Complex, yet not unanswerable

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the April 1983 Conference.
I used to notice a kind of shell-shocked look when I would talk to parents with teenage children—even when I was talking to them about what nice kids they had. "Abby is such a great young woman," I would say. "I love having her in my class." And the parents would give me that hollow-eyed look and say, "Oh. Really?" [Long pause. Thin smile.] "Well…I'm glad."

I understand it now. Don't get me wrong; I love my teenagers, but there's just so much uncertainty about what, if anything, is getting through to them. I am profoundly conscious of how much of their reality comes from their own worldview and choices, and not what I think they should think. I know they're good people. I hope they will grow into even better people. But I sometimes fear that I'm just as likely to detract from that end as to contribute to it.

Furthermore, the difficulties facing families seem so insurmountable sometimes, I wonder how any family ever survives! Because people have such varied challenges, and because I've become more sensitive to the uncertainties of parenthood, I sometimes feel like there's no point in even formulating advice. Who can say what will help?

Well…luckily, the prophets can say. And the gospel gives us hope that there are solutions—not always easy, not always immediate—but still, solutions and comfort for the problems our families face. I love how Elder James E. Faust puts it:
Why is one family strong, yet another family weak? The problems are infinitely complex. Yet, there are answers. 
He continues:
Abundant evidence shows that the presence of a firm, loving father in the home is far more likely to produce responsible, law-abiding children than if the father is not there, or if he does not function as a father at home. In either case it throws a double burden on the mother… 
The presence of the father in the home, coupled with one or both of the parents being active in Church, and with discipline in the home, seems to produce stable, strong families.… 
Surely, the most important ingredient in producing family happiness for members of this Church is a deep religious commitment under wise, mature parental supervision. Devotion to God in the home seems to forge the spiritual moorings and stability that can help the family cope. Some may say this is an over-simplification of a very complex problem, yet I believe the answers lie within the framework of the restored gospel of Christ.

Elder Holland (although, I don't think he was Elder Holland at this point? I'm not sure what he was, but his deacon-aged son Matt spoke right after him in this conference session, which was really cute and must have been amazingly terrifying for the poor boy!) told a story you've probably heard before about a dream he had after being overly harsh with his young son:
My relief was not so soon coming; but finally I fell asleep and began to dream, which I seldom do. I dreamed Matt and I were packing two cars for a move. For some reason his mother and baby sister were not present. As we finished I turned to him and said, “Okay, Matt, you drive one car and I’ll drive the other.”

This five-year-old very obediently crawled up on the seat and tried to grasp the massive steering wheel. I walked over to the other car and started the motor. As I began to pull away, I looked to see how my son was doing. He was trying—oh, how he was trying. He tried to reach the pedals, but he couldn’t. He was also turning knobs and pushing buttons, trying to start the motor. He could scarcely be seen over the dashboard, but there staring out at me again were those same immense, tear-filled, beautiful brown eyes. As I pulled away, he cried out, “Daddy, don’t leave me. I don’t know how to do it. I am too little.” And I drove away.

A short time later, driving down that desert road in my dream, I suddenly realized in one stark, horrifying moment what I had done. I slammed my car to a stop, threw open the door, and started to run as fast as I could. I left car, keys, belongings, and all—and I ran. The pavement was so hot it burned my feet, and tears blinded my straining effort to see this child somewhere on the horizon. I kept running, praying, pleading to be forgiven and to find my boy safe and secure.

As I rounded a curve nearly ready to drop from physical and emotional exhaustion, I saw the unfamiliar car I had left Matt to drive. It was pulled carefully off to the side of the road, and he was laughing and playing nearby. An older man was with him, playing and responding to his games. Matt saw me and cried out something like, “Hi, Dad. We’re having fun.” Obviously he had already forgiven and forgotten my terrible transgression against him.

But I dreaded the older man’s gaze, which followed my every move. I tried to say “Thank you,” but his eyes were filled with sorrow and disappointment. I muttered an awkward apology and the stranger said simply, “You should not have left him alone to do this difficult thing. It would not have been asked of you.”

