What Elder Gong and 100 young adults learned about deepening their relationship with God

For many young adults, the relationship between agency and revelation can be difficult to define, leaving some “paralyzed” when facing decisions and waiting for an answer. 

Explaining this dilemma, Tyler — one of 100 young adults participating in a virtual discussion following a recent worldwide devotional — asked Elder Gerrit W. Gong for his perspective. 

“I’ve always loved the comment ‘The pioneers received revelation as the wagon wheels turned,’” the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answered. “We do our best each day. We listen very carefully as we go. … We can be still and active at the same time.”

Elder Gong’s wife, Sister Susan L. Gong, added that receiving revelation doesn’t mean receiving all the answers. “You have to go back to that source of revelation, always, for strength and direction to continue on the path that the Lord really wants you to be on,” she said. 

Referencing the words in the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light,” Elder Gong said, “We go with the light, ‘one step enough for me.’”

To help foster an ongoing conversation following their worldwide devotional on Jan. 10, Elder and Sister Gong tried something new: They invited 100 young adults to join a Zoom meeting to share insights and further discuss deepening their relationship with God. 

Elder Gong shared a video of the Zoom recording on his Facebook page on Jan. 17. “I invite you to watch and share with me your impressions,” he wrote.

From Hawaii to Florida and Canada to Texas, the young adult participants came from two countries and 14 U.S. states. 

During the Zoom meeting, Elder Gong asked what they learned and felt during the devotional and what they wished for other young adults around the world. The discussion centered on Elder Gong’s three invitations: “Be still,” “build relationships” and “become a better you.”

Be still

Elder Gong asked his Zoom audience, “Do any of you ever feel that life is sometimes pretty noisy? And that it’s not always easy to stop and have it be quiet? What do you do when you want it to be quiet?”

A young woman said she likes to have a designated spot, usually outside, where she can go and read her scriptures. Another said even though temples are closed, visiting the grounds helps her disconnect from the world. 

“I turn my phone on Do Not Disturb,” another young woman said. “There are so many voices telling you what to think about what’s going on. … When I look for peace, I just try to turn everything off.”

Read more: Elder Gong’s 3 invitations to help young adults be more inclusive and compassionate

Another vocalized her struggle with the lack of physical interaction and affection during the pandemic. “When you talked about God cradling us, I just imagined being encircled in a hug,” she told Elder Gong. “I didn’t know that I needed that so much, because that’s something that I don’t really get a lot anymore. And to get it from Him in a spiritual warming feeling was very much needed.”

Elder Gong responded to her comment by saying, “I think He cradles us — in the book of Alma, it talks — ‘in the arms of safety.’ I think we have more of that than we know.”

Build relationships

Several other young adults expressed thoughts and feelings they had during the devotional.

Part of Elder and Sister Gong’s invitation to build relationships included the suggestion to “collect mentors.” “We have lots of names for the Savior, but I’ve never thought of ‘mentor’ as one of them,” a young woman said. As a mentor, the Savior can “give us personalized one-on-one feedback of how we can improve and be more like Him.”

A young man told Elder Gong he felt encouraged to continue conversations about the Church he had with a nonmember friend and to not be fearful. A thought came to him: “Imagine what the future could be if you build that relationship and if that impacts her and her family.”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, middle right, poses with young adults following a worldwide devotional on Jan. 10, 2021.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, middle right, poses with young adults following a worldwide devotional on Jan. 10, 2021. Credit: Screenshot YouTube

Referencing the idea of “changing the future now,” another young man said his thoughts included “learning to make the Church a place of less judgment” and “building ourselves to help build those relationships with others.”

For young adults who have felt “stagnant,” the Lord needs them to shine their light in small ways, a young woman said. “Even if I’m doing something small, like being someone’s friend, it’s really important.”

Elder Gong said with assurance, “There’s nothing small. … In eternity, everything is big.”

Become a better you

Scrolling through social media can lead to comparison and negativity, a young man said. Instead, we need to focus on “how God sees us” and “just being the best we can and moving forward.” 

When continually trying to become one’s best self, “the hard work is what’s going to allow us to become who we need to be,” a young woman said. 

When Elder Gong asked participants what they wished and hoped for other young adults, many echoed a similar theme: understanding who they are and what they can accomplish. 

“My wish is that people would recognize themselves as His signature,” a young woman said. “We are His greatest creations. We can look at the world around us and be in awe of the majesty of it, but it’s hard to see ourselves in that light. I wish that people would see that in themselves and in others.”

A young man said, “My wish for every young adult in the world is to find their calling in life, and where and how they can contribute, especially during these harder times.”

“We really need some compassion, some unity and some friendships. So that’s my wish, is to be more unified,” another added. 

Elder Gong concluded the Zoom discussion with his and Sister Gong’s wish for young adults: “Our hope and our prayer is that each of you will feel, in some special way tonight, your divine potential — and the fact that the Lord really does cradle you in His love.”

Watch Elder and Sister Gong’s full remarks in the Jan. 10 worldwide devotional on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and YouTube.