Episode 116: Deseret News Executive Editor Doug Wilks reflects on 2022 and on seeking joy through Christ amid trials
This episode of the Church News podcast recaps the important events of 2022, how they affected Latter-day Saints and the world
Episode 116: Deseret News Executive Editor Doug Wilks reflects on 2022 and on seeking joy through Christ amid trials
This episode of the Church News podcast recaps the important events of 2022, how they affected Latter-day Saints and the world
The year 2022 has been marked by major news for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the announcement and building of temples, the impact of armed conflict in Eastern Europe, historic direction from Church leaders, and other major Church milestones and announcements.
Deseret News Executive Editor Doug Wilks, a journalist who serves as president of the Salt Lake Stake, returns to the Church News podcast to discuss the important events of 2022, how they affected Latter-day Saints and the world, and how Latter-day Saints can continue to find joy amid trying times through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Doug Wilks: At some point, I won’t be executive editor of the Deseret News. At some point I won’t be a stake president. Those are kind of irrelevant things in the grand scheme of it. You know, they’re interesting experiences. I’m pleased to be able to have them, but when they’re gone, then what are you? You’re a child of God, son of God, trying to honor the priesthood so that you can serve other people. Those are the true identities. Everything else is extra. So that’s part of the quiet pondering of the Savior. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I always go back to that scripture. He does nothing, but He is doing the work of His father. What humility is in that. How great is the Savior, and yet He deflects all to the Father. There’s a purity in that that we can all learn from.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The year 2022 has been marked by major news for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the announcement and building of temples, armed conflict in Eastern Europe impacting tens of thousands of Church members, historic direction from Church leaders, and other major Church announcements. Deseret News Executive Editor Doug Wilks, a journalist who serves as stake president of the Salt Lake Stake, returns to the Church News podcast to discuss the important events of 2022 and how they impacted Latter-day Saints, as well as the nation and the world. Doug, welcome to the Church News podcast.
Doug Wilks: It’s good to be with you again, Sarah. I can’t believe we’ve got another year behind us.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, for our listeners, this is Doug’s third time on the Church News podcast. It’s become a tradition for him to help us review the major events in the news each year. And I think we should just jump in and start with something that was so important and so impactful to all of us at the beginning of 2022. And that was armed conflict in Eastern Europe.
Doug Wilks: No question. That began Feb. 24 and it helped dominate the whole year, actually, as people work to help those involved in the conflict in Ukraine, and also the impacts it had for people in Russia. And the Church, of course, worries about its membership everywhere in the world. So, it becomes quite a task to provide the spiritual and temporal strength that’s needed.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and you know, we have Latter-day Saints in both Ukraine and Russia. The First Presidency issued a heartfelt statement saying they were “heartbroken and deeply concerned” by the conflict. And then they said that all of us should “pray for peace.” Now, this impacted your stake, the Salt Lake stake, personally, because you have a Russian-speaking branch.
Doug Wilks: It is and it’s very much a Russian-speaking branch. People from Ukraine, people from Russia, missionaries who serve there, people from all over the world who have an interest in that area. And we have about, you know, 120, 130 people who come to sacrament meeting each week and this was a very difficult time. We’ve had people lose family members in Ukraine and we’ve tried to maintain peace of worship in that building. [Branch] President Greg Brinton has done a marvelous job providing strength. We’ve heard heartfelt testimonies, but you really see the Church in action every Sunday, here in Salt Lake as people tried to minister to those halfway across the world in Ukraine, particularly.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and you know, I had the opportunity to visit your branch, the very first Sunday after that conflict erupted. And I was so touched by that experience, because it felt like the brotherhood and sisterhood of the gospel, united people who could have been divided by war.
Doug Wilks: Well, and very much we were aware that we didn’t want the ward to be divided. And how do you accomplish that? Because there are hard feelings. There are very strong feelings about the invasion of Russia into Ukraine, and it was an invasion. But even the language you use, we had one instance, where a member wanted us to stand and sing the Ukrainian national anthem. Was that appropriate in a sacrament meeting? How do you provide support for those Ukrainian members without becoming political? And the answer to the question is you focus on Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. And during the holiday season, it’s easy to focus on the Prince of Peace. But for these members, that’s been a very, very real, active endeavor since February.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I think this has been personal to so many of us, but especially to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf,, who’s a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and, himself, a two time refugee. And in April, he went to Poland and presided over a devotional for Ukrainian refugees.
