Not the ease of finished things

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1978 Conference.
I've been thinking a lot about change lately. Of course life is full of upheaval anyway with a new baby (and although it's been four months now—he still feels SO new!). It always takes me a long time to find my feet. But there's been a lot of change going on even just in the past few weeks. The new year. President Monson's death, and the upcoming changes in church leadership. A change in our ward Relief Society presidency. My uncle's sudden and unexpected death in a small plane crash. A new calling for me. And the curriculum changes for Priesthood and Relief Society. It feels like a lot to take in all at once, and I've been feeling a little adrift as I try to understand what corresponding changes I should be making in my own life, so that I can keep progressing as things change around me.

So I felt a spark of recognition as I read the conference talks for October 1978 and noticed how many changes were happening in the church at that time too. The Revelation on the Priesthood was presented for sustaining vote. James E. Faust accepted his call as an apostle. And some of the talks explained changes to Genealogy programs in the church. It was interesting, in an idle-curiosity sort of way, to see the differences. Some of them seemed pretty specific and not very, I don't know, spiritual in nature. Almost—though I know temporal things can have spiritual implications—but almost bureaucratic in nature. Things like, 
Beginning July 1979, the Church will accept newly prepared pedigree charts and family group record forms from family organizations, rather than from individuals.
Ancestral organizations exist only for the coordination of genealogical activity, which includes family histories. Once this function has been accomplished the ancestral family organization might well be dissolved, or at least reduced in importance, in favor of the immediate and grandparent organizations.
Most of the genealogy changes seem kind of nitpicky, given the increase of computer technology and the policy changes that we now know were soon to come. And even the revelation on the priesthood looks different in hindsight. It seems so right, so obvious, so inevitable. It's easy, looking back, to feel a little smug and think, "Wow, these people had no idea what was coming for the church. They had no idea what these changes were preparing them for."

And then I think of these changes that have been pricking so constantly at my mind and heart these last few weeks. None of them, for me, are enormous. With President Monson's death, and even to some extent with my uncle's, I'm not so close that I'm overwhelmed with the force of it. I'm not having to rethink my faith or my whole place in God's plan because of the changes to curriculum or leadership in the ward or my own responsibilities. But these changes are enough to make my thoughts and wonderings a little more serious, a little more real. Enough to make me feel a little uneasy and off-balance; to make me wish for a little firmer grip on my relationship with God. And I realize that I, too, like the church members listening to that October 1978 General Conference for the first time, have no idea what is coming next.

I always feel alarmed when I sense that someone's going to overdramatize or sensationalize something spiritual. I'm not predicting sudden catastrophe or the Second Coming or anything like that. But I'm just thinking about how the church keeps rolling slowly on. And changes are announced and they are often so small and incremental and reasonable that they might seem unimportant. But somehow they always come right at the perfect time to prepare us for what's coming, before we even know that anything IS coming! And the same thing happens in our own lives! Somewhere in the church are two men that have not yet been called to be apostles. Maybe they have no idea such a calling is in their future. But they will soon find out, and when they do, they will look back and realize all the things that have happened, all the pieces that have been prepared, all the experiences that have unfolded, to lead perfectly and with exact divine intent—to exactly where they are now.

I talked about this same concept, of our sometimes-unknowing preparation for what's to come, in this recent post. So I guess it's already been on my mind. But my feeling that this is happening to me right now is getting stronger all the time. [I feel like Bill Murray's brother in The Man Who Knew Too Little when he realizes that he's NOT just role-playing for the "Theater of Life." "It's real. It's SO REAL!"] I don't know if that's why I feel a little more nervous about the future lately. I don't really want to think that something important is coming, something God needs to "prepare me" for. There's a large of part of me that would much rather be contentedly stagnant. But I came upon this quote today that I loved. Appropriately (since the change in his, er, mortality status is one of the changes that's making me feel a bit off-balance these days), it's from President Monson in 1988:
God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.
It's simultaneously terrifying and comforting to think of this, for me. Terrifying because of the reasons I discussed above: change scares me, and I don't think I'm particularly good at it. It alarms me to think of myself, my own life, as one of those unfinished works that still needs to be bridged and tamed and built. And yet when I remember that it's all a joint project with God, I do feel comforted, because I know he won't let me totally bungle it. He's taking me through it bit by bit, giving me harder challenges as needed. And yes, introducing changes into the system, as needed. And if He's preparing me for some hard thing to come—well, so what? At least He's preparing me! He's preparing all of us. So when "the challenge of raw materials" seems a bit much, I'm going to try to remember this concept: that change is necessary. Even good. "That man might know the joys and glories of creation."

Other posts in this series:


  1. I've been feeling a bit of this as well and this was a good post for putting it all into perspective. Thank you!

  2. Wow! That quote by President Monson is one of the most beautiful I've ever read. I'm simply stunned and in need of long pondering. We've had a lot of changes, too (including an uncle who died--though not in a plane crash). Breathe and rest in this season, sweet Mama. You will find your place.

  3. A huge thanks to you and to Marilyn. I am lagging way behind the group on reading my past general conference sessions but I'm slowly making progress in catching up to you. And honestly your blogs are like the carrot on the end of the stick urging me forward. Yes I LOVE reading the talks themselves but honestly I love, love, love reading your blogs about them and often include passages of what you share in my personal journal. Please please keep it up. I so love it


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