The Canker of Contention – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk The Canker of Contention, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1989 General Conference.

Peaceful Place
Peace

So far, every talk of President Nelson’s that I’ve read is still appropriate now – years after the talk was given. Today’s talk is no exception.

I want to begin with a quote from the middle of the talk:

“My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson gave this talk in 1989. I was ten and a half years old. So, I think I was probably in fourth grade. I don’t really remember what the social climate was at the time – my life was mostly concerned with going to elementary school and playing outside. My parents got a divorce around this time, but I don’t really remember much about what was socially acceptable as far as courtesy or contention goes.

However, I would venture to guess that societal contention is still a concern for President Nelson. I know that it is a concern for me. 1989 – was before the 24 hour news cycles had taken hold in our lives. It was before there were trolls on the internet and cyber-bullying. I know that contention existed in 1989, but it seems like our society keeps trending toward contention and tribalism.

We have also seen how this contention spills out into the rest of our lives – the classroom and the workplace. In fact, who could have imagined how unsafe the classroom would be?! Gosh, I could go on, but that’s not the point of this talk or blog post. I think that we all know that contention is a problem. Bemoaning it doesn’t help. Instead, we can accept that we have a country rife with contention, and then we can understand why that is a problem. When we accept and understand, then we can work toward a solution.

Our Society is Rife with Contention

We can accept this. Accepting doesn’t mean condoning. It means that we recognize there is a problem.

It means that we recognize there is a problem, and that we can do something about it!

Accept it without judgement. Instead, I think we need to accept it the same way that you would if you found that you had skin cancer. One option would be to get mad at the sun. You could shake your fist at it. You could pretend that there is no problem as the cancer festers and destroys your body. Or you could accept the fact and simply say, “Well, I don’t like this, but I accept it. I have skin cancer. Now what can I do?”

So – we accept there is a problem. There are too many people bullying and being bullied. There are too many random shootings. There are too many purposeful shootings. There is too much road rage. There are too many people shouting and blaming and trolling. There is too much domestic violence. We have a societal cancer called contention. Accept it. and now, what can we do??? (No, the answer doesn’t mean point fingers at others, by the way. It’s not everyone else’s fault! What can WE do means what can WE do!)

The Problem with Contention

President Nelson declared:

“As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson

But why? Why is contention such a problem? Well, let’s consider its origin.

The Savior taught:

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” – 3 Nephi 11:29

The father of contention is the devil. He wants us to fight. He wants us to be filled with enough pride that we put down and hurt others. Though there may be momentary satisfaction in hurting another, we are left with a bad taste in our mouth. We are left with a gaping hole in our spirits when we let that spirit into our lives. Think of how Nephi felt when he was angry at his brothers:

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” – 2 Nephi 4:17

The spirit of contention left Nephi feeling wretched. We quote 2 Nephi 4 as the psalm of Nephi, and we are able to witness him as he struggles with the consequence of contention and repents. We watch him strip this out of his heart. We watch him swallow his pride. He was angry at his brothers who wanted to kill him! He had done so much for them! It seems like he would have every right to be angry.

And he did have every right to be angry, I suppose. The Lord doesn’t expect us to be a doormat, but we also can’t give into the spirit of contention. So, if Nephi chooses to exercise this “right” to anger, then he also dispels the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

When Nephi felt angered and contentious, the Spirit departed, and because Nephi was so in tune with it, he felt wretched without it. He quickly corrected course because he knew that feeling wretched isn’t all that great.

But what about each of us? What do we do when we feel wretched. Do we look inward and plead with God for forgiveness? Or do we let that wretched feeling give way to more anger and more wretchedness?

***

Contention isn’t new. In fact, it existed in the pre-mortal world. Satan rebelled against Heavenly Father and started a war in heaven.

President Nelson stated:

“This war in heaven was not a war of bloodshed. It was a war of conflicting ideas—the beginning of contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is so fascinating to me! Even though I have been raised as a Mormon – so the whole “war in heaven” narrative has always been a part of my life – I never really internalized what that meant.

I mean, I never really compared the war in heaven with war that we see happening in this mortal world. I am so blessed. I know very little of war. I haven’t experienced it first-hand. I have lived a safe life. However, I’ve tried to educate myself, and I know that war is terrifying. It is full of death and misery. It is terrible. And this is exactly what the war in heaven was, too.

There was no bloodshed in heaven, but there were casualties.

War can be waged with only ideas, and such a war can have catastrophic results. Contention isn’t manifest for the first time with the exchange of blows. Contention begins deep in our hearts – with our thoughts, then expressed through words, and finally through actions. By the time we let it get to our actions, it truly has cankered our souls.

President Nelson also reminds us:

“Scriptures repeatedly warn that the father of contention opposes the plan of our Heavenly Father. Satan’s method relies on the infectious canker of contention. Satan’s motive: to gain personal acclaim even over God Himself.” – Russell M. Nelson

Satan’s motive is always the same. He wants our agency and God’s glory. Though he didn’t find success in the war in heaven, he still wages war now – with the same results in mind. His motive has nothing to do with us – giving into the pride of contention will not make us feel better.

I remember getting into an argument with a loved one. Both of us said things that we regret now – in fact we regretted them almost immediately. I remember that after the argument, I left and was feeling wretched. I was tempted to call a friend and then complain about this argument – furthering the spirit of contention and then also infecting another with this same spirit.

Thankfully the friend wasn’t around to talk to. So I was alone in my car.

I chose to just say a prayer that I would feel better.

The way that prayer usually seems to work (at least for me in these kinds of situations) is that Heavenly Father never usually says, “You’re right, what a jerk!…You know what you should do…” He never guides me to more contention or pain.

Now, my hurt feelings were legitimate, and Heavenly Father comforted me. But I was also impressed with a feeling, “You two are on the same team.”

And I realized that because we were on the same team, then we had to make a choice. There wouldn’t be one clear winner and one clear loser. Either we both win or we both lose. Satan tries to get us to lose sight of this. He wants us to be myopic and focus not on the big game but on the faults of our teammates. We may feel momentarily justified, but in the end we both lose.

Steps to Supplant Contention

President Nelson gives us two main steps to help us combat the canker of contention.

One – Bridle our Passions

Alma gave this advice to his son:

“Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.” – Alma 38:12

Usually, I tend to think of “passions” as sexual in nature. But passion can be more than that. But we have to bridle our passions – of anger and frustration – so that we can be filled with love, God’s love, instead.

