Last week was New Beginnings. I shared a few thoughts about 1 Nephi 3:7, "go and do"...but after coming home I just felt like I hadn't adequately expressed what was in my heart. And I keep thinking about it. I'd like to share just a few thoughts with you about this year's youth theme...hopefully better expressing what is in my heart and what I think Heavenly Father wants you to know. I know that my words will fall short of being able to fully express what is in my heart, but I hope that you'll be able to feel the truth in my words and feel the love I have for you and for the Savior. I imagine you are all familiar with this verse. Nephi and his brothers have been commanded to get the plates from Laban. Their attempts have been unsuccessful and Laman and Lemuel think they should head back to their parents. But Nephi refuses to give up because he has faith that when God asks him to do something then God will help him to be able to do what he has asked. And then Laban is delivered into his hands and he gets the plates. I shared a few stories of several faithful women that were asked to do hard things and responded with faith that they would go and do. One of my very favorite stories is of Esther. Esther was a Jewish woman and was married to the king. He didn't know she was a Jew and a law was passed to put all the Jews to death. Esther's uncle Mordecai came to her and told her to go her husband and plead for him to save her people....at that time even entering the king's presence without being summoned could be a death sentence. Her uncle said, "who whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther fasted and prayed and went the king and her people were saved. Like Esther, you were sent to Earth at this time because you have a role to play. Your role isn't the same, but it is just as important.
Another woman of great faith is the widow of Zarephath. There was a famine in the land. Elijah, the prophet, was told to go to Zarephath and there he would find someone to feed him. He met the widow who was gathering two sticks to make a small fire with which to make her last meal for herself and her son and then they would die. Elijah told her that if she would make him food first, then her cruse of oil and her flour would not fail...in other words she would continue to have food. It must have taken such courage and faith to give her last food to Elijah when her son was starving!! I can hardly imagine. But she trusted in the prophet and 1 Kings 17 tells us: "And she awent and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days."
During the pioneer era, the Martin and Willie Handcart companies started late and experienced great difficulties. When Brigham Young heard of their plight, he spoke to the Saints in Salt Lake during General Conference and said that they must go and rescue those in the handcart companies. Many women pulled off their stockings and shoes right in the conference and piled them up to be taken! They hurried home and gathered blankets and other supplies. They had already made the difficult journey and most of them probably didn't have much. But they didn't refuse to share what little they had. They immediately gave what they could to help in the rescue efforts.
At New Beginnings I also shared a couple of personal experiences when I have been asked to do something that seemed hard for me at the but I determined to go and do and received blessings from my obedience.
Now I have recounted these stories and there are probably many lessons that could be learned from them. The importance of obedience. The need for courage. The blessings that come when we "go and do". But I worry that as I recounted these stories, my emphasis was too much on what these faithful women did. And while there is much we can learn from and emulate in the lives of these I don't think I focused enough on what is perhaps the most important part. Nephi didn't just say he would go and do and that he'd accomplish the task. He pointed out that if he chose to go and do what THE LORD COMMANDED, then he knew he would succeed because THE LORD would prepare a way. Esther was courageous and the widow of Zarephath was full of faith and the pioneer women were selfless. But the reason that each was successful in doing what the Lord had asked is because the Lord helped them. A couple of years ago, I realized that I was holding on to some hurt and anger. Someone else had hurt me and I wasn't forgiving that individual or choosing to act in loving ways toward that person. And I knew...from direction given in conference talks as well as from inspiration from the Holy Ghost...that I needed to and I needed to act in loving ways even if the other person didn't. I will be honest. It was hard. I shed more than a few tears. But I came to see ways in which I was not acting in loving ways and ways in which I had hurt the other person as well. And with a lot of help from the Savior, I found healing and I learned to act more like He would. I can absolutely tell you that it wasn't because of anything great in me. I still struggle often to react in kind and patient ways when someone isn't being kind to me. But when someone isn't being kind to me and I want to lash out (and far too often I do), if I will take a deep breath, and say a prayer asking for strength beyond my own, then I am able to be kinder and more loving than is in my nature.
I haven't saved a nation or fed a starving prophet with my own last meal or built a ship or gotten the plates from Laban or been protected in a lion's den. But I have been asked to do things that were hard for me...to forgive others who had hurt me. To accept callings that were beyond what I thought I . To go to church by myself with 3 young children when my husband wasn't very active in the church. To study the scriptures daily when that seemed impossible to me as a girl. To do more than seemed possible with the time I had. To act on promptings that didn't make sense. And here is what I have learned. There's an awful lot that I am not that good at or that I couldn't do on my own. BUT Every. Single. Time. I trust in the Lord and I "go and do" the things the Lord asks me (whether that is through the scriptures, the words of the prophet, or through personal promptings/revelation), He helps me to be more and do more than I could on my own. I can do all things through Christ which me (Philippians .and so can you!
I have been studying and pondering the names of Christ. Each name can help us learn something about Him. I have a favorite name of Christ. I mean I love many of his names....Savior, Redeemer, High Priest of Good Things to Come, Advocate, Holy One of Israel, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace. But my favorite name of Christ is Emmanuel which means God with Us. Because I know He is. Sometimes when I am going through a hard time, I can feel Him close. I can feel Him comforting me. A couple of nights ago I was reading 2 Nephi 1 and I just absolutely love verse 15: "But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love." Can you imagine that/feel that? Have you had times when you have felt like He was wrapping His arms around you and holding you tight? I have. And can you imagine what it will be like when we see Him again after we leave this life and He is able to encircle us in a giant hug? I just can't wait for that! But you know what? Sometimes when I am going through a hard time, I don't feel that. I can remember a time about 8 years ago when I felt very overwhelmed and very tired and very alone. And I just wasn't sure if I could keep doing what I was doing. I began to wonder if maybe, possibly, things would be easier if I didn't go to church. Maybe it would give me more time to complete the tasks on my to-do list. Maybe he wasn't there...at the very least I couldn't seem to feel Him there. And I kept praying and for several months no help seemed to come. Where was God? I was trying to do the right but I felt tired and alone. I can't adequately explain what but a couple of things happened that let me know that He was there and He was aware of me. Elder Holland gave a talk that was shared in a 5th Sunday meeting that helped me see that I was needed, I was and I had some areas I needed to improve in. Explaining it like that truly doesn't adequately express how my heart changed that day. But I committed to do my very best to always be the disciple of Christ He needed me to be. And it has led to countless changes and blessings. Even though I hadn't been able to see Him there, He was with me and He was orchestrating things so I would be ready to hear the message that my heart needed. And I know He is there with you, beside you, as well. And He always will be. No matter what. He loves you. He desires to bless you. Let me share one more verse of scripture with you that I love: Jacob 6:5 "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts." All of us need to repent...and all of us need to come unto Christ. Repentance is such a beautiful gift. But the part that I love so much is when it says to cleave unto God as he cleaves to you and that His arm of mercy is extended to you. It's a lot like 2 Nephi 1:15 is holding on to you, loving you, leading you. Are you holding on to Him, trusting Him, allowing Him to guide you? He is trying to encircle you in His love...are you hugging Him back or pushing Him away? He's still there...but you will find greater peace and joy and the ability to "go and do" so much more if you are cleaving to Him, trusting Him.
how I love you! I can't ever truly tell you how I feel about you or about the Savior for I just don't have words. But I express gratitude daily for the blessing it is to be in young with you and I express gratitude daily for a Savior who is Emmanuel...God with us. I know He is!