Today was my first time teaching Elders Quorum since moving back to Utah. (I also taught EQ in Tallahasee, but it’s been a while.) The lesson was on the birth of Christ. I asked the class how the birth story specifically—not what happens later in Jesus’ life—can be applied to their lives. What do they learn about themselves from it? A couple of people said they wondered if they would be like the shepherds who learned of Christ’s birth. Would they be prepared to recognize and acknowledge Christ when he shows up?
This led perfectly into where I wanted to take the lesson. I had us read a few scriptures (John 1:4–9; D&C 84:45–46; Moroni 7:16) that speak to the idea of the light of Christ being in everyone. I asked if we’re prepared to recognize and acknowledge the light of Christ that is in every person with whom we interact. I asked how different our lives would be if we truly did this. One person said it would make him feel “optimistic.” That seems right to me. I think the gospel should make us optimistic, but I don’t know that we always live it or teach it in such a way promotes optimism. I think this is something I want to emphasize in my life and as I personally interact with others, especially in ecclesiastical-type settings—the optimism of the gospel.
I read Matthew 25:40, which states, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” I said I think Christ really meant it when he said that. I said that when we dismiss people because of their political views, or because they left the LDS Church, or because they do this or that, we are basically being about as anti-Christian as we can be. The pinnacle of Christ’s mortal sojourn was the atonement, a supremely and sublimely empathetic endeavor. He came here to understand us as completely and fully as possible. When we don’t even want to bother with certain people, when we discount them for any reason, we oppose Christ, the very one whose name we are supposed to claim and have covenanted to take upon ourselves.
I said there have been times when I’ve wanted more Christ in my life. I said that often times, we look up when we’re trying to find Christ. But I think God sometimes needs us to look at each other to see more of Christ. “If you love me, feed my sheep.” I said that if we keep in mind that the light of Christ is in everyone, then every time a person is born, in some small way, it is the nativity scene all over again. That beauty and perfection and inherent divinity is there. But of course, we all mess up. We don’t live Christlike lives. We all screw up somewhere along the way. Thankfully, God continues to recognize the light of Christ in us. He continues to see our worth and potential. And the message is that, even if Christ’s story isn’t ours because we’ve already mucked it up, it yet can be. That’s the promise held out to us, a promise that never disappears. No matter where we are at or what we’ve done, Christ’s story can yet be ours. We can yet be one with him as he is one with the Father, which is the purpose of it all. We can yet be joint-heirs. I challenged the class to “have the audacity” to liken the story of the birth of Christ to themselves, because I think God wants us to, and also to liken it to everyone with whom they interact. I asked the class to recognize the light of Christ in themselves and in each other.
I’m hopeful that the lesson went well and impacted a few people. The subtle looks on a couple of faces suggested that something struck a chord and was causing them to see things perhaps a little bit differently than they have before. When class was over, I felt humbled and peaceful, which I think is a witness of the Spirit. I went to my car (leaving early because Melanie is home sick and the boys stayed home, too) and sat in the stillness for a few moments. I offered a silent prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father. I found myself thinking, “These are my people. I want to serve them.” It’s that blasted call to be a part of the LDS Church that sometimes I wish I didn’t feel. But I do feel it. Again and again, it seems. And so I carry on.