Susan and I were both asked to speak in Sacrament meeting on our 3rd Sunday in the Sage Ward (Los Lunas Stake). This is Susan’s prepared text, however she deviated quite a bit. In particular, she had planned to speak experience regarding abuse by her father in the 3rd person, but decided at the last moment to talk about it in the first person, although she did not mention the source of the trauma that she and her sisters experienced.
JOY AND SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL
Good morning brothers and sisters,
I would like to start out my talk today by quoting Elder Russell M. Nelson’s talk given at the beginning of this month entitled, “Joy and Spiritual Survival.”
“My dear brothers and sisters, today I would like to discuss a principle that is key to our spiritual survival. It is a principle that will only become more important as the tragedies and travesties around us increase.
These are the latter days, so none of us should be surprised when we see prophecy fulfilled. A host of prophets, including Isaiah, Paul, Nephi, and Mormon, foresaw that perilous times would come, that in our day the whole world would be in commotion, that men would “be lovers of their own selves, … without natural affection, … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,” and that many would become servants of Satan who uphold the adversary’s work. Indeed, you and I “wrestle … against the rulers of the darkness of this world, [and] against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
As conflicts between nations escalate, as cowardly terrorists prey on the innocent, and as corruption in everything from business to government becomes increasingly commonplace, what can help us? What can help each of us with our personal struggles and with the rigorous challenge of living in these latter days?”
Wow, do you all feel depressed yet?
For many the knowledge of things to come can cause them to give up hope and give into the despair, but there is no need because just as the Lord prepared a way for Nephi and his brothers to obtain the brass plates, He has prepared a way for us to be able to successfully maneuver through these perilous times.
So, what is this principle that Elder Nelson mentioned?
How does it work?
And, will it really make a difference?
Elder Nelson referred us to Lehi’s life as an example. Lehi definitely experienced trials and sorrows that where brought on by the wickedness of others. Lehi was a wealthy man. He and his family had all the comforts and privileges that comes from great wealth, and suddenly they found themselves fleeing for their lives and leaving all their wealth and belongings behind to wonder in the wilderness, live in tents with no comforts, scavenging for food along the way to who knows where. and why? Because, Lehi attempted to warn the people of the danger they would face if they did not repent.
And, to top this all off, his two eldest son’s wanted to kill their brother Nephi and himself as well. I don’t know about you, but that is level of stress and sorrow I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Yet, Lehi stated, “man is that he might have joy”
In this statement prophet Lehi taught us a principle for spiritual survival.
“man is that he might have joy”
For anyone who is, or has experience real hardships, you might be think, “yeah right!” “What side of reality do you live on?”
I hope that by the end of this talk you will leave with a different perspective.
I would like to share a real life account of five sisters I know very well. I hope their experience will shed light on what Elder Nelson and the prophet Lehi were trying to teach us.
These five women were all born and raise in the Church. They were all active faithful Latter-day Saints doing the best they could to raise their children in the path of righteousness.
Each however had great fears, sorrows, insecurities, and recurring nightmares that were confusing and burdensome. They decided to unit their efforts in fasting and praying for truth.
One thing to note, the Lord will never withhold truth when sincerely sought, and often it comes in small increments. This of course is a tender mercy from the Lord as our minds and emotions can only process so much at a time. Little tid-bits of truth began to come forth which eventually rocked their very foundation.
Their reality was shattered as they remembered the betrayal and trauma they had experience in their youth. Now I chose their experience because I think we can learn from the way each of these women accepted and faced this tremendous trial in their life and the impact it had on their spiritual health and survival.
Each experienced the many emotions that comes through the healing process, the oldest and youngest got stuck in anger, which eventually turned to bitterness and hate. This hardening of their hearts lead to inactivity and for the youngest a complete rejection of God and Christianity.
The other three relied heavily on the Lord to obtain the strength to endure. Today, they are stronger, healthier in body, spirit, and mind.
And I quote:
“The weight and pain I felt from the tremendous sorrow and grief was so great that at one point, I knew that my body could bare no more. I felt as if my 115 pound frame was carrying 10 tons of weight on my shoulders. I was being crushed. It took all my physical strength to take a breath.
I fell to my knees and pleaded with the Lord for help. To my surprise I immediately received it. I felt the weight of my burden literally lift off my shoulders. I could breath without laboring. The immense sorrow was gone!
I then had a prompting that it was for but a moment and that I needed to strengthen myself for what was to come.
I pored myself into the scriptures, I surrounded myself with soothing uplifting music, I studied the words of our Apostles and Prophet, and I continued to seek professional counseling. I did all that was in my power to do, and I prayed that the Lord would help me with what I lacked.
I was so grateful for the peace and joy I experienced during that time period and for the warning I received. When my rest-pit moment had ended, I was spiritually strengthened enough to bare what came next, but I also knew that my Savior was still carrying the greater load for me.
My love for my Savior grew so much as I experienced His Atonement in my behalf. He bore the full weight of my pain, sorrow, and despair, while I experience what I was physically and emotionally able to handle. What I did experience was heavy, but I knew that it was just a drop in the bucket compared to what my Savior bore for me. My physical body could not bare it, He knew it and I knew it, but with His help I was able to not only survive, but to grow in wisdom and understanding of my Heavenly Father’s, and my Savior Jesus Christ’s great love for me.
There were many days that I literally felt angels’ arms around me holding me up. I came to know my Saviors voice and recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I knew I was loved and not alone in my journey. It was during these my darkest hours that I found my greatest joy through the light of His Atoning love.”
So, how does it work?
It works by accepting the Savior’s Atonement in our lives, and not giving up.
And to answer the question:
Does it really make a difference?
The difference in the three sisters that endured in faith vs the two who’s hearts where hardened, demonstrates, to me, that it makes all the difference in the world.
Again I would like to quote Elder Nelsen:
If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness, we will never know joy. The unrighteous may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy! Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ.
He taught us how to have joy. When we choose Heavenly Father to be our God and when we can feel the Savior’s Atonement working in our lives, we will be filled with joy. Every time we nurture our spouse and guide our children, every time we forgive someone or ask for forgiveness, we can feel joy.
There is little I can add to Elder Nelson’s words except that I know from my own experiences in life that his words are true. That through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be saved from the horrors of this world and find peace and joy through the many vicissitudes that come our way.
And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen