That’s why it didn’t take me long to identify “Eyes to See” by Michelle D. Craig as the Conference address to use for the program today. In her remarks, Sister Craig spoke of the need we all have both to see others deeply and to be seen deeply by others. And that’s possible for you when you acquire eyes to see.
Stop doing what you shouldn’t
I’ve long spoken about self-talk. We all give messages to ourselves every day out of habit. For most of us, at least 80% of those messages are negative. A constant barrage of negative messaging can hold anyone back from fully living the joy to be had in life.
The cure for that, of course, is embracing habits of positive self-talk. But you’ll find that next to impossible without first deeply seeing yourself the way God sees you. If you see yourself in any lesser light, it’ll be harder to accept your divine nature and heritage as a child of God. And you’ll feel awkward acting on what you don’t really believe.
That’s why I love how Sister Craig began her remarks with the story of Elisha’s servant seeing a threatening army surround him and his master. But the servant set aside his fears when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of his master’s words: “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Sister Craig then declared,
If what you’re doing keeps you from living the joy surrounding you every single day, then the obvious first step to experiencing that joy is to remove the obstacle. Get out of your own way. Stop doing what you shouldn’t, and stop thinking in ways that lead you to do what you shouldn’t.
Start doing what you should
Of course, you can’t just stop the bad you think and do. We’re all biologically hardwired to operate out of habit. Our self-talk and most other thoughts and actions we play out of habit. Our habits feed us the instructions we follow to navigate everyday life.
But habits don’t change just because you stop executing bad instructions. Again, you’re biologically hardwired to have a habit, so when you encounter the trigger connected with that habit you stopped, your brain looks for a habit. Not finding one, it kicks in the default response, which is always to go back to the last habit you had.
That’s why you don’t just quit bad habits. You must replace them with better ones. So once you stop doing what you shouldn’t, start doing what you should. And you can begin by partnering with the Lord and allowing Him to show the way.
Sister Craig shared some beautiful stories of how people were blessed and uplifted when others stopped their normal routines, looked around them, and acted on promptings to go and do. She declared,
See the beauty all around you
When you replace less effective habits of thinking and doing with more effective ones, you position yourself to see and to receive the deep joy that really does surround you every single day. That joy comes when you give your all to your true identity and purpose. But you can’t do that if you don’t first see your true identity and purpose.
So start today to develop eyes to see. Stop thinking and doing what prevents you from seeing yourself and others as the children of God we all are. Start thinking and doing what opens your view to the marvelous truths of the restored gospel and the reality of the Savior’s marvelous Atonement.
With a clearer vision of your true reality, you can press forward with joy amidst any challenge. You can feel better about yourself because you’ll see yourself in the splendid potential for glory bequeathed to every child of God. You can feel better about life because you’ll see the beauty that really is all around you. You’ll see more clearly the Lord’s hand working in your life and the lives of others. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many of us see challenges as we look ahead both for society and ourselves individually. Elder Bednar’s remarks remind us of the essential nature of testing in our mortal experience. Just as tests in school help us compare what we know with what we should know and thereby provide opportunity to grow in knowledge, tests in mortality help us compare what we are now with what we can become and thereby provide opportunity to grow in light and truth. And the best way to pass those tests is to prepare and press forward.
Elder Bednar related how the pandemic revealed the state of his own family’s preparedness for difficult times. In some ways he was prepared, and in others he was wanting.
For those instances in which he and we are found wanting, Elder Bednar pointed to the Savior’s example of incremental increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). I love Elder Bednar’s description of this approach: “a blended balance of intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social readiness.”
As I examine my own readiness in each of those four areas — the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social — I find I’m not that different from Elder Bednar. In some ways I’m prepared, and in others I’m wanting.
We all are, in fact. That’s why we need to use the time we have now to prepare for what may come. I recall President Hinckley speaking in the April 2001 General Conference Priesthood session about setting our houses in order. Five months later, the aerospace industry took a nosedive from 9/11, and many Saints in that industry lost their jobs. Those who failed to heed a prophet’s warning to prepare suffered when the testing moment came.
