During this time of uncertainties because of COVID-19, Harriet and I greatly miss meeting in person with people around the world. This summer, we had planned to be with Latter-day Saints in Eastern Europe, but our trip had to be canceled. Because many of us have to adapt to different circumstances, I want to share with you a couple of experiences that are helping us during these challenging times.
Social Distancing Versus Physical Distancing
Since the pandemic began, we often hear the term “social distancing”—implying the idea that we should keep a certain distance between ourselves and other people. Personally, I prefer the term “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing” to refer to this practice.
Harriet and I are confident that physical distancing helps us to protect ourselves and others from the dangers of the pandemic, and we try to comply as best as we can.
During this time, we have learned how important and vital it is to our well-being to stay socially close to family, friends, and our brothers and sisters in the Church of Jesus Christ.
Fortunately, today there are many amazing tools and means available, some supported by technology, to reduce social, emotional and spiritual distancing. Harriet and I consider these tools to be timely gifts from heaven. With the help of these means, we can feel very close to our friends and family members. Because of technology tools, we can see our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren quite often and take part in their daily lives. This way we celebrate birthdays, admire new plays and games, read bedtime stories, or join on a walk while on a video call. It is always uplifting to hear their experiences of partaking of the sacrament and pondering the Come Follow Me teachings.
Above all, we are most grateful for the gift and power of prayer. Through prayer, we can be spiritually and socially close to Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and to our families and friends wherever we are and whatever the circumstances may be.
Focus On What You Can Do, Rather than On What You Cannot Do
During the last 20 years, Harriet and I have had a little head start on what it means to be physically distanced from our loved ones. When my calling transferred us from Germany to Salt Lake City, we expected to live here for just a few years. For the first 10 years, we even kept our home in Germany, hoping to return to family and friends one day. But as you know, we are still here, and we will stay here.
The gospel, the Church of Jesus Christ and the Lord helped us to learn that physical distance (even 5,000 miles) does not mean we have to be socially distanced from each other. We learned to focus on and enjoy the things we could do and experience, and not so much on the things we might miss.
Don’t Mask Your Heart
More frequent social contact with friends and family helps us to share more of our inner thoughts and hopes. Somehow, these challenging times helped us to be more open about the feelings of our soul. We realized even more clearly how special it is not to hide or mask the feelings of our hearts from those we love most.
During these special times, Harriet and I try to follow our own recommendation: Mask your face, don’t mask your heart.
When I read your comments on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, I can sense the sorrow and burden so many of you have to live with. And I can also feel your joy and enthusiasm as you focus on the many good things you can do in life. It is amazing to see how you help and uplift each other by word and deed. You are a miracle and a blessing to this world as you love and serve God and His children—our brothers and sisters.
For joyful or unhappy times, Heavenly Father has given us a promise and a blessing: “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Harriet and I love you. We are grateful for each of you. May God bless and keep you during these special times and always.