Of Good Cheer in the Unfolding Process

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 1982 Conference.
Sometimes as I read these talks from 40 years ago, I am struck by how similar they sound to the talks given today—similar counsel, similar problems being addressed, similar emphases. But other times I am amazed by how literally prophetic they are, speaking of problems that weren't as prevalent back then as they are now, and warning about these problems before they were even on most people's radar.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton and Elder Neal A. Maxwell both gave that kind of prophetic talk in this session, and they were both so good and so pertinent, I almost couldn't believe they weren't being written right now. Elder Ashton talked about dealing with opposition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says,
It seems to me there has never been a period in history when it has been more important for us to be engaged in pure religion as taught by the Savior. This religion is not to retaliate, or to exchange in kind, evil actions or unkind statements. Pure religion encompasses the ability to cherish, to build up, and to turn the other cheek in place of destroying and tearing down. Blessed are they who strive to serve Him without wasting time faulting Him or those who serve Him
But then he also reminds us (and this is where I so often struggle!) that we shouldn't waste time being mad at those who do "fault Him and those who serve Him!":
The poet Robert Frost once defined education as “the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” Probably we will never be free of those who are openly anti-Mormon. Therefore, we encourage all our members to refuse to become anti-anti-Mormon… 
To keep ourselves unspotted from the world requires taking charge of and ruling our lives from within, accepting responsibility for our own actions, and choosing the role of peacemaker rather than retaliator when those around us are critical or spread false propaganda. 
It seems like such great counsel for these angry, rush-to-judgement times we live in!

The other prophetic counsel was from Elder Maxwell, and I was so struck by his prophetic words about what I think of as the twin plagues of our times, Depression and Anxiety. He says:
The coming decades will be times of despair. Why? Because, as Moroni said, despair comes of iniquity…The more iniquity, the more despair. And unless there is widespread repentance, despair will both deepen and spread… 
Alas, brothers and sisters, we likewise live in a time when the love of many will wax cold.  Fear will therefore increase. Why? Because when men fear, it is because we are not perfect in love. The less love, the more fear—as well as the more war!
I think Elder Maxwell meant this as more of a pronouncement about society than about individuals—these plagues of our time are influenced by cultural climate, the choices of others, societal and familial decay, and so forth. But his talk gives so much great counsel on how to combat that despair and fear that Satan wants us to feel!
To be cheerful when others are in despair, to keep the faith when others falter, to be true even when we feel forsaken—all of these are deeply desired outcomes during the deliberate, divine tutorials which God gives to us—because He loves us…These learning experiences must not be misread as divine indifference. Instead, such tutorials are a part of the divine unfolding.
And my favorite part of the talk:
Jesus calls upon us to have a deliberate trust in God’s unfolding purposes, not only for all humankind but for us individually. And we are to be of good cheer in the unfolding process.
Sometimes it's so much easier to believe in God's plan for "all humankind." But I falter all the time in trusting his plan for me. Waiting to understand what I am to do and how I am to do it; waiting to know the things I want to know—those things are SO hard for me! After waiting a little while, I think I have learned patience, and then I realize as I continue to wait that I still need to develop MORE patience, and the whole cycle seems very slow and frustrating! So I have a great need for this reminder to not only trust that things ARE unfolding for my good—but also to be grateful and happy AS the unfolding happens, and for however long it takes!

This winter seems very long but here are some things we did anyway.

Faith by asking

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the October 1982 Conference.
I really dislike the semi-flippant term "adulting" you hear people tossing around these days, as if it's so commendable for a person to do something responsible. So it was refreshing to hear Elder Derek A. Cuthbert's talk about some childlike qualities we should seek for, and some "grown-up" qualities we should seek for. It was an interesting concept for a talk, and I liked it. It was great to hear someone speak seriously about traits like leadership, wisdom, dependability, accountability, and self-mastery. I particularly loved this insight:
However, it is not being accountable that brings maturity. It is realizing that we are accountable, acting accordingly, and being prepared to give an accounting to those in authority over us and eventually to the Lord himself.
My favorite part of this talk, though, was tucked into a paragraph about faith:
It has always been a source of happiness to my wife and me when one of our children has shown faith by asking for a blessing of health or of comfort and counsel.
I don't know if that seems revolutionary to you, but it does to me. All my life I have heard about asking for things "in faith," and so when I ask for something (either asking God for it in a prayer, or asking for a blessing as in Elder Cuthbert's example), I am usually concerned that I might not be doing it with enough faith. Everyone knows that we can't always expect God to give us what we ask for, but there's also the variable of "maybe he wanted to give it to me, but I didn't ask with enough faith."

But this paragraph just says that we show faith BY ASKING. The act of asking IS an act of faith. That seems amazing to me!

