While proselytizing in Brazil, we were taught to focus out content and approach on families. There are so many wonderful teaching about the family in which leaders want to emphasize how seriously we need to be concerned with these units. I think that much of this is wonderful advise, particularly because the incredible joys that can come from them, although they also bring the risk of incredible pain. That pain in what we will be focusing on today, as I think there is always a need for a reminder.
There is an interesting phenomenon where you can say the meanest things to a family member, but if someone outside of the family said the same thing you could become extremely upset. I think that point to something nice which is the deep down loyalty and desire for the very best for our family, but if it is true that we care about them, why would we allow ourselves to fall into bad habits of sometimes treating them in ways that are extremely painful and harmful. It is my hope that we can recognize that no matter how good our family lives are, I hope that we can evaluate those things that we are doing which could be causing harm to this thing that we claim to love so much.
President Thomas S. Monson and taught something similar where he said “Brothers and sisters, some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. Lamented President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Why is it that the [ones] we love [most] become so frequently the targets of our harsh words? Why is it that [we] sometimes speak as if with daggers that cut to the quick?” The answers to these questions may be different for each of us, and yet the bottom line is that the reasons do not matter. If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with kindness and respect.”
In the beginning of my faith transition at the point where I least understood my place in the church and whether I would be able to continue as a member of the church, one of the problems that I didn’t feel like I belonged. At that point I was question everything, and to make things worse, I saw and heard many people expressing that if people don’t like the ways things are in the church they should just leave. The problem was that I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to move forward with faith. I wanted to keep trying. I wanting to test whether this path was the right one for me, but I didn’t know how. For example if I couldn’t say “I know this church is true.” Could I no longer teach, participate in testimony meeting etc.
However as time moved on I began to feel empowered as I began to feel strongly that God wanted me to be in this church. With that recognition I began to want to participate more, and as I did that I felt wonderful blessings come to me. I believe that it is important for all of us to always remember that all we can give is what we have, and part of the journey is that seeking to give our own widows mite, no matter how little we think it may be.
Sister Linda J. Burton has taught us that “As true disciples, may we offer our willing hearts and our helping hands to hasten His work. It does not matter if, like Brynn, we have only one hand. It does not matter if we are not yet perfect and complete. We are devoted disciples who reach out and help each other along the way.”
I recently attended a conference where topics relating to Mormonism were being discussed. For a different project I decided that I would record myself asking questions to some of the people I met in the halls. One of my questions was “What is one of your favorite aspects of Mormonism?” I was so impressed by the responses, and one of the responses that I most loved was the amount of people who answered by saying community is their favorite part. Mormonism offers something special in regards to community, which I believe is so important due to the need that we all have to belong.
I believe that it is so vital that we recognize that particularly in the church, we all need each other. It can be so easy to fall into clicks, and to only associate with those who are like us, but I believe the Gospel pushes us towards something different. It pushes us to reaching for those who need our help vs. moving quickly along in order to do a different good. The gospel pushes us away from selfishness and I believe that if we take it seriously we will be able to learn how to better live and love.
Sister Oscarson has taught us that “The fact of the matter is, we really and truly need each other. Women naturally seek friendship, support, and companionship. We have so much to learn from one another, and we often let self-imposed barriers keep us from enjoying associations which could be among the greatest blessings in our lives….If there are barriers, it is because we ourselves have created them. We must stop concentrating on our differences and look for what we have in common; then we can begin to realize our greatest potential and achieve the greatest good in this world.”
Rosemary M. Wixom has shared that “An elderly woman in her 90s has watched her children and grandchildren grow up and her great-grand-children come into the world. Like many of us, she has had a life filled with sorrows, afflictions, and incomprehensible joy. She confesses that if she were rewriting her life story, she would not choose to include some of the chapters that have been written. Yet, with a smile, she says, “I just must live a little longer and see how it all turns out!” She continues to hold fast to the covenants on the path.”
