As many are staying physically distant to keep themselves and others safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Elder Dieter F. Ucthdorf said he and Sister Harriet Uchtdorf had a “little head start” on being physically distant from their loved ones.
When Elder Uchtdorf's call as a General Authority Seventy transferred them from Germany to Salt Lake City, they expected to live in Utah for only a few years.
“For the first 10 years, we even kept our home in Germany, hoping to return to family and friends one day,” Elder Uchtdorf wrote in a July 9 article on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. “But as you know, we are still here, and we will stay here.”
Elder Uchtdorf continued, “The gospel, the Church of Jesus Christ and the Lord helped us to learn that physical distance (even 5,000 miles) does not mean we have to be socially distanced from each other. We learned to focus on and enjoy the things we could do and experience, and not so much on the things we might miss.”
In his article “Don’t Mask Your Heart,” Elder Uchtdorf explained why he prefers the term “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing” during the pandemic.
"During this time, we have learned how important and vital it is to our well-being to stay socially close to family, friends and our brothers and sisters in the Church of Jesus Christ," he wrote.
Because of technology, Elder and Sister Uchtdorf have been able to see their children, grandchildren and great-children often. Video calls allow them to take part in birthday celebrations, plays and games, and read bedtime stories and join in on walks. They hear their family’s experiences with the sacrament at home and “Come, Follow Me” gospel study.
“More frequent social contact with friends and family helps us to share more of our inner thoughts and hopes,” Elder Uchtdorf wrote. “Somehow, these challenging times helped us to be more open about the feelings of our soul. We realized even more clearly how special it is not to hide or mask the feelings of our hearts from those we love most.
“During these special times, Harriet and I try to follow our own recommendation: Mask your face, don’t mask your heart.”
As Elder Uchtdorf reads comments on his social media posts, he said he senses the sorrows many live with and also the joy and enthusiasm of those choosing to focus on the good.
"For joyful or unhappy times, Heavenly Father has given us a promise and a blessing: 'Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand' (Isaiah 41:10).
"Harriet and I love you. We are grateful for each of you. May God bless and keep you during these special times and always."