Episode 142: Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake leaders on serving ‘in the world, but not of the world’
Leaders of a stake in Sandy, Utah, share how connecting to their neighbors through friendship, love, service and events has strengthened their neighborhoods and community
Episode 142: Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake leaders on serving ‘in the world, but not of the world’
Leaders of a stake in Sandy, Utah, share how connecting to their neighbors through friendship, love, service and events has strengthened their neighborhoods and community
The night before His crucifixion, the Savior washed His apostles’ feet, taught them and administered the sacrament. He also prayed for them, saying, as recorded in John 17: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. … As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”
This episode of the Church News podcast features leaders of the Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake talking about efforts to serve “in the world, but not of the world.” Stake President Joseph A. Staples, Stake Relief Society President Terri DeJohn and former Stake Young Women President Lisa Nielsen share how connecting to their neighbors through friendship, love, service and events has strengthened their neighborhoods and community, as well as their commitment to emulating the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Staples: He sets an example. He talks about the fact that He was called on a mission to be “in the world” and to serve among people, and then He charges His apostles with the same. And I think it’s that same charge that we’re given. What Heavenly Father and the Savior asks of us is to minister and to engage with the people around us, our neighbors, our friends. The Church and the gospel is not something for us to consume and then keep to ourselves. It’s really about how do we — how do we have an influence “in the world”? Can we develop a lifelong pattern of just, every day, in our interactions, an attitude and an outlook that we’re concerned about those people around us?
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sarah Jane Weaver: The night before His Crucifixion, the Savior washed His apostles’ feet, taught them and administered the sacrament. He also prayed for them: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They [that] are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. ... As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I ... sent them into the world.” That scripture from John 17 is the subject of today’s Church News podcast. This episode features leaders of the Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake talking about living “in the world” while not being “of the world.” Stake President Joseph A. Staples, stake Relief Society President Terri DeJohn and former stake Young Women President Lisa Nielsen join the podcast to talk about representing the Savior Jesus Christ in the world. Welcome, everyone, to today’s podcast.
Joseph Staples: Thanks for having us.
Lisa Nielsen: Thanks, Sarah.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I am so happy that all of these leaders have been willing to come, because this is also my stake. And what a great honor it is to talk about things that are important to all of us, and especially for a stake that is so important to me. And so, President Staples, let’s start with you, because members of the Church are constantly being reminded that even though we are “in the world,” we should not be “of the world.” What do you think we mean by “world”? And can you share some of your thoughts on this topic?
Joseph Staples: Sarah, I think as you go back to that scripture in John, I think there’s a number of things that we can learn from it. First of all, the Savior is praying to our Father in Heaven, but He definitely wants His apostles to hear those words. And He sets an example. He talks about the fact that He was called on a mission to be “in the world” and to serve among people, and then He charges His apostles with the same. And I think it’s that same charge that we’re given.
So, I remember as a young convert, for me, it was President Spencer W. Kimball — I’m sure other Brethren have used this phrase — but to be “in the world but not of the world.” And for me, as a young convert, I focused on not being of the world. That was the punchline for me. And I thought, “Yeah, it means, you know, you don’t go after the fame and the glitter and the glory.” But the first part of that is just as important, to be “in the world.” And I think what Heavenly Father and the Savior asks of us is to minister and to engage with the people — our neighbors, our friends, the people around us. The Church and the gospel is not something for us to consume and then keep to ourselves. It’s really about how do we — how do we have an influence in the world?
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I’m interested in [having] both Sister Nielsen and Sister DeJohn talking about experiences they’ve had “in the world.” Sister DeJohn, you’re also Dr. DeJohn; you’ve done some medical training in areas where people may not be as familiar with the Church. What was that experience like?
Terri DeJohn: I had a great experience that I’d love to share with you, Sarah. I was working one night in the emergency room, and a young woman was brought in by ambulance after a drug overdose. And as we were able to stabilize her and she woke up — it was kind of a quiet evening; we had time to talk — she told me about her life. She told me that she had been raised by a father who was terribly abusive and eventually left, and her mother then became an alcoholic and started using drugs, and as a young teenager, she found herself on the street. And her life just sort of went downhill from there, if that’s possible. She began using drugs because it was simply impossible to live that life without them.