I'm sure there is still something valuable about striving to ask with MORE faith, and I know that asking isn't the ONLY thing we do to show faith (we have to act on previous answers, and be patient, and ask the right kinds of questions, and so forth)—but I still think this is a pretty cool thing to know: when I'm brave enough, or humble enough, or determined enough to just ask, in that moment, I am showing faith.

Threads of gold

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the October 1982 Conference.
Here's the quote I've been thinking about this week. Elder H. Burke Peterson said:
Faultfinding is easy. It takes a true disciple of the Master to look beyond the weaknesses we all have and find the threads of gold that are always there.… 
A boy needs a father who will correct him when necessary, but beyond that, one who will love him, and like him, and accept him regardless of his performance: a father who may treat a teenager like an adult, but not expect him to act like one. It takes quite a dad to look beyond the actions of boyhood and see the potential of manhood—and even more important, for him to get a glimpse of eternity.
"Treat a teenager like an adult, but not expect him to act like one." That's an interesting line to walk. Maybe I'll get better at seeing it when I've been through a few more teenagers?

I also love the reminder to find the "threads of gold" rather than finding fault with the people around me.

Other posts in this series:

Friends and Fellow-servants

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1982 Conference.
Mostly, I just want everyone to read this great story Elder L. Tom Perry told:
Some years later I was called to serve in another bishopric. Again this love developed as we had opportunity to meet so often to direct the affairs of the ward. A little over a year later, a change was to be made in our stake presidency. The bishop and I were called in to be interviewed by the General Authority who was making the change. The first question the General Authority asked was, “How do you get along with your bishop? Is he a good leader?” Then I started to express in glowing terms my love and appreciation for this man and all he had done for the ward. Suddenly I realized the purpose of the interview. They could call him into the stake presidency, and we would lose our association. I immediately stopped my compliments on his great service, and after a pause, I said with a little smile on my face, “The only difficulty he has is that when he is under pressure, he goes home and beats his wife.” The General Authority leaned back in his chair and said, “Isn’t that peculiar? He was in here just a minute ago and said you have leadership capabilities but you too have a fault. You like to go out behind the barn on occasion and smoke a cigar.” The strategy failed: I was called into the new stake presidency.
This story made me think about how much love I have gained for the people I have served or worked  with in a calling. I know that's something people always talk about, and it seems obvious, but when I think about how different my life would be without those callings and those people, it is overwhelming. It is hard to make and find time for friends, as an adult. It's hard to find motivation to even get to know new people. But there is something so strong and lasting about the bond that forms through church service! And it lasts forever!

I'm so grateful for the friends I've made through church service. The young women I grew to love, who are now getting married and having babies of their own. The true friends I met through Cubs or Relief Society or visiting teaching—even though they usually started out being "assigned." Even in small ways—like the people who come to choir (I'm the ward choir director right now). It's not like I'm mad at the people who DON'T come to choir! Of course I understand! Everyone is busy, and I've been in the situation many times where I think, "There is no way I could manage one more thing like singing in the ward choir!" But that just makes me all the more grateful for the people who DO make time to come. And I know they aren't all coming only for ME, necessarily—but I still feel supported and loved because they are sacrificing for the thing I'm sacrificing for too.

Just like his Father

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1982 Conference.
Teddy came to Sam and said, "Daddy, match me!" So Sam did—right down to the rolled cuffs :)
 My mother-in-law told me a story last week (I think it was from one of Michael Wilcox's books) about a new father who was really worried about how he would possibly teach and raise his baby son to be a good person. He fretted and prayed about this overwhelming task almost constantly, and one night he had a dream. He dreamed that he was living at the time Christ visited the Nephites, and he was holding his baby son in his arms, waiting for Christ to give his son a blessing. He was so anxious to have the Savior bless his son, and he couldn't wait to find out what amazing blessing He would give. When Jesus finally got the baby, he looked in the father's eyes and said, "I bless your son that he will become just like his father."

It was a good lesson for the man telling the story, about how much of parenting comes down to being an example to our children. But I have been thinking all week of how this story applies to our own individual journey to Christ, as well. I can imagine Heavenly Father blessing His son to become just like His Father. And He did it! And then I can imagine that Jesus gives that same blessing to all of us—if we want it—that WE will become just like OUR spiritual Father, Jesus Christ!

It is encouraging to think that such a thing is even possible. And that Jesus Christ WANTS to give each of us that same blessing. All we have to do is decide that we want it too.
Have you ever thought of the process by which the gospel saves people? Faith, repentance, and baptism come first, of course. But there is more, much more. 
The meaning of complete salvation is that we become like the Savior in word and thought and deed. We can measure our progress toward salvation merely by determining how Christlike we are. If we are not becoming more like Him in our everyday living, we are not advancing toward salvation as we should.  (Elder Mark E. Peterson

Foggy morning

 We haven't had very much fog yet this winter, so we were happy to wake up one day and find the world all quiet and muffled. Surprisingly, it wasn't too cold, either. Some of the kids and I went on a walk to enjoy the fog.
The light was so soft and pretty!

