In this weeks reading I was particularly drawn to the talk given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He, as he always does, step by step lays out the doctrine and then how to turn that doctrine into an action. Being in the Marriage and Family Degree program you have probably read the Proclamation of the Family numerous times; maybe ad nauseam? So not to belittle the topic or try to regurgitate information you have already heard I will try to focus on what I thought was an important part that I think many of us over look. Near the end of the talk Elder Bednar asks,
As we consider the importance of our personal example, do you and I discern areas where we need to improve?
Is the Holy Ghost inspiring our minds and softening our hearts and encouraging us to do and to become better?
These two questions sparked my spiritual imagination and I felt inspired to dig deeper into these two questions. I would like to unpack these two questions and share some of my thoughts on them.
As we consider the importance of our personal example, do you and I discern areas where we need to improve? – For me, this has been a daily part of my life for many years. I have always found that self reflection, meditation and prayer have been helpful ways to slow down and try to see myself more clearly. While these are tried and true ways for me to see myself more clearly, there is nothing more compelling then actual experiences that in the moment test this question. Children are both honest and perceptive. They watch our every move and often repeat the things we say and do the things we do. They do not discern if we are right or wrong, only that we did or said what we did. If you ever want a mirror of what you are compared to what you think you are hang out with some young children for awhile. I can guarantee you will come home with a short list of at least 5 things you can do better or improve upon.
“Is the Holy Ghost inspiring our minds and softening our hearts and encouraging us to do and to become better?”
In Alma 5:14, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/5.14? Alma asks the question, “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” This idea of having the Holy Ghost be in our minds and softening our hearts is not new to us as Latter Day Saints. I would like to think that most of us seek this “mighty change” in our hearts, but what if we struggle to do this? This struggle throughout my life has been very real. After my last break up with someone I was very much in love with, I started to ponder this question with more prayer and with a more focused intent. I have failed miserably in my attempts to date over the years and years ago with my engagement to a wonderful young lady that fell a part as well. It was then I realized that I had started to lose faith, and yes before I knew it my heart had become hardened. I was able to see that I was finding contention with the doctrine, I wanted to pick fights with people who believe the doctrine, and often say, “it works for others, but not for me.” And eventually I found myself far away from the words of God and the blessings that come with His community and communion.
So what does one do to regain the soft heart needed to feel and hear the Spirit to be built back up to the blessings that President Benson describes in his talk “What I Hope You would Teach Your Children about the Temple”?
These blessings being:
- You will receive the spirit of Elijah, which will turn your hearts to your spouse, to your children, and to your forebears
- You will love your family with a deeper love than you have loved before.
- Your hearts will be turned to your fathers and theirs to you.
- You will be endowed with power from on high as the Lord has promised.
- You will receive the key of knowledge of God (D&C 84:19) You will learn how you can be like Him. Even the power of godliness will be manifested to you (D&C 84:20)
- You will be doing a great service to those who have passed to the other side of the veil in order that they might be ‘judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (D&C 138:34)
With this question in mind, I started a journey to truly know who the Savior is and how He loves us. When we understand who He is, our relationship to Him and how He will love us, we can start the journey of our heart back to him. Elder Bruce C Hafen of the Seventy in his talk Covenant Marriage speaks about the need to “lay down our lives” for others. In this talk he tells the story of a mother who sat by her young son encouraging him to complete a school assignment until he was finished. Upon completion of the assignment, she said, “I made up my mind that I couldn’t leave him, no matter what … I didn’t know I had it in me.” As I read this story I was reminded of a song that I love called Reckless Love by Bethel Music, the lyrics say:
“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine”
At our work two of the principles we teach are
1. Light attracts light
2. Light chases away all darkness.
As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, not only are we filled with the Light of Christ, we also are given the promises that Christ’s light can change our hearts. I thought of the story of the young boy and his mother, I thought about the lyrics of this song, and I thought about the families that I work with, who when all seems lost they continue to fight on for what they believe and the family love that they desire, I thought about my mom and all that she does to bless me and our family despite the “wolves” that came into our house often and with great force. Am I willing to leave the 90 and 9 to find the one who is lost? Will I allow Christ’s light into my heart so he can “light up the shadows” in me? Being older and single in the church is not an easy thing. As I searched the scriptures and the words of Prophets and other inspired men and woman, a single female pastor at the local Christian church shared this thought with me from Romans 12:1-2 TPT, it says:
12 Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.
2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.
While I have heard many an Apostle and Prophet tell me words that reflect these two verse of scripture, the words had never hit me in the way they did this time. I love the promise when we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit that says,
“This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”
To me this means surrender – surrendering our will to honor His – this takes faith.
This promise in scripture gave me peace the last few days and has given me strength to take one step at a time and try today, tomorrow and the next day.
The doctrines are clear, there are is no doubt about it, but sometimes as Elder Hafen in his talk Covenant Marriage describes it as “the wolves come in” and we are left confused and defeated. He warns us of three kinds of wolves:
- Natural Adversity
- Our own imperfections
- Excessive individualism
For those of you who don’t know, wolves hunt in a very particular way. Wolves hunt in a pack. They surround their prey and from a distance, one wolf or then another runs toward their prey and make a small attack. As this is happening another wolf comes in from the other side and does the same. The prey may have strength for some time before this barrage of multiple attacks but eventually the confusion and the attacks wears them down. When the animal shows the signs of defeat all of the wolves strike at once leaving the animal no way to defend itself and therefore falling prey to the wolves. Elder Hafen picked the right animal to describe the attacks made by the Adversary against as we try to defend ourselves.
WE however, are promised that when we “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11–18 – https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/eph/6?lang=eng) we can be strengthened, protected and upheld.
To return to my first point, learning to know who the Savior is and how He loves us is where I am starting. Without that testimony it is hard for me to even imagine the eternal blessings that come with marriage. We are all in different places in our journey; but as we seek to serve and help others where they are at we can all grow and benefit from each other. This I know to be true.