And the Spirit spoke to me and suggested to me that if our circumstances had been different, I could have just as easily been in her place. That was really revealing to me; it helped me to have an increased amount of gratitude for the blessings that I had received. And it helped me to realize that if this young lady had had parents who believed in her and loved her, and if she had known that she was a daughter of heavenly parents and had a Savior that could give her the grace that she needed to change, that she could have lived my life. And I think that experience has really helped me to have an increased amount of compassion and empathy for those around us that have not had the same opportunities that we have had.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you for sharing that. Sister Nielsen, you and your family are so good at doing exactly what Sister DeJohn just said. Our youngest daughter is friends with your youngest daughter, and she has reached out and shown compassion and seen needs and met needs. How have you taught your kids to be aware of people around them?
Lisa Nielsen: I have thought of this a lot. When I grew up — I grew up a member of the Church in a family that also had a lot of nonmembers in it — and I remember being really young and recognizing the difference between a life centered in the gospel and a lifestyle that wasn’t. And I remember choosing pretty early on that I wanted a life that was centered in the gospel. And once I had made that choice and decided what my standards were and what my values were, it made it a lot easier to be in the situations I was placed in, where maybe gospel standards weren’t being followed.
And as I got older and got more confident and more used to having the Spirit with me, I started recognizing that even in those situations where the people I was around didn’t believe the same way that I did, they were still really good, wonderful people. And so I started realizing that you can be in the world and not of it and still celebrate all the goodness and the beauty that’s there. And so, with my children, I think we’ve really focused on making sure that they connect with people and reach out to people and do their best to love people. And that’s one thing, looking at each of them, I can see that that’s something that’s important into their lives. They really do love the people around them, and they’ve done a really good job of being friends with lots of different kinds of people.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Staples, I want to talk about being good neighbors and friends. We can do this a couple of different ways. First of all, every Latter-day Saint can reflect this in their own lives and with their own families. Another way is for the stakes of Zion to actually incorporate this and encourage this. And your stake has done some pretty interesting things recently. And I want to talk about a few of them.
Joseph Staples: Yeah, let me start with one that we did a few months ago. We did a neighbor recognition night, and we brought together — we probably had, I don’t know, 300 members of the stake in attendance. And we honored and recognized three couples and one single sister, not of our faith, but they live in our neighborhood. We recognized them for the good that they did. So, one of them had lost a son to suicide, and that couple had then engaged in a lot of work around suicide prevention. One of them just serves her neighbors constantly; she does their laundry, she helps them in their yard. So, it was an opportunity for us to do nothing — we had no other agenda than we wanted to thank them for the good that they did.
And we accomplished that, but then something else happened that fascinated me that I didn’t see coming. And that was all of our members who were sitting there listening to the stories of the way these other people were serving, all of a sudden they came away going, “I need to do better. I need to serve more. There’s other things that I can do.” So, it was motivating and uplifting. But we created awards for them. We talked about them, we had somebody give kind of a life sketch and the things that they had done, and I think they really appreciated it. And it was an opportunity for our members to recognize that, “Hey, we’re not an insular people; we’re going to integrate, and we’re going to share, and we’re going to recognize other people.”
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and in order to make this happen, you actually have to get to know your neighbors, you have to spend some time knowing who they are and how they’re spending their time and the good that they’re accomplishing. Sister Nielsen, what are some ways we can do that?
Lisa Nielsen: I think it’s really important to, first of all, I mean, spend the time talking to our neighbors. When you see somebody outside, go over and say hello, ask them about their life, get to know them, know their children, tell them that their yard looks beautiful, help them weed. There’s a lot of ways. I think sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that it’s really easy to see our neighbors on Sunday and connect with the people that we see at church, and sometimes we miss out on the opportunities for our neighbors in our neighborhood who maybe aren’t coming to church or aren’t members.
Sarah Jane Weaver: On my street recently, we had a power outage. And one of the first things that happened was one of our neighbors sent a text message to everyone on the street saying, “Do you have what you need? Do you have candles? Do you have flashlights? Do you have batteries? How can we help? Do you need us to run to the store?” Now, the thing that was most impressive to me is that they had everyone’s cell numbers, that they had formed relationships — and this family is a member of the Catholic faith — they had formed relationships that allowed them to serve when the opportunity arose. Now, Sister DeJohn, I’m sure you’ve seen this a lot too.
