Home-centered gospel study can make any house, apartment or dorm room "a sanctuary of faith."
In a recent Home Evening broadcast viewed by Latter-day Saints across Central American, Elder D. Todd Christofferson promised blessing await members of all background who make their homes a classroom of gospel learning.
A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle, Elder Christofferson was joined in the Feb. 15 broadcast by his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, Elder Carlos A. Godoy and Sister Mônica Godoy, along with the Central America Area Presidency and their wives.
For almost 90 minutes, they exchanged insights on home-centered gospel learning — and the opportunities Latter-day Saints have in supporting families of all kinds in their own home gospel study.
"Gospel study at home — both individual and family — should increase significantly from what it has been, generally," Elder Christofferson to the Church News.
The 2019 “Come, Follow Me” manual for individuals and families is just weeks into its implementation, but already families in Central America and beyond are being fortified and inspired.
The “real foundation” of gospel learning, taught Elder Christofferson, “is what happens at home.” The weekly lessons found in the manual are priceless resources for family and personal home learning.
The discussion between the Brethren and their wives also focused on flexibility and included thoughts on how, say, a single mother can best use the “Come, Follow Me” materials to teach her children.
Family gospel study sometimes works best when people look outside their own immediate families.
Ideally, “ministering brothers and ministering sisters” seek opportunities to invite others into their homes from time to time and include them in their gospel study, said Elder Christofferson.
“Ward councils, representing all of the resources of the ward, can talk about these situations and seek revelation and guidance on how they can help individuals,” he added.
Another key point in their discussion: Everyone is accountable for their own gospel learning. Meanwhile, the Church is designed to support those efforts.
Home-centered gospel learning also ensures “deeper conversion.”
The discussion also offered Elder Christofferson, Elder Godoy and the others’ opportunities to remember the many promises made by President Russell M. Nelson to families making home-centered gospel learning a central priority.
Homes can be transformed into “a sanctuary of faith” and Sabbaths will become “true delights.” Meanwhile, children will be more “enthusiastic” to learn and live the gospel. And finally, the “influence of the adversary” diminishes in the home.
Many of the key, gospel-learning points emphasized at the “home evening” gathering — which was streamed to Latter-day Saints across the Central America Area — resonated deeply with Elder Godoy, a Church convert.
Young Carlos Godoy was 16 when he was baptized. He did not belong to a so-called “traditional” Latter-day Saint family. But he still found blessings in home-centered gospel learning. He was a treasured member of a gospel family. He had friends and peers who doubled as mentors, and many invited him into their home. It wasn’t a formal assignment. They simply opened their hearts and living rooms to one in need of support.
“I felt that I was not alone,” he said. “When you have peers who are just like you… you feel that you are not alone and that you can do it.”
That power found in loving peers and friends was one of the guiding anchors of the unscripted Feb. 15 Family Home Evening broadcast.
A land of sacred promise
Elder Christofferson and Elder Godoy’s service in Guatemala City coincided with the annual review of the Central America Area. Over eight days (Feb. 9 - Feb. 17) they visited two countries — Guatemala and El Salvador — and participated in a variety of gatherings for local priesthood leaders, missionaries and members.
They were hosted by the Central America Area Presidency: Elder Juan A. Uceda, Elder Jorge F. Zeballos and Elder Valeri V. Cordón.
The Central America Area is a power in the Church, with hundreds of thousands of members and several temples. More than 272, 000 Latter-day Saints are in Guatemala, serving in 48 stakes and two temples in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango, respectively.
In El Salvador, more than 125,000 Latter-day Saints belong to 22 stakes. The nation’s first temple, the San Salvador El Salvador Temple, was dedicated in 2011.
Central America remains a land of sacred promise.
“It’s easy to understand why the Church is growing across the Americas because of the promises that we can find in the Book of Mormon for this special land,” said Elder Godoy.
Teaching the Book of Mormon to Central Americans, he added, “is like teaching them family history.”
To be sure, social and economic obstacles are facing Latter-day Saint Central Americans and their neighbors. Realizing self-reliance can prove challenging, while others know the reality of gang violence. Many are looking to the gospel to find protection for their children.
“The solutions are there through the gospel,” said Elder Godoy — including a proliferation of temples across the Central America.
Taking initiative in your studies
On Feb. 13, Elder Christofferson and Elder Godoy and their wives also participated in a devotional for young married couples that was broadcast from Quetzaltenango to members in Guatemala.
They taught the importance of gospel study and prayer — both as couples and individuals.
Elder Godoy shared a defining moment of choice in his own family not long after he and Sister Godoy were married. Thieves stole the money the couple had set aside for tithing. Initially, Elder Godoy was certain that he had “done his part” in setting aside the tithing money. The Lord, he figured, knew his intentions to pay tithing. He couldn’t help that the tithing money had been stolen.
“So I told Mônica, ‘I think we’re fine right?’ — and she said, ‘No no, we have to pay the tithing again.’”
Elder Godoy said his young wife taught him a key lesson: any financial hardship exacted in paying a full-tithe never compares to the blessings awaiting those who follow the Lord’s commandments.
Elder Christofferson noted his appreciation for Sister Christofferson’s daily commitment to personal prayer and study.
“She pursues her own spiritual development — she doesn’t sit back and wait for me.”
Sister Christofferson’s personal devotion, he added, “adds to our joint study.”
“Her insights stimulate mine. She often has questions that I haven’t considered and that cause me to think more deeply and study further… I don’t want to get left behind,” he said, smiling.
Listening to Elder Christofferson offer an apostolic blessing on the young married couples prompted tears and emotions, remembered Elder Godoy.
“It was almost like (the couples) were taking his hand and saying, ‘I need your words, they are an answer to my prayers.’”
“It was tender,” said Elder Christofferson. “I have seldom felt such strength in a blessing.”
Be diligent and patient
In a Feb. 15 visit to the Guatemala City Missionary Training Center, Elder Christofferson offered counsel applicable to young elders and sister serving anywhere in the world:
“Be diligent — but be patient with yourself at the same time.”
Learning, say, a new language or “picking up the skills of a missionary” requires both time and effort. Elder Christofferson recalled his own struggles learning Spanish in the early days of his own mission to Argentina.
“You’re okay,” he said. “Keep adding things that will improve your abilities and understanding and skills as a missionary.”
The Book of Mormon, he stressed, remains the key for missionary success. It is the key to conversion.
“Some investigators may have a testimony and not get baptized, and that’s their choice. But we don’t want anyone to get baptized who doesn’t have a testimony of the Book of Mormon.”