The constant calling back

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the April 1980 Conference
At church on Sunday, Sam and I were in the teacher council class with Baby Ezekiel, and we put him down on the floor in the middle of our circle of chairs. Ziggy is just starting to crawl, arm-over-arm, and he was quite delighted to have this big open space to do it in, so he enthusiastically set off, hiccuping loudly, and all the people in the class smiled down at him as he made the rounds of the circle. He would crawl to one person and try to bite his scriptures, and then crawl to someone else and grab her shoes, and then crawl to someone else and smile up into her face, and so on. Every once in awhile Zig would get a little upset, so someone would pick him up and coo at him for awhile, and then they'd set him down and off he'd go! It was so cute, and it made me a little teary because I felt like everyone else in the room was watching and loving Ziggy right along with Sam and me. It felt like a true ward family—so many people we love and who love us too! Zig seemed so safe in that circle--venturing out and exploring, but watched over and bordered by so many friends who loved him.

I thought about that loving border of friends when I read this quote from Elder Marion G. Romney's talk on the Book of Mormon:
We must not permit our minds to become surfeited with the interests, things, and practices of the world about us. To do so is tantamount to adopting and going along with them... 
If we would avoid adopting the evils of the world, we must pursue a course which will daily feed our minds with and call them back to the things of the Spirit. I know of no better way to do this than by daily reading the Book of Mormon.
I know all about that sort of consistent "calling back" because I feel like it's such a constant need with children! During school, I am always having to redirect them back to what they should be doing! Or having to remind them five hundred times a day to speak kindly to each other! And with Ziggy, it's the same sort of thing—constantly getting him out from under chairs he can't fit under, or steering him away from the stairs, or pulling him back from the edge of the bed.

And I feel it with myself, too. I don't want to be "surfeited with the interests, things, and practices of the world," but I do get that way anyway! I have so many resolves in my prayers every morning, but then I find myself immediately forgetting what I mean to do! It takes a constant "calling back" to focus my mind on spiritual goals or spiritual promptings. And sometimes I'm not sure how to do that calling back on my own! I like President Romney's reminder that the Book of Mormon can serve that purpose for us, if we will read it daily. It can gently nudge us back into the circle of Heavenly Father's love, when, left to ourselves, we might persist in heading out of it!

I've never really liked the saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" (not that I don't agree with the sentiment, but it's what some people MEAN about the role of government, etc., when they quote that statement that annoys me)—but as I watched Ziggy happily crawl from person to person in our circle at church, I couldn't help but imagine that same kind of circle of people around me in my life. Maybe some of them are spirits who have passed on, like my Dad or other relatives. Some of them are friends and leaders that care about me, and even prophets and apostles I've never met. Some of them are my family members here on earth. But as I bungle around trying to figure out how to get where I want to go, I feel their influence steering me gently but steadily back to the fundamental truths I know I should focus on. I feel their love urging me to stay firmly in the holy places they have taught me to look for.

And I like to add the prophets in the Book of Mormon to that mental image, because they truly have been among those calling me back to things of the spirit. King Benjamin with his piercing questions. Alma the Younger, boldly telling and re-telling his experience being reborn of God. Mormon's constant interjecting voice, reminding me that in a centuries-long quest to teach the truths of God, the stakes were real and powerful for an entire civilization. And of course the voice of Jesus Christ that is woven in and through the words on every page.

I don't always feel like I have the personal encounter with Christ that I am wishing for as I read the Book of Mormon. But I know as I keep engaging with it daily, I will have that "constant calling back to things of the spirit," allowing me to move closer and closer to Him all the time.


