Home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13% of the member population and 28 dedicated, under-construction or announced temples, Utah is looked to by members all over the world to “represent what The Church of Jesus Christ is all about,” Elder Kevin W. Pearson, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Utah Area, said.
Though the Utah Area is the Church’s largest in terms of membership, activity and influence, Latter-day Saints living in Utah encounter unique challenges.
“I worry sometimes that members of the Church here take for granted the fact that the living prophet of God is here,” Elder Pearson explained. “I don’t want to over characterize, because some of the most faithful, wonderful members of the Church in the world are here, but I worry that not only are we casual about the prophet, but that leads to being casual about our membership in the Savior’s Church.”
Another of Elder Pearson’s concerns for the Utah Area is how Church membership becomes part of the culture. “It becomes more of a social thing than a deeply personal spiritual thing in your life when you’re in a large group of members of the Church, as opposed to when you’re out on your own and you’ve got to stand on your own two feet spiritually.”
As an area presidency, Elder Pearson and his counselors have a vision for members of the Church in Utah to center their lives on the Savior and put sacred covenants at the center of their lives.
“Not just somewhere in the background, but intentionally put them at the very center of their lives,” he said. “Then once you do that, you really focus on making and keeping sacred covenants, you become more intentional about truly becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, someone who studies His life, who’s following Him, who’s trying to learn more about Him, whose teachings are important in your life. And when you do that, the natural thing is to look to the rising generation, to the strength in the rising generation. So those four things tied to that vision are really the focus of the presidency right now.”
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A challenge that comes with living in a highly concentrated population of members of the Church or any other kind of affiliation, Elder Pearson said, is that “it’s easy for your perspective about what the Church is and what the Church does to be narrowed down to the four blocks that constitute your ward. So your ward is your world when it comes to the Church. There isn’t a ward in the world, much less in Utah, that represents what the Church is on a global basis.”
Elder Pearson and his counselors in the Utah Area presidency hope and pray that members of the Church will fully appreciate the spiritual danger of the times and be intentional about their covenants and the way they raise children.
“I worry that we’re a little bit too casual, and maybe we’re casual because we’re a little too distracted,” he said. “Our hope and prayer is that parents are going to be listening to President [Russell M.] Nelson, when he says, ‘you will not survive spiritually, unless you’ve got the constant healing, comforting influence of the Holy Ghost.’ And we need to be more intentional about living in a way and being focused in what we do so that we’ll have access to that ability.”
Elder Pearson believes he holds “the best job in the Church.”
“There are faithful people everywhere in Utah,” he said. “Weekend after weekend, I am really just overwhelmed with how capable, how faithful, how devoted people are.”