Friday, March 11, 2011

Where do I Stand?

One last talk I found in my journal, this one I gave in church on January 29, 2006 :

When I was called and asked to give a talk, my first thought was "I haven't been asked to give a talk in years and they pick this week when I have so much going on to ask."  But I didn't have a good reason to say no, so I accepted.  The interesting thing is that I had recently been thinking about giving talks and just last week as I sat here in church listening to the speakers, I thought, "it's a good thing they don't call me to talk because I'm feeling so low spiritually."  I guess as my mother says, "when you don't feel like praying, is when you need to pray the most."  I knew that I had a busy week and I didn't want to procrastinate my preparations and I wanted to raise where I was feeling spiritually.  So I delved into my scriptures, I did research during my daughter's gymnastics classes, typed in between dropping my son off at seminary and picking him back up for school.  I was feeling pretty good about my progress.  Then Thursday morning after I dropped my son off at Seminary, I hurried home, typed in a few sentences and then my computer died.  Now, I normally don't handle it well when things go wrong, I'm not good when I'm frustrated, but with this, I almost half expected it.  How often have you heard people talking in church about how their printer died, or they lost their talk or something else similar.  So I was okay.  Then I had the repair work done, my hard drive had completely crashed, nothing could be saved from it and that's pretty much when I crashed as well, it was the straw and I broke.  I, unfortunately for my husband, started crying and couldn't pull myself together.  I was trying hard to make everything work, yet I felt like everything kept getting heavier and heavier.  I asked my husband for a blessing and once the blessing started, I felt an overwhelming sense of love as my Father in Heaven spoke to me, I felt so much like he was in the room standing right in front of me saying the words himself.  He told me that he loved me and that everything would be okay, I just needed to stay on the path that I was on.  Being on a path, and particularly where we stand on the path is crucial to our experience on earth.  Our theme today is Where do I Stand using President Monson's talk "Choose You this Day" in the November 2004 Ensign.

President Monson talks about Alice in Wonderland and how at one point in the story she asks the Cheshire Cat which path she should follow and the cat answers that it depends on where you want to go.  President Monson says that we all know where we want to go and that the path we follow in this life surely leads to the path we will follow in the next.  I think that a lot of our problems lie in the fact that we do not know where we want to go.  I keep telling my Sunday school classes that if you knew, if you really knew and understood the gospel, you wouldn't waiver on your path.  I'm not saying it would be easy, but you wouldn't waiver.

I was reading a talk given by Ardeth Kapp entitled "Drifting, Dreaming, Directing."  In her talk, she says "It is while a person stands undecided, uncommitted, and uncovenanted, with choices waiting to be made, that the vulnerability to every wind that blows becomes life threatening. . . .  It is in taking a stand and making a choice to follow our leaders that we become free to move forward.  We are then released from the crippling position of doubtful indecision and confusion.  We then have access to power and influence, so much so that we can hardly keep pace with our opportunities.  It is in or by using our agency and making firm decisions that we turn the key."

Sister Kapp goes on to say, "It has been my observation, and it is my confession as a former participant, that many people drift along with the crowd in the Church.  Many good people drift to Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School, even family home evening, and they drift through a casual study of the scriptures.  The drifters fall into at least one of two groups.  In the first are those who step into the mainstream, getting deeply involved with Church activity and floating with the current, comfortable with a sense of false security that they are in the right place.  Others, who form the second group, accepting a few selected principles, resist being part of the flow, the mainstream, and choose to get out in the eddies at the edge, freed from the demands of full participation.  It is difficult to decide which of these two groups is better -- or worse.  Those of us who are, on the basis of activity alone, very much in the Church may not necessarily have the Church very much in us; and if we left, the Church might hardly recognize the difference.  Following the practices, doing the right thing but if without coming to know, understand, accept, and apply the saving principles and doctrines, we may be compared to one who spends his entire life stringing the instrument -- never once hearing the music for which the instrument was created or incapable of recognizing it if he did.  In matters of principle, let us stand as solid as a rock.  In matters of practice, may all that we do be based upon these saving principles, and may we understand the intrinsic relationship of principles and practices.  It is in making the decision to follow the admonition of the prophet and to become scholars of the scriptures that we gradually learn the doctrine that prepares us to stand on the rock of revelation and to experience less and less the restless sense of drifting, wandering, questioning and searching."

