why I am still a memberWhen I was first asked to speak in sacrament meeting, I knew I would never make it to the podium before we ran out of time in the meeting, so I didn’t prepare a talk. I was surprised when I was told that I wasn’t off the hook, but that I would need to speak a couple of months later. By the time I needed to ask what I was to speak on, I was told, “Just give the talk you prepared last time.” That was a big help. When I pushed for a little clarification I was told, “Tell us why you are still a member.”

Considering the shortness of sacrament meeting these days, and that we all know you would rather hear from our returned missionary than from your ward mission leader, I’ll keep this short. I’d rather hear the living testimony of a recent servant of the Lord than from me as well. Over the years I have come to appreciate better the privilege it is to be around and to associate with those who are ordained to be on the Lord’s errand. My life is enriched in ways that are difficult to describe when I feed the missionaries, talk to them, watch them work, and listen to their simple testimonies.

Age is not a factor in this privilege of being around the servants of the Lord. When I am around the missionaries I can sense the power of God veritably leaking out of them without their even being aware of it. Sometimes it is difficult to see and feel, because they are young and oftentimes as foolish as those of us who are nearer the grave. But His power is there in unmistakable ways, especially if you are hoping for a glimpse of it when you are around a missionary. I am ever grateful to have them in my home for any reason, to see them on the street or am able to listen to them talk about their work.

Answering the question

Now to get to the question I was asked to address as to why I am still, after all these years, a member of the Lord’s church. I came out of sleep a couple weeks ago in the middle of the night thinking, “I am lonely. I always have been.” I am referring to a deep longing and loneliness in the depths of my soul. My first reaction was that of surprise. I have an amazing companion in my wife, Elaine. She is far more than I deserve as an eternal companion and in an earthly friend. So how am I lonely?

By now sleep had fled and I was wide awake. Yes, that loneliness was still present. I can feel it lurking in the corners and in the shadows of my soul. There are needs I cannot fully express, and desires that are so personal and needful that I would not dare say them out loud. For all my longing to be loved in a deeper way than any mortal can show me, for all my longing for acceptance and validation in this life, I am still able to find joy and happiness. Why?

My only explanation is that God is able to love me more perfectly, more completely than any human, even than one who loves me as much as my beloved wife or my mother does. When I am in personal pain, it is God who comforts my soul. When I am lost, confused, and don’t know what to do in a tough situation, it is God who whispers instructions, directions, and knowledge to my soul.

In moments of doubt He whispers assurances. In times of stress He sends me strength to handle what feels like something that will break me. I have always felt lonely, but I think I feel that way, because I have left my Father’s side. I miss Him. In this life I have only sensed Him near enough to keep me going. His plan for my salvation, for my redemption from myself, is my greatest joy. Knowing that my Father in Heaven has thought of literally everything in His preparations for my time on earth gives me solace and comfort when I wonder how I am going to make it through mortality in one piece.

I am grateful for the testimony that He has given me of the truth – the truth of living prophets, the truth of priesthood power, the truth of the saving ability of service to others, and the truth of covenants that bind me to my Savior. My life is filled with ways to receive comfort, knowledge of eternal things, and understanding of simple things when I study the scriptures and seek to live the commandments of God. I have long believed that commandments are laws of happiness, and that no one can find lasting happiness without living those laws of happiness God has sent us through Christ and his prophets.

I have never had earth shaking revelations. I have seen no visions like those we read about in the scriptures. Never have I had a testimony or a life-changing conversion given to me like those in the scriptures. But I have had a periodic and continual flow of little assurances that have been present and have appeared from time to time my whole life. I know that if I haven’t felt like anything has come to me in a while it is only because I haven’t been serving others like I should, I haven’t been keeping the commandments as strictly as I need to, or I haven’t been finding ways to express love to others and to God more openly. When I take the time to specifically ask for help in a certain area of my life, and look for the help I know will follow my asking, it always comes sooner or later.

God has left me on my own at times. Those are hard times. But He has never abandoned me. I have had witnesses that no matter what is happening in my life He is keenly aware of what I am doing and of what I need. At some point He always steps in and provides what no one else can provide, and my soul finds rest in His involvement in my life.

This is why I am still a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been a member all of my life, but conversion to God’s gospel, His good news ebbs and flows with my personal attention to being obedient. How people make it through life without God’s presence in their daily routine is beyond my ability to fathom. I need Him. I long to be with Him. Nothing but Him satisfies the longings of my whole soul.

I know that I have given you nothing specific as to why I am still a member of this church. But I have endeavored to express to you the things of my heart that I don’t have words for. I hope you can feel a little bit of a kindred longing I have tried to describe. Nowhere else in this world can these longings be satiated and satisfied, but in the gospel of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This is a talk given in May of 2024 in the Rexburg 11th ward.

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Why Am I Still a Member?