Doug Wilks: He did and there’s been an incredible outpouring of the Saints across Europe to help refugees coming out of Ukraine. I know we’ve had volunteers, some through the Church, but others just Church members who have felt a need to help and have gone many times back over to Poland, particularly as a base, and then gone into Ukraine taking goods — taking supplies that people need — to help support the humanitarian effort. It’s really an effort to support all the people with food and goods, as opposed to the war effort, which is a different thing.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, the Church remains politically neutral in this and other issues. But leaders have made very, very powerful promises to our members in both places. I loved that just weeks before this conflict erupted, President Russell M. Nelson gave a very historic address to all the Church units in Europe. And he promised them that the future of Europe would be bright, because of their faith.
Doug Wilks: Well, and he said some interesting things there. One of the things is that, you know, I believe there will be a second or a third harvest, that sometimes we tend to think, “Well, there was great missionary work in Britain, or in Scandinavia, or in other parts of Europe.” And that may be that field is not as full of fruit as before. But that’s not true. The faith of the members will be blessed, and their posterity will be blessed and through the faithfulness of the Saints in Europe, they are promised a great, rich harvest.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I think oftentimes, we think that the missionary work happening in Europe comes through refugees who are coming to Europe from countries outside of those nations. And that is true. The Church is growing with so many of those individuals. But President Nelson gave a promise and said that missionary work would also occur with people in those nations, who live in those nations, who have a history and heritage in those countries.
Doug Wilks: Yes. And I think if you follow those countries, you see that the moving people of the world have always had a part in spreading the gospel. I was on a mission in Sweden more than 40 years ago, and the people we were teaching here in Sweden were from Finland, they were from Poland, they were from Iceland, they were from Czechoslovakia, as well as the Swedish people. And it’s so encouraging to hear that it’s not just the people moving about that find the gospel, that it is actually those that have been there and living there for many, many generations.
Sarah Jane Weaver: We did a podcast with Elder Massimo De Feo, [a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Europe Central Area] who spoke about how important that devotional broadcast was for members across Europe. And in that broadcast, he also talked about the impact of having refugees flowing to countries of Europe from Ukraine. Now, I was with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Germany in November and he also met with Ukrainian refugees who were living in the homes of German members. And he gave them some really tender Apostolic encouragement. He said that things were going to be alright, he promised them that God is in charge and said the best thing all of us can do is to be true to our own covenants. And then he added a really powerful promise, he said, “The prayers of a righteous few can change the course of history for a whole country.” Now, I just think that’s beautiful.
Doug Wilks: I have nothing to add to that. I mean, we’ve heard President Nelson talk about the importance of keeping our covenants and that’s at the heart of all of it. And the promise comes, that’s what a covenant is; we will do our part, and the Lord will bless us many, many times over. From a new standpoint, it’s sometimes hard to layer that, right. You know, a conflict in Ukraine, famine or some of the difficulties that that conflict brought to Africa, because some of the food sources were not there. But if you keep your covenants the Lord will provide and bless you. And I’ve seen that locally, and you see it internationally, as well.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And we heard that earlier this month when Elder Neil L. Andersen [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] spoke at the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional. He said, “For the righteous, all will be well.” It is a beautiful statement of hope. And you know, when we talk about covenants, this was a historic year for temple building. We now have 300 temples. President Russell M. Nelson has announced 118 of those temples. That announcement came in October’s general conference. And I loved the fact that, for President Nelson, it wasn’t about the numbers. He didn’t add up the numbers for us. He never said 300. He cares about taking temples closer to the people.
Doug Wilks: Well, and you see that in Mexico City, right, where they have four new temples. I was speaking with a member in the Salt Lake Stake who told me that when they were in Mexico City that sometimes it would take them six hours just to travel across the city to get to a temple. So there’s great wisdom, obviously, in this to provide greater access to the temples.
