Instant Messages

By Justin Stoker


Instant Messages features personal experiences, insights into favorite hymns and scriptures, and other uplifting thoughts. If you have a personal experience that has strengthened your testimony and you’d like us to consider it for Instant Messages, please e-mail it to newera@ldschurch.org

or send it to

New Era, Instant Messages
50 E. North Temple St. Rm. 2420
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3220, USA

Please limit submissions to 400 words or less. They may be edited for length and clarity.

Where Your Heart Is

I was far from home on my mission in San Francisco, California, and I thought everything was great. Every day that I got a letter became a great day, until I received one I did not want. I had lived in four states already, and the thought of my family moving to another was almost more than I could bear. Nonetheless, I knew that my parents would soon move our family again.

“I applied for a new job,” my father wrote. They would be moving to Virginia.

When the day came that I would leave my mission, I felt awkward going to a “home” I had never been to. When the airplane pilot announced five minutes until arrival, I felt like I was at the circus on opening night. I stepped off the plane, and for the first time in two years I saw my family.

“Justin!” came a shout down the hallway.

Stories were shared. We rambled nonstop as we drove down the strange streets and unfamiliar country. I felt at ease knowing my family was there.

I realized it was not the location that made my home but where my heart would return. And my heart was with my family. Like a flash of lightning, many questions were answered. My family was close because our home was with each other. It was not a house or location that made it home; it was the love of our family.

[illustration] Illustration by Sam Lawlor

All in My Family

In 1995, since our stake youth conference focused on family history work, we decided to do baptisms for the dead, using family names gathered by members of the stake.

Because it was my first time going to the Salt Lake Temple, I was nervous entering the baptismal font room. As I sat on the bench waiting my turn, the Spirit prompted me to let some other youth go ahead of me. When my sister’s turn came, she was baptized for names that our grandpa had given us. It was wonderful to see her baptized for members of our family.

When my turn came, out of 1,400 names that the stake had submitted, I was also baptized for names my grandfather had gathered.

I felt like the Lord wanted me to wait so that I could do the baptisms for my family members. I have a firm testimony of family history work. I now work in the Salt Lake Temple and I see a lot of youth with family file cards every month. I think that’s amazing that people are doing their family history.

Pass It Along

Our seminary teacher challenged the students to give missionary pass-along cards to people at school or work or during their everyday lives. As I approached the people with the pass-along cards, I was ready to bear my testimony and share with them what I love and cherish about the gospel. Sometimes I didn’t have time to say much, but I could still give someone a card.

While none of those people have started seriously investigating the Church yet, when I would talk to them about the gospel, the conversation would lead to more questions. When I gave a girl in my English class a card, she got excited about it, so I gave her a Joseph Smith pamphlet, too. I later found out that she gave the pamphlet to a friend at the same time that her friend received a Book of Mormon from another seminary student.

I gave a card to another friend in my history class, and now she is reading the Book of Mormon. She hasn’t said much or asked about it, but it still feels good to know that I’ve accomplished something by giving her a card.

I don’t know where these small efforts will lead, but I’m sure that someday these cards will lead someone to find out the truth for themselves through the Book of Mormon.

[photo] Photograph by Jed Clark

Developing an Attitude

To me, service meant boxes of hygiene kits, a pile of donated blankets, students heading to a rundown public park with shovels and rakes. And that kind of service was something I did not have time for. I felt bad I didn’t do more for other people, but I was barely juggling my classes, part-time job, and calling already. What more could I do?

One day, a phrase popped into my head: “Service is an attitude.”

“What?” I silently asked the air. I thought service was a “project,” like gathering food for the poor or starting a recycling program.

The next day after class I saw a student cutting across campus with his backpack flopping open. He was too far away for me to yell to him. “Someone else will tell him,” I thought. But he continued power-walking away from me. No one stopped him. “I hope he doesn’t lose anything important,” I thought.

“Service is an attitude,” a voice whispered to my mind.

I broke into a run. “Hey,” I called. “Hey, buddy, your backpack is open.”

The bewildered student stopped and flipped through his folders and books to make sure nothing had fallen out. He glanced up at me, eyes wide with relief. “Thanks!”

Sometimes service is a project. Other times it’s paying attention and taking a small step out of the way to make someone’s day better.

[photo] Photograph by Robert Casey