Other posts in this series:

Problems solved better and more quickly

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the April 1980 Conference
Just a couple random thoughts sparked by this week's conference:

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (or "Marv" as he said President Kimball called him, ha ha) told a cool story about visiting the prison with President Kimball. He told how kind and respectful the prophet was to the inmates, and the line that stuck out to me was this one:
Do you have the skill and capacity to be friendly to others when, in your limited vision, they may not seem to deserve it?
Well…do I? Hmm. Working on it. Sometimes it's easier with strangers than with erring children…

I also liked it when Elder Theodore Tuttle quoted some earlier apostles about family history:
[Elder Ballard said] “the spirit and influence of your dead will guide those who are interested in finding those records. If there is anywhere on the earth anything concerning them, you will find it.” And Elder Widtsoe said, “I have the feeling … that those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.”
Help in all the affairs of life! I want that. And since we're talking about the blessings of temple work, I'll include the quote I read in this week's Sunday School lesson (also from Elder Widtsoe):
“I believe that the busy person … who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will [do] the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and … a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly.”

Other posts in this series: 

Dreamies

The girls (and Teddy, but he had already gone inside, I think) like to sleep in the playhouse sometimes now that it's summer. (It's not a whole playhouse really. It's our shed, but one end of it is a playhouse. It's tiny and it has nothing in it but some carpet scraps, and they all have to bundle themselves in there like a row of little hot dogs to lie down, but it looks like a tiny version of our house, so we love it.)

Here they are inside one night:
So snug!

Anyway, this was a morning where the girls were wearing new nightgowns and putting on some sort of little production for me. And the air was warm and the birds were singing and it was all quite lovely.

Always accessible to those who seek Him

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the April 1980 Conference
In this session, Elder F. Enzio Busche gave a talk called "Do We All Believe in the Same God?" It did NOT go where I was expecting it to. I expected the answer to be a gentle, "Yes! We have more things in common than we realize! And when we have disagreements, let's just remember that we all believe in the same God!"

But…no:
The half-truths of men, often mingled with scripture, are sometimes strong enough to fulfill the expectations of the people for a season or for a generation, but they can neither bring them along the path of exaltation and eternal life nor bring satisfying answers to the demanding problems of mankind in these days.… 
The men of the world feel secure with the question “Don’t we all believe in the same God?” The answer to the question is “No.” The deceiver has initiated all kinds of philosophies and religions to lead people astray, to make them feel happy and safe in their man-made rationalizing and wickedness.
Well! Perhaps Elder Busche didn't know that I have a terrible fear of this already—a fear that somehow the picture I've constructed for myself of who God is, will turn out to be…completely wrong! Of course we can learn of Jesus from the scriptures, but there are so MANY scriptures that show different sides of Him, and I'm sure I sometimes choose to especially notice the ones that seem more in line with who I already think He is! So I do sometimes wonder, when pondering God's character, if I've got even a somewhat accurate conception of Him!

But Elder Busche explains:
When we really follow Christ in his true restored church, it will be manifested in our lives. The fruit will follow. The Holy Ghost will lead us to make uncomfortable decisions, to develop true love and faith by learning to sacrifice and to discipline ourselves. Our abilities will grow and will bring satisfaction and joy and happiness. Through the instrument of an ongoing communication with our Heavenly Father—a constant prayer in our hearts for direction in the many little decisions in our lives—we feel the softness of the yoke of Christ…We will be led to live our lives his way and not the world’s way.
So it sounds like (and of course I wrote about this last week too!) that if we want to know who God is, that knowledge comes as we have "ongoing communication" with Heavenly Father, trying to follow the Spirit and become like Christ. Okay. That reassures me a little. Even if I don't know perfectly what Jesus Christ is like, I won't be allowed to get TOO far off in my thinking, if I am trying to follow His commandments. Which I am.

And then I thought this talk by Elder Marion D. Hanks had some additional insight:
Each of us will enjoy all of God’s blessings that we are willing to receive.
But how do we manifest that willingness? …
We know and choose him and enjoy his blessings through serving him, through qualifying for his friendship, and by keeping him always in our hearts and minds. In our afflictions and gropings and forebodings we turn to him for comfort and support. He is always accessible to those who seek him.
Or maybe that is the same insight, restated. We come to know God by "turning to him for comfort and support"—particularly in (and I love this part) "our afflictions and gropings and forebodings"! I may not always know how to harmonize the varying scriptural glimpses of Christ. But groping toward Him hopefully? I can certainly do that! Seeking Him and His comfort? Thinking about Him often? Yes! All of that. I do it without even meaning to! When I am most afraid or confused, my spirit just cries out for someone to help me, comfort me, and explain things to me! It cries out for a closeness with God. So I am glad that this is a way for me to "know Him and choose Him."