I love what Elder Bednar had to say about such preparations.
The difficulties of the pandemic have revealed the state of our own individual preparedness. Now is the time to act on that knowledge and prepare for what may come in those areas where we’re wanting. Elder Bednar issued just such an invitation:
When it comes to action, it’s good to have a plan and better to act. Plans provide the framework for moving forward, but they don’t actually move you forward. Only action produces results. Only action moves you forward.
Elder Bednar told the story of a father who lost his missionary son to a tragic accident. The father shared his family’s feelings at the funeral service — feelings of heartbreak but also feelings of determination to remain faithful. When the moment of trial came, this family showed they were prepared to learn eternal lessons through their suffering. That preparation allowed them to press forward.
We likewise can press forward when our intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social trials come to us if we do the work now to prepare ourselves for those moments. And that means making choices. Elder Bednar shared the following words from Elder Jeffrey R Holland.
He then went on to say
Live the promise
Moments that test us will always come in mortality. As Elder Bednar explained, “the process of proving ourselves is a fundamental part of Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness.” He then promised those who prepare and press forward will be able to pass “the ultimate examination of mortality.”
You can live that promise when you prepare for what will come and then press forward, walking in faith the Lord will support you as you act upon your plans. Preparation doesn’t always prevent or remove hard times. But preparation can make burdens easier to bear. Preparation can provide the eternal perspective needed to learn lessons of eternal import when those trials do come.
So prepare and press forward. You don’t know when all your trials will come, but you do know they’ll come. Assess yourself now, plan to supply what’s wanting, and then take action on those plans. The Lord will do His part as you do yours. You’ll then realize in your life the promised pronouncement: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I believe there is. Our enemies aren’t just people determined to act against our beliefs. “For,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We wrestle against the natural man and woman, our imperfections, and ourselves.
And yet the Lord’s command remains the same: Love your enemies. Though it may seem completely backwards, this path brings the greatest joys LDS singles can experience in their single years. And they can be yours when you love all your enemies.
Love your natural self
You’re thinking that’s totally crazy. How can we possibly love the natural man and woman when King Benjamin famously declared, “For the natural man [and woman] is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19)? And how could that possibly bring more joy to LDS singles?
The natural man and woman are indeed enemies to God, so I’m in no way proposing you love that aspect. I’m proposing you love your natural self, the person you really are inside.
You’re not just the product of evolutionary biology, although we all coexist with that aspect. You’re a beloved child of God with quirks — features of your personality and disposition that you’ve always had. They’re part of what makes you . . . well, you. But we often want to hide our quirks to fit in. We view them as an enemy.
The greatest joy in life comes from embracing all the right things for you. Of course, keeping the commandments and your covenants will always be among those right things. But there’s more that’s right for each of us. And your quirks — the unique expressions of who you naturally always have been, even before mortality — definitely qualify. So love your quirks and that part of your natural eternal self.
Love your imperfections
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to embrace your imperfections. That’s not what you’d normally hear from a booming self-improvement industry fueled by the assumption that tolerating imperfections equals acceptance of a miserable life, or at best a mediocre one.
Yet I’d never be a better man without my imperfections. It’s the struggle to overcome challenge that facilitates growth. My imperfections provide me with that challenge. My imperfections help me become my best self, and thus, they help me live my best life.
Your imperfections can likewise help you. I’m not suggesting you stop trying to eliminate your imperfections. By all means put them on the next bus, train, boat, or plane out of town. What I’m suggesting is your imperfections provide opportunity for the struggle that makes you your best you. And being your best self lets you live your best life.
But having your best life means loving yourself. Too often we don’t live the life we most want because we’re in our own way. The best way to get out of your own way and stay out of it is to love yourself.
Many singles yearn for the companion who’d make them not so single anymore. But they don’t love themselves — and by love I mean care for themselves the way God cares for them. We all broadcast our inner selves to others, who intuitively pick up those broadcasts. Others will sense if you don’t love yourself and want little if anything to do with you if you don’t, because they want to be loved, not used and certainly not despised.
In encouraging you to love yourself, I’m not suggesting you prioritize selfish desires. I’m suggesting you get good with you, that you sincerely love the deepest part of who you are, because that will then broadcast to others. And that can lead to joy you can’t have while you’re single.
So, yes, love all your enemies. Love your quirks that communicate your natural eternal self. Love your imperfections that provide opportunity for growth. And love yourself in the deepest part of who you really are. When you do, you’ll enjoy your single years more because you’ll embrace all the good they have to offer you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That perspective transforms everything about the Lord’s work into gathering Israel. It makes sense when you consider President Nelson’s observation that “one of the Hebraic meanings of the word Israel is ‘let God prevail.’ Thus the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life.” And indeed, LDS singles are abundantly blessed when they submit their will to God’s and let God prevail in their life.
The key portion
I love the story President Nelson shares about Jill. Struggling with her father’s approaching death and her own questions regarding testimony, Jill was at first startled to hear President Nelson describe her perspective as “myopic.” But further reflection on that word led her to embracing God’s will, adopting a more eternal perspective, and finding peace. These blessings came to her as she let God prevail in her life.
Of course, the key portion of President Nelson’s message applies to all, though I think it has particular application for LDS singles. After rightfully decrying the prejudice of racism, President Nelson declared,
With all the voices in our crazy modern world, are you willing to open your ears to God’s voice more than any other? Are you willing to put His work ahead of your own desires, even righteous desires like securing an eternal companion? Will you walk away from someone you love who wants to marry you if God says no? Will you submit your will to His even when it seems completely crazy and makes absolutely no sense to do so? Will you let God prevail in your life?
Guidance for dating
President Nelson then begins applying those key questions to different situations. And the first situation he tackles? Being single. He said, “If you are unmarried and seeking an eternal companion, your desire to be ‘of Israel’ will help you decide whom to date and how.”
When I first encountered those words, I wondered why President Nelson did not expound upon them. How exactly does my desire to be “of Israel” help me decide whom to date when choosing between two active Church members? And then there’s the bigger question: How does my desire to be “of Israel” help me decide how to proceed with dating?
In reflecting upon these questions, I realized President Nelson didn’t expound more upon them because he doesn’t need to. Do you remember when in 2018 he said this?
In that same address about revelation, President Nelson taught,
When you submit your will to God’s, you position yourself to understand better how you should navigate the seas of your singleness. That’s why, coming back to the present address, we find President Nelson teaching this:
Focus becomes reality
Most of the time, it really is a matter of perspective. Our focus does indeed become our reality. When we let God prevail in our lives, we focus upon His objectives. And because His work and glory is our salvation and exaltation (Moses 1:39), that focus brings us the most joyful reality.
Doing the work to let God prevail isn’t easy, of course. Surrendering one’s will to God never has been and never will be easy. President Nelson acknowledges this truth:
There’s so much more I want to get into here, but limitations force me to defer that discussion to later in the broadcast. Here’s the bottom line: When you let God prevail in your life, you’ll understand more clearly what really matters in God’s plan. You’ll see more clearly the path leading to your greatest happiness now and in eternity. And you’ll feel more of God’s love strengthening you to walk that path.
So let God prevail in your life. You’ll see the miracle your life can become when you do. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Whatever the reason, I'm learning not to question promptings to do good but rather simply to follow them. I'm learning to trust, without seeing the end, that the end will be better than I ever could have imagined it. I'm learning to trust that the blessings I long for most in my life will come, as Elder Holland declared, by and by.
See beyond your pain
It's easy for all of us to get so absorbed in our own trials that we lose perspective. And with that loss of perspective often comes also the loss of another sight — one that sees the way forward.
Many singles feel so burdened by the loneliness and heartache of singles life that all they see in their future is an eternity of loneliness and heartache. Such an outcome should not surprise. After all, your focus becomes your reality.
