Our Campfire of Faith by Elder Gerrit W. Gong
For five summers during and after college I worked at a Boy Scout camp. It became addicting, a major aspect of my life. I had a gaggle of friends from these summer camps and we developed out camp identity. I look back at that time as a camp counselor with fondness. There was so much to love. The program, our mountain campground, our friendships, our traditions, including campfires. Oh, what a part of our little camp culture were campfires. Sure, every camp around has their campfires, but until you’re working fire day after day and week after week you can’t possibly know what a big deal campfires are. We had programs we dubbed campfires (as there was usually a fire going). On weekends we would gather around campfires and sing. Yes, we had created our own giant bonfires. We regularly taught people how to build and maintain and care for campfires.
So when Brother Gong compared faith to a campfire, I immediately understood. Campfires encompassed or represented so much of our camp life. Why should not our faith and the experiences with it be so powerful? You may not have been in my nerdy camp experience, but imagine a campfire. What feelings does it bring to mind?
For me, it’s warmth, it’s community, it’s the feeling of something greater than myself. It’s safety and comfort. And yes, it’s strength.
In his talk, Elder Gong speaks of a time when he was invited by Elder Richard G. Scott to… paint. They used a model Scott’s painting “Campfire at Sunset”. Gong was interested in expanding his skill, doing something creative, a reasonable purpose for watercolor. One can take from this experience that Gong was inspired and wanted to grow in his talent and even celebrate the beautiful God-created world. Compare this with faith.
Gong describes faith and this painting experience as such As we painted, we talked about faith—how as we face the light and warmth of a campfire, we leave the darkness and uncertainty behind us—how on sometimes long, lonely nights, our campfire of faith can give hope and assurance. And the dawn does come. Our campfire of faith—our memories, experiences, and heritage of faith in God’s goodness and tender mercies in our life—has strengthened us through the night.
The metaphor of faith as a campfire is meaningful for me. It shows us the power, warmth, and brightness of faith. Whether our faith is a raging bonfire or nothing but warm embers, it gives forth that power. The campfire is a reserve, something that often maintains its power no where it is. It’s something we can build and care for, and in turn it gives us so much strength.
Gong describes five ways in which this reservoir of faith can help and encourage us through our lives.
The first is helping us in finding joy. It is easy to find joy when things are going right and following our ideals. It may not be so easy to find that joy and happiness when things are difficult.
Think of a time when things did not go your way… yet you survived. How did you manage to get through those hard times?
Gong says Our Savior knows our circumstances. As we exercise God-given agency and engage all our faculties in humility and faith, our Savior, Jesus Christ, can help us meet life’s challenges and joys…God’s love is stronger than the cords of death—temporal or spiritual. Our Savior’s Atonement is infinite and eternal. Each of us strays and falls short. We may, for a time, lose our way. God lovingly assures us, no matter where we are or what we have done, there is no point of no return. He waits ready to embrace us.
Trials will come upon us. I imagine that each of us in this room has had our times of trial, likely are going through a trial at this time. While it may be asking too much for us to be completely Pollyanna-esque in this regard, faith can help us remember that no matter how hard things are God has not forgotten us, that our Savior did have the Atonement for us. It is in this knowledge that we may be able to look beyond our trials to perhaps find other blessings and beauty in the world and other opportunities for us. How has your faith helped through times that were difficult?
The second way this helps is in our ability to minister. We can use the knowledge and faith we have to help and love others. You may have heard the metaphor of pouring from an empty cup—in this regard we may think of our cups as filled and ready to be poured out to others. Perhaps we may even feel inspired to minister, to seek out those we can serve. Has there ever been a time where someone who served you seemed to have inspiration with them?
Gong says Third, creative gospel joy and blessings come when we seek to love the Lord and others with all our hearts and souls. This is where I find that we truly find joy. We have our hearts changing and we are becoming more Christ-like. This will manifest in how we treat and love others. How might you go beyond yourselves to love others and serve God? What things can you do to grow in your talents and your faith?
Next, Fourth, our campfire of faith encourages us to establish regular patterns of righteous living that deepen faith and spirituality. Recently in my life I’ve been part of conversations discussing the importance of various aspects of righteous living. They have been interesting in their own right. What is culture? What is best for our own personal growth? What I find most important of Gong’s advice is putting into place regular patterns. What is the difference between half-heartedly making a change we don’t necessarily stick to and working in faith to live more righteously? We aren’t picking and choosing aspects of living we don’t feel strongly about but rather we are seeking truly changing our lives for the better. If you have made a long-term change in your life for the better, what blessings have you found?
Last, Fifth, as we keep the best of familiar patterns while seeking new and holier ways to love God and help us and others prepare to meet Him, our campfire of faith can encourage us to remember perfection is in Christ, not in ourselves or in the perfectionism of the world.
What does this mean to you?
For me, I feel that when I trust in my faith and have taken the time and devotion to build it, I better understand what matters in this world. We can aim to separate the comparatively smaller matters in our lives and the eternal significance of the gospel. We can work with greater strength at building our faith and testimonies.
Perhaps this may be a Primary sort of question, but what are we doing in our lives in order to grow our faith, to build and tend that campfire of faith? Is it something we put little care into and then forget? Or is this truly a fiery sort of faith, something that we build our lives around, something we turn to, something that defines our experience, something that is ultimately useful to us?
In conclusion, please remember that faith ought to matter. It is something we work on and in turn it is something that truly benefits us.