And I do know, also, who God has been TO ME. I think (hope) that that's a little different than the "man-made rationalizing" Elder Busche was talking about, where we decide God is merely what seems rational to us. It makes me cringe when I hear people say things like, "A loving God would never…[whatever]," or, "The God I worship isn't ever [whatever]." I always think, "Who are YOU to think your mortal mind can encapsulate or prescribe all that God should be? If we could intuitively know exactly how a loving God should run things, what would we even need Him for?" But, that said, my own experiences with God have left me with at least SOME idea of how He speaks. What His presence feels like. Glimpses of what He likes…about ME! I know He speaks differently to different people, so it's not a FULL picture of Him, but it's still…something. And it's a something that is getting more vivid and more real to me as time goes on.

And it reassures me that God WANTS us to know Him. He has commanded us to try! So when we are seeking and reaching for Him—I think He will let Himself be known.

Other posts in this series:

Recognition nights, Bulk foods, Sweeter music


Ongoing decisions

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the April 1980 Conference. And this Conference is special! Because…it's the first one that I heard myself. Well, not that I remember hearing it, but I'm sure I did, from my mother's arms. It's the first General Conference of my lifetime! So it must be a good one.
Ever since President Nelson's most recent Conference talk, I have been praying every day that I will better hear the voice of the Spirit. I have been hoping to—how did he put it? Oh yes: "I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Let this Easter Sunday be a defining moment in your life. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly."

I don't know if has been "a defining moment"—I guess I'll only know that in retrospect—but I'm really trying! And one thing I have realized is just how fundamental the Holy Ghost is to everything else I hope to accomplish in life. If I can just manage to make my thoughts and actions either righteous, or at least repentant and striving back toward righteous, then I will be worthy of the Spirit's companionship, and that will help me navigate everything—everything!!—else.

So, as I read the talks for this week, I was immediately drawn to Elder James E. Faust's talk, "Communion with the Holy Spirit." He said:
Members of the Church know that the promptings of the Spirit may be received upon all facets of life, including daily, ongoing decisions.
Something about that wording—"ongoing decisions"—stuck out to me. I think…un-ongoing…decisions are the kind I like best. Things you decide on, and then they stay decided, and you are either right or you were wrong, but at least the agonizing about it is over with! Where should we move? What job should we take? What should I teach this lesson about?

But the ongoing decisions…those are more difficult. The things you decide on, and then they change! Or something changes! And you have to make a decision again! What do I need to do to improve my marriage? How do I guide this difficult child? Where can I best serve today? What should my family look like now? Those are the questions I struggle with most, because I never feel purely settled. I just want to be able to get good at something and then keep doing it forever! But apparently (as we have often discussed) that isn't what God thinks is best for me. It's so hard!

And yet. Elder Faust's words are clear. Living close to the Spirit helps us in "all facets of life, including daily ongoing decisions." Maybe it's the need for constant course-correction, constant checking-in to see "Is this right? Is this STILL right? And is there more?"—maybe it's all this repeated contact with the Spirit of God that actually helps us become His friends.

Here was another section of Elder Faust's talk I found encouraging:
Every day men and women come, by revelation, to understand the basic truth that God has restored his gospel and church. 
Every day leaders of the Church are led by revelation to conduct the affairs of the Church, general and local, throughout the world. 
Every day Latter-day Saint missionaries are impressed by the spirit of revelation to bear witness, to know what to say, to know what to do, and to teach by the spirit of revelation. 
Every day the mind and will of the Lord as revealed in the standard works of the Church are illuminated in the minds of Latter-day Saints by the spirit of revelation. 
Every day faith is increased in the hearts of the faithful by evidences of revelation in their lives—in decisions regarding marriage, vocations, home concerns, business ventures, lesson preparations, danger signals—in fact, in all facets of life.
That painted a picture in my mind of so many people around the world, with so many different problems—but all of us coming to God in prayer, pleading for His guidance—and He sends it! Often through each other! A few weeks ago a lady gave a comment in Relief Society, mentioning someone she had been praying about one morning. And I realized, "Hey, I was praying about that person too—on the same morning!" It was cool to think that there we had both been, united without even knowing it, our prayers joining together before our Heavenly Father for another one of our sisters. As a parent, I have some idea of how happy that must have made Him!

