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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday leisurely reading

Last week in Relief Society I taught Lesson 31, which ended up being a very overwhelming task. I'm happy to report that I survived working the DVD player and never once did my knees crumble beneath me. In my preparation for that lesson, I came across two talks that have been on my mind a lot for the last couple of weeks, and thought I might share them here for your Sunday leisurely reading. They are very much worth your time.

They have brought a measure of comfort and understanding to my heart, even confirming to my soul that some words truly can heal a wounded heart. I'm grateful for the examples of really good people who have gone through really difficult trials; for the things I can learn from them and the comfort of knowing I'm in good company. 

Here's a small taste of the first talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, given at a CES fireside last year, Lessons from Liberty Jail

But tonight’s message is that when you have to, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.

Now let’s talk about those propositions for a moment. Every one of us, in one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not have been our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution; we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones; we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. Yes, before our lives are over we may all be given a little taste of what the prophets faced often in their lives. But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through that difficulty. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.

The second talk is by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, given more than 30 years ago, also at a CES fireside, Take up the Cross:

Just as no two snowflakes are precisely alike in design, so the configuration of life's challenges differs also. Some of our experiences are not fully shareable with others. Thus, others, try as they may, cannot fully appreciate them. They must trust us, our generalizations and testimonies concerning these experiences. A few of our experiences should not even be shared. But it is useful to ponder the past examples of our partners on the pathway. 

In the midst of some of these individualized challenges, however, we may cry out on our small scale as the Savior did on the cross, or as the Prophet did in Liberty Jail. Being in agony, we will pray more earnestly, for cries of agony are not the same as cries of despair. 

Our individual experiences may not always be unique, but they are always authentic. God will even take into account our perceptions of, as well as our responses to, our trials. For those of us who do not, for instance, find claustrophobia a challenge, it is difficult to measure the terror that comes to those for whom it is such a challenge. Thus, a friend may seem to struggle unnecessarily long before finally prevailing with regard to a particular principle of the gospel. But for that individual, the struggle was real enough! We need, particularly, to understand with kindness those who are asked o go out to do battle again on a familiar field--on the very battleground where they have already suffered defeat several times. Yet some of our most difficult victories will occur on new terrain--like Joseph's in Egypt--when we do not have the equivalent of a "home court" advantage. 

We must remember that, while the Lord reminded the Prophet Joseph Smith that he had not yet suffered as Job, only the Lord can compare crosses!


My Favorite Things said...

Thank you for these quotes! Beautiful. So well said.

Michelle said...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Megan! I taught RS last week, too, but it was the lesson before that, and I did not get through it very well. (I half wondered afterward if I should have asked someone else to teach!)
I especially loved the quote you shared: "the cries of agony are not the same as cries of despair".
It is so important for people, especially in the Church, to realize that it's okay to be sad when something sad has happened to you!! I can't tell you how many times I have felt misunderstood or judged for grieving so deeply for my loss of Benjamin. Even my own sweet mom has said, "You need to just be happy." Well, I will be. But first I have to heal! And in the meantime, I will be faithful. Just because I hurt and have hurt for a long time doesn't mean I have lost my trust in Heavenly Father.
I'm so grateful for the truths of the gospel. To know that part of the Plan is for even good people to have pain is very comforting. And especially to know that it is for "a wise and glorious purpose." That when we in our agony reach toward heaven, we are in good company.

Kim said...

Thank you for sharing this sweet Megan. Sometimes I know I need these reminders...especially now. Love you.