Singles who know the depth of that despair from seeming ever so out of reach of desired blessings intimately know loneliness and heartache. So of course singles would feel comforted and appreciative of Elder Holland's early and earnest recognition of that familiarity.
But notice what immediately followed. Elder Holland was just as eager and earnest in recognizing the depth of despair many trapped in a lonely marriage feel, seemingly ever so out of reach of escape from their familiarity with loneliness and heartache.
Without recognizing the pain others feel, it's easy to become so absorbed in our own pain that we can't see anything else. Our pain becomes so enlarged we think it not only fills our world but that it is the world.
Trust in Him always
That's one of the comforting aspects of Elder's Holland's remarks. He reminds us that, regardless of our individual situations, we all feel pain. We all ache under the burden of trial. We all long for relief.
Yet we often pray for freedom and relief on our schedule rather than for faith to rely on God's. As we plead with heaven to lighten our load, our pleadings will be answered, though sometimes not how or when we would wish.
As Elder Holland reminds us all,
But then Elder Holland cut straight to the truth at the crux of the matter.
How did people come to believe that all suffering is necessarily bad? Whatever its source, Elder Holland rightly suggests some suffering isn't bad. In fact, I dare to declare some suffering is necessarily good.
Rise above your trouble
No doubt those steeped in their own pain will find it difficult to believe any suffering could be good, let alone necessarily good. As already noted, it's easy to be so absorbed in one's own troubles that it's difficult to see how those troubles could ever be stepping stones to tranquility.
And yet that's precisely why some pain is necessarily good. Henry Ward Beecher once said our troubles are "the tools by which God fashions us for better things." It is through our trials that we become refined and more of our best selves. It is through our trials that we develop the characteristics of godhood. It is through our trials that we come to know God.
How else could He be known? Elder Holland says as much when he declared,
We all have pain in this life. But when we look beyond our own pain to see the pain in others, we find it easier to see our own in perspective. We find it easier to reach out to help others. We find it easier to see meaning and purpose in our own suffering. And we find it easier to trust God through bad seasons as well as good ones. We find it easier to walk in faith and confidence that the promised blessings will come to us by and by. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
As is characteristic of the prophets we've seen thus far in the 21st century, President Nelson spoke multiple times this past Conference. But one address stood out to me as I considered the focus for the program today. President Nelson's address entitled "Hear Him" focused on the Savior in a way that addresses the craziness which now seems to engulf the world. And in light of recent reflections regarding the Savior and what makes the good we bring to the world truly matter, it is ever more vital that we do indeed hear Him.
That sounds a lot like what he said in his first Conference address as President of the Church.
So it shouldn't surprise us that President Nelson mentioned the Holy Ghost as a way to hear the Savior.
When I think of a place to receive revelation and feel the influence of the Spirit, the temple comes quickly to mind. Although the pandemic has restricted most of us from being in the house of the Lord, President Nelson looked ahead to when they will one day reopen.
"And, finally," President Nelson declared, "we hear Him as we heed the words of prophets, seers, and revelators." With that opportunity just a few days away, I'm glad it won't be long now to hear from our inspired leaders as they point the way to the Savior.
But notice that President Nelson didn't say we hear the Savior as we hear His servants. No, he said we hear the Savior when we heed His servants. To heed means more than just to hear.
President Nelson also used the word hearken. He observed that "the very first word in the Doctrine and Covenants is hearken" and then defined hearken to mean "to listen with the intent to obey" before declaring
I like that idea of being more intentional about hearing the Lord. Making conscious choices and acting with intention is key to unlocking much of the joy that surrounds us every day. Our best life comes to us not be accident but by design when act with the intention to have it.
Likewise, we hear the Lord more clearly when we act with the intention of hearing it. Listening with that desire to obey whatever we receive is key to having that right and proper intention.
Of course, listening with the desire to obey makes the next step obvious once we actually do hear. We must obey and heed what we have heard. We must apply our newly acquired knowledge. We must act and obtain the results possible only through action.
President Nelson was quite clear what some of those results would be.
