What Am I Spreading?

My morning routine generally involves catching up on the news while on my treadmill.  Lately much of the news revolves around the pandemic.  A few weeks ago, during the surge of cases in New York, their governor warned about how rapidly the virus was spreading and begged people to follow the guidelines set forth by the medical experts.  Then he said something that made a deep impression on me, so much so that I quickly got off the treadmill and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.  “The life you risk may not be your own.”  I couldn’t stop thinking about this statement.  Of course he was referring to this in a physical way, but I thought about it in a spiritual way.  In the same way we can spread a deadly virus because we are asymptomatic, spiritual casualness or apathy can unknowingly affect those around us.  Let’s all ask ourselves, “What am I spreading?”

President David O. McKay once said, “There is one responsibility which no man can evade and that responsibility is personal influence.”1

Perhaps one of the most straightforward, soul-searching talks given about personal influence was given by Jeffery R. Holland entitled “A Prayer for the Children.”2 It is definitely one we should read often! In his tender but direct way he said, “I speak carefully and lovingly to any of the adults of the Church, parents or otherwise, who may be given to cynicism or skepticism, who in matters of whole-souled devotion always seem to hang back a little, who at the Church’s doctrinal campsite always like to pitch their tents out on the periphery of religious faith. To all such—whom we do love and wish were more comfortable camping nearer to us—I say, please be aware that the full price to be paid for such a stance does not always come due in your lifetime. No, sadly, some elements of this can be a kind of profligate national debt, with payments coming out of your children’s and grandchildren’s pockets in far more expensive ways than you ever intended it to be. …

“Parents simply cannot flirt with skepticism or cynicism, then be surprised when their children expand that flirtation into full-blown romance. If in matters of faith and belief children are at risk of being swept downstream by this intellectual current or that cultural rapid, we as their parents must be more certain than ever to hold to anchored, unmistakable moorings clearly recognizable to those of our own household. It won’t help anyone if we go over the edge with them, explaining through the roar of the falls all the way down that we really did know the Church was true and that the keys of the priesthood really were lodged there but we just didn’t want to stifle anyone’s freedom to think otherwise. No, we can hardly expect the children to get to shore safely if the parents don’t seem to know where to anchor their own boat.”

I am so grateful for parents who knew to securely anchor their boats in the gospel of Jesus Christ!  They were deliberate and intentional in living the gospel.  Their faithful example has made all the difference in my life.

To guard against the current deadly pandemic, we have been given a checklist of some pretty simple things that, if we will be diligent in doing daily, will help to keep us safe.  Similarly, we have been given a spiritual checklist of things that if done consistently and regularly will keep us spiritually safe.

Elder Holland reminds us, “Live the gospel as conspicuously as you can. Keep the covenants your children know you have made. Give priesthood blessings. And bear your testimony! Don’t just assume your children will somehow get the drift of your beliefs on their own.”

He then gives us the following “checklist”:

“Might we ask ourselves what our children know? From us? Personally? Do our children know that we love the scriptures? Do they see us reading them and marking them and clinging to them in daily life? Have our children ever unexpectedly opened a closed door and found us on our knees in prayer? Have they heard us not only pray with them but also pray for them out of nothing more than sheer parental love? Do our children know we believe in fasting as something more than an obligatory first-Sunday-of-the-month hardship? Do they know that we have fasted for them and for their future on days about which they knew nothing? Do they know we love being in the temple, not least because it provides a bond to them that neither death nor the legions of hell can break? Do they know we love and sustain local and general leaders, imperfect as they are, for their willingness to accept callings they did not seek in order to preserve a standard of righteousness they did not create? Do those children know that we love God with all our heart and that we long to see the face—and fall at the feet—of His Only Begotten Son?”

Although Elder Holland was speaking about parental influence, our influence spreads far beyond the walls of our own homes.  We never really know how far it travels and who we affect.  What are we spreading?  Are we putting others at risk or do we want them to catch what we have? Let’s be a little more deliberate in spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ through our words and our actions.  

References:

1.  The Mission of Brigham Young University – David O. McKay (April 27, 1948)

2.  A Prayer for the Children – Jeffrey R. Holland

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