With that, the dream ended, and I shot upright in bed. My pillow was now stained, whether with perspiration or tears I do not know. I threw off the covers and ran to the little metal camp cot that was my son’s bed. There on my knees and through my tears I cradled him in my arms and spoke to him while he slept. I told him that every dad makes mistakes but that they don’t mean to. I told him it wasn’t his fault I had had a bad day. I told him that when boys are five or fifteen, dads sometimes forget and think they are fifty. I told him that I wanted him to be a small boy for a long, long time, because all too soon he would grow up and be a man and wouldn’t be playing on the floor with his toys when I came home. I told him that I loved him and his mother and his sister more than anything in the world and that whatever challenges we had in life we would face them together. I told him that never again would I withhold my affection or my forgiveness from him, and never, I prayed, would he withhold them from me. I told him I was honored to be his father and that I would try with all my heart to be worthy of such a great responsibility.
I love that story at the same time I'm really humbled by it. I feel like I've been more harsh to my children without such remorse, but this makes me want to be so much better! And then I really loved this Joseph F. Smith quote he ended with:
Well, I have not proven to be the perfect father I vowed to be that night and a thousand nights before and since. But I still want to be, and I believe this wise counsel from President Joseph F. Smith:

“Brethren, … If you will keep your [children] close to your heart, within the clasp of your arms; if you will make them … feel that you love them … and keep them near to you, they will not go very far from you, and they will not commit any very great sin. But it is when you turn them out of the home, turn them out of your affection … that [is what] drives them from you. …

“Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove … that you do love them by your every word and act to[ward] them.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1966, pp. 282, 316.)

Brethren, we all know fatherhood is not an easy assignment, but it ranks among the most imperative ever given, in time or eternity. We must not pull away from our children. We must keep trying, keep reaching, keep praying, keep listening. We must keep them “within the clasp of our arms.” 
I still don't know how to keep children "clasped" who don't want to be "clasped"! But I am hopeful that I will learn as I go, and I'm glad we have apostles to give parenting advice where I daren't. It is very reassuring to remember that Heavenly Father, our perfect Parent, will help us figure out what to do!

Other posts in this series:

Home: the happiest place on earth—by Jan Tolman

Random Thoughts: Thousandth Post edition

• One thousand posts! That is a lot of random thoughts—because they're all random thoughts, really. Whether blogs remain in existence for another thousand of my posts or not (we are all at the mercy of our hosting services, after all), I'm pretty sure I'll still be writing little snippets of ideas down somewhere for as long as I can. It's the way I make sense of life.

• Speaking of writing snippets of ideas down…do you ever feel like the more you hear others talk, the less you have to say? Sure, sometimes I have the urge to defend a position or refute an untruth, but many times even the thought of that seems too exhausting (and futile). I think it's partly that there are so many contentious opinions coming at me from all sides (and I've deliberately retreated from some of that as I've seen ill effects from it)—but it's also the long-standing problem (even in journal-writing) of fearing sentimentality—and what others will say of it. I have to remind myself that there is beauty in true sentiment—great beauty—and I don't want to lose that just because I get caught up in this "ironic" age of ours.

Anyway, this article by Dan Hitchens, "The Limits of Irony," speaks to some of those ideas. He quotes David Foster Wallace, who observes that
for recovering alcoholics, pathetically unironic and gauche expressions like “one day at a time” can make the difference between life and death. [And] Wallace [also] advised: “The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness,” even when that truth has become a cliché which “we all know.
Hitchens continues, quoting another modern writer:
one result of modernism is that “generation after generation of poets have had confidence in their place undermined. They therefore lose authority and feel they can say less and less until they say so little that no one wants to listen to them at all.”
It's hard to balance humility, and an awareness of how much you don't know, with that loss of "poetic authority" he's talking about. I don't want to think myself out of writing altogether. It's easy to be annoyed with a writer that asserts too much glib knowledge, but I gain so much from reading other people's thoughtful musings, even at the very times when they aren't sure of themselves! And think of the loss if none of us dared write at all!

• On the topic of truth and clichés "we all know," I've also been thinking lately about the types of truth which are inexpressible in words and only found through experience —but which can, once the experience is gained, be reinforced through words. I mean the types of things people say—"the time goes so quickly"—or the scriptures you always thought were so simple—"wickedness never was happiness." There are so many things like that, which I read and thought hopelessly obvious or trite when I was younger—but which I hear and feel as profound truth now. For that reason, I loved these lines by poet Derek Walcott:
…I have come this late
to Italy, but better now, perhaps, than in youth
that is never satisfied, whose joys are treacherous,
while my hair rhymes with those far crests, and the bells
of the hilltop towers number my errors,
because we are never where we are, but somewhere else,
even in Italy. This is the bearable truth
of old age
Ah. Yes. I do feel like in some ways "I am never where I am" anymore—although I do try to "live in the present" when I can—but my current thoughts and worries and wonderings have such an influence on how I experience life. Although over the years the duties and routines of daily life have changed only slowly for me, if at all, I feel so different inside than I did ten years ago! And at the same time…not different at all. If that makes any sense. :)

• Here's a great little quote I came across, by then-Elder Russell M Nelson:
Sister Nelson and I have occasionally taken leave from an engagement saying, “It’s time for us to go home now and see what our children are doing and tell them to stop.”
I can relate.