Terri DeJohn: I have. There are several of the wards in our stake that have a GroupMe group that includes the entire neighborhood, not just members of their ward. And several years ago, when we had the earthquake, they were the first ward that could respond and say, “Everyone’s OK; there aren’t any needs,” because this whole network had already been set up. They used that same network to involve each other in a variety of activities, such as running groups and walking groups and play groups for their children. So, it’s been really heartwarming to see these people come together not just as a ward but as a neighborhood.
Joseph Staples: Sarah, and I think that if you have the desire to be in the world and to share and integrate with all of your neighbors and friends, I think Heavenly Father gives us opportunities. The most recent one for us is we have 157 houses in our stake boundaries that sit on Little Cottonwood Creek. There were over 900 inches of snow at Alta, and all of that was going to come down into our neighborhood. So we, on multiple Saturdays, we filled 20,000 sandbags. And it wasn’t just our stake members; this was friends, neighbors, everybody within those boundaries wanted to help. And it was fascinating.
So now that Heavenly Father also blessed us with this mild weather, and the snow came down in an orderly fashion, and we didn’t flood, now we have to look at “What are we going to do with 20,000 sandbags?” And I talked to one of our bishops, Brian Groneman, and I said, “You know, should we try and keep them?” And his comment was, “If we have to — if we discard them and we have to fill 20,000 sandbags again next year, that’s a good thing,” he said, “because the way it allowed our members and our friends and neighbors to come together in that kind of a service was a blessing for everybody involved.”
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and my own family members participated in that; it was probably good physical activity for my husband as well. Let’s talk about some other things that have happened recently in the stake. Sister DeJohn, you were involved in a day of service last year that was pretty meaningful.
Terri DeJohn: It was. One of the best things, I think, about it was that we got to work with the Catholic church that’s just up the road from us. Together, we were able to provide items that were necessary for children in the Kenyan school district. It was surprising to me that there are a number of children who live very near us that have these terrible needs. And so, we were able to gather together food and clothing and other supplies for them so that they would have a place that they could go and obtain shoes or clothing and feel comfortable when they would go back to school.
It was really wonderful to get to work with the people from this Catholic parish next to us. And in addition to that act of service that we were able to do together at Christmastime, they invited us to serve with them as they prepared things for homeless men downtown. It helped me to realize that there are people looking to serve all over; not just in our faith, but in all faiths. And as we see those people serving, I think it stimulates us and encourages us to do a better job in our service as well.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And Elder Quentin L. Cook — who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — has said on more than one occasion that people who feel accountable to God should link arms. That anyone in this world today who feels accountable to a higher being, that feels accountable to something outside of the world, should work together because they can be a blessing to one another, and then to communities, and ultimately nations, and make a stronger world.
We had an event in our stake recently that celebrated 50 years of the stake being in existence. I was on the jubilee committee, so I had a job. And as part of that job, I manned a station where the children were able to come to this kind of jubilee carnival. And my station was a sandpit where they were able to dig for dinosaurs. And as I watched that happen for four hours, a really important thing occurred, because there was one little girl who came, and she would dig up her dinosaur, and then she would find another space and rebury it. And she either watched as another child dug it up, or she — as it went on, other kids kind of caught on, and they all started finding a prize and then burying it for someone else to find.
And there was something that occurred, where it wasn’t just the joy of finding; it was the joy of sharing that with other people. And there was so much in the process of that. I think that as stakes gather, there is great joy that comes from holding celebrations like that. President Staples, were there any learnings from the jubilee that stand out to you?
Joseph Staples: I think the greatest thing that we loved about it is we literally had hundreds of people who are not members of the Church come to it. We publicized it throughout the neighborhood, we sent out flyers, we had signs, and we welcomed everyone, and hundreds of them came. And I, you know, I don’t know what their gospel experience might have been like at a carnival like jubilee. But I think it creates an environment where the next time we want to invite them to an Easter program or a Christmas program, there’s more familiarity; they’ve been on our Church property, they feel more comfortable around our members because their last experience at the jubilee was a positive one. So I think it’s never a “one and done.” What we’re looking at is, “How do we build relationships with people in a positive way and exemplify the things that the Savior has taught us?”