We are to bridle our passions. This doesn’t mean to eliminate them. This doesn’t mean that we become robotic! It means that we become the master of our passions – that we use discernment and discretion. It means that we follow the Spirit rather than our emotions.

President Nelson advised:

“To begin, show compassionate concern for others. Control the tongue, the pen, and the word processor. Whenever tempted to dispute, remember this proverb: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” – Russell M. Nelson

Two – Love God

Really, this is the ultimate step in combatting contention and controlling our passions. President Nelson explained:

“Personal peace is reached when one, in humble submissiveness, truly loves God. Heed carefully this scripture:

“There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1:15; see also 4 Ne. 1:2; italics added.)

Thus, love of God should be our aim. It is the first commandment—the foundation of faith. As we develop love of God and Christ, love of family and neighbor will naturally follow. Then will we eagerly emulate Jesus. He healed. He comforted. He taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! I love the connection between personal peace (which comes as a result of Loving God), and peace with others.

I know that this is true, too.

I have struggled with contention in my life. It is easy and natural for me to do. However, I hate the way I feel when I let even a little bit of contention into my heart. It is terrible. It truly is wretched. This is a struggle that I have tried to ward off and am continually confronted with. It is so hard to change.

The thing with change is – it’s so hard to make a change using sheer willpower if we are moseying along in the wrong paradigm. When we change our paradigm, then our actions are so much easier to change, too.

So – even though I listed step one as “bridling our passions,” I think that really it isn’t the critical step. We should bridle our passions so that we can be filled with God’s love because God’s love is where the paradigm shift happens.

I love the scripture:

“We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

If you are trying to cultivate a love of God, then allow yourself to feel His love because He loves you.

Imagine if every person on this earth knew this simple fact: that they are children of God; that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them.

Say this out loud: I am a child of God, and He loves me.

Just saying that fills my heart with hope and joy! I can’t explain it, but anger, fear, and pride dispel when I say and accept that I am a child of God, and that He Loves me. When I accept this truth in my life, I want to feel more of His love. I want to be kinder. I want to have peace. I don’t want to fight!

When we love God, we change our paradigm. We see the world in a new way. We recognize that we truly are all brothers and sisters and that God not only loves us, but He loves them, too. When we love God, we begin to feel the love and compassion that He has for others – even if it is hard for us to do that ourselves. When we love God, we heal our soul from the canker of contention – we won’t give way to temptation. The devil will have no place in our hearts to destroy our peace and afflict our souls. When we love God, we will see contention for what it is, and then do the humbling steps to root it out of our lives.

And imagine what a world that would be!

***

I love this talk, and I feel like it is so timely. Unfortunately, the subject of “the canker of contention” may always be timely. In any case, I’m grateful for this reminder. I’m so grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the cankerous effect of contention. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson also knows how to apply gospel truths to overcome contention. I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who is a peacemaker

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“Joy Cometh in the Morning” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk, “Joy Cometh in the Morning,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1986 General Conference

Joy in the Morning
Sunrise on Oahu

Well, I’ll start this blog by saying that I truly love what President Nelson has taught over the years. I was 8 years old at the time this talk was given. I don’t have many memories of this time in my life, but I do remember feeling joy! I felt “joy in the morning” both proverbially and literally. I was happy the morning I was baptized. And as I think back on my experiences as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was filled with joy during the “morning” of my journey as a member of this church.

President Nelson stated:

“The gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope…It declares joy to be part of our divine destiny. And to experience joy in the morning becomes our special challenge. The true test…is to be able to look in the mirror, first thing in the morning, and feel real joy.” – Russell M. Nelson

There are three basic factors needed in order for us to experience joy in the morning.

Factor One: Courtesy to Companions

Courtesy to companions is not relegated only to spouses or significant others. Put another way, courtesy to companions means that we love others and show them courtesy. We can think of the relationships in our lives – joy comes when we nurture these relationships appropriately.

Of course, for many “courtesy to companions” does include their spouse. President Nelson shared a quote from President David O. McKay:

“During courtship we should keep our eyes wide open, but after marriage keep them half-shut.” – David O. McKay, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

Funny little quote, but true! I was recently in a situation with another couple, and we were having a fun conversation – asking each other all sorts of hypotheticals (if you could pick any car for your spouse, what would it be? and the like). The cars mentioned were sporty-cars like Corvettes and Audis. No one suggested cars like rusted out jalopies. We each chose to see the best in one another.

As the conversation continued one idea that was mentioned was to say the trait that we liked least in our partner, but quickly we balked at this idea. We all laughed off the idea in good fun, but I’ve thought about it a bit since then – I really couldn’t think of a bad trait of Homey’s. Is this because Homey is perfect? Nope! It’s because I will not sit and dwell on his possible bad traits.

Because I have chosen to focus on his positive traits, I’ve been blessed with so much joy in my marriage.

Now – as I write this, I will say that I’ve also experienced another type of marriage (and if you have read the Homey and Me Love Story), you know that I was married before. There is a difference between discerning the truth – especially if you are in an abusive relationship. Keeping your eyes open to true abuse from a spouse will come as a spiritual gift and should not be ignored! I really think that President McKay’s advice assumes that you are not in such a relationship. And I know that if you are living close to the Spirit, then the time will come that you will see things clearly and be given a course of action to take if you are suffering in an abusive relationship. It’s incredibly difficult to feel “joy in the morning” in such scenarios.

***

Having loving concern for others can bring us joy as we serve. President Nelson taught:

“One of life’s sweetest returns is the privilege of rendering significant service of worth to others. To be able to do for fellow human beings something they could not do for themselves brings matchless satisfaction. Years of preparation are worth it.” – Russell M. Nelson

I find the last sentence especially compelling. Often, I think of service as something that kind of happens spontaneously. Someone needs a babysitter, meal, or encouragement. Yet, there is service that we will render in the future, and if we are not prepared, then we will not be able to render said service.

This reminds me of an experience I had many years ago – at the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple. This temple dedication was broadcast by satellite to the entire church. I lived in Utah at the time.

I went to the temple dedication with one of my dear friends, and she mentioned that the new temple president and matron were one of her friends’ grandparents. She added the commentary, “They are loaded.”