• Some funny things said around here lately:
Sebastian referring to Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Cask of Amontillado" as "The Armadillo Society" 
Goldie exclaiming with surprise and delight at the grocery store, "Oh! Tiny avocados!" (They were limes.) 
Conversations with Teddy: 
Teddy: Daddy, did you catch that fish?
Sam: No, we just got it at the store.
Teddy: Yes, the store didn’t want it, so they asked if we wanted it, and we said yes we did! 
(Later, Teddy referred to that same fish as "a big plump of salmon.”) 
"Mommy, I’m still kind of mad, but not mad enough to do ‘hhuh!’ [mad huffing sound] or anything. And now that you hug me, I’m not mad at all.” 
Me: Teddy, do you think those pants might be too big for you?
Teddy: No, they’re just too long, and they keep falling down. 
"My nightmare was really short. I just thinked about a monster and then—done."
• And for good measure, here's a lovely Catholic lady talking great sense about marriage and motherhood, and how the very difficulty and the sacrifice of self they require, open the way to a better life:
The reality of a “state of life” (marriage is one, religious life is another) is that it, how shall I put this, curtails our scope of action for the purpose of a greater good; it’s precisely service to our fellow man (and child!). By necessity we must be curtailed! There is no other way to do anything of value! As long as every choice is open to us, we are in the condition of not having chosen. When we choose, we by definition limit the scope of what we can do — yet, paradoxically, we find our true creativity. If we seek creativity up front, we get personal destruction. Really creative persons — artists — know this. The form gives the real freedom. 
You are probably waiting for me to quote G. K. Chesterton, so here you go!
"Every act of will is an act of self-limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation. In that sense, every act is an act of self-sacrifice. When you choose anything, you reject everything else… Every act is an irrevocable selection and exclusion… The artist loves his limitations: they constitute the thing he is doing." 
I think we could also say, “Every lover loves his limitations: they constitute the possibility of love.”

Before we are ready

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the April 1983 Conference.
I've wondered for a long time why it is that Heavenly Father seems to want us to do lots of things before we are ready for them. Hopefully you know what I mean by that. Not that he wants us to leap into things unwisely, obviously. But we aren't supposed to wait for TOTAL CERTAINTY. Not with marriage, at least not in my experience. Not with having children! Even when you THINK you're ready, you soon realize you can't really be completely ready for that. Not even with making covenants! Again, not that God advocates us NOT being ready, but if we waited until we really thought we could do a great job living our covenants completely—I still wouldn't be there. And baptism! What child is really "ready" at age eight for that step? But yet, they ARE ready—ready enough—at least Heavenly Father thinks so!

So it seems to me that there is something Heavenly Father wants us to learn from jumping into things with faith—and hope—before we feel ready. Maybe he realizes that the only way to truly GET ready is to start living the experience, and learn as we go? And I suppose that in the pre-earth life, we were prepared and readied—more than we even realize—to a point where He knew we were ready enough to go on.

Anyway, Elder Marvin J Ashton's talk, "Straightway," touched on this same theme. He said,
The word straightway suggests the urgency to take that first step toward any worthy goal… 
To take that first step may require great courage, but somehow possibilities and potential strengths begin to appear once the decision to act positively is made. Unsuspected courage and strength will be given to those who start forward in the right decision.
I've heard this teaching before, combined with the "take one step into the darkness" metaphor, but I liked how Elder Ashton explained the REASON we can and should take that step with confidence:
We invite all to serve the Savior and walk in His paths straightway. There is an urgency for all of us who have this knowledge of His divinity to act upon it without hesitation or delay. The time is now. 
Joshua reminds us of the importance of making decisions promptly: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Not tomorrow, not when we get ready, not when it is convenient—but “this day,” straightway, choose whom you will serve. He who invites us to follow will always be out in front of us with His Spirit and influence setting the pace.
I had never thought about how the reason we can have confidence in proceeding—the reason it's not just plain dumb of us to start on these things we really aren't ready for, imperfect and inexperienced as we are—is that Jesus Christ "set the pace" before us—and atoned for us—making our mistakes, even the big ones, relatively insignificant. Of course they sometimes hurt us and others, but as long as we keep picking ourselves up and following Christ—He makes up for those. If it were otherwise—if our errors led to immediate damnation—well then, of course it would be much more advisable to WAIT. Wait until we had dated every conceivable type of person before choosing one to marry. Wait until we were eighty years old and had learned some patience before we dared have children. Wait until we really understood what it meant to "consecrate our lives" before promising to do it. But then…how exactly would we learn those things without just jumping in and doing them? And yet how could we dare jump in and do them, knowing we were certain to fail and that would be the end?