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and those who have a stewardship for missionary work in the Church have coined a phrase that is “love, share and invite.” So, they’re asking members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to reach out and to form relationships and to love others and to feel comfortable sharing their own beliefs, and then to issue an invitation for them to participate with us. And I think that probably a good number of those who are not of our faith who came to the jubilee came because somebody invited them.
Joseph Staples: Definitely.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister DeJohn, you’ve spent some time in the missionary field. How does this actually play out?
Terri DeJohn: Well, I think this is a great way to involve people. The jubilee was wonderful. I think there are other ways that we can invite them as well. I think most people find great joy when they serve. And so, if we invite them to help us serve, we not only are relieving a burden from someone, but we’re also giving this gift of joy and service to the person that we’ve invited. And so, I always make an effort to invite my nonmember friends to our service activities. To me, “love, share, invite” starts with, “Come and serve, and feel this love that we have.” I think once they do that, we can — as President Staples suggested — invite them to other activities. And if they choose not to come, that’s OK. They know that we have developed this relationship that is unconditional and filled with love, and it doesn’t change your friendship.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And Sister Nielsen, if I’m recalling correct, when you were stake Young Women president, we were involved in an opportunity to serve refugees.
Lisa Nielsen: We were, Sarah. It was the beginning of 2020, and we had the opportunity — our previous counselor in the stake presidency, who was over the youth, he had the connection with the IRC, the International Rescue Committee, to provide some mini home makeovers for some refugee families who had been in Utah for a while but were desperately in need of household items and items to provide for their families.
And I think I need to share how this all began. At the time, Sarah’s husband, Clinton, was serving as the stake Young Men’s president. And we met with President Smith — I believe it was Feb. 16, 2020 — And he said to us, “I have this really great idea for our next youth activity. We’re going to do mini makeovers for these refugee families.” And Brother Weaver and I, we thought that was a great idea, and we said, “OK, when’s it going to be?” And he said, “Well, we’re going to deliver everything on March 7.” And that’s about 20 days. And I remember sitting there thinking, “There is no way that I’m going to be able to go to the Young Women presidents in the wards and say, ‘We need you to accomplish this in 20 days.’” That’s only two Sundays before we had that opportunity to happen, and it was only one Relief Society.
So I said to him, “Can we have a little bit more time?” And I remember so distinctly, he said, “No, I feel really strongly we need to do this by March 7.” And in hindsight, looking back, five days after March 7, like around March 12, that’s when Governor Herbert announced that Utah schools were closing down. I think if we had waited a couple more weeks, we wouldn’t have been able to do the activity that we did. And as it was, that was the last activity that our youth were able to gather together in for about six months.
So, what we did, each ward was given a list of items that these families needed. And we basically, as a stake, we just handed it to the bishops and to the Young Women’s presidents and said, “This is what we have to do. We need you to take care of this, and our goal, we’re going to deliver everything by March 7.” And I remember thinking — I called each of those Young Women’s presidents individually and asked them to help — and I was so amazed at how willing and how eager they were to serve and how quickly everything just kind of mobilized in our stake and how quickly those lists were filled. We ended up setting up kind of a group signup sheet so that if members of one ward had items to be donated that that family or their ward didn’t necessarily need, they could throw it out there and give it to other wards in the stake.
And we really — it was amazing to me how generous and how quickly our stake was able to gather those items and get everything prepared. The day of our service came, and we met with all the youth in the chapel. And we had a really fabulous speaker come; her name is Jolly, and she is a refugee who came here — I believe she came here from the Congo. And she told us her story. She’s a graduate of college, she was amazing. And it was such a motivational, inspirational thing to hear from someone who had had experienced really hard things in her life and still moved forward. And I think it helped the youth recognize that we were collecting these tables and these chairs and diapers and clothing for families who had gone through something similar to what this young woman had gone through.
After that, I remember walking out into the parking lot, and the youth were there. They were so excited. And they were getting into cars, and we had trucks and trailers filled with the things that we were going to deliver. And it was just such a testament to me of just that willingness to serve. I followed along with my ward, and we had a family — they were also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo — and they had six children, a lot of things that they needed, big furniture items. I remember walking into the apartment and thinking it was so clean. And I met the mom. She was so proud of her family and so gracious to us and so kind, and we had been able to organize getting her a washer and dryer. And I saw her smile. And when I saw that smile, I realized, really, that perhaps some sort of burden that she felt was being lifted from her by us coming to serve her that day. And for me, that connection made it all really hit home about how connected we really are and what an amazing power that a group of people with one unified purpose can accomplish, how much good they can really accomplish.