It was a very good and important thing for her to mention to me. I had the immediate spiritual impression spiritual preparation is crucial for future service, AND so is financial preparation. I knew that if I wanted to one day serve a mission with my spouse, then I would need to start preparing as a young mother – both spiritually and financially – so that I would have the freedom to serve.

I know that I have been given much. Above all, I think that I’ve been given opportunities. I know that I need to take these opportunities now so that I can continue to give as the Lord would have me give in the future. “Years of preparation are worth it.”

Factor Two: Self-Esteem, Well Deserved

President Nelson teaches:

“The next prerequisite to joy is to feel good about yourself. The second of our Lord’s two great commandments carries a double charge: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). Therefore, love of companion is governed, in part, by esteem of self, and so is joy in the morning.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is a hard one to do. In this day and age, it seems especially hard. Depression seems to be on the rise, and isn’t this one of the roots of depression – not feeling good about yourself?

A few years ago, I was praying in my closet. I was overwhelmed by everything I wasn’t. And my prayer was one of apologies and frustration. After uttering the prayer, I felt worse than before.

WORSE?! How is that possible? Isn’t prayer supposed to “change the night to day?”

I was even more depressed after that prayer, but I needed to walk the dog, so I went outside and started my walk. As I walked, I pondered why my prayers seemed to be so draining? Should I just stop praying if I’m going to feel worse afterward?

Thankfully, the Lord is patient with me. I realized that it wasn’t because prayer is draining. I had a spiritual impression – The Lord wouldn’t let me feel better after that prayer because it was a lie! I didn’t need to apologize for my weaknesses. I didn’t need to batter myself. And the Lord would not sanction such self-loathing and self-abuse.

If I would have felt comfort after such a “prayer,” then the Lord would have been sanctioning such destructive thought.

Yes, the Lord wants us to improve, but His correction always comes with love and comfort, never with depression or self-loathing. I’m reminded of a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“We can make quiet by more honest inventories of our strengths. Most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming ‘outside auditors.’ He who in the first estate was thrust down delights in having us put ourselves down. Self contempt is of Satan; there is none of it heaven.” – Neal A. Maxwell, as quoted by Wendy Ulrich, emphasis added.

Instead of keeping an accounting of our faults, weaknesses, and problems, we should do as President Nelson instructed:

“Spiritual self-esteem begins with the realization that each new morning is a gift from God.

Physical self-esteem also requires nurturing. Our bodies deserve thoughtful care.”- Russell M. Nelson

We need to nurture both our bodies and our spirits. I’m SO GLAD that President Nelson brought up the need to nurture ourselves physically, as I’ve learned that this has a huge impact on our spirits.

President Nelson taught:

“Physical conditioning from regular exercise is important. And we can do so much more to keep our bodies strong.” – Russell M. Nelson

In the example I gave above – It wasn’t until I went outside and was walking that I received the spiritual impression I needed from the Lord. I don’t think that I would have felt better if I left my closet after my prayer and then just sat around the house. Moving our bodies nourishes our brains and our spirits. We need to prioritize it as much as prioritize our Spiritual health.

Factor Three: Love of God

If you notice, these three factors can be easily restated as the two great commandments: Love God and Love thy neighbor as thyself. When we have the Love of God and others in our hearts, we have joy!

President Nelson stated:

“The crowning attribute that leads to joy is love of God. Even that first look in the mirror can be more enjoyable knowing we are created in his image.” – Russell M. Nelson

Do we remember that we are children of God. Years ago, I was serving as the primary Chorister in my ward. The Primary Presidency had decorated the bulletin board reflecting the year’s theme: I am a Child of God. They hung a mirror with that theme written on the mirror.

If you were sitting in the right spot, you could see yourself in that mirror as you sang. One of the teachers mentioned this in primary with the plea: Do you know that this is true?! It’s true, you are a child of God. Even as I type this, I’m filled with the consuming love that comes from this knowledge: I am a child of God. You are a child of God. What joy it is to know that we have a loving Father in Heaven.

A Joyful Future Morning

One thing that stood out to me the most while reading this was knowing that “Joy Cometh in the Morning.” Currently, I’m living in a lot of faith. In fact, I don’t think that my life has ever required more faith. I don’t know what step I’ll take next! Every resource has been exhausted. I feel comforted – I know that the Lord will bless me for my faith, but I still must walk in “darkness” as I wait for the Lord to light my path.

When I went to sleep last night, I prayed, for comfort and strength. I confided that this is the most faith that I’ve ever had to exercise in my life. It isn’t a complaint. It is a simple fact, and it was a plea that Heavenly Father would be patient with me as I tried to proceed in faith.

This morning, I woke up and read the title “joy cometh in the morning.” I know that the “dawn” will soon break for me and my family. That the faith we have exercised for so long will come to fruition. I know that the Lord’s promises are sure.

I also know that these experiences we have in life – where our faith is tried and then proven – are symbolic of the ultimate “morning” we will one day experience.

President Nelson shared:

“These experiences, glorious as they are, become but prelude to that great day ahead, when the faithful will stand at the latter day upon the earth. They shall abide the Second Coming of the Lord and shall stand with him when he appears. On that joyous morning, the mirror will reflect the miracle of the first resurrection. The faithful shall be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal life.” – Russell M. Nelson

We can have joy in our future morning – as we cultivate the three factors needed for such joy, or, in other words, as we keep the two great commandments.

***
I’m so grateful for President Nelson’s teachings. I am so grateful to know that the man who is serving as the President of the Lord’s Church is a man who embraces joy in his life and knows where it is truly found.

Reverence for Life – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Reverence for Life, by Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in the April 1985 General Conference.

This talk was about a grave and controversial subject – abortion. You know, as I think about it now, I find it pretty courageous that President Nelson would talk on this subject. He had been an apostle for only a year at this point. It takes time for the general population of the church to feel like they “know” the apostles. And he came out of the gates with a talk like this. He states early in his talk:

“I pray for the Spirit of the Lord to help me communicate his mind and will on a very vital and sensitive subject. I apologize for the use of words repugnant to me and ill-suited to this hallowed pulpit. I do so only for clarity of communication regarding reverence for human life.” – Russell M. Nelson

I wonder if he felt like Jacob – whose soul grieved to testify to the people of their sins. Instead of preaching about the pleasing word of God – that which heals the wounded soul – Jacob had to talk about the evil practices of the day that had become commonplace among his people. He had to admonish them. This would be a hard thing to do as a prophet.

