Today I’m studying the talk Now Is the Time to Prepare, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2005 General Conference.
April 2005…that was an interesting time in my life. In February 2005, I discovered that my ex-husband was having extra-marital affairs. We separated and I filed for divorce. So, during April 2005, I had just filed for a divorce, was looking for work, and had started a new phase of life as a single mom.
I suppose I could describe this time in my life as a crucible, refiner’s fire, pruning…It was one of those growth periods that was difficult, but in the end – so rewarding. The Lord helped me to endure my trials and I was eventually brought to blessings that were beyond my comprehension and seemingly beyond the sacrifices I made to receive them. The Lord is merciful and kind – even while we struggle and suffer.
Anyway – that is what was happening when I heard this talk. I know that I watched general conference, I even took notes. But I don’t remember this specific talk. Regardless, it was good to study again.
I don’t have much time, so I’m just going to pick out a few quotes/concepts I liked and write a little bit about them.
“After my efforts to revive her proved fruitless, feelings of shock and sorrow overwhelmed me. My closest friend, angel mother of our 10 children, grandmother of our 56 grandchildren, had been taken from us.” – Russell M. Nelson
This quote isn’t about doctrine, beliefs, principles. It isn’t about the gospel, faith, or even the Savior. This quote isn’t philosophical or scriptural. It isn’t abstract. But I love this quote.
It is real.
Can you imagine being President Nelson – a world renowned heart surgeon – who had saved the lives of so many – being with his wife and unable to help her?! I cannot imagine the sorrow, pain, and helplessness that he must have felt. And though President Nelson knew that he would see his wife again one day, he still missed her.
Even though this isn’t a doctrinal statement, I love that President Nelson shared this with us. This is a reminder that the prophet and apostles are real people. Yes they serve the Lord in callings that are not common, but they are not exempt from any of the realities of life. They struggle. They experience happiness and sadness. They have joyful moments and times of heartache. They can lead and guide us with both sympathy and empathy.
” We came into this life to acquire a physical body. We may fall in love and be married. We may have children and experience the trials of mortal life. (Please forgive me for mentioning children and the trials of life in the same breath. I sense that they are both part of our growing process.) The Church was restored—the earth was created—so that those families could be sealed in holy temples. Otherwise, the whole earth would be “utterly wasted.”
We came to be tried, to be tested, and to choose. Our decisions determine our destiny. – Russell M. Nelson
I have been thinking a lot about the idea of suffering and believing in a God who would allow suffering. God created this earth. God is good. And yet, God allowed slavery to happen. God allowed the holocaust. He didn’t interfere to stop the atrocities that we have committed.
Because God has allowed suffering, there are some people who use this as proof that He doesn’t exist. I want to think about this more, but for now, I suppose I want to remind myself that to get better answers we need to ask better questions.
So – people ask “how could there be a God if He would let this happen?” But it really isn’t a good question. There isn’t much of an answer. Beside that, the framework of the question presupposes that there isn’t a God. In other words the question isn’t much of a question at all.
Instead, maybe we should ask, “Why does God allow suffering?” – Keep in mind: this ought to be asked in an inquisitive, rather than accusational, manner.
In doing so, before I really even dig into why God would allow suffering, if I ask myself this question, I immediately think of my own role as a parent with my children. And you know what – I allow suffering. I have allowed them to get shots. I have allowed them to fall off of their bikes. I have allowed them to have some negative experiences because I know that they have to fall off the bike in order to learn to ride it.
In fact, my oldest is 18, and I will be allowing her to leave the house and choose her own way in this life. It is out of love and respect for her autonomy and sovereignty that I do so.
So – why does God allow suffering? Because he knows that in order for us to grow and experience joy, we have to suffer a little bit. He even allows suffering because He respects our autonomy and sovereignty.
Now, I know that there are still a lot of holes in this argument. Allowing a child to fall when he is learning to walk is one thing…but allowing the holocaust? It’s hard to understand.
So, if we keep asking with real intent, then I think President Nelson’s quote can help. Why does God allow suffering? That may lead to the question – “why are we here in the first place if we are going to suffer?”
What do we learn from President Nelson’s quote:
1) We are here to get a physical body.
2) We came to be tried, to be tested, and to choose.
So – on the most basic level, when we think of these two purposes, then we can see that suffering will not necessarily interrupt either of them. Suffering will not keep us from having a body. Suffering is part of the trial, and we can choose how we will respond to it.
Oh there is so much more to this, and I’m afraid that I opened a giant can of worms. All of this leads to faith. Why does God allow suffering?
Because He also offers a solution. He has offered us His Son.
I suppose the Lord allows suffering because he has a fix. Sometimes that fix won’t happen during this lifetime. But there will be justice. Every right will be wronged. We can have hope. And in the meantime, we can keep our eyes on the real purposes for our being here.
We aren’t here to just live a life devoid of challenges. We aren’t here to live in ignorant bliss. We are here to get a body, to choose, so that we can be happy. All of this is possible only because:
1) God allows us to live our own lives, even if it means we are exposed to great suffering.
2) God has given us a Savior who is like an alchemist. He can, through our faith, turn our leaden experiences into gold.
I could write and think about this all a lot more. In fact, this is worth a deeper investigation so that we can galvanize our own faith and comfort others who experience trial. But for now, I want to keep going on with President Nelson’s talk.
Now is the time to show reverent respect for one’s physical body. It serves as the tabernacle for one’s spirit throughout all eternity. Physical appetites are to be controlled by the will of one’s spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson
Okay – this is like a completely different subject than the last one, but this quote is also standing out to me.
Our preparation to meet God isn’t merely spiritual. It isn’t only physical. IT IS BOTH! We are not only spirits. We aren’t only bodies. The body and the spirit aren’t separate entities. They are a complete being. We learn:
“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:15
We also learn:
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:33-35
We aren’t only spirit. We aren’t only flesh. We are inseparably connected, and when separated, we cannot receive a fulness of joy.
So – how do we prepare to meet God? We learn to be good stewards of the tabernacle of flesh He created for us. I haven’t always been the best at this, but I’m changing. I feel pretty confident that I will be held accountable for this gift of my body. How have I cared for it???
And as I think about “caring” for my body – the answer is right in President Nelson’s quote – we use the will of our spirits to control destructive physical appetites.
When we use our spirit to care for our bodies, not only are we blessed physically, but our spirits are also strengthened. This will help us not only ensuring that we don’t meet our maker too soon, but also that we will be able to stand at the judgement seat of Christ and show that we have been grateful for the gifts of our bodies.
Thanks for reading my thoughts today (if you made it this far). They are all unrelated, but come from the talk by President Nelson. His talk was actually very cohesive (unlike this blog post), and I encourage you to give it a read.
I’m so grateful for the prophet. He has had experiences that have shaped him into the man he is today – prepared him for his calling as the prophet. He understands the purpose of this life, and doesn’t get hung up on perceived injustices. And he can teach us the basics on how we can prepare to meet our God – because we will.