Invitations I have refused

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the April 1978 Conference.
Remember when President Hinckley challenged everyone in the church to read the Book of Mormon before the end of that year? I didn't do it. I can't remember why. I think I had just recently finished the Book of Mormon and was reading the New Testament or something. Anyway, I thought, "This is intended more for people who haven't read it yet, or who weren't otherwise planning to. But I know I WILL read it again sometime, so I don't need to necessarily do it right now."

A few years ago, our Stake President challenged the youth (and whoever else wanted to) in the stake to memorize The Living Christ. Again I felt like I had a pretty good reason for not doing it: our family had just barely memorized the Proclamation on the Family and that seemed like enough to worry about! I had also just gotten called as Young Women's President, and I reasoned that while I could "support" the young women who wanted to join the memorization project (and many of them did), I just couldn't handle the thought of adding another thing to what I was already doing.

Both of these times, I knew that accepting the invitations would have had benefits. I said to myself, "I know I'd be blessed for doing it. But I still just don't want to."

But…I did feel sorry later, both those times, and many other times when I've opted out of an opportunity I could have taken. The Living Christ memorization project was a wonderful testimony-building experience for those that did it. They still talk about how it has affected them. And the read-the-Book-of-Mormon challenge was the same way. There have been service projects, Relief Society activities, even meetings of various sorts—after which, when I've heard others talk about their experiences, I've realized wistfully, "That was a missed opportunity. I should have done that."

There have been a few challenges from the prophets lately that I've really wanted to take up. President Nelson talked again about studying The Living Christ, and remembering my previous failure to do so, I have resolved to do it with the kids this time! But that challenge was issued in April and we still haven't gotten to it. We intend to! But…we haven't. Then there's the challenge to read all the scriptures about Jesus Christ in the Topical Guide (the one that President Nelson said made him a "changed man"). I'm working my way through those. And of course, there's President Monson's challenge (reiterated multiple times in the most recent conference) to read the Book of Mormon every single day! Our bishop also usually gives a family challenge of some sort every year too.

Well…that's a lot to do! But…

When President Nelson was talking about his scripture study, he said that although it's tempting for all of us to think, "I don't have time for this," that is not a "faith-promoted" response, and that instead we should commit to make time, and use what time we have to do the best we can. That's inspiring to me (since I can only imagine how busy HE is!). President Eyring is equally inspiring, with the way he obediently took up President Monson's Book of Mormon challenge even though he could have easily rationalized (like I did above) that the challenge was for "someone else."

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I don't necessarily think it is wrong to refuse some invitations. Or at least it's understandable. You really can't do everything! And I think weighing and choosing between good things in a realistic way is a skill we all need to develop. So I'm not sure how far to go with it. I do think we could reasonably assume that anytime we DO accept a challenge/invitation from a church leader, we will be blessed. But I don't know that the converse (anytime we DON'T accept one we will be sorry) is true. Maybe God just understands when we fall short, and blesses us for whatever we make an effort toward. Maybe just not doing something is its own punishment. But…I don't know. More and more as I get older, I want all the blessings! And I'm not sure how to reconcile that with my actual (limited) abilities.

With that lengthy introduction, I'll quote the conference talk that started me thinking about all this in the first place. It's a talk by then-Elder Howard W. Hunter. He tells a story about a fourth-string quarterback that never expected to play in a game. In the last game of the season, he took off his shoes on the sideline, and of course, that's when the other quarterback got hurt and the fourth-string guy got called in. There was no time to put his shoes on, so he just had to go in barefoot, with predictable results. Elder Hunter uses this as a metaphor to remind us that we always need to be prepared for gospel opportunities the Lord might have in store for us. He says:
I want to invite the young men in this audience tonight to keep their gospel shoes on, to believe in the opportunities that lie ahead… 
As surely as I know anything, I know you young men are needed and will be called on to help the kingdom in the years ahead. Indeed, we call upon you now. We need your company and your friendship and your service and your standards. Some of your assignments may seem small to you, but they are very important and they prepare you for greater service to come.…
Then Elder Hunter describes some of the good things President Kimball did in his youth (like reading the Bible from cover to cover—another thing I've never done and am trying to do, very very slowly). He concludes:
Though [President Kimball] may never have dreamed it would someday be his, all of his life he has been getting ready for the assignment he now has.
It made me wonder what things in my past have prepared me for what I am doing now, and more importantly, what assignments God may now be preparing ME for in the future? What if one of these invitations I think I'm too busy for is exactly what I need to prepare me for what's coming next?

