Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Severe Mercy"

This weekend is our "Pioneer Days."  I am saddened and awestruck by what our pioneer fore bearers had to endure.  As I was thinking about a message I wanted to share with some of my Sisters in the gospel, this talk by Elder and Sister Hafen came into my mind.
Due to the longness of the talk I only shared some key points that jumped out at me.  I also tried to include the link to where one could go and listen to their talk for themselves.  Unfortunately some things just don't seem to work well for me on trying to share links.  If the link fails you can go to "BYU Woman's Conference" home page then go to a tab on the home page "Women Conference addresses."
I hope their words of wisdom inspire all who read this as they did me:

I don’t know about you but oh how I love Pioneer Days.  
They always have a big celebration down in Ogden Utah which I every year I say I’m going 
but alas I have not yet made it; but one day I hope to.  
Speaking of Ogden the temple open house beings August 1st.
The pictures I have seen the new temple is AMAZING!!!  
I will for sure be going to that open house and will spend quality time in a temple that I love so very much.

I have pondering what “pioneer message” that I would like to share with you.  
Then on one of my Education Week messages I found the message I wanted to share with you. 
The speakers were Elder and Sister Bruce C. Hafen.  
Their comments struck a chord deep within me and I hope the words 
I share with you will strike a chord deep within you.
Elder Hafen started with this comment,
 “…I’m reminded of what Elder LeGrand Richards said years ago at the dedication of the Relief Society building in Salt Lake City, where all three auxiliary presidencies now have their offices. 
Belle Spafford, then the general president of the Relief Society, said just before Elder Richards spoke, 
“Elder Richards, we sisters want you…to know that the Relief Society is 100% behind the priesthood.”  When Elder Richards went to the pulpit right after that, he said, 
“Sister Spafford, I’m glad to know that the Relief Society is 100% behind the priesthood—
because the PRIESTHOOD is 100 YEARS behind the Relief Society!” 
I’m afraid that’s still true, but we’re working on it.”

Sister Hafen then spoke, “At our dinner table the other night, a friend shared a story 
from what she calls her “spiritual first-aid kit.”  
It’s a story she remembers when life feels cold and harsh—
when the exhaustion is deep, the snow is getting deeper, and “Rocky Ridge” is still ahead. 
It comes from the high plains of Wyoming in October of 1856.                                                            
Our friend calls this story “Severe Mercy.”  

Nine year old Agnes Caldwell had been wading through the wind driven snow 
with the rest of the Willie Handcart Company for what must have felt like an eternity 
when the relief wagons appeared on the trial ahead of them. 
Before the storm hit, Agnes had been taking each mile of the autumn trial in stride, 
even the one that had been strewn with rattlesnakes. 
For that mile, she and her friend Mary held hands and jumped again and again 
over the snakes until they were out of danger, mercifully unharmed.  
But after days of dragging her nearly frozen feet through the deepening snow, 
she wasn’t skipping anymore.  And she was literally starving.  

The death toll in her company was rising with every passing night.  
Yet the arrival of the relief party, all Agnes records  in her understated history is,
 “It certainly was a relief.”  And then she describes her own rescue, and this is the point today:  

“The infirm and the aged were allowed to ride, all able bodied continued to walk.  
When the wagons started out, a number of us children decided to see how long 
we could keep up with the wagons, in hopes of being asked to ride.  
One by one they all fell out, until I was the last one remaining, so determined was I that I should get a ride.  After what seemed the longest run I {had} ever made before or since, the driver, 
{Brother} Kimball, called to me, ‘Say sissy, would you like a ride?’ 
I answered in my very best manner, ‘Yes sir.’

“At this he reached over, {took} my hand, {then clucked} to his horses 
{which also made} me run {even faster} with legs that seemed to {be able to} run no farther.  
On he went {for what} seemed miles, {I thought at that moment} 
he was the meanest man that had ever lived or that I had ever heard of,
 and other things that would not be a credit coming from one so young.                 

Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped.  
Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. 
Here I had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well 
by doing this he saved me from freezing {to death.}”

“Can you see why our friend calls this story “Severe Mercy”?  
“I thought he was the meanest man that ever lived”?  
Sitting here in our climate-controlled comfort, put yourself in Agnes “shoes.” 
If I had been Agnes, I would have expected a little compassion from this “angel of mercy.”  
Couldn’t one look into my frostbitten face or at my bony, rag-wrapped hand 
have entitled me to a crumb of kindness?  But no.  
This man took Agnes by that little hand and instead of swinging her up into his lap, 
in an act of tender mercy, he signaled his team to go faster forcing her into a stronger, 
faster run, which increased her circulation.  
His severe mercy saved her life.”

“This story has much to teach us about the redeeming and strengthening powers 
of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  You can see the symbolism: 
the wilderness strewn with rattlesnakes; the brutal and unexpected blizzard that turned 
that trial to Zion into a refiner’s fire; the young girl with her passion and determination
to give the journey everything she’s got; the wagon master who was loving enough 
to lend his strength yet wise enough to stretch her limits—and courageous enough 
to volunteer for the rescue in the first place.  

This man didn’t have to leave the comforts of his home, 
and this young girl didn’t have to keep hold of his hand when he pressed her to give more.  
Yes, he saved her life, but so did she!  
To be successful, the rescue effort had to be reciprocal.  
They both had to give it their all.”

They went on to talk about the purpose of the Atonement, one statement Sister Hafen said 
that struck me was, “…or, more broadly does it mean that He has taken upon Himself all human misery, 
thus relieving mankind of all unfairness, injustice, and all other forms of sorrow and suffering?  
We don’t think so, because those interpretations undermine the Atonement’s purpose.  
And that purpose is to help us grow and develop—
not always to take away from us the very problems that can make our development possible.  
Yet His succoring will give us strength, healing and peace…
it’s not that God will remove the hard things if we just push the right button, 
such as when a computer screen says ‘click here to enable.’  
Rather, He asks us to meet the condition of grace not to to appease Him, but to engage us.  
There’s Agnes again.”

“One of the survivors of the handcart tragedy said, 
‘We came to know God in our extremities, and the price we paid to know Him was a privilege to pay.’  
As that incident suggests, the deeper we dig into our sacrificial experiences, 
the more likely it is that we could find Him there.  
The Savior can help us to not only survive suffering, but when we seek Him while in it—
humbling ourselves and having faith in Him—He will make weak things become strong unto us. 
Fears can become faith and trust.  Anger melts into meekness.  Anguish becomes empathy.   
Line upon line, grace for grace, He causes—if we will—the afflictions to be consecrated for our gain.  

How does He consecrate our afflictions for our gain? 
It has something to do with what Elder Neal Maxwell called Christ’s “earned empathy,” 
derived from submitting Himself to all of life’s bitterness, descending below all things so 
‘that he may know…now to succor {and strengthen} his people according to their infirmities.”…
”He whispers to strengthen us in our own Gethsemane, 
‘Fear not, I am with thee; oh be not dismayed//the flames will not hurt thee; 
I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.” (How Firm a Foundation”).

In closing I would like to close with a statement Elder Hafen said, 
“…The Lord not only forgives us and eases our burdens,
 ultimately He will also accept and perfect the honest in heart 
who observe every sacrifice with a contrite spirit—even when their lives fall short of flawless perfection.  
The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes this acceptance both real and possible—
and He stretches forth His accepting hands to us ‘all the day long.’ 
I testify that each of us can one day experience that ultimate acceptance,
 if we really want it—so long as we don’t want anything else more.”

My beloved sisters I just took highlights of this talk which has truly inspired me as 
I have pondered on their words.  May a piece of their words also inspire you.  
If you would like to read the full talk it can be found online at 
BYU Women’s Conference and the title is 
The Redeeming and Strengthening Powers of the Atonement” 
Elder Bruce C and Sister Marie K Hafen.  
The address was given May 1, 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment