One of my favorite talks at conference was President Uchtdorf’s wonderful invitation to those that have wandered to return. I especially liked that President Uchtdorf acknowledgement that there are a myriad of reasons that people may leave the Church. He touched on something that I have long considered regarding the relationship between membership in Christ’s true church and the personal journey that each of us must undertake.
“In This church that honors personal agency so strongly.that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers. We Respect those who honestly seek the truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship almighty god according to the dictates of their own conscience just as we claim the privilege for ourselves.” (Starting Around 6:55).
I love this suggestion. Those that sincerely seek to know God will follow him and follow their conscience. This may for a time lead them away from the true church. God knows the heart of each individual. He knows how to shape us and what experiences we need. Some may require time away from the Church. Like the prodigal son, some need time to come unto themselves. Others, require time on the road to Damascus before seeing the savior and turning unto him. Sometimes this process may be quick, but sometimes it may take years or even a whole lifetime.
I feel strongly about this, because I know that my experiences before joining the Church were all essential in leading me to it. I was raised Jewish, for a time as a teenager explored protestant Christianity, and became an ardent atheist before eventually becoming a devout Latter-day saint. Each of these have been a source of great learning and growth for me. Though at times I wish I could have skipped straight ahead, God knew exactly which experiences would help me to grow into the disciple that I am today.
Elder Scott’s talk about the father’s of the stripling warriors also fit into this theme for me. Like the Father’s of the stripling warriors, we may sometimes feel inadequate because of our different backgrounds and experiences. We may feel unworthy because we at one point or another drifted. God does not work that way. He uses our virtues and our weaknesses alike to help refine us into an instrument in his hands.
If we follow the promptings of the spirit, I believe with all my heart that it will lead us sooner or later directly towards the Good Shepard. He is the keeper of the gate and he employs no servant there. Some will come sooner, and other later, but all who yearn, seek, prayer and strive will eventually come unto him.