Not a gospel of souvenirs

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 1977 Conference.
I learned the French word "souviens" when I was thirteen. We went to Quebec and all the license plates said Je me souviens, which means I remember. "Like souvenir," my Mom explained. I liked that because I liked to remember things. And I still do. I like journals and pictures and scrapbooks and anything that helps me remember happy times! Every time I travel somewhere, and maybe this started with that trip to Quebec when I was 13, there's inevitably some point in time where I take a deep breath and try to absorb every sound, every smell, every detail of the experience, as I say to myself, "This is happening right now, but someday it will just be a moment in your memory." Those moments are my "souvenirs," and I do come back to them later, trying to transport myself to those places again. But no matter how hard I tried to memorize everything, the looking-back just isn't the same.

Of course there are plenty of good reasons to remember; to gather souvenirs of the past and reflect on times gone by. But there's danger in it, too. Looking toward the good times in the past with too much longing takes away our enjoyment of the present. Looking back at the bad times with too much regret stifles our hope for the future. I sometimes take the worst of both worlds and start regretting the passing away of good things before they're even over. I forget that, as Elder Holland says, "faith is always pointed toward the future."

True, there's lots of "remember, remember" in the scriptures. But it's never a "sit back and reminisce abut the good old days" kind of remembering—it's always accompanied by a call to action. Remember God's commandments so you can keep them. Remember God's goodness so you can thank Him for it. Remember your past confidence to get through your present doubt.

In this Conference session, Elder Charles A. Didier gave a talk that seems like it might be even more applicable now than it was forty years ago. He addressed his friend, a returned missionary who once had a strong testimony, but had then fallen away from the church. I was impressed by the love evident in Elder Didier's plea to him:
You have opened the gate to many. Why, why do you close it for yourself? May I put my foot in the door, as you once did in mine? Reach out your hand while there is still time, and let us tell you that we love you. Your bishop is waiting for you; your home teachers are caring for you; your missionary companions do not forget you; but more than that, we, we need you. Come as you are—our arms are open. We’re waiting for you. 
I think we probably all know someone we wish we could convey this same message to. Elder Didier tells his friend that change is possible in these powerful words:
…You should know that what you once were you can be again. May my testimony help you as yours did me some years ago. I know by the power of the Holy Ghost, the spirit of revelation. I know in my mind and in my heart that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, our Redeemer, and that we have a living prophet today…and that by following his directions and advice we can come closer to our Heavenly Father and repent of our sins. My prayer is that you may realize this again in your own life and make a new decision to be one of His disciples.
We can do this; all of us can! When we feel our testimony or energy waning, we can "make a new decision" to recommit to our discipleship.

My favorite part was this next part, though, because it's so full of hope, and such good advice for those who, like me, sometimes find themselves sifting sadly through mental souvenirs of the past, lamenting previous failures and sorrowing over what has been lost (forgetting that "nothing good is ever lost!). In fact, this is good advice to ANY of us tempted to feel like our best times might be behind us:
I hope that you will not mind if I have recalled some of the souvenirs of what you always referred to as the best time of your life. Why can’t it be the same way today? Why should the “best time” always refer to yesterday instead of tomorrow? The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a gospel made of souvenirs. It is a gospel presented to us so that we may live it today in order to know where we will be tomorrow.

Other posts in this series: 


  1. This is a good reminder for me, thank you.

  2. Every time we arrive to visit Jordan's parents, he teases his mother, "Oh no! Now we just have to start dreading the time when we have to say goodbye! It's already almost over! etc, etc." What a character. But it does remind us all to appreciate the time we have and not to waste it anticipating the ending.

    At any rate, I loved this post. The other night I was lying awake in bed thinking over different moments in my life, imagining I was whispering things to my past selves (ahem, I was in a weird half-sleeping trance, I think). And I was picturing you, me, and Jessica sitting in my old college bedroom. And I whispered, "You won't see Marilyn for a number of years and then, later on, you'll meet up again. And you'll live close by to each other and then you'll move away. And you will email her for advice about how to potty train your first child." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It felt very profound at 3 a.m.

    1. This is the best dream. I'm so honored to have been mentioned to your past selves! Hahahaha. But it's so cool, isn't it? I love that we met up again. At the risk of sounding's one of those things I think was meant to be. What would I do without you? :)

  3. Everything always seems like it was simpler "back then" because we've forgotten the hard parts! At least that's how it happens for me.


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