One of the untold stories about this is the number of volunteers within the temple that are going to be needed. You need a greater measure of devotion from all of us to volunteer within the temples, because it’s not just going to the temple and doing the work for those who have passed. It is “Can we give of our time to help support that work?” And in areas where there may be aren’t as many members, “Can we build that devotion?” So there’s really a foundation needed. Well, and of course, the prophets talked about the need for all of us to have a foundation.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And then that talk, when he was standing at the base of the temple foundation for the Salt Lake Temple in October of 2021, he said something that is relevant to what you said. He said, “It’s easier to build a temple than it is to build a temple-ready people.”
Doug Wilks: Well, that’s one of the goals of the Salt Lake stake. We have the benefit of having the Salt Lake Temple as the center of our stake and it is being refurbished. It’s a multi-year process. And we’ve challenged our members to prepare themselves for when that temple reopens. Now, of course, they need to be doing temple work now, as we all do, and to be renewing our covenants through the sacrament each week. But can we really make ourselves prepared so when that opens to the world, we can prepare to serve and to do a better job? Again, this podcast is so interesting to me, because as I — I work as an editor at the Desert News — but there’s no separation really in one’s life between the spiritual and the temporal. And the closer we bring those two together, I think the happier we are. I find that in my own life.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I’m so glad that you mentioned that historic announcement of four new temple locations in metro Mexico City, because it really is this important thing where the Church is planning to build multiple temples in selected large metropolitan areas where travel time to an existing temple is a challenge for the members. And so now we’re going to see great areas of strength where temples can actually strengthen the members. You’ve seen that in your stake where the Salt Lake Temple becomes the heart of everything that you do. This year was also important, because the historic Washington D.C. Temple was rededicated by President Russell M. Nelson. We had a major open house for that temple in April, where interfaith leaders and government leaders and Supreme Court justices and so many other people walked through the temple.
Doug Wilks: It became a real opportunity to educate the public about what occurs in the temple. And it’s a quiet, peaceful place. It’s a beautiful place of contemplation, but as people go in and see, they see that there’s not mystery here. There’s faith here. And building the faith of both the membership and those who come and visit is really an important part of what’s happening now, particularly in a world that is full of challenges. You know, you talk about the blessings that come from covenant living, the challenges don’t go away. I mean, the trials don’t go away. We have to endure a lot. But we build our faith by enduring those trials and keeping our covenants. And as we see what’s occurring around the world, we see the great strength of the membership. And that becomes inspiring to all of us, particularly here in the heart of Salt Lake City.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Russell M. Nelson rededicated the Washington D.C. Temple in August. This was his first trip outside of Utah since the COVID-19 pandemic. He spent a considerable amount of time walking the temple grounds and inspecting that beautiful refurbished temple. And he also had the opportunity to sit down for an interview. And I remember asking him how he felt to be out and about after not being able to travel for two years during the pandemic. And he didn’t really love the question, I have to say. I could tell he kind of leaned forward and looked like, “Really we’re going to talk about this” and, and he wanted to be clear. Because he said, “it’s great to be out among the members, but I never left them.” And so many things happened during the pandemic that allowed Church leaders to communicate with the members. We’ve sort of seen the ripple of that in 2022.
Doug Wilks: Well, there’s been kind of a balancing that’s going on in 2022, right? I mean, you see full arenas and football stadiums and you see people getting back together. That said, there has been many people who have contracted COVID. The fear of dying, perhaps, is less. But for those who have compromised immune systems or other challenges, it is still a very real presence. But the Church all the way along has worked hard to strengthen the membership, has done many statements on vaccines, and being diligent and protecting others. And then now, it’s simply a question of doing what we can, where we can, how we can. In other words, some are still having virtual transmissions of sacrament meetings, some are having sacrament taken to them in the homes. Some countries have different strains of the virus, which require diligence. But the Church has always responded to crises in positive ways. And you’ve seen that through 2022, as people have tried, at least in America to, get back to some sense of normalcy.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And during the COVID pandemic, we also all came to the conclusion that for us, religion is essential in our lives. I think we miss gathering. I think we missed the opportunity to be in temples. And this summer, President Dallin H. Oaks, who’s first counselor in the First Presidency, offered a historic address in Rome. And in that address, he called for a global effort to defend and advance the religious freedom of all of the children of God in every nation of the world.