Joseph Staples: Lisa, you described that so perfectly. And I also remember the impact that it had on the youth. So, clearly, the refugee families loved what we did for them. But here are these youth standing in the living rooms, looking into the eyes of these people who — the ones I went to didn’t speak English. So it was just this, you know, visual connection. What an impact it had, lifelong impact, on those young people.
Lisa Nielsen: Yeah, I agree. It was funny: As I walked out, and as we were preparing to leave, there were some of the boys from the family. They were playing soccer, and we had quite a few young deacons in our ward, and they had joined right in, and there was just so much joy. It was really fun to watch that. And hopefully, yes, [I hope] that they’ll keep that experience close to their hearts and that it changed them, even in a small way, that it changed them somehow.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and Sister DeJohn, that also had to go out to some Relief Societies in the stake. What kind of reception did you get when you asked them to participate?
Terri DeJohn: You know, it’s always heartwarming to know how eager people are to serve and to help. And every once in a while, you’ll hear someone complain a little bit that they’re being asked to do something that they just don’t think they’re capable of doing in that shortened time period. And then those are the same people that, when we accomplish that, they are just overjoyed that we were able to do it. And I think it’s just an example of the miracles that occur sort of in the background of these service projects.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And you’ve reminded me of an experience I had several years ago in Iraq. I was there covering Church donation efforts in northern Iraq in the area that used to be Kurdistan and went to a camp for internally displaced people within the country. Most in the camps, which had about 14,000 people, had been driven out by ISIS, and they were mostly women and children. And many of the women were of a faith called Yazidis, and they wore long, white dresses, and the dresses went to the floor and to the ends of their wrists. And that ethno-Kurdish faith is one where they had come to the camps — and they also wanted to serve and help one another — and had been persecuted quite heavily.
They had a tandoor oven, and they were cooking naan bread in it. And I walked up to them, and I said, “Can I buy some of your bread?” And this woman who had been driven from her home and probably barely had enough bread for her own family, she said to me, “I don’t sell my bread, but I do share it.” And I think there are some principles that are universal, that when the Church of Jesus Christ can act in His name and help, we do so.
One of the projects there was to help those women get new long, white dresses, because they arrived in the camp, and the clothes they had for refugees were not clothes that were significant to their religious beliefs. And we had some Latter-day Saint Charities missionaries in those camps who, along with a Muslim doctor and some volunteers from AMAR — which is an organization that helps refugees — identify that in order to be whole, you have to rely... on [more than] things that just provide shelter and food and clothing. You have to make sure that you honor things that make people part of who they are. And in this case, it was their relationship with their God. And they could not be completely whole unless they were able to practice their faith.
And it was so touching to me that there were people in the camp who recognized that and said, “Let’s figure out how to get these women white dresses.” The Church had those dresses initially made and ultimately provided white cloth and sewing machines so that they could make them themselves. And so, President Staples, much of this is just about simple respect for others and recognizing what makes them feel whole.
Joseph Staples: Yeah, I think you make a great point. This isn’t overcomplicated, is it? It really is about being aware enough of the needs of other people and looking for either your own resources or other resources that you can share to help. The other thing that strikes me as we talked about all of these things is this works for the most introverted personality there is. And I think that’s one of the things that sometimes people struggle with, is they say, “Well, I’m introverted, so I have trouble reaching out.” As we can do it in normal and natural ways, it just becomes part of who we are. And you don’t have to be this outgoing “I’m going to knock on your door, I’m going to, you know, help you clean your yard” kind of a person. You can do something no matter how introverted or extroverted you are.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I want to have each of you comment on this because so far, this conversation has focused largely on a Utah stake that has a fairly small geographic area. So many of our members around the world live in stakes that have large, large geographic areas. And they may be planning events that could span entire cities or multiple cities. We’ve talked a little bit about what this can look like in our own neighborhoods, in our own families. And so, it doesn’t always have to be a Church-sponsored event. It certainly can be, and that works in the smallest geographies or the largest geographies. But Sister DeJohn, where do you think people should start?
