Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 3 seconds.
Mr. Stephen Elliot is the Area Pastor of New Mexico and Arizona. In his Assembly, Mr. Elliot shared with the students a broad sketch of what it was like in Ambassador College (AC) and the Worldwide Church of God. “I recognize that to you and even to me that’s ancient history, but I want to put it into perspective for you.”
Mr. Elliot’s father was the first Church member hired as a teacher at AC. He was hired in 1949 when competitive and political issues were beginning to arise from employing non-members as instructors. He became the first Dean of Students and was head over the campus grounds. In those early years, Dr. Meredith babysat Mr. Elliot. In 1947, only four students attended the college, but by the mid-60s, when Mr. Elliot attended, both the Big Sandy and Pasadena campuses had grown to around 500 students each. At a college reunion years later, Mr. Elliot found that most of his peers had left the Church and were glad they had been “liberated” from what they now considered a cult. There were around 1200 ministers in the 1980s—nine out of ten have since left the Church. By the late 90s, ninety percent of the membership had left the Church, with the remaining ten percent split now between almost 500 different organizations. Mr. Elliot asked, “How could we all have been taught the same things, grown up believing the same things, and most of us drift away?”
Do You Want the Answers?
After college, Mr. Elliot shared how he became disillusioned by Church politics and poor examples and stopped attending. But after he got married and his family began to grow, he returned. “I came back for a very selfish reason. I knew the Church had the answers and I wanted those principles for my marriage and family… The world was no longer shiny and glossy.”
God provides answers to life through His Church. “This is the reason that I stayed in the Church—not because people are perfect. Everyone is flawed, and no matter how hard we try, we are going to fall short. God only calls humans.” Yet there are always those who don’t want answers—they never get better, and they don’t change. While it is easy to become anxious about those who are not concerned with improving their lives, Mr. Elliot shared some sound advice he had gotten in the past: “Why are you worried about them? They’re not.” This is not meant to be cynical but real. Each person must choose to seek the truth individually. “It isn’t really selfish to want the answers to this life—it’s why we’re here.”
“You should experience struggles.”
Mr. Elliot said, “What do I wish you to get from your Living Ed experience?” Years ago, Mr. Armstrong instituted a rule that students being considered for the ministry had to have attended AC for at least two years—why? So that they had practiced the right way of thinking and the right way of living. You don’t need Living Ed to become educated, but it is an opportunity to learn a way of life. “It’s not always easy—you probably will experience some struggles. I hope you will because if you’re not, you may not be taking this way of life seriously… Before we have anything to teach others, we have to practice it ourselves. We have to have a track record.”
A Way of Living
Mr. Elliot concluded the Assembly, “Out of seven and a half billion people, God chose to call you. At Headquarters, you have an opportunity to know how the Church works. Living Education is not all book-learning—you can get that anywhere. It’s about a way of living.”
This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.