Doug Wilks: Well, it was a tremendous call. I think part of that was, he said, “This is not a call for doctrinal compromises, but rather a plea for unity and cooperation on strategy and advocacy toward our common goal of religious liberty for all.” And the unique thing is months later than, of course, in Congress, which is happening as we tape this, there’s the amended Respect for Marriage Act, which gained support in the Senate, gaining support in the House and President Biden, perhaps even as this airs will have signed that bill. And the Church was in support of that, because it matches a “fairness for all” approach, to provide strength for our brothers and sisters who are LGBTQ, but also to provide the protections for religious liberty, so that one’s faith can be practiced in the public square. And the Church has been consistent in that point for 13 years. And people haven’t don’t realize how strong the Church is working to help in both areas.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, the Church issued a statement on Nov. 15, 2022, in support of the Respect for Marriage Act. And, and I just want to read it, because we don’t often hear the Church weighing in on issues that are important to them in the political spectrum. But they said, “The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints related to marriage between a man and a woman is well-known and will remain unchanged. We are grateful for the continuing efforts of those who work to ensure the Respect for Marriage Act includes appropriate religious freedom protections, while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We believe this approach is the way forward as we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom together with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding.” Now, I think that’s so interesting, because the Church is not changing their stance on marriage being between a man and a woman. In fact, they’re declaring that doctrine without apology.
Doug Wilks: Elder Jack Gerrard [a General Authority Seventy], you know, who became a spokesperson for this, as we did an article in the Deseret News. He, to quote him, he said, “so what we’re trying to do is go forward protecting our religious rights, while at the same time respecting our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, who have a different view.” And again, it’s part of what was the Utah compromise back in 2015. Where you’re trying to say, “What can we do to work together?” And it’s trying to live within the world we’re in. And I think the Church has done a good job balancing that without compromising its doctrine.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, and first and foremost, the Church wants to be able to practice its faith and for its members, to also take their faith into the public square.
Doug Wilks: And the Church is educating hundreds of thousands of people and has done for, you know, for more than a century. And can you give a faith-based education to people? There are more than 100 colleges in America that have some faith-based tradition. Colleges themselves started with faith-based traditions. And you don’t want to eliminate the ability to talk about faith, to practice faith, on college campuses. So how do you do that and still maintain protections when people have different points of view? It’s part of living in a society.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And also we had some other major news that came out of Washington D.C. this year that impacted Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion.
Doug Wilks: And the Church’s position on abortion is well-known, you know, protecting the rights of the mother and the child. Clearly the Church is not in favor of abortion, but it has a point of view that is measured. And I think that has been there for many decades and will continue to be there.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Other news in the Church this year was super interesting. And some of this would have affected you, because you’re a former bishop and now serve as a stake president. But the Church changed the wording for tithing settlement. The First Presidency said they are going to use — instead of the term “tithing settlement” — we’re going to use the term “tithing declaration.” In a statement that was released in August, they said, “This change emphasizes that the primary purpose of this interview is to provide members with an opportunity to declare their tithing faithfulness and not to settle in account.”
Doug Wilks: You know, I think what we do is we declare ourselves to the Lord in our prayers every day, seeking guidance and counsel in prayer. When we go to a temple recommend interview, we declare ourselves to the Lord in what we believe, what we witness, what we testify to, and tithing becomes the same thing. We’re willing to keep this promise to the Lord, we’re willing to give a tenth of what we have. I think it’s a strong way to help emphasize the correct principles to the membership. Tithing hasn’t changed, but the way we approach it, the humility we need as we give our tithes and our offerings, is emphasized in a little different way.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And we can now declare our tithing status with our bishops starting on Sept. 1. The statement from the Church said that the hope was that this would free bishops up and give them additional time to meet with families and individuals. And as we know, a bishop’s primary purpose is actually to spend time with the youth.