Terri DeJohn: I think they should start with their neighbors and their friends. And I think sometimes we get caught up in these big service projects, and we forget to appreciate the power of these one-on-one acts of service. I was at a breakfast yesterday; we thought that my neighbor had planned a surprise birthday party for another neighbor. And when we gathered together and surprised her, after we talked for a while, we realized that we were really helping to heal the heart of a broken-hearted neighbor. And I think had this woman who planned this event not been in tune with the Spirit, she wouldn’t have planned this party to lift this woman’s spirit, not knowing that that’s in fact what she was even doing.
I think these little, tiny acts of service have tremendous impact on our relationships, on the unity of our neighborhoods, on our psyche — it just is healing to do those sorts of things. I’ve had a neighbor that made freshly squeezed orange juice every day and delivered it to another neighbor that was recovering from a surgery. I’ve seen neighbors that deliver a missing ingredient when someone’s in the middle of cooking dinner and needs something, and all they have to do is call, and the other neighbor runs it over. I just think there are so many ways in every nook and cranny of the world that we can love and serve one another.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and President Staples, you mentioned that you’re a convert to the Church. How does this look in our families?
Joseph Staples: Just jumping off of what Sister DeJohn said, I don’t think we need to wait for our ward or our stake to organize something, and if there isn’t anything there, we sit back and we go, you know, “What am I going to do now?” When our family, we moved here, we moved to Utah from Seattle. And when we first moved here, you know, I recognized the importance of teaching our children how to serve. They were young at the time. And so, we did a neighborhood coat drive. We made fliers, we took them around, we said, “We’ll be back the next Saturday, and we’ll pick up the coats.” Our kids had to figure out where we would take the coats, who could use them. I think that first year — we did it multiple years — but I think that first year, we collected 75 or 80 coats, and it was a family activity. It wasn’t anything else that was organized.
And the thing that touched me is, maybe a week ago, my 34-year-old daughter, who I think was in eighth grade at the time, mentioned the coat drive. So, those are things that they just have a long-lasting impact on families. So, growing up in a household where, for me, where my parents nor I were members of the Church, we were still service oriented. My dad would stop and help lots of people. He, you know, did so many things to set an example. So, you know, clearly, we don’t have a corner on the market of how to do this service piece. But it’s certainly, if we truly follow the Savior, it’s something that we should be examples of.
Lisa Nielsen: Along with what Sister DeJohn and President Staples said, I’ve thought a lot about, “Why is it a commandment to love your neighbor?” I think serving someone is actually a really sacred thing, because when you serve someone, you are sacrificing a piece of yourself, your time, your effort, your talents, however small that may be. And in sacrificing that for someone else, it brings you closer to the Savior. And so, I think, especially watching the youth be able to participate in service, I think if we can teach them how it feels to just sacrifice a small piece of themselves, that changes you. And when that changes you, your capacity to love becomes bigger, you start to see people in a different way, and you become much more like the Savior, much more inviting, much more willing to gather people in. So, I think that’s a really important part of service and the reason why it’s so important to try to involve other people in even just a small amount of service: It changes us.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, we had an event that was very meaningful to our family in our neighborhood a few years ago that was not started by the Church. It was started by a group of women who were working together as their kids were attending the elementary school and junior high. And so, as the COVID pandemic continued on through the year 2020 and Christmas approached, they got this idea to put luminaries in the neighborhoods so that people could walk the streets and everyone would have some sort of light in front of their house. And I remember that night that that came together, where so many people lit their house with this luminary. So, during this time that was dark and frustrating to so many, our streets were filled with light.
Now, they had a really great idea, and they knew how to execute on it. Sometimes we don’t know how to start or where to go. We suspect that service exists, but we just don’t know where to find it. Sister DeJohn, what do you tell people when they have that problem?