It happens more than we realize, I suspect. It's so easy to feel alone in those difficult "ongoing decisions." Easy to feel like you're the only one floundering as you try to adapt and grow and keep up with the shifting needs of yourself and the people around you. But I felt a jolt of confirmation as I read Elder Faust's words. The Holy Spirit is moving in the lives of people all around us. The prayers we pray, alone in our closets, are being echoed and amplified as our loved ones—on both sides of the veil—pray for us, and we for them. Every morning as I pray, specific people come to my mind, and I am filled with love for them. And inevitably, the first thing that I ask God to grant them is revelation—the companionship of the Spirit to help them with their "ongoing decisions"—because that's what I know I need most! Many of those people won't ever know that I am praying for them, but I hope that they will feel the increased influence of the Holy Ghost—comforting them, guiding them, enlightening them—anyway! And I know that countless other people are striving for the same thing, and that revelation is coming to God's children every day, every hour, as they need it! "The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst."

And I think we—as we keep seeking God and His Spirit through our vexing, complicated, never-ending "ongoing decisions"—are the ones who will benefit, as that glorious, unfiltered light of heaven shines through.

Other posts in this series:

Treasuring up

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Women's Session of the October 1979 Conference.
This week I read the talk given by President Kimball called "The Role of Righteous Women." You know that talk, or at least about it—because Sister Eubank used her entire talk this last October to reiterate and expand on what President Kimball said. She took the charge he gave back then, and passed it on to the women in the church today. I loved her talk, so it's no surprise I loved President Kimball's original, too!

Here are a few highlights. President Kimball said:
I stress again the deep need each woman has to study the scriptures. We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians—whether you are single or married, young or old, widowed or living in a family. 
…Become scholars of the scriptures…After all, who has any greater need to “treasure up” the truths of the gospel (on which they may call in their moments of need) than do women and mothers who do so much nurturing and teaching?
Sister scriptorians! I love that! (Although, it's a funny word to use, since I've never heard anyone ever claim to BE a scriptorian. Everybody always just says they AREN'T one, when making comments in church. Ha ha.) And I've been thinking about "treasuring up" truth since my friend wrote about it recently. She said:
[Lately] I’ve become more aware of the scripture in me. Words and verses that I must surely have put there over the years. I’ve wondered, on occasion, why the push to read scripture when current talks, etc. are often spoken in a way that more naturally appeals to me. But I’ve neglected perhaps to recognize how, much like poetry and song, scripture can float into my head.… 
And I’m seeing more and more that it is not random floating at all. It’s The Spirit bringing scripture to my mind – and more importantly to my heart. It seems to somehow be a sacred language of The Spirit that, if we simply put it in us, he can call up in a way that opens understanding, soothes fears, and guides decisions. Lately, I take note the minute words of scripture pop into my head. I acknowledge that I am learning how to hear God. And I want more scripture in me – to facilitate hearing Him more frequently.
I feel just the same: I want more scripture in me! Like President Kimball says, we women NEED these truths stored within us so we can call upon them in moments of need! I often have bits of scripture come into my head, and I've learned that when I look up those phrases and read the verses nearby, there is often even MORE enlightenment waiting for me. But when the time comes to share that enlightenment with others…I feel like I'm always stumbling over my words or saying the wrong thing in important conversations. Especially when those conversations come upon me unexpectedly! But I'm trying to just trust that because I do try to treasure up those words of the scriptures, somehow Heavenly Father will speak through me when it matters most—or maybe make my words come across clearer or better than they really are.

