One of the premier privileges of living in the western United States is the opportunity to delight in the mountains and to take occasion to enjoy them from afar and up close. Every state I have lived in has unique and wonderful mountains that to me are incredible. Gratefully, I have family that loves the mountains, maps that describe the terrain, GPS systems for guidance, and improved trails that make the climbs much more enjoyable.
Near my hometown, Mount Timpanogos’ soars overhead at 11,749 feet above sea level, making it the second highest peak in the Wasatch Front. That has Mount Baker beat, which is 10,781 ft in the Cascade Mountain Range but a far cry from the airy Mt. McKinley in Alaska—weighing in at a mere 20,320 feet—the highest point in the United States. The loftiest point in the contiguous 48 states is Mt. Whitney in California (14,505).
So you might be wondering if all of these mountains are so prominent here in the United States how do they compare to others around the world. Using the parlance of today how shall I say it? Not even close. Be that as it may, the height of the summit is not the best part of a mountain in my opinion. The young men in my family love to climb the sheer rock cliffs of the mountains, and they do.
Some of their conquests still amaze me. But perhaps you enjoy camping or fishing or exploring. The best hikes may be right there in your neighborhood. And whatever activity you are involved in is always made better with pleasant company and good directions.
Similarly, as we make our way through life, a good support group and proper guidance help us get where we really want to go. Perhaps that is what Joseph Smith was thinking about when he composed the Articles of Faith. They came about as a part of a request to learn more about the beliefs of the Latter-day Saints of that day. The Articles of Faith were originally part of the Wentworth letter and have become a guide—if you will—for members of the Church then and continue to be so even today. To me that is incredible.
What is the Wentworth letter all about and does it really matter to me today?
In 1842 a man named George Barstow was writing a history of the state of New Hampshire, and he wanted to include a chapter about the members of the Church living in New Hampshire. Mr. Barstow did not know much about the Church and wanted to find out what the Latter-day Saints believed. Since the headquarters of the Church was in Nauvoo, Illinois, Mr. Barstow contacted his friend John Wentworth, who was the editor of a newspaper in Chicago, Illinois.
Mr. Wentworth asked Joseph Smith about the beliefs and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet answered with a letter that has become known as the Wentworth Letter. In it he told Mr. Wentworth about the First Vision and how he received and translated the gold plates, and he also described the organization of the Church and the persecution and history of the Saints. In the last part of this important letter, the Prophet listed some of the basic beliefs of the Church. This list has become known as the Articles of Faith.
Joseph Smith wrote the Articles of Faith to help people who are not members of the Church understand how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is different from other churches. The Articles of Faith do not contain all of the teachings and beliefs of the Church, but they do explain some of our most important beliefs. They can help build faith, understanding, and a testimony of the gospel and they also give us a good foundation for sharing the gospel with others.
The Articles of Faith were never published in Barstow’s history of New Hampshire or in Wentworth’s newspaper, but they were published by a Church newspaper in 1842. In 1880 members of the Church at the October general conference raised their hands in common consent to accept the Articles of Faith as scripture. They are now included in the Pearl of Great Price.
Today I am grateful that we have the guidance and direction of general and local Church leaders, parents, family, friends, scriptures, and curricula available for us and our children to help guide us along the pathways of life. Just like having a companion, a map, and plenty of water to drink helps make our hike in the mountains enjoyable and more likely successful, using the resources provided us make our trek through life better, as well. It is not rocket science. We simply use the tools and resources all around us to face the challenges we are sure to encounter.
I think that is pretty much the same reason the Church leaders have recently composed and released a list of questions to help clarify and give direction to every missionary preparing to serve the Lord in this capacity today. The letter from the First Presidency starts as follows:
For many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, missionary service is a significant milestone in their lifelong spiritual growth. Church leaders desire that this sacred time of service be a joyous and faith-building experience for every missionary, from young men and women to senior couples. With this goal in mind, it is imperative that each missionary is appropriately prepared, worthy, and healthy.
The letter with a list of questions was sent to church leaders all around the world to help prospective missionaries prepare to serve full-time missions. Since these leaders are involved in holding effective interviews and recommending missionaries for service, the local leaders are encouraged to share the questions with the youth and their parents. The letter and questions are available to everyone who is interested in learning more about the standard interview questions for prospective missionaries.
The new missionary questions were published in many different media sources, including the following: https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/multimedia/file/15137_000_letter.pdf#page=5
Now perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with you. Why should this capture our attention at all? In light of our discussion about climbing mountains in the world and navigating the ups-and-downs of life, to me this is another example of the Church leaders doing what they can to help us all be successful—they do it for missionaries; they do it for non-members and members alike; they do it for us all.
The gospel of Jesus Christ and his church are all about helping us be successful and change our lives for the better. This is just one more instance, and we are just getting started. We have many, many more examples. The help and blessings are so numerous that we largely forget that we have so many. Are you thinking of others that we have not enumerated yet in this article? Well, this is certainly not a comprehensive list. Frankly, it is just the beginning.
The Spirit of God is given to every man and woman born to this earth. Church magazines, websites, commandments, covenants, and living scriptures fill our homes, our lives, and our hearts with guidance, direction, and a map for our lives leading back to him. Still, this is just a beginning of what the Lord has made available to all his children to help us return safely back to our heavenly home.
Whenever we need him, he is there for us. When we face a climb that is beyond our capacity, he stands ready to assist. The hope we have in the Savior Jesus Christ is that our sincere efforts will be enough because of our association with him as our personal Redeemer. Life hands us obstacles that we cannot overcome on our own. We don’t have to. Because of Jesus Christ, we are never alone and our limited abilities are enough when we sincerely give our best efforts.
Sometimes we just need to know that we are not alone and he is there for us. I believe we were given families, friends, and a support team of a myriad of resources. Spencer W Kimball taught that “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.”
As we serve one another and do our best, the Savior is by our side every step of the way. He doesn’t postpone his help, waiting at the top for us to finally catch up with him. He provides help for us daily—encouragement, direction, blessings, and a perfect example—so we can achieve our potentials and not face our journey alone. The numerous blessings he has made available to us and the enabling power of the atonement give us the strength to overcome life’s obstacles, change our attitudes when we cannot change our circumstances, and rely on our hope in Jesus Christ and courage to endure to the end.
Every step of the way, He is the Living Water on our journey home.
Let him turn you, your family, and your life into something even more beautiful than you can now imagine. That’s what he does best.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.