I don't think I've ever been more eager for Conference to arrive than I am after experiencing what 2020 has offered. And a good portion of that eagerness comes from faith that hearing, hearkening to, and heeding the Lord's voice as spoken through His anointed servants will bring the blessings President Nelson has promised and so much more. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
But life comprises more than just the spiritual. We also have social, intellectual, and physical aspects to our lives, each with its own foundation. Could Elder Stevenson's counsel regarding our spiritual foundation apply just as much to the foundations for the other aspects of our lives?
If I had to choose one, certainly it would be the spiritual. But I don't have to choose between them, nor should I. And nor should you. After all, you best build your best life when you look to your foundation for every aspect of life.
Elder Stevenson recounted some of the 40-year history of the construction of the Salt Lake temple. In particular, he quoted Brigham Young, who wanted that "temple built in a manner that it will endure through the millennium. This is not the only temple we shall build; there will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord."
Elder Stevenson then emphasized the grandeur of Brigham's vision. He envisioned hundreds of temples while laying the foundation for the one before him. He didn't turn away from dreaming big.
Do you dream on that grand scale? Does your foundation for each area of life say you're preparing for big things? Far too many live without such a vision. They're zombies walking through life dead to all the joy surrounding them every day and which they could capture if they chose to pursue their potential.
Big dreams strengthen the foundation for every aspect of your best life, so dream big. Vision born of dreaming big inspires you to make your life everything it can be. You get a glimpse of your best life that can motivate you to keep moving towards that best life.
Surely many fail to live their best life because they fail to dream big. Just as surely, many others fail because they do nothing more than dream. You can't reap where you don't sow. To get a ticket to the show that's your best life, you must pay the price in full and in advance.
You pay that price largely in your work on and from your foundation. And the pandemic, which many have cursed as an obstacle to the life they want today, presents an opportunity to build the life you can have tomorrow.
We need to see beyond the obstacles towards the opportunities. Elder Stevenson rightly views the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple "more as a time of renewal rather than a time of closure." While presenting many obstacles, the pandemic also provides us with many opportunities to improve our foundations in every aspect of life.
A proper foundation always precedes prosperity. Private victories always precede public ones. Dating is a great example. Many singles fail publicly because they've failed privately; they don't have the proper spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical foundations to excel at dating. Only when you do the work do you get results.
That work is rarely easy. Big dreams always require big work. And working big is something entirely different than dreaming big. Visions can inspire, but it's blood and sweat doing the actual grind in the mill house of life. Results come only from action.
Often working big means working in faith. Elder Stevenson quoted a woman who worked in faith despite debilitating cancer. Focused on opportunities to inspire rather than obstacles to recovery, she wrote, "The future of this life may be unknown, but my faith is not. If I choose [not] to ... have faith then I choose to ... walk [only] in darkness. Because without faith, darkness is all that is left.”
Working big means patience. Big results don't come overnight. Big results come from the accumulation of little results patiently and diligently acquired every day.
If you experience constant failure rather than success, maybe you don't have the foundation for success. Look to your foundation in every aspect of life. When you strengthen your foundation, you clear the path to private victories. When you achieve enough private victories, you'll begin to experience public ones. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
In addition to the scriptures-Spirit-assimilation model we discussed last week, the Prince of Peace provides additional aids and comforts. Elder Neil L. Andersen spoke of such aids in his address from the last General Conference entitled “Spiritually Defining Memories.” These memories recall moments in our lives when the Spirit provides strong confirmation that God knows and loves us individually. They provide courage in times of concern and faith in times of fear. They help us to know that God knows that we know He will not forsake us.
Follow the prophets
Elder Andersen began his remarks by recounting the experience of Joseph Smith with his spiritually defining memories of the First Vision. The Prophet Joseph faced persecution and hardship because of both his experience and his witness of that experience.
But God never forsook him. Even when he rode towards his assassination, he remarked, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men” (D&C 135:4). He knew that God knew that he knew God would not forsake him.
