Sometimes I realize that it’s been a few months since I posted anything, so here I am. Happy Wednesday! Okay, so it’s more like, a couple weeks ago I gave a talk at church and really felt like I should share it with the world. Or at least, my world of influence. Whichever. I’m finally getting around to it, and as far as my “finallys” go, this is pretty good.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Mormon. That means that I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Note the prominent display of the Savior’s name. Yes. Mormons are Christians.) I grew up in my religion, but I know that in the others out there, for the worship services, the pastor or priest or preacher (whoever) is the one who gives the sermon or whatever it’s called in the various other religions. In our church, each week different members from the local congregations (called wards) are asked by the local leaders to give short talks. So, I gave one of these the last Sunday in July in my ward. I had over a month to prepare (not typical) and my topic was Faith and Hope. Here’s what I said:
“Good Morning, brothers and sisters. If you’ve been here at all this month, I’m sure you know what I’m going to talk about today. That’s right: faith and hope. Speaking at the end of the month, I felt like I should focus more on hope, but sometimes the Lord has other ideas for us than we have for ourselves. So, we’ll just see where this goes.
I’ll start by sharing my current favorite scripture about faith. It’s in Mark chapter 9. There’s a father who has brought his son to a group of disciples to have his son healed, but they can’t do it. Then Jesus returns and asks what’s going on. The father explains and begs for the Savior to heal his son. Here’s verse 23, “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” And my favorite, verse 24, “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
How often do we believe and not believe at the same time? Sometimes I know it all in my head and my heart just can’t quite get there. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Whenever I have those moments, I remember this scripture and I cry out like that father did, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” And He does. Every. Single. Time.
It’s the little things here and there. Like the call from your daughter’s principal in the middle of summer break to say that he realized they made a mistake in the class assignments for next year and it turns out she’s going to have the spunky, smiling teacher you met briefly at the school’s literacy night after all. The one you really wanted her to have for next year because last year’s teacher just didn’t mesh well, and you don’t want your kid to hate school.
Or the time you finally realize that you want to go to a writers’ conference and find out that there is an awesome and affordable one near you. Then you go and find a whole community of people who actually understand you.
Or the time when you’re half complaining to yourself about always getting stuck with the same calling and never having the chance to grow in different ways and then out of nowhere you’re called as the new ward choir director, which is completely and utterly terrifying because even though you’ve been playing the piano for 29 years, you don’t really know how to lead music and you hate being the center of attention and being in charge. But you say yes anyway because isn’t that what you were just asking for in your prayers? New ways to grow?
So, whenever I ask for it, the Lord builds my faith through these little things. Because little things are important. Don’t believe me? Let me read Alma 37:6 “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass;…”
And if you need something more recent, President Oaks’ last conference talk was titled “Small and Simple Things.” He said, “We need to be reminded that in total and over a significant period of time, seemingly small things bring to pass great things.” He showed us pictures he had taken of sidewalks cracked from tree roots. And reminded us that all the little things, the simple, daily things we should do will take us where we want to go, but sometimes it’s hard to see our progress now.
Likewise, he cautioned us that other little things that aren’t important will lead us away from our desired destination. He said, “President Wheelwright gave a similar caution to his BYU-Hawaii audience: ‘It is in failing to do the small and simple things that faith wavers, miracles cease, and progress towards the Lord and His kingdom is first put on hold and then begins to unravel as seeking after the kingdom of God is replaced with more temporal pursuits and worldly ambitions.'”
So, what are some of these simple things we should do? We pray, read and study the scriptures, attend church and the temple, have family home evening. We pay our tithing, live the Word of Wisdom, keep the commandments. Repent constantly. Be cheerful and joyful. Help others. Minister to our neighbors. Share the gospel. Make new friends. Smile more. Sing.
Now this led me to an interesting place. And this morning you all have had a peek into the workings of the mind of a writer, and we’re all going to keep going on that journey for a little while longer. The next thought I had was that wonderful quote, which I had to look up to get it exactly right and to properly credit it, about doubting your doubts. It’s from Elder Uchtdorf’s October 2013 conference talk. Here’s the exact quote: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters -my dear friends- please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” But what does that look like?
Bear with me. Let’s take a look at a little dystopian series you may have heard of: The Hunger Games. Now, I didn’t rewatch the movies last night to double-check that this made it into them, but I know it’s in the books. So, if you haven’t read them, but you saw the movies, and this isn’t in there, you’ll just have to take my word for it. The main character is a young woman named Katniss. There comes a point where she has been through so many traumatic events that she’s starting to lose her mind. She doesn’t know what’s real anymore and she panics a lot. To help her calm down, she lists the things she knows. She starts with her name.
If/when you have doubts of any kind, doubt them first. Don’t doubt your faith. Don’t doubt what you already know. Start by listing the things you know, maybe even your name. You are a child of God, after all. Children have names. If you were born in the Church, chances are high that you were even given a name and a blessing as a baby. There’s one name. If you’ve been baptized, you’ve taken upon you the name of Christ. There’s another name. Just like that, you have two different names and you know you’re a child of God.
That brings us to hope. (Finally) The Guide to the Scriptures defines hope as “The confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness. The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.” Hope and faith are so intertwined that you just can’t have one without the other. And so, I’ll leave you with this last scripture. 2 Nephi 31:20 “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Not sure why I needed to share this with all of you, but every day I try to be better about actually doing the things that come to mind. So, if any of you want to know more about Mormons, you can ask me, or any other Mormon you know (you probably know at least one). Or you can flag down a pair of missionaries. Or you can visit this awesome, friendly website: Mormon.org