This month I visited historic Nauvoo, Illinois. It was an emotional experience for me to think about the early Latter-day Saints who lived there — to walk where they walked and see what they saw. I used the opportunity to reflect on my life and on their lives; I found similarities and differences. I hoped, had I lived then, that I would have had the faith and courage to join them in launching the Lord’s latter-day work. But I wasn’t sure.
Then I watched and listened as Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood in the front of the Nauvoo temple to participate in a worldwide Face to Face broadcast on Sept. 9.
From the historic location at sunset, Elder Cook addressed some of the questions posed by the Church’s young adults, ages 18 to 30.
Many of their questions were my questions.
I immediately realized the broadcast had deep significance.
“The early Latter-day Saint movement was a movement of young people,” said Church historian Matt Grow, who participated in Face to Face.
Noting a similarity between the generation of early Saints and today’s young adults, Grow explained it was young adults who “converted to the Church in the 1830s and the 1840s. It was their age group who built the Church. … All throughout our history, it is the young people doing extraordinary things to bring the gospel to the world.”
Elder Cook pointed out another similarity.
Like the Saints of old who opened missionary work in the United States, Canada, the British Isles, Scandinavia and the Pacific, young adults today have entered missionary service in record numbers. Nearly 600,000 of them have served full-time missions; that is over 40 percent of all the missionaries who have ever served in this dispensation, he said.
“We are going to see this generation do great things,” Elder Cook said.
They are a generation of faith and a generation of questions.
They are like the Prophet Joseph — who saw God the Father and His Son after a sincere question — and the pioneering members who followed him.
That’s what I learned in Nauvoo that I didn’t know before I pondered the young adult generation of Saints who built The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the young adult generation today who will move it forward: Sincerely seeking answers to questions is a great strength.
Church historian and Face to Face participant Kate Holbrook helped me further.
There are two meanings to the word “doubt,” she explained. “There’s one with negative connotations, that I think represents one who approaches everything in a cynical way to tear it down. Then there is doubt, admitting ‘I don’t have a full understanding of this and I would like to. And I don’t know what the answer is yet.’”
Questions, Holbrook continued, are what lead us to growth, increased wisdom, increased charity and understanding.
The sincere study of Church history from credible sources, for example, is a “pathway to increased meaning and spiritual growth and a broader understanding of the beauty of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint,” she said.
It is also not surprising then, that the answers to my questions came not only from Elder Cook and two Church historians. They came from the young adults themselves.
Face to Face hosts Spencer Heslop, 24, and Maile Mayer, 18, had each faced their own questions.
Heslop served as an online missionary, answering questions via the Mormon.org chat.
Early in his mission he came in contact with questions about the Church he had never heard before. He wondered how he could help people come to Christ if he didn’t have all the answers.
The strength he found then echoed Mayer’s sentiments now: “What I do know is Jesus Christ is my Savior. He and Heavenly Father restored the Church to the earth through Joseph Smith,” she said.
I thought of Heslop’s and Mayer’s faith as I stood in the shadow of the Nauvoo temple and looked to the Mississippi River during the Face to Face broadcast. I thought of the hundreds of thousands of young adults watching the event in locations across the globe.
And I had my answer. I knew that had I lived in pioneer times, I would have followed Joseph Smith in launching the Lord’s latter-day work, just as I — and millions of other Latter-day Saints like me — follow a living prophet today.