I wonder if President Nelson felt similar.

Now – this isn’t to say that President Nelson was admonishing the people, in general. President Nelson taught about reverence for life, and he admonished the use of abortion as a “reason of convenience.” (By the way, at the time of this talk, only 3% of abortions were performed to save the mother’s life or because of rape/incest.)

Because of the gravity of this subject, this talk was kind of sad to read. I would imagine that it was also sad to give.

There were a few points that I found striking and would like to share on my blog.

Shaking My Head

The tone at the beginning of the talk seems to take on a “shaking my head” feel. First President Nelson gave some statistics. I will not include them here because they aren’t current, and I cannot take the time to find the current statistics.

After giving the staggering statistics, President Nelson states:

“Yet society professes reverence for human life. We weep for those who die, pray and work for those whose lives are in jeopardy. For years I have labored with other doctors here and abroad, struggling to prolong life. It is impossible to describe the grief a physician feels when the life of a patient is lost. Can anyone imagine how we feel when life is destroyed at its roots, as though it were a thing of naught?”

I haven’t ever thought of abortion from the point of view of a doctor – much less a cardiologist who routinely saves lives.

President Nelson continues with his proverbial head shaking:

“What sense of inconsistency can allow people to grieve for their dead, yet be calloused to this baleful war being waged on life at the time of its silent development? What logic would encourage efforts to preserve the life of a critically ill twelve-week-old infant, but countenance the termination of another life twelve weeks after inception? More attention is seemingly focused on the fate of a life at some penitentiary’s death row than on the millions totally deprived of life’s opportunity through such odious carnage before birth.”

Good questions. I’m shaking my head, too. It doesn’t really make any sense.

When Life Begins

It seems that some of the justification for a woman to perform an abortion is that the fetus inside of the woman isn’t it’s own individual life. The political question is “when does life begin?” I suppose that we have to try to redefine a universal, biological law about life in order to justify it.

Often, abortion is framed in the slogan of “women’s right,” so “when does life begin?” has to be redefined otherwise it would logically mean that this isn’t only a woman’s right, but also the right of another soul.

President Nelson teaches:

“The woman’s choice for her own body does not validate choice for the body of another. The expression “terminate the pregnancy” applies literally only to the woman. The consequence of terminating the fetus therein involves the body and very life of another. These two individuals have separate brains, separate hearts, and separate circulatory systems. To pretend that there is no child and no life there is to deny reality.”

Yes – this is exactly what must be done – we must “pretend” in order to defend abortion as a means of convenience. We must “deny reality.”

President Nelson continues:

It is not a question of when “meaningful life” begins or when the spirit “quickens” the body. In the biological sciences, it is known that life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being. The onset of life is not a debatable issue, but a fact of science.

I found this passage really interesting, and to me it rings true – that we should define the beginning of life the way that biology defines it. Why would our politics be at odds with an undebatable truth?

Again, President Nelson continues:

Approximately twenty-two days after the two cells have united, a little heart begins to beat. At twenty-six days the circulation of blood begins.9

President Nelson is a cardiac surgeon. He is an expert on matters of the heart and circulatory system. He has had to put in the time and training to know facts like this: that a heart begins to beat within 22 days of the first uniting of cells. And that within 26 days blood circulates in this little body.

***

When I was about 17 years old, I was at a youth conference activity. We were doing service by cleaning and maintaining a place called Fort Mifflin – in the Philadelphia area. I can’t remember the details of my particular assignment. It seemed like trail maintenance. I don’t know. All I know is that there was a group of us with shovels, and we were supposed to be clearing out some of the grass and weeds and we were making some kind of trail. I can’t remember the purpose.

What I do remember is that it was hard work – digging into the ground. I had been shoveling for probably 10 or 15 minutes. I had grown accustomed to how hard the ground was. I would raise my shovel high, and pound it into the ground. Then, I would jump on the shovel with both feet to get it in the ground deep enough. It was hard work for me.

As I went along, I raised my shovel, and this time, when it struck the ground it glided easily and smoothly. That was easy! I’m getting better at this! I thought. In fact, I shouted to my friend, Spunky, “The ground is getting softer!”

For good measure, I jumped on the edges of the shovel, and then went to pry out the dirt.

The dirt came up easily. A huge chunk came from the ground – much to big for my shovel. And I could see why. As I lifted the shovel and dirt from the ground, I noticed this white stuff. I also noticed that the dirt wasn’t solid and packed. It had a goopy nature to it.

I dropped my shovel, and bent over to inspect the ground. Horrified, I screamed out, “Oh no!!!!” Spunky came over to see what was happening. And we both were surprised to see that I had dug right into a turtle’s nest.

Inadvertently, I had destroyed the eggs inside this nest. I felt sick to my stomach. I had destroyed life. All of my friends and I mourned for a moment on those poor turtle eggs. They hadn’t hatched yet, but they would have. They had potential, and in a swift stroke that potential ended before they had even emerged from the egg. What a tragedy.

I can’t help but think of this experience when I think of abortion – the decimation of the tiny egg, with a human! embryo – destroyed before it even had the chance to emerge. It’s so cold and sad, and even colder and sadder to think that it is often done intentionally.

And, like President Nelson states in his talk – the reason I was so sad about inadvertently smashing those turtle eggs – is because I knew, just like we all know, that the onset of life is not debatable. That those eggs, though seemingly inanimate, were living.

Love of Life

“Why destroy a life that could bring such joy to others?” – Russell M. Nelson

One of the reasons that this talk touches me so much is because I know that I could have been aborted.

I’m not saying this to be dramatic.

I was born in San Francisco, in the late 1970s to a single woman in her early 20s. Roe vs. Wade had made abortion legal in the US only a few years before, and being in San Francisco, my mom was living in a place that was “progressive” when it came to “women’s rights.”

Catania0001
Thanks, Ma!

Yet my mom chose to have me – in the late 70s. I have had children, I know the work and commitment involved. It isn’t easy! A little baby would absolutely cramp the lifestyle of a single, 20-something woman. But my mom didn’t think only of herself. She took responsibility for her actions, and brought me into this world.

