Today, I’m studying Spiritual Capacity, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1997 general conference.
(As I read this today, I realized that the October 1997 General Conference was my first General Conference on my own. I was living in Utah for college. I actually had gone down to Provo to visit a few friends. Don’t remember much about the conference – I think that I was probably doing more socializing than listening!)
Even though I don’t really remember this specific talk, I did like reading it now! I love the subject – spiritual capacity. I haven’t really thought of it before, and I found it intriguing. President Nelson shared the following:
“A verse of scripture opens a door of opportunity for each of us: “There is a spirit in man,” said Job, “and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” – Russell M. Nelson
All of us have a spirit, and we are all children of God; therefore, all have spiritual capacity. President Nelson continued:
“To take advantage of such an opportunity, we need more than a verbal incentive. We need an example—someone to show us how spiritual capacity can be developed. I have selected as a model for my message President Gordon B. Hinckley.” – Russell M. Nelson
I love President Hinckley. In my earliest memories of General Conference, President Hinckley has been a part of the First Presidency.
When I was in High School, President Hunter passed away, and President Hinckley became the next president and prophet, seer, and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though I never knew him personally, he greatly impacted my own testimony and growth.
I agree with President Nelson that President Hinckley is an example of the potential we have when we develop our spiritual capacities.
President Hinckley had good parents who loved him, loved God, and taught him to also love God. President Nelson shared:
“Both his parents and he understood the importance of education and a mission. After his graduation from the university, he faced a major decision in 1933, when he was called to go on a mission. At that time, most young men in the Church were not able to serve because of a global economic depression that deprived nearly everyone of available cash. Earlier, his wonderful mother, with foresight and faith, had established a small savings account for his mission. Though she died before his call, her fund sent him on his way.
Shortly after Elder Hinckley’s labors began in England, he became discouraged and wrote to his father. After reading that letter, his father’s wise reply closed with these words: “Forget yourself and go to work.” Thanks to noble parents and a crucial decision to remain, Elder Hinckley completed his mission with honor. Now he often states that the good things that have happened to him since have all hinged upon that decision to stay.” – Russell M. Nelson
As I write this blog, my younger children are playing games, my oldest daughter is baking cookies, and my second daughter is watching golf with my husband. I’m surrounded by joy and love. I have been so fortunate to be blessed with my family.
And I’m so inspired by the example given by President Hinckley’s mother. She passed away before President Hinckley would need the missionary money. Yet she faithfully collected this money for him to serve a mission. Do I have that kind of faith and obedience?
The spiritual capacity of President Hinckley was greatly amplified by the faithfulness and spiritual capacities of his parents. I have the same duty for my children. What am I doing to help nurture their spiritual capacities?
Now – I want to say, I don’t think that we all need to save money for our sons for their missions. What President Hinckley’s mother did that is so remarkable is that she followed the spiritual impression she had to save money.
This is what I can do for my children. I can stay close to the Spirit and follow it when it teaches me what I should do. Often these promptings will come at a sacrifice to me. And sometimes, I won’t even see the fruit of such sacrifice. But I still need to obey.
I absolutely love what President Nelson stated (confirmation bias!):
“Hobbies can aid in spiritual development. Worthy music, dance, art, and writing are among the creative activities that can enrich the soul. A good hobby can dispel heartache and give zest to life.” – Russell M. Nelson
President Nelson also spent time sharing the hobbies that President Hinckley had developed, and how they helped to develop him spiritually. He did house-remodeling and work around his house. He did the landscaping and gardening in his yard. And he did this with the rest of his family. President Hinckley was deeply curious and spent time learning from others. He also was a writer. President Hinckley’s many hobbies taught him and cultivated him in a way that helped to prepare him for his life’s work.
I just love that President Nelson included this about President Hinckley. And probably this is because I also am a lover of hobbies, creating, and learning.
I have several hobbies. Maybe too many hobbies. I love to create and learn new things. I have found that by developing my hobbies, I’ve been able to see the world differently. My hobbies have also been ways for me to connect with my children and others. I really think that the happiest people have a few hobbies. (Maybe, if they’re like me, they have too many hobbies!)
Really, though, I love this. Pursuing our hobbies can help to increase our spiritual capacity. I know that this is true. I have gained insights that I’ve needed in my life through my hobbies. Running taught me to have better discipline. Hiking has taught me to take my time and enjoy the journey – that if we are overly focused on the destination, we won’t see the beautiful wildflowers at our feet. Quilting has brought me friends, and it has taught me that “when life hands you scraps, make a quilt.” It has taught me to be resourceful. It has brought my daughters and I closer together. And it has given me a way to serve others. Reading has brought the entire world into my home. Art has helped me to see the colors and beauty in the world around me. So many of my hobbies have had an impact that goes far beyond the hobby itself.
Sense of Humor
If you are reading this blog post and you are familiar with President Hinckley, I’m sure that you had this in mind. President Hinckley was famous within the church for his loving humor and quick wit. I really loved that about him.
In fact, after President Nelson gave this very talk that I’m studying today, President Hinckley stated:
“Brother Nelson’s right when he said no one is told what to talk about in these meetings,” … “He’s taken an extreme liberty. I challenge him to a duel down in the basement of the Tabernacle right after this meeting.”