Doug Wilks: I mean, it is, you hate to use the word burden, but it is. It takes a lot of time to meet with the membership and if that’s a truncated period of time, it’s a little harder. So to begin in September and talk about tithing and the principles of tithing to help people understand that principle, the youth included, it becomes a really wonderful time, and you want to be able to spend the time with each member that you can. And I’ve spoken with the bishops who very much enjoy that time. And as you get into this time of year, there is a lot demanded upon a person, whether it’s their careers, but certainly their families. And some also need to travel to be with family. So you want to make sure there’s time enough to accomplish all that each of the members need.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And as we think about the youth and so much the Church is doing for youth right now, we also had an important change that happened in October general conference, when Elder Uchtdorf announced a revised “For the Strength of Youth” guide. He talked about, when earnestly seeking truth, and he called that truth, “eternal, unchanging truth,” choices become clearer. And the new guide is to help youth learn about truth and to make inspired decisions.
Doug Wilks: Well, that’s what growing up is, right? As you go from adolescence to your teen years and, of course, to adulthood. How do you learn and make a good choice? So that’s simply there as a guide to focus your attention on Jesus Christ. The answer to every question, ultimately, is Jesus Christ. Put another way, “What would Jesus do?” Put another way, “How do I overcome the bad decisions of people who are influencing me?” And sometimes, unfortunately, that can be within a family, right? You might not have the support of a parent, or a child might be struggling in some way and not receive the help and strength that they need. So this kind of puts the focus on Jesus Christ and allows you to make decisions and to understand what you need to do through the Savior and the Atonement, to overcome bad choices you may make. So again, I think it’s focusing our attention where it needs to be and that’s on the Savior.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and that was an underlining theme of October general conference — that theme that Jesus Christ is the answer, that the best guide we can possibly have for making choices or for living our life is the Savior.
Doug Wilks: Well, and what’s the alternative, right? I mean, this is a difficult world. Sometimes young people are struggling. Some struggle in their faith. Well, if you’re struggling in your faith, turn your attention to Jesus Christ. Go back to the basic gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not about, “Should I take out this loan or not? Should I get a car or a second car? Or how should I parent my child?” It’s, “Let me calm my mind, focus my attention on the Savior and see what I can do to overcome the trial in my life.” And sometimes the trial might be becoming a refugee fleeing your home country. But sometimes it might be, “I’ve just lost my job.” You know, we haven’t talked yet about recession or the struggles of the economy. We haven’t talked about politics or elections. And I’m not saying I want to go there, Sarah. But I’m saying there’s a lot of things that come into our living rooms and we have to be able to manage it. And having peaceful, quiet time where we can focus on the Savior, personally and with our families, will get us in the direction we need to be.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And, Doug, another thing we haven’t talked about, which I think is one of the most historic addresses that was given in the year 2022, was President Nelson’s message to young single adults about identity. And in that talk, he said, “First and foremost, each of us are children of God.” And then he gave everyone three identities. And he talked about his own identities. And he said, that before he thinks of himself as a husband, or a father, or as an Apostle of Jesus Christ or as Prophet of the restored Church, he thinks of himself as first, a child of God, and second, a child of covenant and third, as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, those are three things that, regardless of where we live in the world, if we have made covenants in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we all share.
Doug Wilks: I thought it was a brilliant talk and a very important perspective. We were just talking about this upstairs today at the Deseret News. You know, at some point, I won’t be executive editor of the Deseret News. At some point, I won’t be a stake president. Those are kind of irrelevant things in the grand scheme of it, you know. They’re interesting experiences. I’m pleased to be able to have them. But when they’re gone, then what are you? You’re a child of God, a son of God, trying to honor the priesthood, so that you can serve other people. Those are the true identities. Everything else is extra. So, pondering, that’s part of the quiet pondering of the Savior. You know, Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Everything He has done — but I always go back to that scripture, He does nothing, but He is doing the work of his father. What humility in that? How great is the Savior, and yet He deflects all to the Father. There’s a purity in that that we can all learn from.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, one of the most magical moments of that devotional address to young adults is that we have a, now 98-year-old prophet, and we will need to talk about the milestones that President Nelson met this year, because he is now the longest living prophet in this dispensation. But you have a 98-year-old prophet using the term FOMO. And he talked to young people about having a “fear of missing out” on all the promises that God has for them, including eternal life with Jesus Christ.