Some would say that it isn’t fair to bring a child into the world – knowing that they don’t have some of the “resources” needed for that child. This is false generosity. Don’t tell me what I do and do not need. I want to be alive. I love life. I have fought every day to enjoy this life I have. I don’t care that my situation was not “ideal!” I don’t care that I didn’t know my biological father for more than 30 years of my life. I don’t care if my coming into this world was unconventional or even “unfair” to me. I don’t care that my mom had to work and struggle to take care of me as an infant. It’s what we do for our children. What would have been unfair is my life ending before it even had a chance to begin.

My mom’s selflessness gave me life. My mom’s selflessness gave me opportunity. My mom’s selflessness gives you this blog post today. 🙂

I, personally, have an extremely difficult time understanding how anyone that is alive and is enjoying life on this earth can be so selfish to keep that choice from another. I can’t even bring myself to say/write “women’s rights,” because as a once-unborn fetus, I ask, “What about my rights?!”

Hope

Now, before I get too angry or passionate about this, I want to include a quote that I found especially loving from our dear President Nelson:

Now, is there hope for those who have so sinned without full understanding, who now suffer heartbreak? Yes. So far as is known, the Lord does not regard this transgression as murder. And “as far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.”13 Gratefully, we know the Lord will help all who are truly repentant.

I know that there are many people who have had an abortion. They were most likely young and desperate. They probably didn’t fully understand the ramifications of such a decision. And they don’t need to live with such guilt.

The Lord offers hope and forgiveness. When we repent, he Lord will forgive. We can’t change the decisions we have made in the past, but we can change the decisions we make in the future.

I also want to state that I understand there are times when a woman must choose an abortion because her life, and most likely the life of the unborn child, is in danger. I know someone who had to make this decision in her life. It was a terribly difficult decision that she had to make. She made it prayerfully, and I know that it was heart-wrenching for her. This decision was not about convenience, and it was not faithless. I know that sometimes life can be tricky, but I know that the Lord will comfort us – and that comfort comes only when we are living worthy of His Spirit.

***

One final quote from President Nelson:

Life comes from life. It is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It is eternal, as he is eternal. – Russell M. Nelson

I know that our Heavenly Father is our Creator. He is life. And He has given us life. I’m so grateful for this gift. Even when life is painful and hard, I would rather have that than no life at all.

Though this topic doesn’t come up much now in General Conference, I am also comforted to know that our prophet and president of the Church – Russell M. Nelson – has a reverence and love for life. He understands that the Lord offers us not only physical life, but also spiritual life. I’m comforted to know that President Nelson has not been afraid to bring life into this world through his marriage and family. And now, even though he has finished having children – his family grows through no effort of his own. He has children and grandchildren – more on the way I’m sure.

There is so much joy in life! I know this, and I know that our prophet knows it, too.

Protect the Spiritual Power Line – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk – Protect the Spiritual Power Lineby Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in October 1984. He had been an apostle for about six months by then.

In 1984, I wasn’t even a decade old. I do remember we would go to conference on occasion when I was a child. My parents were still married. My dad is not LDS, so there were times when it was General Conference, and we would hang out with him instead of go to conference, I would imagine that my mom was happy about being able to listen to the prophets rather than wrangle four kids! That being said, we usually went to the Sunday Morning session, and I remember being super bummed out that we went to church, and that there was NO PRIMARY!

But as I read back on these talks now, I think They are soooooo good! At least this one was, so read it!

For now here are a few of my own thoughts on what President Nelson taught.

Power at Pipe
Not a power tool, but one of the most powerful things I’ve ever witnessed was a swell on the North Shore of Oahu.

***

I love the comparison he made between spiritual power and electrical power. It is hard to think of the abstract concepts – like priesthood power or spiritual power – and truly understand what they are. At least it is really hard for me to do so.

So – when I think of Priesthood power, or the power of God given to men, which I think is any kind of spiritual power – what is it? Well, it’s power. What are some other, more concrete examples and experiences I’ve had with power? Electricity!

Don’t ask me about the abstract intricacies of electricity! I don’t know them. But I do know that when I flip on a switch, I get light!

President Nelson gives an example:

“One day while working around our home, trimming the hedges and vines, I had an interesting experience. I was at work with my electric clippers and long extension cord. I had done this often, each time reminding myself of the need to use these clippers with great care in order to avoid cutting things that I shouldn’t.

Suddenly the blades became jammed. Caught between them was the power cord itself. Because I had not seen it in the thicket I was trimming, I had cut into the very line that was providing the power to work.

‘Isn’t that one of life’s great lessons?’ I thought. ‘Power, if misused, can cut into the very source of that power.'” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson then continues this metaphor – just as electrical power can be misused, so can spiritual power. And when we misuse our spiritual power, the line from which this power flows can be severed, just as he accidentally severed his own power line.

Power to Learn

One of the ways that the spirit can power our lives is to give us the power to learn. President Nelson gives information on this, and also on how it can be misused. I will not reiterate everything that he said, but there was one thing that really stood out to me – in this talk given over 30 years ago:

“We must gain learning, but we must apply it wisely. Otherwise, we have politics without principle, industry without morality, knowledge without wisdom, science without humanity!” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote because I think that in our current society, we are treading the line that he gives in this warning. Politics without principle?! Yes! That seems to be the norm.

Industry without morality?! Unfortunately. I think that this is a succinct phrase that would describe all sorts of ills we see in our current climate – from the p*rn “industry” to the housing crash to child labor in third world countries. We can’t sustain ourselves for long in such careless endeavors. In fact, we’ve already seen it happen. With the lack of morality that was rife in our culture in the early 2000s, people bought houses they couldn’t afford, bankers got rich, our society seemed to think that “greed was good,” until with our silly choices, we inadvertently cut our own “power line,” and found everything crashing down…taking years to recover.

Knowledge without wisdom?! Well, in some ways, this might describe the information age. We have so much knowledge available as fast as our fingers can type, but we don’t always have the wisdom to apply even a tenth of the knowledge and information we consume. This concept reminds me of a quote I recently heard: “If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” (Derek Sivers).  When we are careful with the power to learn and we remember the source from which all knowledge flows, then we will not only learn information, but we will gain the wisdom we need to apply knowledge.