Elder Andersen then jumps to an experience from our current Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. Some years ago while President Nelson was a practicing heart surgeon, an elderly stake patriarch pleaded with him to perform a surgery he desperately needed. The then-Dr. Nelson describes vivid pictures of how to perform the needed operation which came clearly into his mind during the surgery. As Elder Andersen relates, “he knew that God knew that he knew he had been directed.”
Elder Andersen provided more examples from both his own life and others he knew. What strikes me about each of these experiences, including the ones from modern-day prophets, is that God always individually tailors whatever offering He provides.
As I accept Elder Andersen’s invitation to reflect on my own spiritually defining memories, I can see the same holds true for me. Throughout my life, and especially as a single Latter-day Saint, God has always individually tailored His offerings to me. I know that God knows that I know He loves me and is aware of me and my circumstances.
I remember one moment in which I felt particularly discouraged. As is sometimes my habit, I was listening to Internet radio as I worked. But in this moment, discouragement clouded my concentration, preventing me from focusing as well as I could on my task.
Then the Internet radio station began playing a song I had never before heard. It spoke powerfully to the deepest parts of my soul, reaffirming my eternal worth and potential. In that moment, I knew that God knew that I knew He treasured me and has always wanted so very much to bless me.
Elder Andersen provides this description:
God supports us in our eternal journey with spiritually defining memories.
Ultimately, our ability to have those experiences that provide spiritually defining memories in our lives depends first on the will of God — because if He wants something to happen, it will, and if He doesn’t, it won’t — and secondly on our willingness to hear Him. President Nelson has recently invited us “to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?” as well as “to take steps to hear Him better and more often.”
The row we LDS singles have can be hard to hoe, but with the Lord at our side there is nothing we cannot accomplish. The better we hear Him, the more we’ll feel His love and support. He’ll bring spiritually defining memories to our remembrance, and He’ll graciously grant us more experiences that make more spiritually defining memories. As Elder Andersen counseled,
What spiritually defining memories are yours? As you reflect on those sacred transmissions of love from your Heavenly Father, you will feel more of His love for you. You’ll position yourself to hear Him better. You’ll know that He knows that you know He loves you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
As I read the specific aspects of the fast President Nelson proposed, I remembered my own participation in that worldwide fast. President Nelson said, “Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us!” But that raised this question: Did God hear us? How effective was the worldwide fast?
To answer that question, I searched for evidence regarding the specific points in President Nelson’s invitation. What I found gives me hope and a strengthened testimony in the power of fasting in opening the heavens for help.
Examining the trends
President Nelson declared the first purpose of the fast was “that the present pandemic may be controlled.” And so I searched Google this morning for “covid 19 deaths worldwide” and obtained an informative chart. It shows the general trend of COVID-19 related deaths rising around mid-March. But then after April 10, the general trend becomes more constant.
We see something even more hopeful for those living in the US. A similar search in Google for “covid 19 deaths us” produced another chart. Again, COVID-19 deaths rise after Spring Break. But after April 10, the general trend actually decreases!
Now, what drives that decrease is a separate question, one I’m not tackling here given my limitations of space and time. But did the fast lead to a control of the pandemic? As I’ve often told my statistics students, correlation is not causation. Just because two events happen at the same time doesn’t mean one causes the other. But is it a coincidence that the turning point for the trend in both of these curves is around April 10, the same day as the worldwide fast organized by God’s living prophet? I think not.
Hearing the stories
The second pleading President Nelson invited us to make in the worldwide fast was that “caregivers [be] protected.” What can we say about that?
We often think protection means physical safety, especially in a pandemic context. But protection could apply holistically to include other areas such as emotional and psychological health. In that light, I searched for stories relating what support health care workers have received. The American Hospital Association has a page on its website dedicated to stories about health care workers serving on the front lines of the pandemic. And these stories are amazing.
What I find especially encouraging is the HERO registry, an initiative launched by the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina. The registry collects stories from health care workers so that administrators and public health officials can better understand and work to solve the problems health care workers face both in real time and over time.
