Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Change of Heart

Today (Sunday) was a difficult, yet rewarding, day. It happens frequently when you serve in a married student ward. We had several couples that today was their last Sunday in our ward. It is difficult to say goodbye knowing it may be the last time you see them. On the brighter side over the past few weeks we have had nine new couples move in. Most of the new couples when they introduce themselves say they have been married for two or three weeks, some less.

Many of the couples that are leaving have been married for two years or more and have one or two children. I know you will think I’m crazy, but one of the couples moving out of the ward have been married for four years, an eternity for a student ward! There is a definite difference in their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and in their love for each other. They have grown from the honeymoon couple to a family committed to each other and the Gospel – They have experienced the “mighty change in your hearts” that Alma talked about, they have been “spiritually born of God” and “received his image in (their) countenances” (Alma 5:14).

The best part of serving in a married student ward is seeing them grow, not only in the gospel, but as couples. These couples grow in many ways; their priorities change as they focus on their spouses needs instead of their own. They are focused on getting through school and starting a new life with their eternal companion. They accept callings to serve in the ward and are dedicated to magnifying these callings. They really do experience an increase of the Savior’s image in their countenances when they lose themselves in the service of others.

I don’t want to paint some rosy picture perfect life that these couples are having because most couples go through some tough times because that is life. We have had couples that have dealt with cancer, miscarriages, unemployment, problems with school, and guess what they have even had problems getting along with their spouse! None of us are free from life’s challenges because that is the Lord’s plan to come here and experience life and learn how to cope. Most of the time these couples get through it, but sometimes they don’t and we help them the best we can.

Elder Mervyn B. Arnold in a BYU-Idaho devotional address spoke of how President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, got through his college years, he said:

But his career as an internationally renowned heart surgeon and medical researcher did not come easily. Because of advanced training and military service, the time between President Nelson getting his doctor’s degree and going into practice was 12½ years. During those long and lean years, the Nelsons welcomed their first five children.

Of his financial struggles as a newlywed, he remembers: “Finances eventually became so straitened that [my wife] Dantzel took a second job, working evenings as a clerk in a music store downtown. Once, when there was too much month at the end of [our] money, [we] found [our]selves in the hole by about forty-three dollars. On this occasion, [I] picked up Dantzel after school and took her to the LDS Hospital, where [we] each sold a pint of blood for twenty-five dollars. This gave [us] enough cash to retire [our] bills. As the needle was withdrawn from Dantzel’s arm, she said, … ‘Don’t forget to pay tithing on my blood money!’”26

Sister Arnold and I started out in about the same financial condition as President and Sister Nelson. I met Sister Arnold at BYU. After dating for a few months, I decided I wanted to ask her to go steady, so I bought some Neil Diamond tickets and asked her to go to the concert with me. On the way from Provo to Salt Lake, I asked how she would feel about not dating other boys for a time. She thought for what I felt was eternity at the time and then replied, “I guess we can try it for a little while.” On the way home from the concert, I asked her to marry me.

When we got married a few months later, we had a mere $42 to buy all our furniture. My mother bought us a bed for our wedding present, and the rest of our furniture we purchased from an older woman who was moving into an assisted living center. She gladly sold us all of her very old furniture for the $42.

I must admit that most of it looked like Moses had drug it through the Red Sea. The table and chairs were badly worn. The washer and dryer looked as though they had not been used in years, but, to our surprise, they both worked. The couch had only three legs. This actually turned out to be a blessing because my brother Robert gave us an old TV, and when you turned it on, the picture on the screen was on exactly the same slant as the three-legged couch. (Increasing in Christ, Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, BYU-Idaho Devotional, November 10, 2015))

This is a familiar story for the couples in the married student stake I serve in. They are all going through similar experiences and most of them are handling it like President Nelson and Elder Arnold did.

I have told the members of our ward that there are four reasons why we have student wards and not just have them attend the regular family wards:

  1. The members of our wards are all students and going through the same experiences.
  2. Student wards have a responsibility to be a buffer between the philosophies of men that are taught at the University and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can focus on it because all of them are students, are about the same age, and they understand what is going on with each other.
  3. We focus on the student’s situations and help them gain a foundation for their marriage and family life  so when the graduate and move on to other wards they will be contributing members.
  4. We help the members go through the process of being spiritually born of God and being committed to the Gospel and service in the kingdom of God.

To the members who are leaving, we pray that the Lord will bless you in all things. I know he will if you put him first in all things. We are grateful you shared your first years of marriage with us, and know your lives together will be a great journey if you keep the covenants you made in the temple.

To the new couples that have begun their lives together we are grateful you have chosen to have us be a part of your journey and I can promise if you will strive to experience an increase of the Savior’s image in your countenances that you will have that rebirth and mighty change of heart the scriptures testify will come to those who seek it.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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