from love for the person we have had on our mind and they will feel that. Build on the Light of Christ that they already have in them. There are far more similarities in many belief systems than there are differences. Build and fill in with truth and trust that the Lord will help you. He will. And then I will be hearing things like, Sister Sagers, my friend comes to Church with me now and all I did was be a good friend. The Celestial Kingdom won’t be complete without ALL of us there. Keep loving. Keep praying. Keep trusting, and keep trying.

1 comment:

Christine Merrill said...

First off, "congrats" on your calling - we really need a better word than congrats for when someone gets a new calling, something along the lines of "vote of confidence!" And thanks for your fabulous thoughts. I'm glad you shared them.