The morning after General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lets me down every time. Real life returns.
I’m embarrassed to admit that my good intentions, great answers, and uplifted spirit recede back to the learning slot in my brain and my actions automatically head back to comfortable habits.
It’s one of those Monday morning crashes after a spiritual high. Anyone else?
Admittedly, I’m trying new tactics, especially in those chats with my teenagers about the reminders I think they need, but those flopped. I wonder why.
One of the best insights I received this conference weekend came the night before it even started. Mormon Newsroom released this video interview with top women leaders of the church. Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society president, shared how she faces a puzzling question or situation:
Form a question. Ponder it — for many months if you need to. Search out. Look in the scriptures. Sometimes we go to the Internet to get all our answers, but if we will be humble and kneel on our knees and ask our Heavenly Father, ”I have a question,” and search it out and propose an answer and let Him help us, we are entitled to that.
So, I did that as I approached conference. I formed one question and wrote it down, “How do I use my time?” I listened to scriptures, words of leaders, and the Spirit. Ideas came to help me adapt to my new community and new season of life.
But another question, one I didn’t write down, haunted me throughout. “How do I love and nurture my teenagers who want to pull away and be independent?”
I heard good answers. I felt insight and understanding. One came from Rosemary M. Wixom. She encouraged us to use a “firm voice of perfect mildness,” to encourage and speak to a child’s heart.
Her counsel sounded to my heart as if she’d been thinking on a question I asked her personally a couple of years ago and was now giving the answer.
She had sat down beside me and a couple of other women in a women’s meeting at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico where my husband was attending LDS priesthood leadership training. I struggled then with the same question about raising and talking to teenagers as I do now. I had asked her, “How do you parent teenagers?”
I don’t remember her exact words so much as her encouragement that those interactions with our kids, even as teenagers, are real and individual and they take time and patience. Her talk this weekend reinforced that experience.
But then with this desire to be a real disciple of Jesus Christ, especially in my home, Monday morning came. And it didn’t all line up in a pretty package with the best of outcomes.
In between sessions, I read how we selectively choose what we share on the Internet and, as a result, we perceive perfection in other’s lives that is just not real, since it is only a partial truth.
Is this why I felt discouraged today?
Gospel truths are not partial truths. The uplift from General Conference comes from hearing real truth, understood by the Spirit, for our real lives.
So what’s the disconnect? Why didn’t my Monday morning after conference blossom from all the answers and insights I received?
Specific inspiration will still come to me. The day-today application of my faith refines these general answers into specific moment-by-moment insights for my own individual relationship with each person. The right answer may not come until I open my mouth. And, hopefully, if I focus on how to say it, what I say will follow in the same spirit.
Even when I try, my efforts won’t be perfect. Linda Burton reminded me that I also “get into this perfection mode.” I put a lot of pressure on myself to make immediate changes to the truths I learned. But as she said, “We think we have to be perfect all at once and all right now. And we’re a hospital here; we aren’t a hotel for perfect people in the Church, we are a hospital. We’re all flawed and we all need each other for the gifts and talents we bring.”
The final outcome is not complete. I babysat some young children last week and remembered what it meant to be a mother of young children. Although I felt sad at that the days that are gone, I happily grinned that the daily busyness leaves more time for other pursuits. But more importantly, I could see how we’ve all progressed and grown since then. I must trust that the teenage years will bring the same development in time.
So, on this Monday morning, when my moments of real-life living may not appear “conference worthy,” at least I know who I can turn to every morning, afternoon and evening for real-life answers and real-life faith to act on what comes.Read More
My holy week has not been one of quiet contemplation or Hallelujah worship. But, hands-on moments with my teenagers on spring break have still prepared me for Easter.
We’ve played, yelled, laughed, talked, disagreed, worked, relaxed, fought, and hugged.
In this life we run into each other’s expectations with our own emotions attached. That gives us daily chances to practice the teachings of Jesus Christ—faith, repentance, patience, forgiveness, humility, justice and mercy, and, best of all, love.
We grasp for those attributes inside ourselves, but if you are like me, another negative emotion triggers something less than ideal. How glad I am to know that through the His atonement and resurrection, I can overcome sin, injustice, distress, even death.
I didn’t sleep in on Friday morning with my kids like I did all week. That gave me some uninterrupted time to study, ponder and discover this Easter message, He is Risen, from Henry B. Eyring. He suggested a tradition that I’ll start this Easter.
Best of all, it’s not one that I have to keep in a box labeled Easter and only pull out with the plastic grass. I love that the Savior’s mission is for our peace-filled moments and the real life ones, too. And, I’m sure we’ll have some of both this Easter day.
Have you seen the story in Mormon Messages about flecks of gold?
The wise older man advises the younger gold seeker, “It seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you’re missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth.”
Don’t we all undertake a search in this life, not unlike this young man’s? Ours may not be a search for gold, although it could be any form of material wealth or comfort.
Whatever form our search takes, though, we’re often looking for joy and happiness to counter the stress of everyday life and those bigger challenges we face.
I’m learning, as I taught yesterday in a talk at church, that the place we might expect to find joy is not in the great and the grand, but in humble service motivated by love.
That love motivates our simple, compassionate acts of service and becomes an accumulation of gold flecks counted out into overflowing blessing for those we serve and moments of joy for ourselves.