I've also noticed that sometimes those "treasured up" words that come back at the right time are…hmm, I don't want this to be taken the wrong way, but they're…my OWN words! Ha ha. Not really my VERY own. I'm often dissatisfied at the time with how inadequately I capture what I WANT to say, when I try to write down spiritual experiences or truths that I'm learning. But later, on re-reading—in my scripture journal, or even on this blog—something I had previously learned will strike me again with new force, and give me an insight that I need particularly at that time. It's amazing, the way God uses everything so efficiently! He can bless me with a spiritual experience…and then bless me with it again when I think back on it later!

Here's one more related passage I liked from President Kimball's talk:
All of you need to drink in deeply the gospel truths about the eternal nature of your individual identity and the uniqueness of your personality. You need, more and more, to feel the perfect love which our Father in Heaven has for you and to sense the value he places upon you as an individual. Ponder upon these great truths, especially in those moments when (in the stillness of such anxiety as you may experience as an individual) you might otherwise wonder and be perplexed.
I see this instruction—to "drink in deeply" the truths about how much God loves us, and to "ponder upon" them frequently—as another way to "treasure up" God's word. Sometimes I worry that I'm getting too…needy. Or greedy. Or something—when I want to feel again and again that God loves me. I wonder, "Shouldn't I already know this? God has blessed me so much. And He has helped me so often in the past. Of course he loves me! I should never question that!" And I don't question it, exactly…but His love is something I can never get enough of feeling, and when life gets hard or tiring, I want more of it! So I appreciate President Kimball's reminder that it's a good thing to seek for, and a good thing to ponder upon. Of course we have to sometimes experience loneliness and uncertainty, where we just trust, but don't feel, that God is near. But perhaps if I do a better job of "treasuring up"—noticing, remembering, writing about, pondering about—the reality of God's love whenever I feel it strongly, it will be even more of a reassurance to me during the more difficult times.

Other posts in this series:

Blessings derived by the givers

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Welfare Session of the October 1979 Conference.
Here is a principle stated multiple times in this Welfare Session of Conference, for example here:
Paradoxically, the most successful way to assist someone in need is by leading them into the service of others… 
It [is] when they [give] of themselves in the Lord’s way that their circumstances [begin] to improve.
and here:
Let us be ever mindful that the greatest blessing of the welfare system is derived by the givers.
What I've been pondering this week is how to take advantage of this principle in our family life.

As I've worried about certain of my children this week, I keep thinking that what they truly need are the blessings of service described above. They need those "blessings derived by the givers"! But how can I teach THEM that that's what they need?

Occasionally we do service projects together. The children have household jobs, of course, and I try to emphasize how those things are a way of serving the family. Their primary classes and youth groups also give them periodic chances to serve. But…I don't know if any of those things are teaching that explicit cause-and-effect relationship: When I serve, I am the one who benefits. When I need to improve my circumstances, that is when I should seek to improve someone else's!

I know the blessings are greatest when service is given freely and consciously. I know I should "teach correct principles" and then leave the rest to their own agency. So how can I help my children be "givers," not because they have to, but because they want to? I know it would help them with their own struggles, if only they could see that vision!

Other posts in this series:

We must first feel our way

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 1979 Conference.
I've been having a lot of conversations, lessons, etc. about recognizing revelation (or following the Holy Spirit…however you want to describe it) lately. It was one of the themes I thought was most prominent in our most recent General Conference, too. And now here is Elder Richard G. Scott, almost forty years ago, with a pointedly relevant insight:
Doubt is spiritual poison that stunts eternal growth. We must first feel our way before we can see it with any clarity. We prove ourselves by making numerous correct decisions without being absolutely sure; then comes a greater knowledge and assurance, not before.
A lady in my ward told a funny story in Relief Society about how, years ago, she had felt a prompting to take some donuts and chocolate milk to the bishop's family. She left the treats on their porch, but unbeknownst to her, the family was in Hawaii that week, and so by the time they got home, what they found waiting for them was just…dried-up donuts and spoiled milk! The lady telling the story was laughing with us about how embarrassed she was, and how she had clearly not felt the "prompting" she thought she had felt to do that little good deed!