Science without Humanity?! Well, I could give you my opinions on some things that kind of scare me – like big brother AI type of stuff, but I’m a little uneducated on the point. The idea of science/humanity/ethics is interesting, and there are some pretty cool sci-fi movies that explore the line between the two better than I’m going to right now. I will only say that, I don’t think that there is much of a point to make scientific discoveries if we forget our humanity. The essence of humanity is human-kind (which includes our relationship to the plants, animals, and substances on this earth that is not considered human. We are dependent on it!). Kindred. Kindness. There is no scientific gain if we lose kindness along the way.

Power to Labor

President Nelson quoted Heber J. Grant in his talk:

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” – Heber J. Grant, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote! It is true in any endeavor. I’ve been doing yoga almost daily lately. And you know what? I’ve gotten better! I can tell you that it is not because yoga is suddenly easier now that I’ve taken an interest in it. Hahaha! It’s because I am changing.

The persistence mentioned by President Grant is another form of humility. Every time I get on my mat, I’m admitting that I need more practice.

This consistent practice has made my muscles stronger, my joints more mobile, and my body more flexible. My power to do yoga has increased.

Of course, we are warned that this power to labor can be misused. If I spend too much time on yoga, I will absolutely injure my body, and most likely injure the relationships that also need my care! We have to be careful – just as President Nelson warns – that our work stays centered and focused on the Master – the one who enables us to do any work in the first place. Our labors can never be used as a justification for evil choices.

Power of Obedience to Law

President Nelson makes a statement that I’m just obsessed with:

“…not even for God’s prophet can anyone be exempted from law. Not even for God’s Son could divine law be broken!” – Russell M. Nelson

The laws by which our Heavenly Father governs are universal laws. They have universal consequences. Like gravity they are non-negotiable. You might say, “I don’t believe in gravity,” and you may even come up with a few mistaken theories on why you don’t believe in gravity (birds fly!). But take a step off the edge of the Grand Canyon and then see what you think about gravity.

Or, put another way, gravity existed before Newton “discovered” and then explained it.

This universe is governed by laws, and Heavenly Father has given us commandments and principles that will help us to derive real power from the obedience of such laws. When we disobey, then we will cut our proverbial power cords.

Power to Love

President Nelson shares an example of the power of love in his life:

“The power of love between a man and a woman is special. The love shared with my beloved companion, Dantzel, has increased the power of love for both of us. That love brought us to the altar in the temple of the Lord. Her love for me motivated her to teach school during the early years of our marriage. When things were tight, she held a second job at night. Once when things were exceptionally tight, she even sold her blood in between her two jobs to keep us solvent. (Her dear parents may have wondered what kind of a son-in-law they had on that occasion!) I thought of that many years later when she needed a transfusion urgently and her blood couldn’t be matched readily with donor blood from the blood bank. What a privilege it was for me to donate mine directly to her.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel so honored and humbled to report that I, too, have experienced the power of this kind of love in my life. It hasn’t always been the case for me. Years ago, I was married to a man that was not a good match for me. Because the power of love was being misused in that relationship, it was powerless and painful.

Now, I have been married to a man who honors me, the laws of the Lord, and the covenants that we have made together. I have experienced growth and progress with Homey that I never could have imagined on my own. As we have grown together as husband and wife, our common work and goals have blossomed into more than I ever could have imagined. He magnifies me – my motherhood, womanhood, and my individual purposes. I try to do the same for him. As we have magnified one another, we have experienced unspeakable joy. Even during times of trial and challenges, we have used the power of love – endowed to us by the Creator – very carefully, and this power has helped us overcome and create more than I can adequately explain in a single blog post. All I can say is – it’s amazing.

The Lord has blessed me in spades, and so many of these blessings have come as a result of my marriage to Homey, and the power to love that President Nelson beautifully teaches about in his talk.

Of course, this power can be misused, and President Nelson warns:

“Misused, the power of love can cut off spiritual power. The abuse of the power to love can result in no love at all. Only its cheap facsimiles of lewdness and lust remain in the wake of pleasure without conscience. Instead of feasting at the banquet table of bounteous love with his own posterity, one is left with scraps from the table—only the refuse from what might have been.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have also experienced the misuse and even abuse of the power to love. And just as President Nelson states, it resulted in a complete void of love. I can think of no better description of p*rn than “cheap facsimiles of lewdness and lust.” It is titillating, and these cheap facsimiles prey upon our natural desires, but they end up leaving us empty and impotent.

Sources of Spiritual Power

The Lord!

I love what President Nelson teaches:

“An electrical appliance consumes power. The use of His spiritual power replenishes our power. While electrical power can be used only for measured periods of time, spiritual power can be used for time and eternity!” – Russell M. Nelson

This is such a beautiful concept that I have never really considered before. Consumption vs. Replenishment. I feel overwhelmed with consumption, and I hate to admit that I consume so much more than I create. I also feel like I’m always aching for replenishment and rest.

And the Lord’s power, though it can feel consuming at times, ends up giving us peace, replenishment, and joy. LOVE THIS IDEA! And I feel like I need to explore it more!

So – how do we turn this power on? Well, the simple answers – Prayer, Scripture Study, Going to Church. Simple answers aren’t throw away. I’m grateful for these simple answers as they convey to me that the power of God is available in my life. It’s not a hard thing to do – it’s as simple as flipping a switch.

Of course, even with these simple ways of gaining spiritual power in our lives, we must take care. Prayer, though a strong power line between us and the Lord, can be misused! Think of the Zoramites on the Rameumptom. Instead of using prayer as a way to humble themselves before the Lord and thereby become a pure conduit for His power in their lives, they stood on the Rameumptom and used their prideful “prayers” to excuse their oppression and abuse of others.

Scriptures can be beacons of light that bring us understanding and enable us to have power in our lives. Or, we can misuse them and be like the Pharisees who tried to use the scriptures to condemn the One who gave them the scriptures.

Going to church, if done with care and humility, is a sure source of power. We partake of the sacrament and spend time worshipping our Lord. But when we become careless, church can be just another part of the “rat race” that is so easy to get caught up in.

President Nelson teaches:

“Worship strengthens our power line to deity. There can be no true worship without sacrifice, and there can be no true sacrifice without a cause. The cause that earns our love and priority is the cause of Jesus Christ.” – Russell M. Nelson

So much food for thought here. I have never thought about the connection between worship, sacrifice, and “a cause.” And what is my cause? I have been working my whole life to align my cause with my Heavenly Father’s cause – The immortality and Eternal Life of man. Of course, I cannot do it in the same way He does, but I can do my part. I can use my abilities to harness the power that Heavenly Father has extended to me through Learning, Obedience, and Love to help bring about His purpose. We can all do this.

