Spiritual Bridge Builders


“Spiritual Bridge Builders”

Sacrament Talk by Laura Cope

April 21, 2024

*This talk is based off of Elder Stevenson’s April 2024 Conference talk titled: “Bridging the Two Great Commandments”

   When I listened to Elder Stevenson’s inspiring general conference talk, it deeply resonated with me. Elder Stevenson’s analogy of bridge-building, beautifully encapsulates the essence of fostering Christ-like unity to bridge any divisions so that we may better fulfill the vision of Zion.  With a love for architecture and design, Elder Stevenson spoke about the masterful engineering of the Golden Gate bridge. He said, 

 ​”This monumental structure intertwines beautiful form, functional purpose, and masterful engineering. It is a classic suspension bridge with bookend towers, supported by massive piers. The colossal, majestic weight-bearing twin towers soaring above the ocean were the first elements to be constructed…The extraordinary stabilizing capacity—the power of the tower(s)—is the magic behind the engineering of the bridge.”

    In Elder Stevenson’s analogy, these two towers symbolize the foundational first and second commandment- to love God and to love our neighbor. I want to share the two great commandments with you today, and how the imbalance of either commandment in our lives can cause spiritual collapse. If we can balance these two commandments, we will be able to build spiritual bridges throughout our communities and throughout our lives. It is only when we do this that Zion will begin to come forth.

The First Tower

    The first tower, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy might. This entails living a Christlike life, marked by obedience to His commandments. “If ye love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) It is also important that we have an understanding of our divine heritage as beloved children of Heavenly Parents. However, sometimes our mortal minds can put God in a box and think that He only loves us if we do this or that. In a talk by D.Todd Christofferson, he said, “We ought not to think of God (or His plan) as a cosmic vending machine where we (1) select a desired blessing, (2) insert required sum of good works, and (3) the order is promptly delivered.– Our repentance and obedience, our sacrifices, and our good works do matter. (But) It is not so much because of some tally kept in celestial account books. These things matter because they engage us in God’s work and are the means to collaborate with Him in our own transformation from natural man to saint.”(Christofferson, April 2022) We need to know God loves us no matter what. To quote Elder Kearon, “God is in relentless pursuit of you.” (Kearon, April 2023) Once we know that, our love for God deepens as we accept His perfect love and we willingly choose to collaborate with Him. As Elder Stevenson beautifully stated, “Love for God is not limited or finite. It is infinite and eternal.”

   In the last three years, I have felt my relationship with my Heavenly parents deepen as I have studied and learned and prayed to know Them better. I wanted to share with you today some things that I have learned that have helped me understand and deepen my love for God.

   The Hebrew word for God is Elohim, which means “Gods” plural. Elder Renlund taught, “We have Heavenly Parents, a father and a mother. The doctrine of Heavenly Mother comes by revelation and is a distinctive belief among Latter-Day Saints.” (Renlund, General Conference April 2022)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained the great importance of this truth when he said, “Our theology begins with Heavenly Parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.” (Oaks, Ensign April 1995)

The Proclamation to the Family states, “Each (of us) is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, has a divine nature and destiny.”(Proclamation to the Family, September 1995)

{My Story}

   When I took my first class in my minor called Global Women’s Studies at BYU, we studied the gospel topics essay on our Mother in Heaven. Our assignment was to read it and then follow through studying every single footnote and any documents attached to the footnotes. Prior to my class, I didn’t even know that this document existed. All I knew was that no one ever talked about our Heavenly Mother. 

   Studying this document, including all of the footnotes attached, was absolutely life changing for me in every way. It further ingrained in me that my Heavenly Parents love me perfectly. As it says in the gospel topics essay- which Elder Renlund has stated is doctrine: “The Mother is side by side with the divine Father…They work together for the salvation of the human family.”(Mother in Heaven Gospel Topics Essay) This doctrine has blessed my marriage immensely. My husband Austin, and I, strive intentionally every single day to be a team with Christ just like our Heavenly Parents are. As a woman myself, knowing that my Heavenly Mother is my “eternal prototype” as it says in the essay, gives me confidence in every role I fulfill in my life. I am so grateful for the relationship that I continue to strengthen with my Heavenly Parents and my Savior Jesus Christ. This has brought me so much joy! I love them all deeply! More than I could have ever imagined! I encourage you to take the time to study the gospel topics essay on our Mother in Heaven. Study the footnotes, particularly the 2nd footnote and everything attached. It just might bring you peace and strength in these difficult days to learn and lean into your divinity as a child of both a Divine Mother and a Divine Father.