But then another lady told a story about how a neighbor had come to visit her at a time she was feeling really sad…and she had refused to even open the door and see the neighbor, but deep down she had still felt the reassurance that God knew her and was aware of her needs. And yet the neighbor likely went away feeling like she'd either misinterpreted or failed at following the spirit!

Another lady suggested that maybe those dried-up donuts and that spoiled milk made a more lasting and memorable reminder of a neighbor's care than the unspoiled treats would have…a story worth telling even years later.

I suppose we all have stories of "feeling our way" in following the spirit. There have been many, many times that I've acted on some impression, feeling slightly sheepish as I do so and even more sheepish afterwards, when it appears that what I did wasn't even helpful or necessary. And I know it's fine, and even inevitable, that we make mistakes as we attempt to follow the Spirit. I think it's good to laugh about it, and try again, and not get discouraged. But I'm also noticing how strong Elder Scott's statement is: "Doubt is spiritual poison that stunts eternal growth. We must first feel our way…"

I'm not saying I need to believe I'm infallible and my every stray thought is the Word of God (obviously)…but maybe I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss my apparent revelation-following failures. Maybe I should trust that God really is able to communicate with me—and that there is always some purpose in the revelation I received, even if it isn't obvious. Maybe I should remember that caring is better than deciding not to try at all!

It's really important to me that I learn to "see with [spiritual] clarity." I want that gift so much! And Elder Scott says the only way to this clarity is to "first feel our way;" resisting doubt while still not being "absolutely sure." There's not some alternate path to spiritual clarity where we ARE always sure! The uncertainty is a necessary part of the process. That makes me resolve to try to be a little more comfortable with the "feeling my way" stage!

Other posts in this series:

Rolling waters

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the October 1979 Conference.
For some reason I have been thinking about the phrase "How long can rolling waters remain impure" from the Doctrine and Covenants. I keep wondering what it means. Two thoughts, in different talks, from this conference session seemed to approach the topic. First, Elder Bernard P. Brockbank on prayer:
All of us, like Enos, need to continually have our sins and weaknesses swept away through repentance, confession, and sincere prayer.
For some reason that wording—sins and weaknesses "continually swept away"—made me think of a fast-flowing stream, where the cleansing water won't allow sediment to settle, but carries it constantly away downstream.

The other idea comes from Elder Marvin J. Ashton's talk on change. He says:
There is nothing so unchanging, so inevitable as change itself. The things we see, touch, and feel are always changing. Relationships between friends, husband and wife, father and son, brother and sister are all dynamic, changing relationships. There is a constant that allows us to use change for our own good, and that constant is the revealed eternal truths of our Heavenly Father. 
We need not feel that we must forever be what we presently are. There is a tendency to think of change as the enemy. Many of us are suspect of change and will often fight and resist it before we have even discovered what the actual effects will be. When change is thought through carefully, it can produce the most rewarding and profound experiences in life. The changes we make must fit the Lord’s purposes and patterns.
Again, the emphasis on continual change made me think of a moving stream. I thought it was interesting that he highlighted relationships as an example of constant change, because I've been thinking about that too. I'm realizing that "standing still" in a relationship isn't really possible, because either we are changing, or the other person is changing, or both. I can't use the same types of discipline, motivation, or even communication with my children for very long before something changes and I need to re-evaluate. It can be frustrating and hard, but I guess that constant attention to and interaction with the details of our relationships is part of what helps them grow strong.

Elder Ashton also talks about how changes in church leadership, policies, and callings will give us chances to grow:
Our vision may be limited. Seldom are changes made that do not bring needed progress to a person or a situation. How often in retrospect have we thought, “I didn’t understand why that change was made in the program or why that person was given such a calling, but now I can see that it was just what was needed for the time.” 
During transitional times—and there are always transitional times in our Church—patience, love, and long-suffering are needed.
I see the "rolling waters" of change in my own life, and I feel apprehension about them. But I am trying to accept that this is part of God's plan. We need brisk, refreshing, continual cleansing (as individuals and as a church) to help keep impurities from accumulating. And the waters of change can play that role for us.