Helping the Lord to bring about His work will require a bit of sacrifice but it is a form of worship, and will result in joy and meaning in our own lives. It will result in increased power and ability.

Our Heavenly Father is a God of abundance. His blessings and power are not scarce or limited, but are abundant and eternal. I love this! There is no end to His power or blessings. As we exercise care, we will be able to use His power in our lives in a way that will bring joy to us and to everyone else we touch. The gospel is so hopeful and joyful.

And I’m so grateful to be led by a prophet that understands God’s power and the care it requires. I’m so incredibly grateful to know that we are led by a man that isn’t confused about the power that he has been granted – he knows it isn’t his power, but that it is God’s power. I’m grateful to know that a prophet, seer, and revelator leads us and knows that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal and that He Loves us.

 

 

Faith and the “Reality Distortion Field”

Something pretty for this post...Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all. :)
Something pretty for this post…Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all.

In the most recent General Conference, President Monson stated the following:

“May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary – a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right. Without such faith, we go nowhere. With it, we can accomplish our goals.”

As you probably know (if you read this blog often), I could write an essay of at least 3,000 words on this subject. But I’m striving for brevity. So, here are a few thoughts on the faith we need to help inform our choices and empower us to accomplish our goals.

In our society, it may be tempting to think of faith as some kind of quaint virtue, or perhaps something even worse.

Faith is the first principle of the gospel. It is a subject we hear about time and time again.

Faith is a virtue, but it isn’t relegated to moral interests. Faith is real power. (By the way, virtue is power – not just something for boring, prudish people! You can read more about virtue here.)

Without faith that a seed will sprout, we won’t keep watering it, fertilizing it, and nourishing it. Therefore, without the vision, or faith, of what a seed will be, though that vision is so different than the seed itself, the seed will never become a plant.

Because faith is a true principle and power, we see can faith at work – not only in a religious sense, but in any case.

Let’s take Steve Jobs, for example. It was often said that he had a “reality distortion field.” The “reality distortion field” or “RDF” is described as follows:

“RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. (Reality Distortion Field, Wikipedia)

There is plenty of criticism regarding Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” but the fact also remains: he believed a personal computer could be created. And it was created. He believed that they could figure out a way to put all of your songs in your pocket, and with the iPod, they did.

Later, now that we have been able to enjoy the success of Jobs’ ability to “distort” reality, we celebrate him as a visionary. We say this as if Jobs possessed some kind of magical ability. I don’t think that gives him enough credit. It really isn’t easy to “distort reality.”

I believe that this “reality distortion field” could be renamed to faith. Faith seems to “distort” our present knowledge and lead us to believe that with God, anything is possible.

Of course, faith is not a distortion. Alma teaches,

“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” – Alma 32:21, emphasis added

Notice the last phrase – which are true. We learn more about truth in Doctrine and Covenants:

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

Though faith doesn’t often seem to coincide with our current notion of reality, faith is a belief in that which is true – past, present, or future. And the truth is, we don’t know everything right now. There is so much we can’t see, so much we can’t sense. Relying only on what we currently know and experience is an actual and incredibly detrimental distortion of reality. A distortion of true reality – past, present, or future – will result in our impotence.

So, how do we develop the faith that empowers? How do we choose to distort what we think we know now and believe in something that is yet to happen?

We can simply put our faith in God. He is our Father. He knows all. He created all. He does have all of the information. He will enable us to sense and see what we need to know in our lives – even if what He reveals to us isn’t aligned with our current sense of “reality.”

When we exercise our faith, we may be misunderstood. Some may say that our “reality” seems “distorted,” but with faith in God, reality is never distorted. God isn’t bound by time – past, present, or future. He sees and knows all now. Through the Holy Ghost, and according to His will, our Heavenly Father can impart with us the knowledge we must know in order to achieve our goals. In other words, with faith, we can also become “visionaries.”

I don’t know…when I think about faith this way, it just seems so powerful. Why wouldn’t we want to develop it?!?!

The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ

Book of Mormon Tad R. Callister

This quote comes from, “The Book of Mormon – A Book from God,” by Tad R. Callister from the October 2011 General Conference.

I love this testimony and truth about the Book of Mormon. Look at the language Elder Callister uses:

  • emblazoned
  • undeniable
  • merciful
  • remedy
  • superior healing power

Truly, the Book of Mormon is powerful.

The Book of Mormon teaches us principles that will give us “book knowledge” about the gospel. But there is more. When we read the Book of Mormon every day, we are inspired to live what we have learned. It is when our reading and our daily commitment to live what we have learned combine that we gain experiential knowledge of the Savior.

We will then have a witness of Him emblazoned on our souls. And what does that mean – that we are really close to a really “neat” guy – that we are super knowledgeable about someone who was a “great rabbi”?

No!

It means that we are empowered by the Atonement. It means that we are healed from our sins. It means that we are comforted caused by the pain of others. It means that we are made whole from the infirmities we face in mortal life. It means that we are empowered to overcome our weakness.

Having Christ emblazoned on our souls means that we know of Him through study and that we know Him through intimate experience.

I know that this is true. The Book of Mormon has been a beacon in my life. It has brought me close to the Savior. It has worked with the Bible to help me understand 1) Why I need a Savior, and 2) How the Savior truly is a manifestation of God’s love.

Do you have a witness of Christ emblazoned on your soul? How has the Book of Mormon helped you to gain this witness?

I’m the Canoe

canoe

I’ve been trying to figure out an analogy for a few days.

Imagine a canoe. There are people in it. One person is seated toward the front of the canoe, with a paddle. This person is strong. He/she is primarily required to paddle.

There is a person in the back of the canoe. This person is the most experienced of all in the canoe, but not necessarily the strongest, physically. This person is in charge of steering the canoe, and must be able to diplomatically lead the rest of the people in the canoe while directing their little boat.

Though not pictured, imagine that there is a person in the middle of the canoe. This person also has a paddle, but isn’t quite as strong as the person seated in the front, nor is this person as experienced as the paddler in the back of the canoe. The middle-person is learning about canoeing. As far as propelling the canoe goes, he may not be the most important canoe-er, but he is there.