This quote highlights a point that I feel is extremely vital for us to keep in our minds. Life is something that can be extremely difficult and painful, and although we all have moments where we are not sure how we will move on. Because we can sometimes confuse principles and feel that these types of things are occurring because of our own actions, we sometimes are slow to admit that we have these struggles, but we all have them. The key in my mind is not to deny that this is a real part of mortality, but instead I feel we should embrace that fact with the goal of steadily seeking to move forward in our attempt towards progression.
Obedience is a difficult principle for me to understand, particularly since I have spent so much time learning about blind obedience through psychological research, and to see how this concept can be manipulated by using natural parts of our humanity. There is much research exposing those who perpetuate fraud. In Utah there is sadly an incredible rate of religious affinity fraud which is when Lds leaders such as bishops, stake presidents, etc. use the respect that many have for them to take advantage of people through pyramid schemes and other fraudulent means. Blind trust and obedience can be a very dangerous and costly thing which can be demonstrated through seemingly endless amounts of evidence.
Because of this, I am hesitant when people focus on teaching blind obedience, particularly because I believe the gospel actually directs us away from this kind of obedience. I believe this is what Elder L. Tom Perry was teaching us when he said “Too often we think of obedience as the passive and thoughtless following of the orders or dictates of a higher authority. Actually, at its best, obedience is an emblem of our faith in the wisdom and power of the highest authority, even God.”
I think what often happens is that we confuse the incredible principles and truths of the gospel with misunderstandings and adulterated forms of the principles, and I feel that this is true for obedience. I believe that as we study obedience and seek to better understand this principle we will find that when practiced in the best way it can be extremely valuable for our lives.
When I was growing up there were various individuals that I would see in church who I would idolize. I felt that these people had it all figured out and I was inspired by their incredible examples. However later down the line I got to know some of them a little bit better and I was shocked to see their humanity come through. I was puzzled by the different ways these people would present themselves at church. While they were there they were incredible, but in real life they seemed to turn that off and act in ways that were shocking to me. Since these experiences are prevalent I think President Thomas S. Monson’s advice is very relevant. He said “Brethren, are you the same person wherever you are and whatever you are doing—the person our Heavenly Father wants you to be and the person you know you should be?”
With that said I think we all also need this reminder because this trap can be so easy to fall into. Are we always seeking to treat those around us as Christ would treat them, or are we simply doing so when it is convenient? I know that I this is something I can do better. I believe that as we are seeking to reach our goals in our lives, we must be extremely careful to always be making sure that we are living according to our best selves.
As you have probably come to expect from this program, I often focus on topics that relate to diversity, harm, and changing our paradigms. That is simply because this is the place I am in my life, and even though I may focus on things that others may not, I feel it is just as valuable to share my testimony and experiences as I seek to learn, grow, and reach towards becoming what God would have me be.
However one thing that I struggle with is how to interact with those who engage in behaviors that I feel are harmful. Today I read a letter written to a child who had recently left the church. This letter included various rules that would be enforced with this child, and sadly within these rules I felt that there was little to no love being demonstrated. During these types of moments that can be so very painful I simply want people to be kind to each other, which can make it easy for me to judge.
However I think back on my own life and experiences and recognize that there are so many harmful things that I have done out of the best intentions of my heart. I remember sending harsh letters to family members who were not living in the way I felt they should, which I feel was not done in the way that the savior would have done it. I have been mean, judgmental, petty, and inconsiderate in my life, and as I ponder my need for repentance and change, I recognize that perhaps I need to have a little more compassion for those who may not be behaving in the ways that I feel would be the best. I think it is still important to be open and to perhaps help point harmful actions out in order to help us all be better, but this should always be done in loving empathetic ways. I believe we need to be patient with others by seeking to forgive, while we simultaneously seek to change through repentance.
Elder Henry B. Eyring has taught that “As you pray for forgiveness, you will find yourself forgiving others. As you thank God for His kindness, you will think of others, by name, who need your kindness. Again, that experience will surprise you every day, and over time it will change you.”