An Email from Our Stake President

Our Stake President, Nathan Johnson, sent out an email today regarding the unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a Stake is a combination of 8-12 Wards. Wards are the basic organizational unit of the Church and have 200-400 members. Our Stake is the Kirtland Ohio Stake. Kirtland, Ohio was where Joseph Smith, Jr. organized the Church’s very first stake in 1834. President Johnson is African American and gave a powerful message that is an important reminder today and at all times, that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. His email follows.

Our dear brothers and sisters,

We join with you and so many others who are saddened and concerned at the terrible act of violence in Minneapolis and the resulting unrest across our country and the world. As a stake presidency, we hope and pray that this will be a time that will turn hearts to God as we seek comfort and answers. We love you, brothers and sisters, and we pray for you and your families daily. We also pray for peace and healing for our communities.

I personally have many strong feelings about recent events. I have studied out issues, discussed with trusted friends, pleaded with Father in Heaven, and sought guidance through revelation. As I have prayed and pondered recently, I have felt impressed to share with you as your stake president two principles and a promise. 

You are, you have always been, and you always will be a beloved daughter or son of Heavenly Father. You have a divine, heavenly heritage and an eternal destiny. The most important group to be a part of, the most important association to identify with is that we are the children of God.

Recognizing this fundamental principle is essential in how we see value in ourselves and how we see others. As His daughter or son you have infinite worth, divine value, and eternal purpose. All around you are not enemies or opponents, but your brothers and your sisters, other members of God’s family. Our call is to see others first with their primary and most important identity: as a child of God. Elder Ballard taught earlier this year, “That one simple, unifying fact should override all else that we allow to cause separation and division among us.”

In the world in which we live it can be difficult to see others this way. The adversary is working tirelessly to convince us that we need to categorize others in every conceivable way to highlight difference and division. Our natural state, the teachings of the world, and our life experiences can cause us to have prejudices and biases, or even ill feelings towards certain individuals or those we assume are like them. As with so many aspects of this life, our goal is to overcome these tendencies that draw us away from God’s plan. While the goal is to always see others first as children of God, we recognize that this is difficult.

Fortunately, the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides us with another principle that will help us. Wherever we are in our progression towards seeing others as God sees them, and regardless of how the worldly part of us might feel, we can choose how we act. We can choose to treat others with dignity and respect, and that choice will influence how we feel towards them, precisely because our efforts to treat others well opens our hearts to the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

President Nelson recently taught us, “It behooves each of us to do whatever we can in our spheres of influence to preserve the dignity and respect every son and daughter of God deserves.”

Brothers and Sisters, as we seek understanding and healing let us strive to see ourselves and others for who they truly are: beloved, precious daughters and sons of God. When the world around us or within us makes that difficult then let us love them anyway, following the Savior’s example and teachings. As you courageously, faithfully, and consistently choose to live the second great commandment I promise you that the Holy Spirit will change you. Your capacity to love others will increase. You will have the veil taken from your eyes and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will increase your ability to see others for who they really are.

I bear witness to you that you are personally known and loved by God. He loves you! Our Savior, Jesus Christ, loves you! I also express my love to you! I testify with all the energy of my soul that these principles are true. I leave with you a blessing that your faith in God our Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, will be strengthened. I bless you that you may hear His voice through the scriptures and through His servants and through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Let us be a light to others and show them by our acts of love not only “who is my neighbor,” but their own fundamental identity and infinite worth as beloved children of God.

With love,

President Johnson