I’ve been thinking about people in a canoe – in terms of family. In thinking about this, the question is, who is the paddler in the bow? In the stern? In the hull?

Well, it’s obvious to me that children are the paddlers in the hull. They are part of this team, they paddle from time to time, they help, but are not of critical importance…yet. They are training and gaining experience for when they will one day sit at the stern or the bow.

So. That leaves us with the person sitting in the front of the canoe and the person in the back. I’ve been wondering, which one am I?

There are days when I feel like I’m steering this ship. You know what I mean. I remember in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the mother explains to the daughter:
man is the head

Even though this is funny, and I admit that I can act somewhat “neck-like” at times (without being manipulative, of course!), I don’t know if I’m the one on the back of the canoe. We don’t always move according to my direction. Maybe I’m actually in front.

I’ll also admit that there are days, many days, when I feel like that I’m in the bow. I’m paddling, paddling, and paddling. I wake up, feed the kids, exercise, start homeschool (which is quite a list in and of itself), feed the kids lunch, keep them from fighting/destroying the house/general chaos, throw a load of laundry in, talk to my husband about the business, take the kids to the library, make dinner, … you get the idea. We all do this.

I’ll say that again. We all do this. As in, not only are mothers paddlers, but fathers are, too. I know that my husband has a billion things going on in his life: he has to paddle, paddle, paddle.

I don’t think I’m steering. I’m not sure if I’m the primary paddler either. But I know that I’m something in this little analogy that I’ve got swirling in my head.

***

Last night, I was feeling a little frustrated. It was Saturday, I had been looking forward to some time just sitting, breathing, and catching up. But, the whole day flashed before my eyes. Nothing particularly bad happened, but my expectations for the day weren’t quite met, and I needed a little encouragement. A little buoying up.

I was thinking and praying about my frustrations of the day when I realized the solution to my analogy. I’m not steering the ship, nor am I powering it forward. I’m not sitting idly in the hull. I’m not any of the oarsmen.

I’m the canoe.

I bear up my family, support them, stabilize them. My role isn’t particularly glorious, neither is it obscure. I’m simultaneously a part of the action yet partially submerged under water.

Sometimes I feel tired and “waterlogged.” And then the question comes to my mind, who ever really takes time to appreciate the boat? I might spring a leak, which causes panic and maybe even a fair amount of cursing. 😉 Despite everything else that is going right, those paddlers in the boat can only see the one small fissure. Of course, that fissure is letting in water, so I can’t blame them. I just wish they could see how often everything goes right.

This line of thinking isn’t necessarily helpful as it usually leads to further temptation – It’s a temptation for me to imagine life without them for a moment. No burden to bear. No dirty feet, no rocking back and forth. No bickering about who is paddling, about who splashed whom. I’m tempted to think of a life other than carrying my people, their needs, their worries, their weight back and forth – all done without much of a thought of that vessel that carried them.

It’s tempting to imagine life in the middle of a peaceful lake, with me just floating aimlessly.

Yet, the truth is, I am the canoe, and when you see a canoe in the middle of the lake, empty, it’s a problem. Typically, an empty canoe looks like this:

docked canoe

An empty canoe is docked. It’s going nowhere. While it’s not useless, you could say that an empty canoe doesn’t have much of a purpose. A canoe’s purpose comes into play with every person that boards it: Children, spouse, friends, siblings, students, and more. While it can be tiring to bear the weight of these people, I must admit that I’m honored. I don’t mind being partially submerged, stepped on, sat upon. I don’t mind being weighed down and directed. Without them, I’m going nowhere.

And I also know that without me, they aren’t going anywhere, either.

***
This morning, still a little down, I decided to re-read the talk, Behold Thy Mother, by Jeffery R. Holland, one of the current Twelve Apostles.

Anyone who is familiar with General Conference (A meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where we hear from a living prophet and apostles) knows that there are talks for women or about women/motherhood from time to time. I have to admit that I’ve always liked these talks. They encourage me. They motivate and inspire me.

However, I will admit that I’ve had this sneaking suspicion from time to time – are these talks just “pep talks?” Are they obligatory, “keep the women happy” talks?

This morning, I re-read Elder Holland’s talk, and I was reminded, this isn’t just some pep talk to tide me over until next conference. No. These talks are messages from God. The Lord knows that I am a canoe, and He is grateful for my decision to be this kind of a woman.

Elder Holland taught:

“Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. “My Father sent me,” He said, “that I might be lifted up upon the cross; … that as I have been lifted up … even so should men be lifted up … to … me.”

But can you hear in this language another arena of human endeavor in which we use words like bear and borne, carry and lift, labor and deliver? As Jesus said to John while in the very act of Atonement, so He says to us all, ‘Behold thy mother!'” – Jeffrey R. Holland

We women are all “canoes.” I don’t mean only mothers, either. I know other women who have born others up, strengthened them, and even delivered them. I’ve had these types of women in my life. Of course my own mother, I’ve had others, too. Kerri, Stephanie, Kara, Sister Chisholm, Vanessa, Chandra, Donna, Jocelyn, Hillary, Janay, Rachelle, Krista, Niki, Celeste, and sooo many more women. They have helped to bear me up and deliver me along when I’ve needed some support. At times, I’ve been a willing paddler, while they have acted as my canoe.

Elder Holland continues:

“You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting.

A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: “How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’” – Jeffrey R. Holland

At first, last night, when I realized I was “the canoe,” I felt a quiet sadness wash over me. I thought of my roles as a woman: as someone who has given herself to her husband and children. Though I have done so willingly, last night I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering when it will be my turn to fulfill my own dreams and chart my own course. When will they support me?

Heavenly Father heard my frustrated prayer, and I was comforted in my heart, but I also felt a confirmation from the Spirit: Yes. You are a canoe. Yes, I’ve made sacrifices, and I will continue to do so. But the Lord would help me to understand more in the future.

As I said, I felt comfort wash over me, even though I was still a bit troubled at the thought of being a canoe. I decided I’d just be patient, go to sleep, and that I’d figure this out later.

***

This morning, as I read Elder Holland’s talk I felt confirmation of my thought last night. I am indeed a “canoe.” We women, who are choosing to righteously nurture those in our lives – our families, friends, and even strangers – we are canoes. It’s not particularly glamorous, but to the Lord and to the people in that boat it is valuable.

I am the canoe.