Elder Christofferson Speaks of Reconciliation at Ogden Pioneer Days Devotional
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
“We need contemporary pioneers who seek the interest of their neighbors and do ‘all things with an eye single to the glory of God.’” —Elder D. Todd Christofferson
It is important to put differences aside and strive for the common good, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught during the annual Ogden Pioneer Days devotional held in the Dee Events Center at Weber State University on July 12.
Drawing from the history of Ogden, Elder Christofferson said, “It is the city in Utah that has had a more diverse population, with potentially diverse—even divisive—interests, over a longer period of its history, and with greater success in accommodating that diversity than any other city or region in the state.
“Somehow there has grown up here a spirit of helping one another succeed rather than insisting on a particular interest succeeding at the expense of all others.”
Highlighting some of the pieces of Ogden’s history, Elder Christofferson spoke of the Ute and Shoshone tribes that coexisted in the area, the railroad, as well as trappers and Mormon pioneers.
“Ogden City quickly became a socially, culturally, and religiously diverse community,” Elder Christofferson said. The differences of Church members and their non-Mormon neighbors created a divide until around the turn of the 20th century when the people of Ogden found a way to use civic and national holidays to unite. The Ogden Pioneer Days celebration began in 1934 and has been one way community members have come together in celebration.
“If my perception is correct that Ogden is a city where, generally speaking, people put differences aside and strive for the common good, … I pray that it will ever be so,” he said. “There is so much in our world of enmity and retribution, of selfishness and division, we need a few cities on a hill whose light beckons all to a higher plane. We need contemporary pioneers who seek the interest of their neighbors and do ‘all things with an eye single to the glory of God.’”
Drawing from the Sermon on the Mount, where the Savior declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God,” Elder Christofferson spoke of the need to be reconciled with those around them.
Community members listen during the annual Ogden Pioneer Days devotional held in the Dee Events Center on July 12. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.
“We are all learning and practicing, but we are all imperfect, and even with the best intentions, we will make mistakes and offend others,” he said. “I believe the Lord is telling us to seek the interest and welfare of one another, and where needed, reconciliation. And in reconciliation, He seems to place the responsibility equally on offenders and ‘offendees.’ He doesn’t want us wasting time arguing about who should make the first move—all should feel the need to take the initiative.”
Sharing a story of when he was serving as a bishop, Elder Christofferson spoke of the need to ask for and give forgiveness.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson speaks during the annual Ogden Pioneer Days devotional, held in the Dee Events Center in Odgen, Utah, on July 12, 2015. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.
“A new member of the ward called to tell me that his mother had died,” he said. “He was understandably distressed, and I tried to speak words of comfort to him over the phone. I had a young family and was just at that moment leaving on what we all felt was a well-deserved vacation, so I didn’t stay for the funeral.”
After returning home from the family vacation, the young bishop learned that the man had been deeply hurt and offended by his absence at the funeral of his mother. Because of that offense, he stopped attending church. Although Elder Christofferson felt justified in his decision to vacation with his family, he began to feel very uneasy.
“Though I still felt justified in my decision, I resolved to visit this brother and apologize,” he said.
After an icy greeting from his wife at the door, Elder Christofferson spoke with the man and asked for forgiveness. He realized he could have done more to help the man and ease the pain of losing his mother. Not long after they reconciled, the man suddenly passed away.
An institute choir from Ogden, Utah, performs during the annual Ogden Pioneer Days devotional held in the Dee Events Center on July 12. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.
“None of us had seen it coming, and we were all surprised and saddened,” he said. “I shudder to think of the regret that would have overwhelmed me if I had put off going to him. It is always difficult to deal with the unpleasantness of hard feelings, and I for one would prefer to procrastinate, but we may not have the time to act that we think we do. Better to swallow pride and act quickly.”
The actions of individuals add up to the culture of a community, he taught.
“Parents teach their children according to their values, hopefully including those we have just mentioned,” he said. “When children are old enough and choose their own path, we must hope that they will adhere to those values, be reinforced by those around them, and make their own contributions to others.
“At the same time, we must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values, and behaviors differ from ours while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values, and behaviors in the process. Every citizen’s rights are best guarded when each person and group guards for others those rights they wish guarded for themselves—‘every man seeking the interest of his neighbor.’”
Many of the pioneers and settlers of Ogden came as exiles, and still some do today, he taught. That is why a community of security and peace is so important.
“Let this be where they find security and peace, brotherhood and sisterhood; where they find a home; where they find in us friends and neighbors who are interested in their welfare.
“We owe a great deal to our pioneer forbears both here and across this blessed nation,” he said. “Let us honor them by continuing, even enhancing the wonderful, colorful history of Ogden that more often than not has promoted unity over division and the hand of fellowship over rejection.”