I used to joke that if you sit at a table in the Wilkinson Center food court long
enough, you can watch the whole Church pass by.
Recently, though, I've realized that sitting there waiting for the Church to come
to me would be selfish and unproductive. No, our job is to move around and
circulate as widely as we can.
That way, no matter where you live, the whole Church will either come to you,
or you'll visit them.
Six degrees of separation? I don't think so.
In fact, I wonder if we need more than four degrees of separation to account for
every member of the Church connecting with every other.
For instance, this past weekend we went to sacrament meeting at the San
Diego 8th Ward.
We chose this ward because we were staying at a hotel near the airport, and
that was the nearest ward that (a) spoke English and (b) began sacrament
meeting at 11 a.m.
(Yes, I am indeed that lazy. But in my defense, I had been attending ComiCon,
with back-to-back meetings and dinners and panels and signings until late on
We got there just as they started singing the opening hymn. My voice was so
worn out from shouting to be heard in crowded restaurants and on the
convention floor that I not only wasn't a tenor, I wasn't even a bass. I had
about five notes that I could sort of hit.
For me, it's an existential question: If I can't sing the tenor part in sacrament
meeting, was I really there?
It was a wonderful meeting. The man conducting the meeting was personal
and witty without being irreverent -- we liked him so much we immediately felt
The two speakers were a young couple who gave good gospel-centered talks,
bringing enough of their personal lives into their sermons that the topics felt
immediate and real, not theoretical.
The wife talked about their experience with their third child, who was
diagnosed before birth with a genetic condition that led to inevitable death --
children with this affliction were either stillborn or died within hours.
Since my wife and I have had the experience of losing a child within hours of
her birth, we understood the dread they must have felt. But their heartfelt
prayers were answered, at least to a degree. Two years later, that boy is still
alive and apparently healthy, though now they are concerned about a different
genetic condition that might threaten his physical well-being.
Naturally, her talk was emotional -- but she never faltered in delivering the
talk she had planned to give.
It fell to the husband to introduce their family. It seems they had lived in the
San Diego 8th ward years before, when they were first married. Since then,
they had moved every couple of years and now had come full circle. "And we're
not even in the military," he said.
We liked these young people. If they had just moved into our ward in
Greensboro, we would have invited them over for dinner to get to know them
better. We felt truly at home there.
At the end of the meeting, to our surprise, up walked Jack and Peggy Jenkins,
stalwart souls from Greensboro, North Carolina, whom we had known as dear
friends for 26 years. What in the world were they doing in this particular ward
on the very Sunday we showed up?
It turns out that they were visiting Jack's brother and sister-in-law -- whom I
also recognized, because they had visited Jack and Peggy in Greensboro and
even attended some of the plays we've put on there.
Presumably, everyone in that ward knew the Jenkinses, and the Jenkinses
knew us -- so before we ever even showed up there, we were already separated
by only two degrees from an entire ward where we thought we would be
Our dear friends Imo and Livina Eshiet were converted to the gospel in Nigeria.
They have been very active in the church there, and I'll bet that by knowing
somebody who knows somebody else, they are connected to every member of
the Church in west Africa. Which means I am only one degree farther away
from Saints in countries where I will probably never go.
Add to that the people I knew on my mission in Brazil, and the people we met
at church in Antibes during the summer we spent in the south of France; and
then the people from foreign countries who have visited in Greensboro or who
have relatives there; and all the people who know the people that my brothers
and cousins and in-laws and friends met on their missions in Korea and Japan,
Germany and Russia -- and truly exotic places like Arkansas and Provo -- and
I think we all know somebody who knows somebody who knows everybody in
Wherever we go, we are "no more strangers, but fellow-citizens." But the
connection is deeper than mere chains of acquaintanceship. We have passed
through the same rituals; we attend similar sacrament meetings; we tell the
same stories; we obey the same commandments; we serve the same Savior.
We happened to be in Salt Lake City on the day of the 24th of July parade this
year, and we saw President Monson riding in the parade, wearing a cowboy hat
and sunglasses. (Even with the sign announcing who he was, it took our
daughter a few moments to realize that the cool-looking guy in the back seat
was, in fact, the President of the Church!)
A lot of Saints hear the stories of the pioneers and think, My family joined the
church long after those pioneer days. We're from different stock.
No you're not. When you join the Church, you become part of the ongoing
story of the Restoration. You adopt those pioneers as your forebears as surely
as those who are genetically descended from them. No matter at what point we
are grafted onto the tree, we all drink from the same root, and raise our
branches to the same sky, the same sunlight.
We all know somebody who knows somebody who knew somebody who knew
the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In a world of six billion people, the Church is so small. We are all only a few
degrees of separation away from someone who has seen the face of God.
Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's
Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and
younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.
Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary
fantasy (Magic Street,Enchantment,Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables,Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker
(beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and
Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and
Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s.
Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs
plays. He also teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.
Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife,
Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.