Doug Wilks: Well, I think there’s also a patience the Lord has with us, right? Sometimes we pass what we think should have been a milestone. Like perhaps we didn’t go on a mission, or perhaps we haven’t found someone to marry. And you think, “Well, I’ve missed that.” Well, we can’t think like that. We’re children of our Heavenly Father and all the opportunities, if we keep our covenants, are before us. And we don’t know what that path is, but we know there’s great joy in the path. We know the trials will come no matter what. So, we’re not going to be void of trials. So love the gospel. I think I’ve mentioned here before, but I had a great young man, a friend, who once said, you know, talking about someone who had a bit of an issue, “Why doesn’t he just love the gospel? Why doesn’t he just enjoy it?” And sometimes we forget that. We get so hung up on criticizing others or saying things aren’t working out for us personally. Well, just wake up in the morning, thank Heavenly Father for another day, and just enjoy it, whatever the trial is, whatever the problem is, and try and overcome to get a little better for the next day. Now, it sounds easier on a podcast than perhaps it is. But there’s great wisdom in that — to just enjoy the gospel.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, President Nelson has talked so much about the Lord’s love and laws. And he has compared them to the laws that govern the heart, or the laws that govern gravity. And he says if you want to operate on the heart, you need to learn the laws that govern the heart. If you want to fly an airplane, then learn to understand gravity. And if you want to be happy, then live and understand the commandments of Jesus Christ.
Doug Wilks: Yeah, I agree. I mean, President Nelson’s an amazing individual. Obviously, we believe he’s a prophet of God. He has been an expert in so many areas. And you know, a father of 10 children and world renowned heart surgeon — who I have a personal connection to, which I’m so grateful for. I had open heart surgery about eight years ago and I had a triple bypass. The techniques for the surgery were pioneered by President Nelson and his team. And my surgeon, Dr. Doty, was the son of I think one of President Nelson’s partners, the senior Dr. Doty. And the whole experience was just one of faith and understanding and the care I received was phenomenal. And I remember, at one point, you know, asking about the surgery, and the doctor said, “We’re very, very good at this. We do this thousands and thousands of times what we’re going to do.” And that was pioneered by the prophet, when he was a surgeon. And that’s kind of how he’s lived his life. You learn how to do it correctly and you do not waver from that. Sometimes the Church, people will accuse us of being sheep, “You’re just following blindly.” I said, “Well, when the shepherd is walking the correct path, don’t you go on that path?” It is a sign of wisdom and strength to take that correct path. And I’ve always appreciated that personal connection I have. It’s an important moment in my life, obviously. And yet, it’s the humility of the man that, perhaps, stands above all. Someone asked him, I believe, and you can correct me if I’m wrong about this, but asked him, “What was it like to be called to be an apostle and leave behind this incredible heart surgery career?” And he said, “Well, I shut that door and move forward.” And it’s just an amazing lesson to us all. He understands who he is and what he’s called to do and he does it.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Nelson, in the first years that he was leader of the Church, before the COVID-19 pandemic, in just about 19 or 20 months he traveled to 35 nations. And he did it at an accelerated pace that those of us 40 years younger, 50 years younger, had a hard time keeping up with. It delighted the members. We are also seeing other senior leaders celebrate some kind of landmark birthdays. President Dallin H. Oaks turned 90 this year. President Henry B. Eyring will reach that 90-year milestone in April of 2023. And President M. Russell Ballard, who is still up and going and traveling, celebrated his 94th birthday this year.
