Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Favorite Joseph B. Wirthlin talk: Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away on Monday night at the age of 91. I gained a special respect for Elder Wirthlin in the early days of my two-year mission for the church when I found this talk Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life.

At that point, two years in the mission was starting to look like a really long time. The work wasn't as easy as I had expected. When I read Elder Wirthlin's experience, I realized I wasn't the only missionary who had ever felt that way. Elder Wirthlin's assignment was the Austrian/German mission in 1936. He describes how he felt in his first area, alone, with Hitler mounting armies just across the border:

"I remember those days well. I don’t suppose there has been a time in my life when I felt more discouraged, more lost. The mission was a difficult one; no one seemed to have time for me or the message I brought. I wondered if there would ever be enough members in that city to make a ward.

"Six weeks I was alone. Six weeks I waited for a companion. Six weeks I wondered about what I might be doing had I stayed in Salt Lake City and continued my studies."

As often happens to dedicated missionaries, things eventually got brighter for Elder Wirthlin and he received a companion to work with. That year at Christmas, they visited the village of Oberndorf, where the hymn "Silent Night" was written. On the return walk home they discussed goals for how they wanted to live their lives after the mission:

"As we walked, my companion and I talked of our hopes and dreams. We talked of our goals and what we wanted to have happen in our lives. The more we talked, the more serious we became about achieving the things we talked about. As we walked under the light of a full moon, we both made serious resolutions.

"I committed that night that I would not waste my time. I would renew my efforts to serve the Lord. I made up my mind that I would magnify any callings I received in the Lord’s kingdom."

Elder Wirthlin then shares five points that he has learned for living a happy and successful life:
  • Have faith in Heavenly Father
  • Set righteous goals
  • Work to accomplish your goals
  • Magnify your callings
  • Enjoy the journey

Elder Wirthlin realized the effect these points had on his life when he traveled to Salzburg many years later to organize a stake of the church and as he walked with his wife on the same road back from Oberndorf.

"The resolutions I made on that holy night in Oberndorf, Austria, have been a guiding force throughout my life. Although I still have much to learn and to accomplish, I’ve done my best to have faith in God; I’ve done my best to focus on the things that are important in life; I’ve done my best to work hard at righteous tasks; I’ve done my best to magnify the callings I’ve received in the Church; and I’ve done my best to enjoy the journey.

"May you do the same as you create of your lives something worthy of your divine heritage."


Rachel said...

That was a lovely tribute for a wonderful man. Thank you.

Mormon Paleo said...

I always thought Elder Wirthlin's talks were well-written, and reflected his great wisdom, among other traits.