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This post is Chastity Wilson’s contribution to the ongoing General Conference Odyssey.

“We cannot, my dear brethren, condition our love by a beard or beads or habits or strange viewpoints. There have to be standards and they must be enforced, but our love must be unconditional.” -Marion D. Hanks

In the October 1971 Priesthood session of General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Marvin J. Ashton told the following story in his talk:

…My thoughts have turned back to a bewildered and confused young man in a huge city. He had lost his way. In desperation he stopped a man on the sidewalk and said, “How do I get to such-and-such a destination from here?” After considerable thought, with the skyscrapers, dense traffic, confusing streets, winding rivers, freeways, bridges, tunnels, and so on in mind, the man said, “You can’t get there from here.”I have often thought of this advice as I have contemplated particularly some of our youth in their present locations in life. Some are lost, bewildered, confused, scared, sick, insecure, and discouraged. What a tragedy to be in these straits and to be told, in answer to the questions “How can I get back to where I was?” or “How can I get to where I want to go?”—“You can’t get there from where you are.”The disciples of the devil teach there is no way back: Live it up, everybody is doing it, be with the in-group, and it’s more fun to stay lost. The devil is an enemy to the ways of God, and enticeth to sin. […] What a happy day it will be when, in contrast to the experience this lost young man had in the big city, he or others can find someone who will say, “Yes, you can get there from here. Come, follow me.”

Many times in our lives and the lives of those around us, we reach a point where we feel that we are lost, or have just gone too far from where we started in order to ever return again. This feeling brings us great sorrow, but because we feel such hopelessness and can’t see the way back, we push it out of our minds, saying, “It’s too late, anyway. I’m too bad. I’ve done too much. I’m just too different now.”

We are never too different, and it is never too late. As children of a loving God, we have all come to the earth under vastly different circumstances. Each of us goes through a different experience, with all of our very own trials, tests, gifts and weaknesses. We are ALL different, and all of our lives matter. We are more important than our mistakes.

Very often our glances, our indifference, our hasty comments and lack of patience convey the message, “You are hopeless. You can’t get back from here. You are too far down the road. After visiting with one of our young women who has been lost to drugs for many months, her only encouraging remark after more than three hours of sincere communication was, “Thanks for not chewing me out.” Two visits later she asked, “Do you think I would make a good schoolteacher?” To a sincere yes, she said, “Thanks, I’ll try. I’m only three semesters away from getting my teaching certificate.” This girl is making it back. Someone believes in her. Someone has convinced her she can get there from here. The trip she is on this time will bring her back home.

May I this day, challenge all of us as priesthood bearers, young and old, to vigorously locate and lead those who have temporarily strayed. Let us lead them by our example, love, and persuasion. They deserve our help. They want our direction. They need our love. You priesthood bearers this night, honor your priesthood, build yourself by stooping to help someone who has temporarily lost his or her way.

I know how it feels to be different; I know how it feels to be lost and think that I am disqualified. I also know how it feels to be found again, and to have the beauty of love, knowledge and joy restored to me through God’s forgiveness.

It is our responsibility to reach out to each other in love; to help them see that there is a path back if they want to take it. There is a difference between the joy of relief felt when one finally gives into a sin that they’ve been struggling with for too long, and the clean, pure, indescribable joy of repentance and forgiveness. One is an physical and mental relief of pulling off fetters that were getting harder and harder to bear all on our own. It is a great burst of relief at first, but it is but a shadowy, secondary kind of happiness, which over time is lost as the burdens of sin overshadow our lives. We forget how the other kind of joy tastes, and forget that it is possible to feel that way. But when the burdens of sin are thrown off and abandoned; when true repentance takes place, that joy is an immeasurable, eternal feeling that can be shared and felt with those around you. It is a happiness that pulls people in. It is love.

Remember that powerful truth found in Matthew 23:37: “… how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” [Matt. 23:37] With your indulgence, I would like to repeat that quotation once more and add just two words of admonition: “… how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not help me!”

See what the other contributors to the General Conference Odyssey wrote about this week and join our Facebook group to follow along!

It Takes Men and Women (Jan Tolman at LDS Women of God)