When I read this, I felt that I too, like Sister Kapp, have been a participant in drifting and this was most likely the reason why I was lately feeling spiritually low.

Heber C. Kimball said, "The time is coming when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light.  Each will have to be guided by the light within himself.  If you do not have it, you will not stand."

I think about people I have known in my life, those that have not been able to continue standing or moving forward on the path to eternal life and I wonder what made them leave the path, how come they didn't seek to have their own light, or testimony?

President Monson quotes President David O. McKay who counseled, "The greatest battle of life is fought within the silent chambers of your own soul. . . .  It is a good thing to sit down and commune with yourself, to come to an understanding with yourself and decide in that silent moment what your duty is to your family, to your church, to your country, and . . . to your fellowmen.''

And I would add to yourself, you owe it to yourself, to find out what is at the end of the path that you are on, whether it is a good path or a bad path, you need to know what is at the end and if it is really what you want.  If you don't really know what is at the end of your path or especially why you are on that path, as Heber Kimball put it so boldly, you will not stand.  I'm sure many of you have heard the saying that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

As President McKay said, it is a good thing to sit down with yourself and determine what your path is.  Once you have done that, and you know you are on the right path what keeps us standing and moving forward?  President Monson talks about how he has a guide, it is a painting of the Savior.  It is his reminder to stay on the path and keep moving forward.  He also talks about President Harold B. Lee's daughter and how her guide is a special set of scriptures that he gave to her. 

I think another great example of a guide is Lehi's vision where he sees a rod of iron and a straight and narrow path along the side of it which leads to the tree of life.  I have seen many key chains that are an iron rod as a reminder to cling to it.  There are also beautiful pieces of jewelry with reminders such as "return with honor," "endure to the end" and more.  I have a symbol of the Liahona on my bracelet that I like to look at as a reminder of that wonderful tool of guidance that was given to Lehi and Nephi to help keep them on the path that their Heavenly Father desired them to be on and that I have many things in my life that can be likened to the Liahona such as the scriptures.

I think one of the simplest visual guides is the ring we have all received in Primary, the CTR ring.  Last week Sister Page and I had a little girl and her brother came to try out a gymnastics class and she was wearing her CTR ring.  It was so fun to say that we had one of those too and be able to share a knowing look with her and her mom!  Recently, I found myself drawn to a TV show about a young man who had been attending BYU and left school as well as the path of righteousness for a path in direct conflict.  As I watched his struggles, it was interesting to note, that he still wore his CTR ring despite the path he was currently on.

Maybe you don't have something visual as these examples, maybe it's a feeling, a desire, a poem, a thought.  I memorized a poem many years ago in seminary entitled "If you want a thing bad enough," it goes like this:

If you want a thing bad enough
To go out and fight for it,
Work day and night for it,
Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it,
If only a desire of it makes your arm strong enough
Never to tire of it,
Makes you hold all things tawdry and cheap for it,
If life seems empty and useless without it
And all that you scheme and you dream is about it,
If gladly you sweat for it,
Fret for it,
Plan for it,
Lose all your terror of God and of man for it,
If you'll simply go after the thing that you want,
With all your capacity,
Strength and sagacity,
Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity,
If neither cold, poverty, famished and gaunt,
Nor sickness, nor pain,
Of body and brain,
Can turn you away from the thing that you want,
If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it,

That pretty much sums it up for me, it has always just been a great desire of mine to attain the Celestial Kingdom and live with My Father in Heaven again, it is really, really what I want.  If you currently don't have a visual or type of "guide" or reminder for your path, find something that is meaningful and keep it close to you.

Our Heavenly Father has a plan for us and he wants us to succeed.  He and our Savior will do anything to help us stay on the right path.  As the Savior has said, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."  He is standing there, waiting to help us, but he can only meet us halfway, we need to be standing at the door ready to open it.

I found a quote many years ago that I keep on my bathroom mirror as a reminder that my Heavenly Father does have a plan for me, that I do have a purpose here and that I need to keep on my current path.  It is by Elder Richard G. Scott, he says "The Lord has placed currents of driving influence in your life that will lead you along the individual plan He would have you fulfill here on earth.  Seek through the Spirit to identify it and carefully follow that direction that the Lord has put in your life.  Align yourself with it.  Choose, willingly, to exercise your agency to follow it.  Do not be overcome by concentrating solely on today, its challenges, difficulties, and opportunities.  Such preoccupations must not totally capture your attention so as to consume your life.  Oh, how I would encourage you to weave deeply into the fabric of your soul the recognition that your life now is a part of a much bigger plan the Lord has for you.  You lived part of it in the premortal existence.  you were valiant there and came here because you wanted to grow and enjoy greater happiness.  What you decide to do now will affect how well you fulfill that divine, personal plan He has for you."

