My family and I just moved from Florida to North Carolina for school-related training. During the chaos of a move and the uprooting of a family, there is something that provides great stability – the Church. I don’t know how many outside the Church understand how amazing the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is. It is organized in such a way that all around the country or world, even with cultural and individual differences, congregations are the same – different people, same organization. You know exactly what to expect when going to church. There is unity in the Church.
As I drove in for the first time to the city in which I now live, I had the distinct feeling that this was where I wanted and needed to be. I had a series of interviews with different supervisors and faculty, which interviews strengthened my desire to be where I am now. After visiting a few other sites around the country, even though there was much to commend the other sites for, none of them had the same feeling of “rightness” for me as did where I am now. After all my interviews were done I submitted rankings of where I wanted to be and then waited to see where I matched (interviewees ranked sites and sites ranked interviewees and a computer algorithm figured out the best fit for everyone). I was extremely grateful but not overly surprised when I matched at my top site here in North Carolina. I was not surprised because I knew that this is where I needed to be.
Six years ago when visiting the university where I attend graduate school, I had a similar experience. As I was driving in to the city where the university is housed, I had a feeling that it was where I both wanted and needed to be. Sure enough, it’s where I ended up. There have been other times – four that are very distinct – when what I really wanted was not what the Lord wanted for me and what He knew was best for me. In those instances I have had to trust the Lord and give up on what I thought was best for what I knew was right. The Lord does not always give us what we ask for, for what we ask for is not always right even if we might feel it is good. In these times, what has been helpful for me is to review Hugh B. Brown’s story of the currant bush. The main message of his story is that sometimes the Lord cuts us down to build us up better than we would have been otherwise.
Now back to North Carolina. When looking for a place to live, we went through many options and took time to figure out where we wanted to live. We had to consider my commute time, whether or not we rented a house or an apartment, schools for the kids, rent cost, and which ward we wanted to live in. I felt drawn to the current area and ward boundaries in which we live. Maybe my draw to the ward was because we had heard that it had a lot of young families and a lot of kids but this was the ward for which I felt the most draw. Then, almost like manna from heaven, we discovered a house to rent where we wanted to be and where we felt that we needed to be.
We moved in and went to church and felt right at home. The people are friendly, the teachings are the same, and we are happy to be where we are. I don’t know why we need to be in this particular ward or even at this particular training site, but I believe the Lord needs us to be here, if only because it is what best helps my family. Are not all these feelings I’ve had just my wishful thinking? Are they not just what I want to further my career? Are these feelings of “needing” to be somewhere fanciful imaginations and, when I end up there, coincidence? No, I do not believe that they are. God has a plan for each of us. Our Father in Heaven loves us and wants us to have the most good that we can while doing the most good for others that we can. God gives us opportunities to help others; sometimes He places us in situations so that we can help others; we need to be sensitive to those situations and serve those around us.
This reminds me of an opportunity I had to help someone else. As an LDS missionary I had the opportunity to become good friends with a fellow missionary. What I did not know is that this missionary was struggling with wanting to stay on the mission – the stress of the mission and other factors (including difficulties with a companion) were becoming overwhelming. After we had become friends, this missionary confided in me that I was one of the major factors in this missionary’s decision to remain a missionary. This person and I were both in situations where we could meet and help one another. I believe the Lord directed me to my particular mission area not just for the people I could teach the gospel to but also for the opportunity to help missionaries around me. I write these not to seek accolades or to pat myself on the back, they are meant to serve as examples of the necessity of being in tune with God’s plan for us and acting to help Him with His work – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of humankind (see Moses 1:39). We need to be willing soldiers in the army of the Lord, willing to go and do the things that the Lord commands us (see 1 Ne. 3:7).