   Russell Ballard said, “I testify, there is no greater goal in mortality than to live eternally with our Heavenly Parents and our beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is more than just our goal- it is also Their goal. They have a perfect love for us, more powerful than we can even begin to comprehend. They are totally, completely, eternally aligned with us. We are Their work. Our glory is Their glory. More than anything else. They want us to come home- to return and receive eternal happiness in Their presence.” (M. Russell Ballard, Return and Receive, April 2017)

Our Mother in Heaven and our Father in Heaven- THEY sent their Son

If the first tower means to love God- This quote bears repeating, “Our theology begins with Heavenly Parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.” (Oaks, Ensign April 1995) I invite you to get to know them better so that you can love them better..

The Second Tower

The second tower of our bridge is the second great commandment: Jesus said, “And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”(Matthew 22:39)

Elder Stevenson shared a beautiful example of this in the following story:

“Brother Evans was surprised when he was prompted to stop his car and knock on an unknown door of an unknown family. When a widowed mother of 10 children answered the door, their difficult circumstances and great needs became readily apparent to him. The first need was simple, paying for their home, which was followed by many years of temporal and spiritual ministering to this family.”

The mother of this family sent a letter to this kind man many years later, in it she said, “I often wonder if the Lord picked you exclusively or if you were just the one who listened.”

Brothers and sisters, are we listening?

{My Story}

   This story hits very close to home for me. When we had four very young kids, including a baby, we moved to our medical residency at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where my husband Austin was a dermatology resident and I stayed home with the kids. As you might imagine, this was a very difficult transition. Austin was stressed up to his eyeballs with long hours at the hospital + plus learning 2,000 skin diseases and I was thick into mothering and running our household. After we had been there a few months, I found out that I had a condition called osteitis pubis which had caused two fractures in my pelvis. Walking felt like teetering around on splintering stilts. Bending down to get a pot to make a meal was excruciatingly painful. Bending down to pick up and hold the baby was almost unbearable. I went to physical therapy for 4 months with no relief. One Saturday morning, I was completely desperate. My husband was miraculously home- so I went to the gym to yet again do my physical therapy exercises in hopes for a miracle. As I was working- one of the only ward members that I barely knew saw me. She said, “Laura! How are you doing?” I crumbled. I fought to hold back my tears as I shared with her some of what we were going through. She kindly asked if she could share a little about my situation with the Relief Society President and asked if she could bring me dinner that night. I agreed.

   From that conversation, my not so little family of 6, was brought meals for 2 months straight by ward members we hardly knew. One morning, a member of my ward showed up on my doorstep with clean laundry baskets, and said she was there to get our dirty laundry- I was so embarrassed and reluctant for her to take our literal dirty mountain of laundry- she washed everything and brought it back all clean and folded that very night. 

Because these ward members lightened my load, I could finally slow down and heal, and I did.

   These ward members loved their neighbor whom they hardly knew. This experience taught me about loving my neighbor, and part of that was accepting their help which was really hard for me. When we seek to be Christ’s hands and act on promptings as the spirit directs, that is a great first step. We will be inspired on how to build the second tower of our own spiritual bridge.

    It is one thing to help a neighbor going through a hard time but can we love our neighbors even when they are different from us? In my minor, we also studied marginalized groups including all the statistics. Did you know that there is a certain group of youth in our church that is 75% likely to take their own life because they do not feel like they belong here? Jesus loved the marginalized. The stories and parables of Jesus, and everything I have studied in my minor at BYU has given me such a deeper desire to love everyone. I have had to reevaluate every single preconceived notion and everything I’ve been taught concerning others. Jesus said LOVE EVERYONE.

   For the Golden Gate bridge and for our spiritual bridge to function, BOTH towers – to love God and to love our neighbor- have to be equally strong and rooted in bedrock- our Savior Jesus Christ. We must have complete harmony between both pillars- This is how our bridge will stand tall and withstand the storms of life. 

   Elder Stevenson shared that our pillars can become out of balance when we judge others who may not be living the way we think they should live. Others may emphasize the importance of loving others without acknowledging accountability to God. Some may refute that truth does not exist, nor right and wrong and all that is expected of us is tolerance and acceptance of the choices of others. All of these things can cause our bridge to collapse.

   Building our own bridges is not a perfect process, be kind to yourself and get started. Our ability to follow Jesus Christ depends on our strength and power to live the first and second commandments. President Nelson has so beautifully taught: “On every continent and across the isles of the sea, faithful people are being gathered into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Differences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance as the faithful enter the covenant path and come unto our beloved Redeemer.” (Nelson, ‘Be One’, June 2018)

“..And he inviteth the ALL to come unto Him and partake of His goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembered the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Ne. 26:33)

   In closing, I bear my testimony of the love that our Heavenly Parents have for us. That our Savior Jesus Christ conquered all and has set the perfect example for us to follow. A blueprint if you will. I know that when we live in such a way that glorifies God and shows an abundance of love for those around us no matter who they are, or what their struggles might be- we will be bridge builders – building spiritual bridges that enable all to come to Zion. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

*Sadly in this talk I did not include any quotes from women. This is something that I always do and will continue to do going forward. For whatever reason, these are the quotes that I felt impressed to use.

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