Sunday, February 8, 2009

Holding to Truth

Last Sunday I promised a followup today about the upcoming Relief Society Lesson, "Beware the bitter fruits of Apostasy". Just a review of that post, that my "favorite" teacher was not going to teach the lesson because it was ward conference and a member of the stake relief society presidency taught it instead. I was still a bit worried about the lesson because of its content, such as this quote:

Joseph Smith taught the importance of sustaining our Church leaders: "That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, ...that man is in the high road to apostasy."

Instead of just focusing on Relief Society, I want to go back to the previous meeting as well, Sunday School, in which we were studying lesson 6 on Revelation. The beginning of the lesson was wonderful, reminding me of scriptures like D&C 8:2-3, "Behold I will tell you in your mind and in your heart..." and D&C 6:22-23, "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?" and D&C 98:12, revelation comes a little at a time, "Line upon line, precept upon precept." I especially liked this quote from Elder Richard G. Scott:

"When we seek inspiration to help make decisions, the Lord gives gentle promptings. These require us to think, to exercise faith, to work, to struggle at times, and to act. Seldom does the whole answer to a decisively important matter or complex problem come all at once. More often, it comes a piece at a time, without the end in sight." (Oct. 1989 Conference)

Boy, does that not describe what I have gone through over the last few months, trying to reconcile things and understand God's message for me? I was feeling really good and uplifted, secure with the peace in my heart and mind, but of course the lesson had to end on a slippery slope:

"The First Presidency said: "When ... inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. ... Anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable." (James R. Clark)

In mathematics, statistics is an interesting course to study because you learn that you can literally make statistics say anything you want them to say. No matter what point of view you have on something, you can always find some statistics somewhere that will back your opinion. Why am I starting to feel that way about scriptures and quotes from church leaders?

I could spend a long time pondering that one, but onto Relief Society instead...

Scott wanted to stay and listen to the lesson, but decided to attend Priesthood like a good boy. His quorum has been a lesson behind us, and no doubt he thought our lesson would be more exciting. With a peck and a promise to pray for me, he was off. Little did we know that it was he who needed my prayers as he sat through the more uncomfortable of the two lessons (and the same lesson in the book), but I will let him tell that story if he chooses to.

It was almost as if the events in my Relief Society over the last few months paved the way for today to be a great lesson. The teacher did not deviate from the lesson, she did not ask for comments from class members; when she shared personal experiences, they were vague and spiritual. There was no chance for anyone to bring up Prop 8 even though I think many might have a view that it fits perfectly with the lesson.

The teacher presented this statement that made a big impact on me:

"Do not let what you don't know and understand diminish what you do know."

She heard a church speaker, John Lund, share this in a special fireside she attended as part of a church history tour during the summer.

As I continued to listen to the lesson, which was non-condemning, but presented in a spirit of love and caution, I really mulled this last quote over in my head.

  • I know that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.
  • I don't know if relationships between two people of the same gender might also be ordained of God, but that doesn't diminish what I know already.
  • I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that President Monson is now the Prophet and God's mouthpiece on the earth.
  • I don't know if every little thing that President Monson says is the word of God, for he is still a man and is not infallible, but that does not need to diminish my testimony of him as a prophet nor my ability to sustain him and my desire to pray for him.
  • I know what the spirit feels like and how to receive and recognize personal revelation.
  • I don't know how the revelation I have felt over the last few months fits with the quote at the end of the Sunday School lesson, but that does not diminish the fact that God has spoken peace to my mind and my heart, and I don't need to feel apostate about knowing that.
I could keep going...

Near the end of the lesson, the Stake Relief Society president shared a thought that as we raise our families, it is important that we are not critical of the leaders of the church. Right now I am actually grateful that I heard my mom be critical at times of leaders, but I also realized that my children have heard my criticism lately and that I need to be careful to point out times when I feel that the Prophet is truly inspired, or all they will ever remember is the negative. What a good but gentle reminder to me that as I teach my children to be open, loving and accepting of all of God's children, I still have a responsibility to teach them the gospel and what I know is true.

The lesson closed with remarks from the Stake president. He spoke of how Satan knows that the best way to influence the world is through the women. If he can pull the women down, then the men and the children and all of society will follow. Scott mentioned to me recently that if it weren't for me and the kids, he would probably not be active in the church any more. I felt the love and the spirit in the President's words, knowing that I need to be careful that there is balance in what I do and say because I can have an incredible influence for Good or BAD at home and at school.

The highlight of the day was when the stake president literally chased me across the relief society room to talk to me personally before I left. He clasped my hands in his and said with tender emotion, "I love you Sarah, and I hope that you believe that I truly do." I responded something about sorry we had never made an appointment to visit with him, that it has been an incredible journey for us but that we are doing well, and that I could feel of his sincere love for me. The look on his face showed genuine concern that he had possibly ever hurt or offended me, and then understanding that I truly did feel of his love and concern for me and Scott.

I left the room and tears misted up in my eyes, and I felt strengthened as I arrived at the car to find Scott upset about his lesson experience. It has been so great to be able to buoy each other up as needed. God gives us the experiences we need most of the time to help each other. When I am weak, he is strong. When he is weak, I am strong. When we are both weak, we lean on each other the best we can. And when we are both strong, miracles happen.

It has been a good day.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad it was a good day and that you were able to comfort each other.

Love you guys

Amigakitty said...

I love the last line of your blog -when both of you are strong miracles happen. I feel that way too and God never ceases to amaze me with the miracles he has given to me and to my marriage.

Pieces of Me said...

This was a wonderful post, and I am so happy that it was a good experience for you. I also enjoyed your insights, I share a lot of the same feelings.

Anonymous said...

I really love this post, Sarah.

Especially the part where you give specific examples of what you DO know and not letting those things be diminished by what you do NOT yet know.

That is a very powerful insight.

I am going to use this in the days ahead- to help me NOT get bogged down in what I do NOT know, but let the peace of what I DO know settle upon my heart and help me courageously face things in my life.

Thank you so much.

I am sorry Scott felt upset with his lesson. That is tough.

Love to both of you. :)

Kengo Biddles said...

I renewed my temple recommend yesterday. It made me think along these lines, as well. And like you, I know that there are things that Thomas S. Monson says as Tom Monson, and things that he says as the Prophet. (For example, him saying "It's Runge Time!" for the local sportscast is NOT President Monson speaking. It's Tom Monson, the football fan.)

But I've decided I need to build my testimony of him as a prophet.

I'm sorry that Scott had a hard time with it -- I empathize...there was no need for it in my ward, but somehow Prop 8 was dragged up. *barf*.

We love you guys!

Anonymous said...

Well crap. Now I'm sorry I ditched yesterday. I wish I had been there.

Sarah said...

Thanks everyone for the comments.

Jacob, you snooze you loose! The whole lesson wasn't bad. Just one comment about people of a certain persuasion being against prop 8, and then President _____ , who was teaching, said thanks and quickly moved the lesson away from the comment. Scott sat quietly in discomfort and then left as soon as the prayer was over. He's okay. Email him personally if you want more details.

Meanwhile, the choir president wondered if they needed to send choir home teachers to recruit Scott, so watch out; I'm sure you and Melissa are next!


Elisabeth said...

Thanks for this post, Sarah. It makes me think of the line from scripture "Be still and know that I am God." Sometimes when I'm struggling I have to do exactly what you describe, and hold to what I know, which on a most basic level is that God is there. Even if there is much that defies my understanding at the moment, I can find an anchor from the tempests of life in the knowledge of the Lord's love.