TFOT: Concern for the One by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

2008 Teachings For Our Times: “Concern for the One” by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Click here to download the powerpoint presentation of this lesson from slideshare.net.

Elder Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us that we must always remember the One. He introduces the talk by reminding us who President Monson is and why he was sustained as our prophet.

As a might man of Israel, President Monson comes from a strong family line. He was foreordained to preside over this Church. We have loved his stories that he’s shared in General Conference. One of his hallmarks as an orator is using stories to illustrate or underscore the doctrine. He has lived his life as an exemplary Saint and Prophet Monson is a simple man who is known by everyone from the lowly to the great and powerful leaders of the world.

Whilst Elder Wirthlin is alluding specifically to President Monson with this statement, who else could it apply to?

Jesus Christ is our greatest example. True disciples of Jesus Christ have always been concerned for the one. Jesus Christ is our greatest example. He, like President Monson, was surrounded by multitudes and spoke to thousands, yet He always had concern for the one.

It is not enough to read scripture and pray often. It is in the application of the words we read…the demonstration of the practice that the Lord wants us to embrace.

For me, this is an ongoing lesson. I was born with an exceptional IQ. I am not saying this in a boastful way — far from it actually. Rather, it is a fact — demonstrated repeatedly throughout my life whenever I have had to take an IQ test, I score within the top 2%. As many of you already know, I am a very cerebral person. I read large volumes of material very, very quickly.

When I was challenged by the first two Missionaries who visited my family, to read the Book of Mormon and pray — I read the entire Book in a week. It is a fascinating story, largely historical and spiritual in nature. I was embarrassed to admit I was already finished with the Book of Mormon when the Missionaries returned a fortnight later, so I indicated I was reading it at a much slower pace. Or so I thought. One of the Elders couldn’t believe it when I said I was already through Mosiah as he was just finishing Alma (and he’d been at it for a year, not a couple of weeks). I asked why it took so long and he said that it is one thing to read and another to study and read prayerfully.

Hmmm, ok, I thought. I’ll read it again. Slower. More prayerfully. This time it took a month. And then I kept reading and studying with Doctrine & Covenants. One of the sisters gave me some books that her family no longer needed. One was a seminary guide to the Book of Mormon. I read the guide and cross-referenced with D&C. I shared my learnings and journey with my family, sometimes weekly, and in more than a few instances, daily. Through the guide, I began to realize it isn’t just about reading the doctrine and understanding it so I could teach it but rather I needed to make that scary, awkward leap out of my head and into my actions. I needed to not just talk the doctrinal talk, but I also needed to walk the walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

Since having that realization right around the time of my baptism, I’ve tried to live the gospel. It’s HARD! I have such admiration for you ladies who do live it, model it and teach it not just to your families but share those teachings with your sisters. I am humbled in your presence and eager to feast upon your wisdom.

I give you this background to also help contextualize Elder Wirthlin’s major theme: Some members are lost and it is up to each one of us to bring them back into the fold.

Jesus Christ said, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness , and go after that which is lost, until he finds it?”

We are commanded to seek out those who are lost. We are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. We must be concerned for the ONE. Imagine if each of these paperdoll cutouts was a real child. Say 100 beautiful children. Now one is gone. What is your instinctive reaction? What if it was your child?

Now those children have grown up. Same exercise. Imagine these dolls are now adults. Do you have a different instinctive reaction? Why? Does God view us differently? Or are we always His children?

Who do you know who is lost? Are there members of your own family who have fallen away? What if you inserted their picture as the one who is lost.

Ask yourself: what does concern for the one mean to you? Does it mean your teenage son or his friend? Does it mean your elderly neighbor? Is that who Christ would minister first?

Would it include the old woman at the thrift store you briefly pass as you are donating leftovers from your garage sale and she is looking for clothing that is not soiled? Would it be the difficult boy in your daughter’s primary class who says rude things and bullies her every week? Would it be the divorced mother that you visit teach who moans and complains about how unfair life is but never does anything to help herself?

Those who are lost typically find themselves in 3 categories.

And here is where it gets really interesting. I realized Heavenly Father is asking each of us through his Apostle to think about how our attitudes and beliefs can shape our responses to our lost brethren. I don’t mean just in the let’s go on a door-knocking campaign but…what if one of us were to connect with a lost member of the Church and through Heavenly Father’s blessing and guidance was able to bring them back into the warm embrace of the church. Would each of us share the same warm thoughts, regardless what the reason was as to why they became lost on their path?

Elder Wirthlin tells us that there is an erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk and be alike. Think about if you had to eat the same meal breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Or wear the same clothing. Even in business — companies who repeatedly do the same thing end up going out of business. Businesses who continually reinvent themselves succeed. Change is necessary for survival.

Don’t be afraid to open your mind to someone’s different way of thinking and doing things. I know I’m different than most women. My natural confidence and enthusiasm often masks my feelings of inadequacy, even with this calling. But, as the talk states: “put your shoulder to the wheel and push”. Instead of dwelling on my insecurities in teaching, I’ve moved towards my strengths. I love fusing words and images, so you all get these lovely powerpoint presentations.

You have all commented to me how much you love them, which prompts me to do them even more. I love to blog and share messages using social media, so I have a blog specifically for my calling where I share these lessons, not just with our Ward family, but with anyone who is interested. You have responded with the loveliest comments and emails, which affirms my decision to create the blog in the first place. And I upload the presentations onto another site where they have been viewed more than 150 times. I would guess that not all of those are just from our Ward, but people, perhaps lost members, who are interested in our Church.