Doug Wilks: I think we’ve been able to see, at least from our vantage point, how the Lord strengthens them. They have trials like all the rest of us and the trials and struggles of age, but the Lord strengthens them to do the ministry they are called to do. And we’re so grateful to have them here to do that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and in January of 2023, President Nelson is going to have served as leader of the Church for five years. I think that time has gone by so fast and yet so slow and so much has been accomplished in the Church and moved forward under his leadership. One of the things that happened before the COVID-19 pandemic, was the announcement that introduced the “Come, Follow Me” home-centered curriculum, this idea that so much of what we can learn happens in the home and is supported by the Church, instead of happening in a Church building. Now, we have undergone four years of that curriculum studying the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Doctrine and Covenants and, of course, the Book of Mormon.
Doug Wilks: Well, and I think that it’s allowed families of all types, to take a look at how best to learn that material. I’ve seen a lot of different examples in my own family and in others of how on, sometimes, on a Sunday night, they’ll go through it with young children, or on a Monday night or on a Saturday before Sunday services. Just people are using the material that meets the needs of their families the best. Obviously, during the pandemic, when the world was shut down, it became crucial and essential. Now, we have a learning with it, that we can have it strengthen each of us in the place we are and help us serve in the places we live. So, it’s been, obviously, inspired and a strength to the Church.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And there are so many other things that we could talk about as we reflect on this year. Queen Elizabeth, England’s Queen for so many decades passed away. We’ve had important announcements that have affected young single adults and how they can serve within their wards and branches. But before we ask the important question that we ask at the end of every podcast, I want to go back to April general conference, where President Nelson was talking about the armed conflict in Eastern Europe. And then he pled with each of us to end personal conflict in our own lives. He says, “How can we expect peace to exist in the world when we are not individually seeking peace and harmony? I plead with you to do all you can to end personal conflicts that are currently raging in your hearts and in your lives.”
Doug Wilks: Well, that was an amazing invitation to all of us to try and do that. That was during the Easter season when we’re focused, maybe even more intently, on the Savior. And I think the invitation was to try, at least, to reach out to someone before Easter or during that season to end conflict. We know scripturally that there is opposition in all things. You know, we know one of the reasons that we’re here on Earth is to strengthen each other in our families, but to be tried and tested and to try and overcome the opposition that is before us. So just one person at a time to try and eliminate conflict. What an amazing thing it is. Think of each of us did that, just with one person. The ripple effect of joy would be tremendous. So it’s certainly worth echoing. I’m glad you did today.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And he actually also said that we can counteract the speed with which evil is intensifying in the world with positive spiritual momentum.
Doug Wilks: Yeah, “spiritual momentum.” That was, that was a key phrase. You know, you look at what’s happening with social media, people continue to try to determine whether social media is a good thing or not. I know everyone’s worried about teens becoming adults in a social media world. Cancel culture has been a real thing. Are we forgiving or do we just cancel people? Do we let people have a second chance and a third chance? All these things are really important. And when you put a gospel layer atop it, you see that the Savior really does have the answer. And President Nelson and the Church leadership is trying to point out what the Savior has given us. And so those words of wisdom are vital.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I think that is a perfect place to close this episode of the Church News podcast. For all of our listeners, we’ll have Doug Wilks, executive editor of the Deseret News, back next year to talk about all that’s happened in 2023. But, Doug, as you look back on 2022, and you contemplate all that has happened in the world and in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what do you know now?
Doug Wilks: I know that the human spirit is alive and well. I know that faith can grow even in the most difficult times. You know, we didn’t talk about some of the challenges. There are protests in Iran as people are trying to seek for justice and elsewhere in the world. The Great Salt Lake is drying up and is becoming an ecological disaster and people are trying to respond to that. Stewardship of the Earth is the principle. Can we be good stewards of the Earth that’s been created for us?
I’m optimistic about the faith of the individual. And then as each individual grows in faith, the collective faith becomes very, very powerful. I’ve thought a lot about peace during this time of conflict, particularly as it relates to members of the Salt Lake Stake who are dealing with a lot, particularly those from Ukraine or with family in Ukraine and in Russia. And it’s just a joy to watch them overcome the most difficult situations. So, my takeaway from 2022 is that the truth will prevail and it always will. And all of us want to come along for the ride, because as our faith builds, our joy builds.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.