Other posts in this series:

Impossible unity

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the October 1979 Conference.
In his talk "The Governing Ones," Elder William R. Bradford says:
The challenge of governing the family is to so love, teach, and motivate its members that their personal decisions will be to unite one with another in the common purpose of following God’s plan.
When I read this on one level, it seems pretty straightforward: we're supposed to "love, teach, and motivate" so that our children will want to follow God. But read more closely, it seems funnier (and truer): this is THE CHALLENGE of governing the family. It would be like if he said "The challenge of baking cookies is to create a cookie so delicious that every person will love it." Well…yes. That is the challenge, isn't it! And a pretty big challenge at that, with each person being so different and having different preferences and all.

So yes, as parents we really do want our family members to DECIDE for themselves to be unified and eager to follow God's plan. And I'm not saying it's not a good goal…just that it is indeed a very, very big challenge. And it involves a lot of uncertainty and a lot of trust that the things we can't do ourselves, God will bring to pass in His own way. I'm realizing that more and more. I want so much for our children to catch the vision. To see for themselves how much better it is to live in unity and love! And how much happier we would ALL be if we could constantly treat each other as God would want us to, and follow His commandments! But no matter how much I try to teach it, exemplify it, push toward it—I just can't force it. (Nor, I realize, would God want me to.) And sometimes our family (myself included) seems so far from catching that vision…it feels like we will never get there. I guess it's a good thing we have eternities to keep working on it.

It probably seems like I'm always going on and on about unity. I think it's like the unattainable girl that the nerdy boy in movies is always fantasizing about. I just imagine how great it would be to have the children looking out for each others' welfare instead of trying to torment each other. Or where they cared so much about their siblings that they were willing to give up their own wishes to make the others happy. Oh, occasionally I catch glimpses of things like that. But they are definitely not the norm! And I know they're young and it's okay. I've had a lot more years of practice than they have, and I'm still not able to live these principles as well as I want to! But that's part of what worries me. As I think about the future of our family, I know it's inevitable that some of us will choose paths that the others don't agree with! And some of those paths might even be objectively (in God's eyes) the wrong ones! And there's nothing I can do about it! And how can we be unified in "the common purpose of following God's plan" if that's the case?

I really don't know. But somehow we are still supposed to keep hoping and working for that ideal. In his talk during this same conference session, President Kimball said:
…our people in the kingdom will need to become even more different from the people of the world. We will be judged, as the Savior said on several occasions, by whether or not we love one another and treat one another accordingly and by whether or not we are of one heart and one mind. We cannot be the Lord’s if we are not one!
I guess, like a lot of things in the gospel, this unity is something that seems impossible, and IS impossible, by any rational standard. It's not something we can create. But it's an outgrowth of living the principles of the gospel—keeping our covenants, repenting, persisting—and the miracles God will unfold in our lives as we do so.


Other posts in this series:

Gobblers, Twirlers, Riders

I make about six loaves of bread every week (no, it doesn't last all week) using the no-knead bread method (and this oven). One time when it had just come out of the oven, I said I was tempted to just bite into the whole loaf, and Sam said I should, and I said, aghast, that I couldn't…but then I did. It was great! There is something so good about the texture of it when it's torn instead of sliced. I felt it should be documented.
For the last four babies or so, I don't think I have ever pumped even a drop of breast milk for them! I just haven't been away from them enough that I needed to. But I've been accompanying for the children's choir this year, and I have to pump so that Ziggy can have a bottle while I'm gone. The other kids really love to feed him and watch him happily gulp down the milk.
Sebastian makes the best games for the other children. This was his Airplane. He made tickets and an emergency exit plan, had everyone pack bags of things to entertain them on the journey, turned on the fan when it got too hot, and walked up and down the row serving drinks and snacks. It was probably just as good as a real plane (or better—more space!).
Can you believe Teddy is driving now? It seems like just yesterday that he was a baby!
Speaking of which, we had donuts for Ziggy's half-birthday. (Then we ate his. Yum.)

And:
I don't know why he's in this box,
The very twirliest possible dress,
A bunny dressed up in clothes,
Cold winter sun-haloes,
and Whee!
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