Broad enough and strong enough

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1988 Conference.
Awhile ago, I got some counsel from the Lord (through a priesthood blessing) that was something like this: "Sometimes lately your ability to love is challenged, but that is helping galvanize it into something better. When others don't see or appreciate or return your love, know that this experience is helping you grow, and helping your love become more like the Savior's."

I'm still trying to take that counsel in, and to be grateful for the challenging experiences that prompted it. I DO want to learn to love like the Savior does, so I ought to welcome anything that gets me closer to that goal! I thought about this again when I read the following section of President Hinckley's talk, "To the Bishops of the Church":
You must be their counselor, their comforter, their anchor and strength in times of sorrow and distress. You must be strong with that strength which comes from the Lord. You must be wise with that wisdom which comes from the Lord. Your door must be open to hear their cries and your back strong to carry their burdens, your heart sensitive to judge their needs, your godly love broad enough and strong enough to encompass even the wrongdoer and the critic. You must be a man of patience, willing to listen though it takes hours to do so.…You must be there when every other source has failed.
He was talking to bishops, but in my heart it resonated as a charge to mothers—and I knew God was saying this to me. It's both inspiring and terrifying to think of my role that way! But President Hinckley, bless him, doesn't give us any room to shrink back. "You must be strong! You must be wise! Your love must be broad enough and strong enough!" It doesn't matter if it's hard. We just have to do it (but the Lord helps us do it).

I don't feel like I'm really living up to all these things, but I suppose neither do most bishops. Heavenly Father helps us anyway! And most comforting of all, this is a charge with a promise:
You may on occasion be inclined to complain about the burdens of your office. But you also know the joys of your service. Heavy as the load may be, you know this is the sweetest, the most rewarding, the most important thing you have ever done.… 
Though your days be long and wearisome, may your rest be sweet and in your hearts may you know that peace which comes alone from God to those who serve Him through service to His children.… 
I invoke the blessings of the Lord upon you…that you may be possessed of strength and vitality to carry the burdens of the day, that you may have wisdom given of God in the delicate and sensitive situations with which you must deal, that you may have generous hearts in meeting the needs of [others]…and that as the years pass there may come into your hearts the sweet satisfaction of knowing that you have served your Father well through service to His children.

Other posts in this series:

Punching above our weight—by Nathaniel Givens

He wishes to honor our desires

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1988 Conference.
I found this little section of Elder Maxwell's talk intriguing:
What desirest thou of me? the resurrected Jesus inquired one by one of the Nephite Twelve. He knows our individual bearing capacities. He will lead us along, not herd us. Foremost, the gospel can even educate our desires; then these desires can work affirmatively in us and for us. 
Are we really ready, however, for the responsibility and the high adventure of being tutored by Him who genuinely wishes to honor our individual desires, if we do not desire amiss?
I've written about desire lots of times, but in this context I was thinking about how, when Jesus asks this question of his disciples, most of them say they want to finish their work on earth and then speedily go to Jesus in his kingdom. But the three Nephites want something else; they want to stay on earth until Christ's Second Coming. I always wonder—what made them want that? Was it some innate gift—they were really good at missionary work? They were extroverts or talented teachers or good public speakers or they especially loved being around people? Or was it the opposite; they felt inadequate at missionary work and wanted to leave their comfort zones to prove their love and devotion to Jesus Christ? How did they become the kind of people who had that desire?

And it's not like Jesus tries to get the rest of the disciples to have that same desire. He doesn't seem to favor one group over the other (well—maybe. He does say "more blessed are ye"—but I don't know quite what He means by that). He seems to truly just want all the disciples to have what they actually desire. Elder Maxwell talks about the gospel "educat[ing] our desires," but these men seem to all have been good, faithful men. They just had different desires, perhaps based on their different strengths or life experiences.

I know in many ways the gospel makes us more unified, with each other and with God. And I have also heard many times that it doesn't take away our individuality. But I'm just so interested in this idea that God will tutor us even as He "genuinely honors our individual desires." Which of my desires need to be educated out of me, and which will God work through as they stay in me? Which desires are innate or left over from my premortal life, and which are things I've learned from my culture? How will my desires shape the way God sends experiences and people into my life? How can I make my desires more like what Jesus Christ would desire for me? If He asked me "what desirest thou"—what would my spirit say?