Christmas and end of December

We had a good Christmas and lots of happy times. Ziggy loved his little bunny house (with 4 bunnies to put in a take out, over and over and over).
Here is Sam caught in a fortunate moment by my mom's Santa mobile
Goldie got a "floppy guy" (actually a pool float). She loved him, and Ziggy was terrified of him for a few weeks. We put the floppy guy at the top of the stairs when we didn't want Ziggy to come downstairs! Fortunately (or unfortunately?), Ziggy got used to him eventually. Although even for the rest of us, it's kind of alarming to walk into a dark bathroom, say, and find a floppy guy looming up in the corner.

Hopeless to hopeful

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Relief Society Session of the April 1982 Conference.
Two things I liked from these lovely women: From Sister Barbara B. Smith:
When we can respect not only the differences in others but also their accomplishments, we begin to experience some of the joy the Lord intended. There is so much more of happiness to be had when we can rejoice in another’s successes and not just in our own. 
Being happy in the achievements of brothers, sisters, and associates requires a feeling of security and the recognition of our own great potential. The gospel brings this kind of confidence within the reach of each one. When we are filled with love for the Lord, with all our hearts, souls, and minds, the result is that we can feel and understand and be secure in his love. We will keep his commandments. We do love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the way he planned it to be for us, coming together in love and faith, with hearts so similar.
And from Sister Elaine Cannon:
My dear sisters, the daily work of the Lord involves changing hopeless to hopeful—for all of us. 
…We draw closer to our Heavenly Father when we are in deep need. Our prayers of thanksgiving and joy of course should be part, and are a part, of our worship, but I guess there isn’t anybody here who won’t admit that we pray more fervently when we’re under the press of problems. Attitude in adversity turns hopeless to hopeful. 
…In adversity …we can find our way by asking that all-important question: “Which of my Heavenly Father’s principles will help me now?” And when we find that appropriate principle, the next step is to live that law, “irrevocably decreed” upon which the particular blessing that we need is predicated.

Quiet counsel on ordinary things

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Welfare Session of the April 1982 Conference.
We had our first Sunday of the new church schedule this week, and the word of the week seemed to be "exciting." Everyone was saying how exciting it was to be part of these changes, how exciting to be hastening the work, how exciting to live in a day like today. My eleven-year-old son got to be ordained to the office of Deacon, and get his temple recommend, 11 1/2 months earlier than he was anticipating. It IS exciting! I love the changes—well, most of them—and even with the ones that are challenging me, I like the idea of them because they mean that Heavenly Father thinks I am ready to be stretched a little. So I have no argument with "exciting."

But I was also thinking about how even a lot of the "exciting" changes have a kind of quiet predictability behind them, once you start trying to carry them out. Not that they aren't significant, or that we shouldn't embrace new ways of doing things—but underneath it all, there are still the same principles the prophets and apostles have been teaching us all our lives. Managing competing demands. Caring about others. Serving in small ways. Enduring hard things one step at a time.

President Boyd K Packer said:
Human nature hasn’t changed over the years. Even today some of us expect to be bidden to do some “great things” in order to receive the blessings of the Lord. When we receive ordinary counsel on ordinary things, there is disappointment, and, like Naaman, we turn away. 
For some reason, we expect to hear, particularly in welfare sessions, some ominous great predictions of calamities to come. Instead, we hear quiet counsel on ordinary things which, if followed, will protect us in times of great calamity.
I keep reminding myself of this. Of course on my journey to become better, I'm always anxious to see "big changes" in my own life, just like in the church! But that's not usually what I see. I see myself trying to follow "quiet counsel on ordinary things." I see myself making gradual changes and having even more gradual results. And I have to take the rest of it, the transformation and "excitingness" of it all—mostly on faith.

For example: I was talking to Sam about why it might be that it sometimes doesn't seem like God answers when we pray to be filled with "the pure love of Christ." Why on earth wouldn't he answer such a righteous desire (and one He has commanded us to pray for, on top of that!)? Sam said, "Maybe the answer to that prayer sometimes isn't being blessed with a feeling. Maybe it's just the ability to somehow keep going, in spite of not HAVING the 'feeling.'" That answer wasn't exciting. But it felt like it might be true.

I love "exciting" things. I love hearing about and talking about miracles. I know they still happen all the time. But what I have more experience with is "quiet counsel on ordinary things," and that's what I'm hanging onto right now, trying to trust that the miracles are unfolding

—in slow-motion.

Sledding, caramels, popcorn

We had a couple bigger snowstorms in December, which is just the time I like to have snowstorms!
The kids often like to go sledding with their friends, but one day they all went together and that made me happy. Ziggy and I enjoyed a quiet house for a couple of hours!
Playmobil Advent calendar--we thought it was even better than the Lego one we had last year!
Making and wrapping caramels…
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