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Fellowship: strength in times of loneliness

Eric is a member of the Church from Raleigh, N.C. I have come to know him very well and am grateful that someone reached out to him at a time he was struggling.

He moved from North Carolina to Utah just after his senior year in high school. After some prodding by roommates in Utah, Eric left to serve in the Idaho Pocatello Mission. As I have talked personally and deeply with Eric, he has shared with me some very special and sacred experiences that happened in Idaho.When Eric returned from his mission, he felt a great deal of excitement about life and eagerness to get involved. He was going to come back to Utah for school and he felt a new rush of anticipation as he waited for a couple of weeks before classes actually began.

But he quickly realized that he had over-blown in his own mind the thrill of school and college life. All the friends he made before his mission had graduated and moved on, and he knew no one. He bought an '86 Mustang, and threw his time, money and energy into it. He said it helped to take the loneliness away because he had so few friends.

He tried to attend church, but he said that he was the "kind of young man that needed people to approach me, and then I would participate when I felt comfortable." The problem with this was that no one was approaching him from his ward, and he felt utterly alone. He said he felt so extremely ignored that he almost made the decision to become inactive.

That was when a young woman named Michelle made a conscious decision to act on a "one by one" basis. Michelle was in Eric's college English class and she began talking to Eric and his friend Darren one day. She asked them about their classes and then asked them if they were taking a religion class at the institute. They both were, so Michelle invited them to come to the committee meetings that are held every Thursday morning to plan service and strategy to get the youth of Utah Valley involved in a religious and positive experience during the week.

Eric woke up early that next Thursday morning, not knowing what to expect at the meeting. He went to the institute and found out that the committee he was going to join with Michelle was in charge of providing breakfast for another 300 committee members who showed up to help with service. After flipping a few hundred pancakes, Eric felt comfortable with the other students in his committee. He realized that this was something he could do to feel a part of something worthwhile. He invited a friend from one of his classes to come to meetings with him and they both ended up serving in leadership positions in the months to follow.

Eric has often shared his feelings with me about this touching subject. He has a scripture marked in 3 Ne. 11:15, and off to the side he has written, "One by one, Michelle," so he will never forget who and what has influenced his life. He is a strong leader for the Lord now, and he owes it to the love of his peers at school who were willing to put their arms around him and invite him into their circle of service and friendship.

That fellowship has been a special blessing in our lives; we were married Dec. 18 in the Salt Lake Temple. We are grateful for the Spirit which helped Eric make the proper decisions and for his loving Heavenly Father, who cared enough to keep him under His watchful eye, and not let him go astray.

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