So where are you standing right now in your life?  Are you on the right path?  Do you fully understand what is at the end of the path?  Are you committed to that path?  Are you moving forward, backwards or standing still?"  Are you drifting?  We should be constantly evaluating where we are, do we need to make adjustments?  One of my favorite scriptures is "Be still and know that I am God."  Sometimes we do need to be still on our path and feel the peace of the spirit.  We need to find ourselves standing still in holy places.  President Monson talks about how Joseph Smith sought help by entering a grove which then became sacred.  He poses the question, do we each need to seek our own "Sacred Grove?"  A place where we can communicate with God unimpeded, uninterrupted and undisturbed.

As I thought about that, I thought about places that have been my sacred groves.  I thought about how in my youth, the nearby Provo temple was my "sacred grove."  It was where I felt closest to my Heavenly Father.  I would walk on the grounds or sit there for hours.  I even remember late one night after the temple gates had been closed and locked that I so desperately needed to feel close to my Father in Heaven that I knelt at the fence and poured my heart out, knowing completely that he would hear me there and I would feel him.

I remember traveling on a mutual trip to Nauvoo and other Church history sites and singing Come, Come Ye Saints in a small old chapel having seen so much of the early church members' trials and the feeling that came as we sang that last verse, "and should we die, before our journey's through, Happy Day!  All is well!  All is well!"  When we traveled to Carthage Jail and saw the blood stain still on the floor where Hyrum Smith died, having a testimony meeting outside on the lawn near where the prophet Joseph Smith fell to his death.  And, entering Admon-ondi-Aham feeling the peace and the strength of the spirit.  Many places on that trip were "sacred groves" to me, even just for a moment.

Every summer at girls camp, the surrounding area and especially in the evening as we would gather as a ward around the campfire on our knees, hand in hand singing I am a Child of God and then praying to our Heavenly Father and how on our last night we would share our testimonies.  That was very much a "sacred grove" to me.

I don't have a "sacred grove" right now and I have yearned to find one, I would hope that each of you would seek out your own "sacred grove."

We are admonished to stand in holy places, President Hinkley asks us to "stand tall," and if you've never heard it, I highly recommend listening to our Young Women as they repeat each Sunday and at mutual the Young Women's theme which begins, "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love him.  We will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places . . . ."

We know the obvious holy places to stand, at Church, the temple, our homes.  It is when we find something not as obvious as a holy place that we find our "sacred groves" whether it is just for a moment or for many years.  My family and I had just such an experience over the summer.  We met my in-laws in Eastern Washington at a property that has been in my mother-in-law's family for many generations.  She had invited several long-time friends and their families.  We were having a great few days playing and enjoying each other's company.  Arrangements had been made to have the sacrament on Sunday while we were there.  We were in the old family lodge which does have running water, but not much else.  I have been at this lodge many times over the years, and I never would have expected what we experienced that day.  Our simple sacrament was prepared, blessed and served.  It was quiet, serene, simple and so beautiful.  It meant something so amazing in its most basic form, and we all felt it.  The feeling could not be denied.  We moved on to a simple testimony meeting, everyone in attendance (except my step-father-in-law who is not a member) was inspired to stand and bear witness of what we were feeling, from the oldest to the youngest, we all stood in that simplest of places, cried, shared our testimonies and felt something we could hardly describe.  We will forever be grateful for that time of standing on holy ground, for that sacred grove moment.

My hope for myself, my family and each of you is that you will take a moment and commune with yourself as to what path you are on, and where you are on that path.  That each of you will find a guide to encourage you on that path.  That you will reach out and open the door and let the Savior in to help you along your path.  That you will find a "sacred grove" of your own to continually commune with your Father in Heaven.  That you will know what you want, that you will know what your Father in Heaven wants for you and that you will let nothing lead you away from that path.  I hope most of all that you will stand tall in the knowledge that you are a child of God, that He loves you and wants you back home with Him.

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