Jesus Christ taught this paradox,
“Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:” Matthew 20:27
Service that springs from our hearts is the kind that brings joy. That service may be as simple as biting the tongue in our family or as formalized as volunteering in the community.
These moments will probably only resemble flecks of gold when they occur. But, the joy of giving time after time, grows in size and depth within its simplicity, so much that we will wonder at the accumulation of these flecks.
We’ve just moved to a predominantly Catholic community. While it’s still too cold in St. Michael, Minnesota, to get out and meet our neighbors, this view from our front yard tells me a lot about their faith.
Our close proximity to the beautiful St. Michael Catholic Church brought home the reality of the news that the Pope, the leader of Catholics worldwide, would resign at the end of the month.
I encouraged my chldren on the way to school to ask their new classmates about their feelings on the announcement and to do so respectfuly, if the topic came up.
Meanwhile, I wondered, What if our prophet resigned? What would that look like? How would we react?
As an active Mormon, I cherish, respect and follow the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson. I imagine the faithful Catholics I know feel the same way about the Pope.
The similarities between the two men in age and circumstance prompted a valid comparison.
Age and experience. Both are 85 and have served God most of their life.
Time in office. Both became leaders at the head of their respective faiths within the last ten years. In fact, the very month of this announcement of the Pope leaving office marks the five year anniversary of President Monson taking the office of President of the Church.
Change and Direction. In their leadership, both men had to modernize the communication tools they used to fit the time, address controversial topics, and provide direction for the future while still maintaing the integrity of the doctrine and values of the Church.
Finding commonality between our leaders helps both Mormons and Catholics to start conversations, like the one I encouraged my children to have, and find common ground between our faiths.
But what about the differences? Could our prophet resign?
I imagine he could, but I doubt that he would.
Chosen Long Ago. The road to leadership as the President of the Church begins years, if not decades, before it occurs. President Monsoon will have served 50 years in October of this year as an Apostle of the Lord. He was 36 when he was set apart to this office. (See biography here.)
Orderly Succession. The path to become the Pope will be discussed at length in the coming weeks. Essentially, as I understand it, Cardinals meet in secret and elect the next pope. In our church, a new president is not elected by his peers or by the membership of the church. When the president dies, the leadership is held by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with the president of that quorum becoming the next prophet.
Chosen by God. With this manner of determining who will be God’s mouthpiece on Earth to lead His Church, (see Amos 3:7) campaigning doesn’t exist. That must alter the mindset that a prophet of God might have about his role, even if he were aged and infirm. With no disrespect for the Pope’s decision, I believe the President of our Church would continue to serve by the will of God.
Finally, I take comfort from President Monson own recent statement, not about the pope’s decision, but a message of encouragement to mark his five-year anniversary service, He said,
Age eventually takes its toll on all of us. However, we join our voices with King Benjamin, who said, as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Mosiah, “I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen … and consecrated by my father, … and have been kept and preserved by [the Lord’s] matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me” (Mosiah 2:11). Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve assures that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm.
Candy wrappers and peanut shells adorn the living room floor. Empty boxes top the sofa. A puzzle rests on the ottoman. The quiet or loud play of my teenage children overshadows the Christmas carols.
The idyllic scene we set for Christmas exploded into reality today, and I wouldn’t ask for anything else.
I love the relaxed nature of Christmas Day at our house. I don’t prepare food other than to fry a little bacon and heat up the cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We stay in pajamas until noon. We play with our gadgets and toys. We nap and watch silly movies and call extended family.
The joy of life comes in these moments. As I once said at a parting with a friend, “These are the moments that make a life.”
Today, I complete my Twelve Moments of Joy by recognizing the joy in the every day moments that are present for you and for me.
I haven’t always seen them. I’ve pined for something more elaborate or something to come. Ironically, when these basic moments are in jeopardy of disappearing, the longing is replaced with gratitude and joy for what we have.
Today, I celebrate Him who helps me to see with a more grateful heart the joy of life, Jesus Christ. His birth, life, atonement, death and resurrection, make possible a wonderful plan of salvation given us by a Heavenly Father.
All these moments, through His love, bring meaning and joy to my life. I hope you find abundant joy in Christ this Christmas and in the year to come.
Enjoy this touching video of his birth: Good Tidings of Great Joy: The Birth of Jesus Christ.Read More
An angel visited Zacharias and told him that his wife would bear a son and call his name John and his birth would bring them great joy and gladness.
This seemed a little unexpected to this older, barren couple, but Zacharias reacted in unbelief. He’d come to expect that they wouldn’t have children.
He was struck dumb because he did not believe the angel of God, but in the course of his wife’s pregnancy and delivery he knew that indeed this unexpected moment came from a divine source. In the days of his son’s birth he did find joy in the unexpected. (see Luke 1)
Depending on the course of our life, we can go in one direction for such a long time that changing course seems unlikely. Or we can want something for so long that we change our desires to match our circumstances. When our will and goals and desires don’t match our circumstances, we can lose hope and faith.
Sometimes, all that we need is a little time, like Zacharias, to adjust our expectations of what we thought would happen and open our heart to an unexpected path.
I’ve done that several times this year, seeking the right place and path for our family. With so many false starts in one direction or another, it was easy to close myself to possibilities. But, ultimately, the answer—an unexpected one—came.
Certainly, Mary didn’t expect to be the mother of baby Jesus, either, but when she questioned how this could be, the angel Gabriel said, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
And that knowledge brings joy in the unexpected.