Friday, July 10, 2015

Placed on Back Burner

I was recently visiting with a friend who shared this thought with me, "I had a friend come up and let me know that they had 'been thinking about this sister for two days and was going to call but  life happened...'  My friend then shared with me how she had had a moment like that many years ago where she had been touch daily with a sister who was struggling and then 'life happened' and then she lost touch for over a year.  That sister had been on her mind quite a bit and so she once again reached out just to receive no reply.  
Her final thought to me was this, "When you have someone on your mind like that you need to call at that moment instead of putting them on the back burner because that moment is lost."
As I listened to her I found myself thinking about this talk I first heard in 95.
May we never place a distressed friend on the back burner.


F. Burton Howard
Of the First Quorum of the Seventy

When my wife and I were first married, my parents lived in another state. During a break in our university schedule, we decided to go visit them.
We made sandwiches, packed the car, prepared a bed in the backseat for our young son so that he could rest during the 10-hour trip. After a full day in the car, we were beginning to get on each other’s nerves. The preschooler never slept and seemed to gather energy as the day wore on. We knew that if he would just close his eyes and be quiet for a while, he would fall asleep.
After sundown, with two hours of travel still to go, we decided to play a game. The purpose of the game was to try to get an exhausted youngster to sleep. We called it hide-and-seek. Have you ever tried to play hide-and-seek in a car? Let me tell you how we did it. We said to the small boy in back, “Let’s play hide-and-seek.” He enthusiastically agreed. We said, “Close your eyes and don’t open them until we call you. We need time to hide.”
The game started. A front-seat passenger would crouch down in the seat and 10 or 15 seconds later would call, “OK.” Our son would bound over the seat and say, “Aha, I found you!” We would say, “Next time we will hide better. Close your eyes again.” A minute or more would go by. Then we would call, and again he would energetically climb over the seat to find us. Finally we said, “We have a really good place to hide this time. It will take longer. Close your eyes and we will call you.”
A minute, two minutes, five minutes went by. We drove along in silence. The tranquillity was marvelous. We must have traveled 15 miles before we began to whisper quiet congratulations to ourselves on the success of our devious game. Then, from out of the backseat, came the sobbing voice of a heartbroken little boy. “You didn’t call me, and you said you would.”
“You didn’t do what you agreed to do.” What a terrible accusation. It was a defining moment in our lives. We knew that we could never play that game again.
Church members commit to do many things. We agree to serve one another, to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those that stand in need of comfort. We promise to visit each other. We make covenants. We agree to share the gospel and do vicarious work for the dead. And just like that incident in the car so many years ago, we sometimes fail to do what we have agreed to do.
Our justifications are many. We say we will do it later. We have something more important to do right now. We don’t feel well or we don’t feel qualified or we don’t want to be fanatical about it.
When I think of those who want to postpone performance until another time, I remember a question someone once asked at a stake conference. A man said, “Brother Howard, do you know why we can never get more than 83 percent home teaching in the Church?” I said, “No, why?” He said, “Because no one wants to go on Halloween and New Year’s Eve.”
When I hear someone say they can’t serve because they don’t feel well, I remember a stake I once visited in Mexico. The stake president spoke about a lesson he learned from his wife. He said that a week before the conference, he had scheduled some home teaching visits but came home from work and didn’t feel well. He told his wife that he guessed he wouldn’t go home teaching because he was sick. Her reply to him was, “Go sick!” And he went.
I once talked with a man who said, “I know I could do a little more, but no one wants to be a fanatic.” His statement reminded me of a definition I heard once: “A fanatic is a person who does what he thinks the Lord would do if only He had all the facts.” But He who really does know all things isn’t a fanatic; neither are those who do what He would have them do.
When I listen to people say they have something more important to do, I wonder what it could possibly be. What could be more important than keeping a commitment we have made with the Lord?
As I travel the Church I often ask stake presidents what their concerns are and what they perceive to be their greatest need. Frequently the reply is, “We have wonderful people. Some of them just need to be more committed and more dedicated. They need to be more anxiously engaged in the work.”
The Church does have many needs, and one of them is for more people who will just do what they have agreed to do, people who will show up for work and stay all day, who will quietly, patiently, and consistently do what they have agreed to do—for as long as it takes, and who will not stop until they have finished.
One of my heroes has always been the servant of Abraham who was sent to find a wife for Isaac. We do not know his name. We do not know much about his life, but we know a great deal about his character. It was he who governed everything that Abraham had. He was trustworthy and he was trusted. The day came when Abraham put into the care of this servant the most important matter of all—the exaltation of his son.
He wanted Isaac to be an heir of the covenant which he had made with the Lord. He knew that the blessings of that covenant could not be realized if Isaac didn’t marry a good and worthy woman who believed in God. No woman in the land of Canaan was capable of being the mother of Israel. So Abraham asked his servant to promise that he would not permit his son to marry a Canaanite. Instead Abraham sent him to the land of his fathers to find a wife for Isaac.
The servant accepted the commitment and set out on his journey. He traveled many days. He must have encountered trials and hardships. When he finally arrived at his destination, he found many young women there. He devised a test to see which of them was foreordained to be Isaac’s wife. By exercising his faith, he met Rebekah and arrived at the home of her familyand was befriended by them. They invited him to dinner. After days in the desert, and despite his hunger and thirst, this faithful servant said, “I will not eat, until I have told mine errand” (Gen. 24:33).
So it was. He explained the purpose of his journey and his oath to Abraham. One simple statement conveyed his faithfulness and humility. “I am Abraham’s servant,” he said (Gen. 24:34). The kinsfolk wanted a 10-day celebration. The servant replied, “Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master” (Gen. 24:56).
Many would have tarried. Others would have justified unwinding a little by saying that the journey had been long or that they were tired or hungry or thirsty. Some, not wanting to appear too zealous, would have stayed.
A few, not understanding the significance of the errand, might have tried to talk Abraham out of the assignment, claiming that it was foolishness to travel so far in search of a wife. Some would not have had the faith necessary to discover which of all of the young women of the city was the chosen one. Yet this servant did. He knew how to magnify his calling and accomplish that which he had promised his master. He understood a very important truth. Promises are not just pretty words. Promises have eternal consequences.
We are a covenant people. If there is a distinguishing feature about members of the Church, it is that we make covenants. We need to be known as a covenant-keeping people as well. Making promises is easy, but to follow through and do what we have promised is another matter. That involves staying the course, being constant and steadfast. It means keeping the faith and being faithful to the end despite success or failure, doubt or discouragement. It is drawing near to the Lord with all our hearts. It is doing whatever we promise to do with all our might—even when we might not feel like it.
I once attended a funeral service with Elder M. Russell Ballard. A statement he made there has remained with me to this day. He said, “Life isn’t over for a Latter-day Saint until he or she is safely dead, with their testimony still burning brightly.” “Safely dead”—what a challenging concept. Brothers and sisters, we will not be safe until we have given our hearts to the Lord—until we have learned to do what we have promised.
May we do so is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Compensatory Blessings

