This week I received an email in my in-box from my dear friend’s son who is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He first served in Africa and now is serving in Indiana. He entitled his email, “The Liberty of Opportunity”. I was so incredible touched by his perspective and insight that I asked if I could share his words here on this blog. Thankfully, he agreed. I truly hope this will touch your hearts and help us choose to use our opportunity to reach out in love to all around us.
This Saturday is the 4th of July,and we celebrate yet another year of our existence as a nation. For me, the 4th of July celebration was always fun growing up. It was the fireworks, the fairs, the candy, the parades, yet as a young person I still caught a little piece of the deeper reason for celebration. Yes it was fun, but it was about more than fun, it was about liberty, freedom, peace, and prosperity. All these things that I had enjoyed growing up and had not realized truly how out of the ordinary these blessings are.
It wasn’t until I went to Africa for about 18 months that the full import of these blessings became apparent to me. The moment that comes first to my mind is the 4th of July that I spent in Yaounde, Cameroun. The few Americans there got together and we sang the national anthem, we listened to “I’m proud to be an American” and I realized perhaps for the first time in my life that being an American blessed with freedom is not a default setting when you’re born. It’s not something everyone enjoys, even within our own country.
There are many many differences in culture, political process, and government between the United States and Cameroun, but I don’t really feel that most of those are very important. I think that there is one blessing that we have been given as citizens of the United States that is most important and that is the liberty of opportunity. In the US we have so many opportunities surrounding us, we have so many in fact that we could reasonably say that the hardest thing is deciding which opportunities to choose.
These opportunities are a great blessing we’ve been given. They are gifts, free of charge and undeserved, given to us by God at birth. We have a responsibility though, to those who have received much, much is required. There are many in the world who have not received the same opportunities as we have. There are even those among us in our nation who do not have the same opportunities. It is human nature that when we have been given much we begin to believe ourselves to be better or more deserving, sometimes we decide that God gave it to us, if he wanted them to have it why didn’t he just give it to them in the first place?
If there is one thing that I have learned while on my mission it is that charity faileth not, because I have been given much I too must give. The hard part is knowing what to give, when to give, how to give. For this we look to our exemplar, Jesus Christ. He is the perfect example of charity and kindness. The perfect example of someone who had been given much, but who was able to give even more.
At this particular time we are witnessing a great and terrible ploy of the adversary tear our country into pieces. We are watching as every bit of life is painted black and white, blue and red. I have spent a lot of time asking myself what is to be done. How can I be of most help. This was my answer, to give. To have charity.
It seems as if at this time in our nation’s history it is impossible to open your mouth without raising conflict, without saying one thing or another that offends someone. In this I think of Christ and his response to the interrogations of Pontius Pilate and Herod. It seems as if we can do little to stop the flow of hatred, to remove the fog that is blinding the eyes to the clever stratège of Satan. What we can do is reach out, with care and kindness, and brighten just one corner of the earth each day.
In this time when it seems as though all may be lost, when there isn’t a little good in the world remember, Christ has overcome the world. Remember, you have been chosen to have the knowledge of this gospel, and with the opportunities that allow you to share it. I heard once that it only takes a maximum of seven connecting friends to connect one person with any other person in the world, so if you find yourself wondering, as I do, how to help because you don’t know where to start or who needs help, have confidence and start with your friends. Within seven connections you will have reached whoever needs it most.
This is the great work of the gathering of Israel, to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares. Do not be afraid to lift up your voice, to let your light shine out. We have been blessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ, with that blessing comes also the responsibility to share that opportunity with all who will hear. I will be the first to say that in our current circumstances this is not easy, in fact I think that this may just be one of the most difficult times in history to share the gospel. I also know that it is possible, we can have an impact and help others to change their lives for the better. I hope that those who read this email realize that I’m really not perfect at this, I’m just good at expressing ideal ideas with words. I hope that my little bit of idealism can be a motivation to you, that it may help you to discover for yourself what it is you feel you need to do.
Love Elder Atkinson
Let’s ponder on seven. Seven friends. Seven connections. What can we accomplish to further spread God’s love to those seven? There are those waiting to feel God’s love more fully about them. Let’s “reach out with care and kindness”. We can be part of Christ’s great work to gather all in him. We have been blessed with so much.
Happy 4th of July tomorrow. Freedom of choice is a great blessing. I hope I can use this gift with more thought.
Today there is a reason to hope.