GCBC Week 23: “By Faith All Things Are Fulfilled” by Elder Marcus B. Nash, and “Becoming a True Disciple” by Elder Daniel L. Johnson

I’m squeezing in two talks this week because we’re getting dangerously close to general conference and I’m hoping to finish. Only two weeks and two talks left after this. Exciting, right?

By Faith All Things Are Fulfilled by Elder Marcus B. Nash

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and Becoming a True Disciple by Elder Daniel L. Johnson

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What stood out to you as you read both these talks? What role has faith played in your life? What does discipleship mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

Weighed down by wimpy trials…

Do you ever feel that way? Like you live a semi-charmed life (no major tragedies or heavy trials to bear), but some days still just feel … hard?

I don’t know if it’s just my general aversion to January (see here for a refresher that may make you feel a little better about yourself if you suffer from the same winter-hating malady that I do), but this has been a rough week.  I admit that it’s totally a first-world-problems kind of rough, but it has still felt hard.

Anyway, when I was mulling over my own thoughts this morning, I remembered a quote from a novel I read recently, so I went and looked it up.  It renewed my hope a little bit and made me feel up to the task–however silly it might be–of just surviving a series of bad days. Thought I’d pass it along in case it feels helpful to anyone else.

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Goodbye, January, and good riddance!

GCBC Week 17: “Where Is the Pavilion?” by President Henry B. Eyring

This week’s talk addresses the distance we sometimes feel between God and ourselves, especially at difficult times in our lives. “Many of us, in moments of personal anguish, feel God is far from us….” President Eyring discusses ways to recognize Him, know He is close to us, and move ourselves closer to Him. He encourages us to have child-like faith and trust in knowing of his care and active role in our lives.

Where Is the Pavilion? by President Henry B. Eyring

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What stood out to you from this talk? What can we do to avoid and remove pavilions in our life? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

GCBC Week 15: “Trial of Your Faith” by Elder Neil L. Andersen

This week we will be studying Elder Andersen’s talk from the Saturday afternoon session of conference. I love the talk because I think it sets a clear path of how to navigate questions and doubts with faith and in a way that will bring answers and truth and testimony. My favorite part is when he points out the right sources to turn to when we are looking for answers and clarification.

Trial of Your Faith By Elder Neil L. Andersen

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One of the fastest ways we can come closer to Christ is to repent and regain the Holy Ghost. The Spirit can comfort, quiet fears, answer questions, resolve doubts, and restore confidence.

What stood out to you from this talk? What strategies have been helpful to you when your faith needed bolstering? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

GCBC Week 5: “Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also” By Elder Shayne M. Bowen

Welcome Back. I’d love to “hear” from more of you in the comments because it’s always great to get each other’s insight about these talks. For week 5 of general conference book club, we’ll be studying Elder Bowen’s talk from the Saturday A.M. session:

“Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also”

By Elder Shayne M. Bowen

Because of Him, even our Savior, Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fulness of joy.

Elder Bowen shares an experience of teaching a woman on his mission who had lost an infant, and how much relief she found through the doctrines in the Book of Mormon.

He then recounted a personal tragedy about the loss of his own 8-month old son who choked on a piece of chalk. He highlights the stages of his mourning and grief and the role that those same doctrines he had taught years ago as a missionary played in his healing and recovery from such a tragedy.

Elder Bowen shared this beautiful quote from Preach My Gospel:

We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

What did you find meaningful or powerful in this talk? How has the gospel helped you to find hope in very desperate circumstances?  Discuss in the comments below.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club:  You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

GCBC Week 26: “The Songs They Could Not Sing” by Elder Quentin L. Cook

First of all, if you didn’t see all the recent blog announcements, go check them out.

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We did it!  This is the last talk we’ll study for this round of general conference.  The conference countdown has begun.

That picture up there will make a lot more sense after you study this talk.  It’s a classic analysis of the age-old question:  why do bad things happen to good people?, and then it’s followed up with counsel of how to navigate those trials and testimony about the justice of God’s Plan.  The answers, of course, are found in the Savior.

The Songs They Could Not Sing by Elder Quentin L. Cook

” There are many kinds of challenges. Some give us necessary experiences. Adverse results in this mortal life are not evidence of lack of faith or of an imperfection in our Father in Heaven’s overall plan. The refiner’s fire is real, and qualities of character and righteousness that are forged in the furnace of affliction perfect and purify us and prepare us to meet God.”

Update:  I had forgotten that we did this talk already back in December.  I paired it up with another talk.  Sorry about that.  If this is a repeat for you, study Pres. Monson’s closing remarks from conference this week or Pres. Uchtdort’s awesome talk from the General RS meeting.

What are some of your favorite insights from this talk?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

The next round of General Conference Book Club will be hosted from a different home.  Go here to read the announcement (skip down to number 3).

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here.

Coping and Mothering: Overcoming Discouragement

I went to lunch several months ago with some friends.  During a side conversation, one friend said to me, “That’s the worst part about growing up: learning about everyone’s problems.”  I don’t even really remember the context of our discussion, but her comment has stuck with me.  It’s so true.  As a child, we have a very limited view of the world at large, and most of my memories are happy and carefree.  As we grow older and our view of the world around us expands, we are exposed to more and more pain, suffering, and sadness– sometimes our own, but often in the lives of others too.