It only works when you add a Savior into the equation. And THEN it makes more sense to start trying as soon as we can possibly try. Much before we are very wise. Much before we are very patient. Much before we are very experienced. To just start moving—so we can begin learning and growing as soon as possible—making a million mistakes along the way—and relying on our Savior to transform us as we keep repenting and keep trying.

And I love this:
Don’t procrastinate action while wishing for missing abilities. To those who are inclined to respond with “Not now” or “Not yet” to the invitation to “come, follow me,” may we suggest, with all the love and sincerity we possess, He wants you. He will welcome you straightway regardless of where you have been, where you are now, who you are, or what talents you possess or lack.… 
Do not doubt your abilities. Do not delay your worthy impressions. With God’s help, you cannot fail. He will give you the courage to participate in meaningful change and purposeful living.
It does take courage. We talk so much about being prepared, and there is definitely a place for that. But there are so many things I have done without being at all prepared for them, and I'm glad I didn't wait, because I think my fears could have kept me waiting forever! Yet there are things I am still fearfully waiting to dive into—and I think it shows a lack of appreciation for and understanding of Jesus Christ's atonement when I feel that way. He atoned for us precisely so we could grow by doing the things we aren't ready for. And if we will just take that terrifying first step—he will help us keep going until we finally ARE ready to receive all that He has.

Other posts in this series:

Potency and Authority by G

The Blessings of the Keys of the Priesthood by Jan Tolman

Custodians of hope

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the April 1983 Conference.
I read such a depressing article this week—I won't bother with the ridiculous details, but it was suffused with hopelessness and ingratitude and ennui, and I felt awful even reading such ideas—I can't imagine how discouraging it must be to believe them! So it was a breath of fresh air to find Elder Maxwell's talk about combatting just such "existential despair."

Elder Maxwell's talks, as I think I've said before, are so much more than the collection of clever turns of phrase I used to see them as. I've always known he had great "quotability," but I've really loved the chance to follow the development of his larger ideas and themes as I've read these Conference talks through the years. "Hope" seems to be one of those themes, and I feel like no one needs hope more than our world today!

He gives it so compassionately, too (much more so than I did when I read that article I mentioned—I mostly just felt MAD that the author could be so terribly wrong!), and it was a good reminder to me that people who are WRONG don't need us to get angry and argue—they just need love and truth. But Elder Maxwell doesn't back down on the need to counter their false ideas, either!:
One need not question either the reluctance or the sincerity with which some despairing individuals have come to such wrong conclusions. In fact, one feels compassion and desires to reach out to them in genuine entreaty!… 
But such poignancy of view is no guarantee of the accuracy of the view. Moreover, in human affairs, erroneous and unchallenged assertions sometimes assume an undeserved aura of truth. While a response to this hopelessness may not create conviction in disbelievers, it can bolster believers against the silent erosion of their own convictions.
I love that! And this talk helped "bolster" my own convictions in the face of the pervasive despair I seem to encounter all over these days. Elder Maxwell says,
Afflicted with anguish, some wander to and fro upon the earth in search of truth without knowing where to find it. One such prominent wanderer was described by a colleague: “It is strange how he persists … in wandering to-and-fro. … He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief.”
Such is the scene, therefore, of which we are a part. Many reject the scriptures, the moral memory of mankind, and then declare absolutely the absence of absolutes. Others reject the light of the gospel and then grump over the growing darkness. Still others cut themselves off from God and lament the loneliness of the universe.…
Let us, therefore, place…such lamentations beside the revelations of God. The expressions of despair beside the divine annunciations of hope. The fears of extinction alongside the reassurances of the Resurrection. The provincialism beside the universalism of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then we shall see how myopic some mortals are, like absorbed children in a tree house pretending they are brave and alone!
Ha. I love that image of "absorbed children" who don't even realize how carefully they are being watched over! Then he talks about how we, who know Jesus Christ and His gospel, have a responsibility to SHARE our gospel hope!
We are custodians and possessors of a gospel of bright and realistic hope. It is a hope for which many hunger more deeply than we can possibly imagine. We poorly serve the cause of the Lord, at times, with programmatic superficiality and by our lack of empathy for those who drift in despair. 
And I love the way he says we should share our hope—basically just by living our small (but faithful) lives, serving our families and our neighbors and our friends as best we can.
The need, therefore, is for devoted disciples to do as Paul said, to “shine as lights in the world” … 
The very way in which these illuminated individuals “take up [the] cross daily” is a sermon in itself. They lead lives not of quiet desperation but of quiet inspiration, constituting what Paul would call their “defence and confirmation of the gospel.” 
Theirs represents a tinier and quieter history within the larger and noisier human history, a joyful and reassuring drama within the more despairing drama being played out on this planet.
It's so simple and profound. We don't ignore the hopeless who are all around us. But we don't let their ideas stand unchallenged, either. We seek for the hope Christ offers us—and then we hold onto it—acting as "custodians of hope" in Elder Maxwell's wonderful phrase—and let it shine back out of us through our lives and our families. Elder Maxwell gave examples of people who knew who were doing this all the time. I know some of those people too, and I want to be one of them! Living out my "tiny and quiet history" with all the hope I can muster—and trusting God with the rest!