Other posts in this series:

A brief history of Relief Society Meetings—by Jan Tolman
True Orthodoxy—by Nathaniel Givens

Settled, unafraid, and at peace

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1988 Conference.
It's been so nice—this "space granted" during quarantine. I know I'm lucky to be able to say that—not to have to worry about Sam's job, or about making ends meet. Of course I don't think anyone with kids can say it's been empty space. It hasn't even been that much less busy, really—but it has been a holy space. The types of things we're busy with is different. Our rhythms have been changed just enough to feel fresh. I guess it's kind of like Sundays that way: not a rest from everything, but a welcome rest from specific sorts of weariness.

Even in the midst of feeling like I might lose my mind from the mess and the chaos, and even knowing it will be better for so many people to get back to normal life, I find myself so anxious to hold on to this time, knowing what a gift it is—knowing it won't last forever and we'll look back wistfully: "Remember all those Saturdays with no appointments, those Sundays with no meetings? Remember make-your-own-omelets for breakfast, and going on walks in the middle of the day? Remember when we were all together, before Abe left for college and mission, when Gussie was so skinny and small?"

So why is it so hard to feel settled, knowing how much I should be savoring this time? Maybe it's too much pressure, being aware of how temporary it all is? Or maybe that knowledge is the very thing that makes it both hard and good?

It's something I'm always thinking about—how to hold on when time passes too fast. So I liked this from Elder Robert D. Hales:
Like the Apostles of old, this knowledge and belief [in the resurrection] should transform all of us to be confident, settled, unafraid, and at peace in our lives as followers of the divine Christ. It should help us carry all burdens, bear any sorrows, and also fully savor all joys and happiness that can be found in this life. The disciples who walked with the Savior on the road to Emmaus said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” No wonder they entreated him, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening,” and he “sat at meat with them.” They sought to savor those precious moments and feelings.
Of course they sought to savor them! We all do. During General Conference, when I'm at the temple, when our family does something together and everyone is getting along with each other. And I've learned a few ways to "savor." Write things down, reflect on them. Look at pictures. Reminisce. Close my eyes and breathe deep. But unfortunately "savor" doesn't usually mean "prolong." And the sensation of being "settled, unafraid, and at peace" often feels so fleeting! So often my heart is crying out like those disciples did: "Abide with me! Abide with me! Wait, please, don't go!" after a spiritual experience—but even though God is so good, He DOES go. Or WE leave Him, I guess. Conference ends. We have to walk out of the temple. The children don't stop growing and quarantine will lift, eventually.

I remember a talk (maybe two talks) by Elder Holland about this, and I know there are lots of things we can do to hang onto peace even when good things come to an end. But Elder Hales made one more statement about it that I thought was interesting:
Each can savor the sweetness of the truths of the gospel by obedience to the principles, ordinances, and covenants.
It's interesting to put it like that—like just living the gospel can help. So simple! And I guess it makes sense. Engaging with the word of God helps us have peace, so why not peace about endings and changes and unknowns? And obeying our covenants includes trusting Him, which should also contribute to a feeling of peace. It's another way of saying that the teachings of the gospel help us with every aspect of life, which is a truth I should know by now. But I still like how simply it's stated here. Savor the sweetness of life by following Jesus Christ—who also promises that "nothing good is ever lost." Truly trusting Him is the way to both carry the burdens and savor the joys! I hope I can learn to do it better.

Repentance is the escape clause

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1988 Conference.
I like it when I find parallel conference talks across the decades. I especially like the realization that a doctrine taught thirty or forty years ago can feel just as immediate and relevant as something I heard three weeks ago. Here is Elder James R. Rasband, in April 2020:
The joyous truth on which Alma’s mind “caught hold” was not just that he himself could be made clean but also that those whom he had harmed could be healed and made whole.

As any parent can testify, the pain associated with our mistakes is not simply the fear of our own punishment but the fear that we may have limited our children’s joy or in some way hindered them from seeing and understanding the truth. The glorious promise of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice is that as far as our mistakes as parents are concerned, He holds our children blameless and promises healing for them. And even when they have sinned against the light—as we all do—His arm of mercy is outstretched, and He will redeem them if they will but look to Him and live.
And here is President Boyd K. Packer in April 1988:
I readily confess that I would find no peace, neither happiness nor safety, in a world without repentance. I do not know what I should do if there were no way for me to erase my mistakes. The agony would be more than I could bear. It may be otherwise with you, but not with me. 
An atonement was made. Ever and always it offers amnesty from transgression and from death if we will but repent. Repentance is the escape clause in it all. Repentance is the key with which we can unlock the prison from inside. We hold that key within our hands, and agency is ours to use it.

Life in Quarantine


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