Now, if I had been the ‘same’ — I’d probably be sitting in primary or in the nursery right now playing with my little treasure. Would I be stretched? No. Would I be helping to share the Word? Probably not. Would it be deadly boring? Absolutely. Would my daughter stop crying, even if I was there the whole time? Probably not.

Is my calling here in Relief Society also opening a space for someone to have a calling in the nursery to be stretched in the same way that I am growing through my calling? Most definitely. This calling has impressed upon me the absolute belief I have that Heavenly Father guides every calling on this Earth.

Elder Wirthlin shares a story about when he was a schoolboy and there was an older boy who was physically and mentally disabled. He had a speech impediment. It was hard for him to walk. The boys used to make fun of him. They teased and taunted him until sometimes he would cry. He would say, “You’re not kind to me”. And still, they would ridicule him. Push him. Make jokes about him.

One day, Brother Wirthlin couldn’t bear it any longer. At age 7, the Lord gave him the courage to stand up to these boys. “Don’t touch him. Stop teasing him. Be kind. He is a child of God.” And they stopped. It was a turning point in his relationship with the boys, who in turn, showed increased compassion for the boy and became better human beings.

Simple compassion. But what if you were the mother of the boy who was being teased every day? I know I would pray that a child like Elder Wirthlin befriended him, protected him, cared about him and showed Christ-like love for him.

Elder Wirthlin points out people often become lost because they are weary. He speaks about how many people are overwhelmed with life’s challenges or become discouraged because of the difficulties that they are facing. Many feel that they do not have the strength to continue to come to church. And he reminds us that everyone, including Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ all had burdens to bear.

He points out that we can receive additional strength to meet our challenges by coming to Christ. He encourages us to reach out and show concern for those who find it difficult to go on.

Prayer rejuvenates the spirit and lifts exhaustion from our shoulders.

He also reminds members of the Church who hold back because of feelings of inadequacy. He reminds us, “to step forward, put your shoulder to the wheel, and push. Even when you feel that your strength can add little, the Church needs you. The Lord needs you. Remember that the Lord often chooses “the weak things of the world” to accomplish His purposes”.

When we show concern for those who are weary, we lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. Remember, he says, sometimes those who start out the slowest end up going the farthest.

Think about the biggest mistake you have made so far this year. You don’t have to share it, just think about it for a minute. What were other mistakes you’ve made since January? It could have been as simple as the time you mixed up salt and sugar in a brownie recipe or sent your child to school without a lunch or money to buy one. Or forgot to put oil in your car until your engine seized up. Not that these happened to me 🙂

We are all imperfect. Only the Lord is perfect. We will make mistakes. Some are petty, others can change the course of humanity. We meet each week to become better people, to learn of the Spirit and lend encouragement and support to others.

Elder Wirthlin says that the third group are those lost because they have strayed from gospel teaching. They may have made a mistake and no longer feel worthy to attend church. It is important to realize that church is a place to find forgiveness and repent. You do not have to be living perfectly to attend church. It is important to take advantage of the Atonement and return to the fold.

The great Apostle Paul said that sometimes spiritual things can appear as foolishness to men. Nevertheless, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men”.

Elder Wirthlin specifically addresses the reasons why some members may have strayed and reminds everyone that there is a place for them in the Church. By returning to the flock, repentance offers the opportunity to consecrate one’s abilities, talents, and skills. He claims and we all know that you will be better for it, and others will be blessed by your example.

To those who have strayed because of doctrinal concerns, Elder Wirthlin states: we cannot apologize for the truth. We cannot deny doctrine given to us by the Lord Himself. On this principle we cannot compromise.

In his closing remarks, Elder Wirthlin states that he knows each of us bears a concern for a loved one. Give encouragement, service, and support to them. Love them. Be kind to them. In some cases, they will return. In others, they will not.

We take responsibility for trying to make a difference. In doing so, we are worthy of the name we take upon ourselves, even that of Jesus Christ.

Concern for the one is a remarkably inspirational talk. I will close with this poem, written by a Saint, Kelly Miller, who was inspired by Elder Wirthlin’s talk enough to write this beautiful, inspirational summary also called, Concern for the One. It is a nice summary of the talk and of my lesson today.

How oft did He find time for solitude?
When the needs of the lost were not done.
While surrounded by the multitudes
He always had concern for the one
We’ve been commissioned to do likewise.
May we see others through Christ-like eyes.

Today some are weary and have strayed
When we’ve ninety-nine who should we seek?
One who may be different? Or heavy lade?
Of the way they look, act, think and speak
Do they think that they’re not befitting?
And from the flock find themselves slipping?

But, the Lord who has peopled the earth
Placed us as a vibrant orchestra
Each of us as fine instruments of worth
That adds to complex beauty and spectra.
In every single personality
Lies a depth rich with ability

The miscellanea of creation
Is a testament of self-esteem
We are like God in variation
Black and white, male and female, bond and free
One flesh is not above another
For, in fact, spiritually we are brothers

Whenever a Saint trips, slips or falls
Who is the best to help one back up ?
He’s the Master, and for each He calls
He who submitted and bore the cup.
Let’s lend encouragement and support
For we are all imperfect and fall short.

It’s at the Lord’s Church we find doctrine
That’s redemptive- full of charity
Where we can lose ourselves and begin
To give service with variety
For this we’ll consecrate talents and skills
According to as the Father wills

Thank you for listening to my lesson for our times today. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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