Later, during the close of the conference, President Hinckley said:
“Brother Nelson, I’ve repented. Thanks very much for your kind words. We’ll postpone the duel.” – Gordon B. Hinckley
President Hinckley’s sense of humor actually means a lot to me. When I was a young woman, I was a bit light hearted (and I still can be at times now). I loved laughing and messing around (still the same!).
I kind of had this idea that I wasn’t supposed to be happy, to have fun. I thought that a “good girl” sat in church piously, hands folded in her lap. That she didn’t crack jokes, but giggled every once in a while – demurely, I guess. I felt like if I wanted to be “good” and follow god, then I needed to shut up and be REVERENT!
President Hinckley, though, was funny! He was always cracking little jokes during General Conference. He had a light smile and twinkle in his eye. He didn’t take the gospel lightly, and he took his calling seriously, to be sure. But he was happy and had fun. He liked to laugh. He brought humor and love into his talks. I think that this impacted our church as a whole.
Isn’t President Hinckley’s sense of humor one of the things we all loved about him?
I remember noticing his sense of humor and feeling a major sense of relief. It’s okay to laugh! It’s okay to have fun and be funny every once in a while. Though there were times for me to be reverent, for sure, that didn’t mean that I had to act demure and shy every moment of every day. I could be myself and accepted of God.
This was a major example for my own spiritual development. The “reality” of President Hinckley – his frankness, his humor, his spirit – is what made me think that the gospel was for me, too.
About President Hinckley, President Nelson shared:
“Among President Hinckley’s spiritual attributes is that of compassion. He is sympathetic to people and feels a strong urge to help them. I have watched him weep with those who mourn and rejoice when Saints are blessed. Such compassion can come to anyone whose heart has truly been touched by the Spirit of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson
I love the idea of compassion and developing it. I feel a need to develop it, and I try to look for examples of those who have developed a deep sense of compassion in their lives. Here, President Nelson teaches us that compassion can come to anyone whose heart has been touched by the Spirit of the Lord.
So – if I want to develop compassion, then I need to keep my heart open to His Spirit. I suppose this also means that I need to accept some of the trials and afflictions that I may face in life – with the understanding that this is all ways that I can potentially become kinder and more compassionate.
Another characteristic that comes to mind when I think of President Hinckley is his optimism. President Nelson stated:
“I believe that his personal antidote for fatigue is enthusiasm for the work.” – Russell M. Nelson
Being optimistic helps us to develop spiritually. I think that this is because the Spirit of God can’t really be with us when we are depressed, frustrated, annoyed, or contentious. If we want to have solutions to our problems, we need to remain optimistic. And why wouldn’t we be? We have the gospel. We have the Savior. We have the hope of salvation.
Love of God
Though this isn’t necessarily something that President Nelson addressed, I want to include it here. Though I didn’t know President Hinckley personally, I know that he loved the Lord. He spent so much time and sacrificed so much of his life for the work of the Lord.
His love of God was also apparent in his understanding of the scriptures. I remember that during one session of General Conference (while I was in college, I think), President Hinckley was speaking. He quoted a scripture, but no reference was given. At that moment, the Spirit spoke to my soul – though the words were the scriptures, they were also President Hinckley’s. This is because he had spent so much time in his life studying, pondering, and living the gospel the words of the scriptures were no longer only Nephi’s (or whoever he was quoting), but they were also his. They had become a part of him.
I also knew at that moment that this was possible for each and every one of us. That I could have the scriptures be a part of me if I would work hard to make them a part of my life. Because of President Hinckley’s example, I knew that I could also grow my spiritual capacity.
President Hinckley passed away ten years ago – in 2008. I remember feeling both gratitude and grief for a man I never met. He spent his life in the service of God and growing in his testimony.
President Nelson taught:
“While the body may reach the peak of its maturation in a few years, the development of the spirit may never reach the limit of its capacity, because there is no end to progression.” – Russell M. Nelson
The last talk I studied was about enduring to the end. One of the blessings of this charge – to endure – is that through endurance, we can continue to develop spiritually. We can keep progressing and feeling the joy that comes as we move closer to our Savior.
I’m grateful that we have a prophet who has worked closely with other prophets. Early in the talk, President Nelson shared:
“This year, Sister Nelson and I have had the privilege of accompanying President and Sister Hinckley to 11 countries for which I have had some responsibilities. That has given us a rare opportunity to observe him closely under a variety of conditions.” – Russell M. Nelson
President Russell M. Nelson, long before he became the President of this Church was serving with and observing the living Prophet. He has been tutored for his current calling – not only by the Lord but through experiences provided to him by the Lord. Though President Nelson hasn’t been the prophet for very long, he isn’t a green-newbie. He has been serving with prophets and apostles for years. He has had experiences with the prophet that would one day help to prepare him for future calling.
I’m grateful to know that the Lord has blessed President Nelson with these experiences, and that President Nelson has lived up to the occasions offered him by the Lord. I’m grateful that he willingly accepted his tutelage from God, and that he prepared so he could serve as he does now.
I’m also grateful to know that President Nelson takes inspiration from the people around him. We are led by a prophet today!