For me, the especially encouraging aspect of this effort is its launch date — April 13, just three days after the worldwide fast. Again, just because two events occur together doesn’t mean one causes the other. But again I ask, “Is this coincidence?” And again, I think not.
Looking forward in faith
President Nelson’s invitation for a worldwide fast ended with two final pleadings: one for “the economy [to be] strengthened, and [one for] life [to be] normalized.” So what about these aspects? Did God hear us in these?
Well, what measure should we use to assess economic strength? Whatever we choose isn’t going to tell us much; it’s only been about a month since the worldwide fast. In that time, we’ve seen the devastation of many economic sectors resulting in record unemployment numbers. And what exactly does “life normalized” mean? What standard do we use for “normal”? However we define our terms, many of the issues affecting the economy and daily living have yet to find resolution. And so we look to the future with hope that God will resolve these issues to the satisfaction of His purposes.
What we see so far after the worldwide fast gives us hope that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. He will prepare the way for His promised blessings. Indeed, fasting can open the heavens for help. Looking for the ways in which God hears us gives us greater encouragement to look for ways in which we can hear Him. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Part of what enabled him to do this is the Restoration’s fulfillment of the hopes of ancient prophets and saints. They looked forward to the Restoration as a time when all gospel blessings would be enjoined together. Indeed, we who live today have the glorious blessing of the fulness of the Lord’s gospel. And those fruits can enable us to have a perfect brightness of hope for ourselves, our world, and our future.
See the blessings
Elder Holland begins with a list of what he would be looking for in religion were he living in 1820. He and his wife imagined themselves transported back in time with the same spiritual longings that many of the world’s inhabitants have possessed throughout time.
Elder’s Holland’s list provides a wonderful review of the glorious truths restored to humanity — the true nature and character of God, a clearer understanding of God’s plan for His children and especially the role of the Savior in that plan, an additional scriptural witness that enhances one’s understanding of the Lord’s life and ministry, and true priesthood authority to dispense every ordinance required for salvation and exaltation.
Elder Holland saved the crowning blessing for last. In his own words, he would have searched
Indeed, the blessings which the temple extends to bind the living and the dead across eternity truly crown the joy which living the restored gospel offers. As Elder Holland declared,
Elder Holland then directs our attention towards the future. The fulfillment of the hope of ancient prophets and saints for their future can give us hope for the fulfillment of blessings in our future.
Conquering the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the most immediate of those hopes for the world. But once we overcome that challenge — and Elder Holland assures we will — other challenges will remain, such as hunger, poverty, safer schools, and the eradication of prejudice. And of course, truly conquering those physical challenges will require the adoption of spiritual solutions, what Elder Holland called
Elder Holland then gets deeply personal, and here is where he packs his best punch.
Isn’t that what we all hope for? Many LDS singles hope for a more perfect life, yet marriage never made anyone’s life suddenly perfect. You simply exchange one set of challenges for another.
That said, the hope that marriage can improve one’s life is not unrealistic, especially if one (to borrow a phrase from President Oaks) “marries right.” We LDS singles, no matter our individual circumstances, can and should hope for the achievement of righteous blessings, not only even when that fulfillment seems impossible but especially when that fulfillment seems impossible.
Feel the hope
I suppose that’s why this Conference address touched me. I’m in my mid-40s having never been married. What hope do I have not just of finding the right type of person who would want to marry me but also of having a family of my own, not just one I inherit from a now severed relationship?
I think Elder Holland would say I have every reason to hope. And so do you. The God who has performed miracles in the past can and will perform miracles in our present and our future. I echo with Elder Holland the message of a returned sister missionary in Johannesburg: “[We] did not come this far only to come this far.” Great and glorious blessings await each of us as we stand firm in our faith and continually choose hope over despair.
Truly, the Restoration has blessed us all. The hope of past believers fulfilled gives us hope our present desires for righteous blessings will not be in vain. Choose that faith over fear. Choose that hope over despair. When we walk in the perfect brightness of that hope, we’ll progress towards our best life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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