Over the past few months I have been facing a medical issue 
which has opened some very painful doors 
and has put me on one very emotional roller coaster. 
It has been many years since I have fought with bouts of depression
 but this issue had plunged me right into that dark world of self pity and depression.
Last week as I was contemplating on just letting myself go right over the edge
into the darkness of hopelessness and loss a friend called.
She was just as hopeless and angry as I was.  
As we exchanged our hurts this dear friends voice broke and I could feel her tears.  
At that moment I felt our beloved Savior groaning under the heaviness of our burdens 
and I in my minds eye I saw Him fall to His knees.
Words cannot even describe what I felt at that moment 
but I clearly felt our burdens were lighter.
Shortly after that incident I listened to this talk given by Elder Scott in 1995.  
April 1995 Conference has a very special place in my heart.  
I love this talk when I first heard it in 95 and continue to love it even more now.  
What spoke to me this time around were his words on 
"compensatory blessings."  
I can testify to the truthfulness of his inspired words because 
I am a receiver of those "Compensatory blessings" 
and the Lord has sharpened many of my senses.
After hearing his talk another concerned friend called to let me know
about an article she had read in this months Ensign that made her think of me. 
She is one special lady whom I love so very much.  
She had no idea how deeply this article would touch me.
The article is entitled "Christ has felt my Pain."
It spoke to me because like the author, I received my own witness 
that my Savior understood my pain and
He truly knows how to succor me.
I have a ways to go before healing will begin and though 
I was blessed in a Priesthood blessing that the pain would subside 
the Lord has not seen fit that the physical pain should subside. 
I am in physical pain daily but I know as Elder Scott had shared, 
"This is a growth experience" that The Lord needs me to endure.
 I am sure that many years from now I will look back and say, 
"Now I get why you had me endure that" 
and my heart will be filled with gratitude and love for Him that loves me best.
Below are both articles may one or both speak to you as they spoke to me.