It doesn't solve anything to think of it that way, really. It doesn't make the allocation of time easier, or the weighing of different good options less confusing. But it makes me more determined than ever to just…try, I guess. To try to never refuse an invitation that might bless me. To try to at least approach these challenges with the faith and determination of President Nelson and President Eyring. So that when the hard and harder trials come my way, I can say to myself, "All my life I have been getting ready for this"—and dive in, unafraid.


Other posts in this series:

7 comments

  1. I sure know what you mean about thinking and feeling that I just can't do another thing right now. You are in the busiest time of life: having babies, raising children, etc. Now that I'm past that stage of life I think I recognize that maybe during that physically busy time is when we most need the Spiritual strength that comes from obedience. Memorizing is almost impossible for me so I don't even attempt it. But I should attempt it and have faith that the Lord will bless me for my efforts. Thanks for sharing the connection with Elder Hunter's talk. I'm going to keep my shoes on and obediently follow the counsel of the prophet. Perhaps that will be the way to gain the blessings for our family that I desire.

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    1. Yes, the memorization is the sticking point! It seems so hard especially for the Living Christ, because there is no clear structure...or maybe I just haven’t found it yet. I like to learn things using songs, but I haven’t found a song for this that I love...so I don’t know. But I do know I just need to exercise more faith that it is possible!

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  2. I have deep regrets about President Hinckley's challenge. I had three or so chapters left when I had a miscarriage between Cowen and Emeline. It was right before Christmas (two days, I think) so I had plenty of time to finish the chapters while I recuperated but I I was a little . . . I don't know--angry? sad? morose? resentful? and I didn't do it. It was so foolish. I have thought about that so often.

    I was trying to follow in President Nelson's footsteps and read all the Jesus Christ scriptures AND follow President Monson and read the Book of Mormon every day AND do my favorite thing, which is read all the conference talks. I gave up. Instead, I decided to read all the scriptures about the Savior IN the Book of Mormon. I won't be doing all the Savior scriptures, but I'll still be trying. That gave me enough time to read in the Book of Mormon AND a conference talk most every day. Right now I'm in Jesus Christ, atonement through.

    Is it weird that I found Elder Bednar's statements about the Godhead startling? He said something along the lines that we need Heavenly Father's plan, the Savior's atonement, and the companionship of the Holy Ghost to be successful. I hadn't ever put their roles together in my head in that way. Sometimes I feel like I'm 10 years old and will never actually learn much of anything.

    I miss you (clearly). I liked the conference talk about how life is supposed to be hard. Good stuff.

    Goodnight.

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    1. Hey, I'm in "Jesus Christ, atonement through" too! I keep wondering why it is "atonement through" instead of "atonement of."

      I like your plan of reading in the Book of Mormon, plus conference talks. Seems like a good combination of all the things you want to do. And I also keep reminding myself, I don't have to do everything *every day*...I could do, like, topical guide study on Mondays, Conference talks on Tuesdays, etc. But maybe that would be way to complicated? Don't know. Still trying to work it out. But I miss you too!

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  3. I can totally relate! Sometimes I just sit down and cry when yet another challenge is extended just as we get our rhythm in place trying to obey the one that came before. I actually talked to our bishop about the most recent one he offered. He was sympathetic, but he told me that obedience brings blessings.

    Which is true.

    I don't have any conclusions of my own to offer--simply that I'm working through the same kinds of wonderings.

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    1. It's so hard! It made me feel like crying, hearing about YOU crying with the overwhelmingness of it all! :)

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  4. This was so good for me to read. I far far to often don’t even consider a challenge!! And sometimes it really is too much to do every single good thing, but surely I can open my heart a little more and recognize at least that it IS a challenge meant for me too and that the Lord can give me ability to fit at least some level of accepting it into my life!

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