Other posts in this series:

In the Valley of Decision, by Jan Tolman

-->God is Hope by G

Why you should not ask an artist's opinion on anything

It all started out innocently enough. I had some birthday money to spend, so I was, naturally, looking at bunny platters. I texted Sam to ask which one he liked better: the rectangle one or the oval one?

He gave his opinion. Then I asked, for the sake of information, whether he thought the fact that there was a standing bunny on the oval platter might give it some edge over the other one? Standing-up bunnies are extra cute, after all, as everyone knows. He replied:

I protested this. Sam didn't back down.

Finally I had to agree Sam had a point. But did he graciously end the discussion? He did not. And from here it all just went downhill:

The light will be there

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Welfare Session of the October 1982 Conference.

Now that we've all started "Home Church" and the Come Follow Me curriculum, our stake and ward has been talking a lot about it in our meetings. There are lots of people (especially those with young children, it seems like?) that have shared how well it's working for them, and it's good to hear those stories and get ideas for our own family.

When the changes were first announced last October, I thought to myself, "I hope that by next October when we've had time to settle into this, I will be able to say that I've seen some of the blessings they are promising." I thought of that when I read this quote in Elder Victor L. Brown's talk. Elder Brown was quoting a story told by President David O. McKay when the Welfare program had just been introduced in the church:
[An] engineer pulled his train into a station one dark night, and a timid passenger inquired of the engineer if he wasn’t frightened to pull his train out in the dark with 400 or 500 passengers’ lives at stake. The engineer said, pointing up to the bright headlight, ‘I want to tell you one thing: when I pull out of this station I won’t be running in darkness one foot of the way. You see that light a thousand yards ahead? I run my engine just to the edge of the light, and when I get there it will still be on a thousand yards ahead.’ Having said that, President McKay added: ‘I want to tell you something. Through all this dark night of uncertainty, I want to tell you that this Welfare Program will not be running in the dark one foot of the way. You remember it. We can only see the next October as the first circle of light. We have told you what to do six months from now. By the time we get there the light will be on ahead of us, but every step of the way that light will be there. You teach your people to follow the light and they will be safe on Zion’s hill when the destructive forces come in the world.’
I love President McKay's reminder that we don't always have to see "the distant scene!" I like to plan ahead. I like to know how things are going to work, and when I make changes to something, I like to be able to envision what those changes will lead to. So living this principle is quite hard for me. But it is also relieving in a way! It's a reassurance that I don't have to constantly be worrying or trying to anticipate what will come next: "This is working okay now, but what about when THIS happens? We probably can't keep ____ up forever! And how will we keep doing it when THIS changes? And so far we're getting away with ___, but what if the kids do THIS?"

But that is unnecessary. I just have to follow the prophets as completely as I can for the next six months (or whatever time period)—until the next little bit of light and guidance comes—and then I can live and follow that the best I can until the next step is given. I love the idea of using General Conferences as those guideposts or markers. It seems doable to work on pretty much anything for six months, and then when the next Conference comes I can either change my focus or re-commit or make adjustments, as inspired by the counsel the prophets give. And I can trust that even though the future often seems very uncertain, once I get to "the next six months," the light will be on ahead of me again, and I will be able to see what to do next.

Other posts in this series:

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!

Other posts in this series:


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.

Other posts in this series:

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.
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