Terri DeJohn: Well, we have loved using the website JustServe. And I know that it’s available not just here locally but across the country. JustServe lists all kinds of different service opportunities for groups or for individuals. I’ve been really impressed as I’ve talked to some of the women in our stake that some of the women have used JustServe to find an opportunity to advocate for foster children, to make sure that the places that they’re going are safe. I think that’s just a marvelous opportunity. We had an opportunity to use JustServe when we had planned a service activity in conjunction with our Relief Society celebration and at the last minute it all fell apart. And so, we turned to JustServe to see what else we could do and learned of a need to put together some totes that contained enough food for children to get through spring break without having to worry about where their next meal had come from.
It was — it was a marvelous opportunity, with a lot of miracles that happened. I learned, and I hadn’t known previously, that the Church no longer wants us to use a number or a goal. And so, I was a little panicked when we had asked each ward to contribute an item for this tote bag without giving them numbers of what we needed. We had kind of quietly talked about it before we’d gotten the OK from President Staples and the instruction not to use numbers. And we had sort of talked about this number of 300 just internally in our presidency and then decided that was too lofty and we would settle on 150. And then we learned we couldn’t say a number, so we just went to the stake center and waited for things to come in. And items just rolled in. We had so many things.
And the youth — we had invited the youth to assemble these totes — and they were supposed to be there at 7. Many of them came at 10 to 7, and by the time 10 after 7 came, all the totes were filled, and we filled 299 totes. Someone ran to the store, grabbed the additional items that we needed to finish the last tote, and we had these 300 tote bags. We’d asked the single adult sisters if they would come at 9, thinking it would take us that long to assemble these, and they were going to put them into the vehicles that were going to transport them back to this place. People were giving high-fives to one another and cheering as we just filled this van and truck to overflowing. And the woman who directed the program was in tears, knowing of all the good that this would do for these little children that otherwise would be hungry through spring break.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I love the resource that is JustServe. We’ve done several podcasts on it. One podcast was with youth and young adults, featuring several Latter-day Saint youth who had started JustServe clubs at their high schools. And so, there are certainly so many opportunities to look all around us. We’ve also seen several themes that have come out of this discussion, including that these efforts can be prompted and inspired by the Holy Ghost and that we can pray for opportunities.
Now, we have a tradition at the Church News podcast where we always give our guests the last word, and we always ask them the same question. And the question is, “What do you know now?” And so, I’m going to have each of you answer the same question. And we’ll start with Sister Nielsen and go to Sister DeJohn and end with President Staples. And the question is, “What do you know now about the phrase ‘in the world but not of the world’?”
Lisa Nielsen: Being in the world and not of the world — I think it’s so possible to do so much good when you’re in the world and when you’re looking around for opportunities to reach out to ease people’s burdens, to love, to include and connect with people. And I think keeping that idea that we’re not of the world, that were Heavenly Father’s children, we have made covenants with Him, we understand who we are, we understand the love of the Savior in our lives, and we understand how important the other people in the world are. And so I think, for me, that being part of the world is important because there’s so much good that I can do, but also remembering, you know, where it is I come from and whose I am, and who I belong to.
Terri DeJohn: I am very grateful to have made covenants with the Lord, to serve and love His children. And I know that by doing this service, my love grows and I become more like Him. And so, by offering opportunities to others to also serve helps them to have this wonderful joy and happiness in their lives and, I think, opens their hearts. The Spirit is a powerful tool, and I love the way that the Spirit can act through us, all of us, as we serve one another. I think if we are able to serve one another in these ways, we will have more love and unity throughout the world. Service is really a key to bringing about peace and love in the world. And I’m grateful that our Church places such emphasis on service and being mindful of those around us who are in need.
Joseph Staples: I so appreciate the words and what these two wonderful sisters have shared. You know, that phrase, again, that first part, “in the world” — for me, it just drives home why we’re placed here upon the earth: It’s not for ourselves; it’s to do good, to help those around us, to follow the example of the Savior as we interact with people. And so, I just think, you know, the more — we’ve quoted here a whole bunch of different service activities that we’ve done. And just about everybody can have some of their own and have set things. But it’s really, “Can we develop a lifelong pattern of just, every day, in our interactions at work, at the store, getting the mail, can we develop an attitude and an outlook that we’re concerned about those people around us, and we’re going to be out there in the world being an influence for good?” There’s a lot of influences for bad out there, and they need to be counteracted. And I think the Lord’s people are the ones to do that. And so, we have a responsibility to step up and participate and share the things that we know to be true.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests; to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen; and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.