REXBURG, Idaho — When Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, pulled into a stake center parking lot here for a recent local leadership conference, they were greeted by towering mounds of fresh Gem State snow.
That late-winter abundance of powder was, for the Uchtdorfs, an apt metaphor for the abundant spirit of the Rexburg-area Latter-day Saints.
“That’s who you are,” President Uchtdorf told the local leaders from eight stakes filling the meetinghouse. “You are known around the world as people of goodness and strength….What a great community you are. Harriet and I love it up here.”
Elder Uchtdorf is a well-traveled, veteran member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with the ink on his passport just beginning to dry following a recent assignment to Uruguay and Chile. But he presided over the Feb. 29 leadership conference with characteristic enthusiasm — saluting the devotion of the local members while challenging them to help the Church grow in eastern Idaho in “normal and natural ways.”
The Apostle was assisted by Elder Matthew L. Carpenter, a General Authority Seventy, and Elder Bradford C. Bowen, an Area Seventy. Besides offering instruction on Christ-anchored ministering, the visiting Brethren dedicated much of the four-hour training meeting to answering questions from their audience of men and women.
‘Invitations make the difference’
Inviting others to enjoy the gospel’s abundance is central to ministering, taught Elder Uchtdorf.
“Invitations,” he said, “make the difference.”
Meanwhile, using the correct name of the restored Church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — doubles as its own invitation for all to come and worship the Lord.
Invite friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives who are not Latter-day Saints to any and all Church activities, said Elder Uchtdorf. “Don’t wait for ‘non-member’ activities. Any of our activities — our Relief Society or our Sunday School activities — will allow our friends and associates to see who we really are and feel a wonderful spirit.”
People naturally want to belong, especially young people. They are searching for something to fill their hearts and minds “with a higher purpose.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ, said Elder Uchtdorf, fulfills that “higher purpose.”
Communities such as Rexburg enjoy a rich Latter-day Saint history and are home to many members. The Church is young in other places. No matter, he said — the principles of “inviting” are the same.
“If we invite the people around us to ‘come and see’ we can overcome biases,” promised the Apostle.
When the Uchtdorfs were recently in transit at the airport in Miami, they were assisted by a woman who was curious about the purpose of their travels to South America. At that unplanned moment, Elder Uchtdorf performed his apostolic duty and testified of Christ and His gospel.
“We talked and she learned about the correct name of our Church,” he said. “Such moments offer us opportunities for further conversation. We don’t have to be timid.”
So many people within the Rexburg community, he added, “have talents which we need — so invite them to ‘come and see’.”
Unity through Christ-centered leadership
The Rexburg leadership conference included representatives from stake presidencies and bishoprics, as well as Relief Society, Primary, Young Women and Sunday School presidencies. It was essential that each of those organizations participate because of the strength each brings to the unified work of ministering.
“We are all in this together,” said Elder Uchtdorf.
Local leadership conferences also offer the Brethren priceless opportunities “to hear from you and learn from you,” he said. “We want to hear what we need to do to build and grow the Church — in spirituality, in personal commitments to covenants, and also in numbers.”
Elder Uchtdorf encouraged his audience to make the most of their season of service, regardless of the assignment. “Every one of us is in the calling we are in for a special reason. Find that reason and magnify the time that you have been given by the Lord.”
The Apostle also declared that the Church’s “Come, Follow Me” resources are “beautiful tools” to reach out and invite others living in Rexburg and beyond.
“What you are doing in your wards and stakes has a huge impact. You are the ones who need to do the work. The Lord relies upon you.”
Ministering to individuals, said Elder Uchtdorf, must go beyond simply saying to someone: “’Give us a call when we can help’…. You have to know the people and what they need and what is good for them.”
All ministering opportunities and leadership callings should be anchored to the Two Great Commandments: To love and serve God and then, to love and serve one’s neighbor.
“That is our target. That is what we want,” said Elder Uchtdorf, before referencing Christ’s Biblical commission to His disciples to go into the world and find, teach and baptize.
Elder Uchtdorf warned of belonging to cliques within wards. Overcome division by practicing the Two Great Commandments. And then learn to get along with one another.
“Don’t just ‘love’ each other — but also ‘like’ each other. And then work to fulfill the Lord’s Great Commission together to build up His kingdom here on earth.”
The young men and young women in each ward can also play key roles in fulfilling the Lord’s commission through service. Local units are training grounds for the Church’s corps of future missionaries.
The youth of the Church “need to know how to work. They need to know how to serve,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “Help them feel the satisfaction that comes from applying the Two Great Commandments in their personal lives by serving others and making the world a better place.”
Invite heaven by inviting others
In his brief remarks, Elder Carpenter called it a blessing for the Rexburg-area Church leaders to be taught by a latter-day Apostle. The Saints in Idaho, he added, are defined by their strength.
“You’ve done mighty things,” he said, “and we expect even more from you because the Lord is with you.”
Elder Carpenter echoed Elder Uchtdorf’s challenge to grow the Church in eastern Idaho through missionary work and ministering. Now is the time to act and invite.
“When individuals act, they invite heaven to enter their lives,” he said.
Using the correct name of the Church, he added, also invites the Lord’s spirit.
“There is great power in using the correct name of the Church because we include the name of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Bowen testified of the joy found in ministering and connecting with others through the gospel.
He thanked the Rexburg-area Latter-day Saints for their commitment, capacity and example.
“I’ve never met more incredible, obedient and loving people.”