Over the last several weeks, Matt and I have been struggling with watching people we know and love go through some really hard things.  Not just one or two friends, but several.  There are marriage troubles, there are health issues, there are fears and anxieties.  It has made us heavy-hearted, and frankly, a little discouraged.  We want to fix things and we just can’t.  We want to help, but feel so helpless.  It kind of makes us want to hide from the whole scary world so we don’t fall into the same pits, but where and how?  We start to wonder if everyone else on the planet has some deep, dark secret pain going on, and maybe we’re the only people who have “normal” trials, like bad days at work or budget woes or struggling to keep up with the demands of busy lives.  (Does anyone else feel like that sometimes?)  It of course puts your own trials into startling perspective, but it leaves you feeling a vicarious pain for what everyone else seems to be going through.  And even though your own life is relatively “easy,” it’s not easy to watch the pain that’s happening around you.  It hurts.

I’ve noticed it’s difficult to brush those feelings aside and deal with the matters at hand, like helping children with homework or finding socks or making dinner.  They have no idea about the hard things going on in the lives of friends and family.  You certainly don’t want to make it their burden either, but it’s hard to put on a happy face and go on like nothing’s wrong.  This morning, after I got the boys off to school, I tried to get Natalie occupied with her own activities so that I could just crawl back into bed and think.  Rest.  Decompress.  She kept coming into my room every 5 minutes to ask for help with milk or TV buttons or questions.  I was losing patience quickly.  It’s really hard to heal and mother at the same time.  I wasn’t very kind.

I don’t have any real answers to this.  I’m still working through it, but I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about and learning about in the meantime.  Yesterday, I had a rare opportunity to be in the car by myself in between some carpooling drop-offs and pick-ups.  I wanted something to listen to in the car that would help me focus my thoughts, and I remembered that I had an old general conference CD set somewhere.  I scanned the bookshelf in the office, found it, and grabbed it.  I really wish I had some kind of system in my car where I could just hook up my iPod and listen to whatever I want whenever I want, but I don’t.  And it seems really dumb to invest in that kind of stereo equipment when my van is pushing 160K miles.  Anyway, I had general conference CDs from 1998, and I popped them in and listened while I drove.

This morning I had to go to the dentist, and the CD was still in when I turned on the car.  I heard the end of one talk that was nice.  They had all been nice, but nothing had jumped out at me so far.  Then I heard this talk:  “Overcoming Discouragement” by Elder Val R. Christensen.  Here are some of the things that I learned:

Many of us face significant challenges. Even the great prophet Enoch experienced sadness when he viewed the wickedness of the world: “And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (Moses 7:44).

There are at least three steps to take when striving to overcome discouragement:

  1. You can work on changing your attitude toward the problem. Even though you can’t change the circumstances in which you work or live, you can always change your attitude.
  2. You can receive help from those who are close to you—your family, friends, and ward members, those who love you the most.
  3. You can develop a more powerful and complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even before he started explaining his three points, I knew that there was truth in them.  I felt the Spirit– enlightenment and hope.

By looking at a problem in a different way, it may be possible to reduce discouragement. I have been impressed with the pioneer story told about Zina Young. After experiencing the death of parents, crop failure, and sickness, she was encouraged with a spiritual experience that changed her attitude. While attempting to seek divine help, she heard her mother’s voice: “Zina, any sailor can steer on a smooth sea, when rocks appear, sail around them.” A prayer came quickly: “O Father in heaven, help me to be a good sailor, that my heart shall not break on the rocks of grief” (“Mother,” The Young Woman’s Journal, Jan. 1911, 45). It is often difficult to change circumstances, but a positive attitude can help lift discouragement.

One morning, several days ago, I got some bad news from one of my friends I’ve been worried about.  I lay in bed in the quiet early hours of the morning and my heart just hurt.  I could feel a real, tangible sadness.  While I thought about that pain, I was reminded of something I’ve taught many times before in a lesson about the Atonement.

“I believe, to use an insurance phrase, we must pay the deductible. We must experience sorrow enough, suffering enough, guilt enough so we are conscious and appreciative of the heavier burden borne by the Savior.” (Elder J. Richard Clarke, in Conference Report April 1993, 10)

In that moment, I kind of got it.  What I was feeling was just the tiniest piece of what the Savior felt when He took upon himself the pains of the world.  It was pain from sin, but also every kind of sorrow.  It is His pain.  Not mine.  Not hers.  It’s His.  He bought it with a price and I need to give it back to Him. I don’t need to keep it.  So, I determined then that all I can do is hand the burden back and then pay close attention to what He wants me to do.  He can show me how to help and how to move on.  So in the several days since, whenever I’ve felt the weight of sadness, I try to replay this same scenario in my mind and let it go.  Here’s another snippet from Elder Christensen’s talk:

I’ve talked about changing attitudes and receiving help from others. Now, let me mention the need to put more trust and faith in the Lord. I once talked to a woman who received help with her discouragement. While waiting for a temple session to begin, she picked up a Book of Mormon to read a verse. Her eyes fixed upon Alma 34:3: “And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith and to patience.” The scripture in Alma was an answer to her prayer. The message was simple: the problem she faced was going to take a long time to solve. If we place a little more patience in the process and a greater amount of faith in the Lord, our challenges will find their way toward successful conclusions.

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read this: “If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful” (D&C 136:29).

Some of these things will take time to work themselves out.  I have faith that some of them really will work out just fine, but it may take a while.  There may be long periods of down before the up figures itself out.  So that’s what I’m working on right now: finding joy and optimism despite sad things happening around me.  When the talk was over, I turned to Natalie in the back seat and said, “Natalie, I’m sorry I wasn’t very nice to you this morning when I was in bed.  I was frustrated because I just wanted some rest, but I still should have been kind.  I’m sorry.”  She, being the epitome of childlike forgiveness, simply smiled and asked what was for lunch.

Anyway, I’m sorry if this post doesn’t have a cute little conclusion that makes it all better. I’m still working on it, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully it can be helpful to someone who’s dealing with or feeling some of the same things.