"Finding Joy in Life

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Recently I stood on the north shore of a beautiful Pacific island gazing out to sea at daybreak. 
I was fascinated by the regularity with which the gigantic waves consistently moved forward 
to break on the shoreline. It reminded me of the constancy of the plan of the Lord, 
with its fixed, eternal law, and the security of enduring justice
and the tenderness of mercy when earned by obedience. 
I noticed that each wave would crest at a different point on the horizon
to find its unique path to shore. Some cascaded over rocks, leaving rivulets 
of foaming, white water. 
Others burst on the shore in individual patterns. 
They slid up the moistened sand with playful frothy edges, 
then bubbled and swirled as they receded.
I thought of the unending variety of possibilities the Lord has provided for us.
We have so much freedom, so many opportunities to develop 
our unique personalities and talents, 
our individual memories, our personalized contributions. 
Since there would be no further opportunity to observe the majestic sea, 
I tried to imagine the glorious panorama the brilliant sun would later create. 
As I watched this magnificent scene in reverence, a window formed in the clouds;
the glistening rays of the rising sun broke through the overcast sky, 
transforming everything with its luminescence, its color, its life. 
It was as if the Lord wanted to share an additional blessing,
 a symbol of the light of His teachings that gives brilliance 
and hope to everyone it touches.
Tears of gratitude formed for this wondrous world in which we live, 
for the extraordinary beauty our Heavenly Father so freely shares 
with all who are willing to see. 
Truly, life is beautiful.
Do you take time to discover each day how beautiful your life can be? 
How long has it been since you watched the sun set? 
The departing rays kissing the clouds, trees, hills, and lowlands good night, 
sometimes tranquilly, sometimes with exuberant bursts of color and form. 
What of the wonder of a cloudless night 
when the Lord unveils the marvels of His heavens
—the twinkling stars, the moonlight rays—
to ignite our imagination with His greatness and glory? 
How captivating to watch a seed planted in fertile soil germinate, 
gather strength, and send forth a tiny, seemingly insignificant sprout. 
Patiently it begins to grow and develop its own character led by the genetic code 
the Lord has provided to guide its development. 
With care it surely will become what it is destined to be: 
a lily, crowned with grace and beauty; a fragrant spearmint plant;
 a peach; an avocado; 
or a beautiful blossom with unique delicacy, hue, and fragrance. 
When last did you observe a tiny rosebud form?
Each day it develops new and impressive character, more promise of beauty 
until it becomes a majestic rose. You are one of the noblest of God’s creations. 
His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. 
As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be.
Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. 
I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. 
They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to 
become the confining center of everything you do. 
The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth,
“Men are, that they might have joy.” 1 
That is a conditional statement: “they might have joy.” 
It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. 
It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments,
 have faith in the Master, 
and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth.
Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father 
and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness
 truly can bring you joy. 
Pondering their doctrine will let you enjoy the beauties of this earth
 and enrich your relationships with others.
 It will lead you to the comforting, strengthening experiences
 that flow from prayer to Father in Heaven and the answers He gives in return.
A pebble held close to the eye appears to be a gigantic obstacle.
 Cast on the ground, it is seen in perspective.
 Likewise, problems or trials in our lives need to be viewed
 in the perspective of scriptural doctrine.
Otherwise they can easily overtake our vision, absorb our energy, 
and deprive us of the joy and beauty the Lord intends us to receive here on earth. 
Some people are like rocks thrown into a sea of problems. 
They are drowned by them.
 Be a cork. 
When submerged in a problem, fight to be free to bob up
to serve again with happiness.
You are here on earth for a divine purpose.
It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. 
You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive
the additional blessings God has for you. 2
 The tempering effect of patience is required. 3 
Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil. 
The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. 
That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you 
through every growth experience you encounter, 
whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. 
When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind
be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, 
you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way 
and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. 
If you question everything you are asked to do, 
or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, 
you make it harder for the Lord to bless you. 4
Your agency, the right to make choices, 
is not given so that you can get what you want. 
This divine gift is provided so that you will choose 
what your Father in Heaven wants for you.
That way He can lead you to become all that He intends you to be. 5 
That path leads to glorious joy and happiness.
Learn from inspiring individuals 
who have made peace with their challenges 
and live with joy amid adversity. 
A lovely woman with an aggressive terminal disease 
consistently found joy in life. 
She understood the plan of happiness, had received the temple ordinances,
 and was doing her best to qualify for the promised blessings.
Her personal journal records: “It is a beautiful fall day. 
I picked up the mail and sat down on the swing. 
I was so happy and content in the warm sun, 
the sweet smell of nature and the trees around me. 
I just sat and gloried in the fact that I am still alive on this beautiful earth. … 
The Lord is so good to me. How I thank him that I am still here and feeling so good. 
I am soooooo happy I just want to shout and dance through this beautiful house 
as the sun streams into the big windows. I love being alive.”
A valiant mother courageously fighting a debilitating illness 
spent untold hours laboriously completing a large, 
challenging needlepoint work of art. 
It was a gift to a couple experiencing trials. 
For the couple it is a priceless treasure, a constant reminder of the precious fruits 
of resolute effort in the face of adversity, an enduring message of hope 
bound in the bonds of pure love and willing sacrifice.
Children teach us how to find joy even under the most challenging circumstances.
Children haven’t yet learned to be depressed 
by concentrating on the things they don’t have. 
They find joy in what is available to them. 
I remember a small boy playing along a riverbank. 
He had tied a piece of fishing line to the ends of two discarded soft-drink cans. 
He threw one can over a limb, then filled it with water. 
He would pull on the other can, then let it go. 
The weight of the first can would draw the second one up as it fell. 
He laughed and danced with glee.
Simple, rejuvenating experiences surround us. 
They can be safety valves to keep the tension down and the spirit up. 
Don’t concentrate on what you don’t have or have lost. 
The Lord promised the obedient to share all that He possesses with them. 
You may temporarily lack here, but in the next life, 
if you prove yourself worthy by living valiantly, 
a fulness will be your blessing.
Find the compensatory blessings in your life when, 
in the wisdom of the Lord, 
He deprives you of something you very much want. 
To the sightless or hearing impaired, He sharpens the other senses. 
To the ill, He gives patience, understanding, 
and increased appreciation for others’ kindness.
With the loss of a dear one, 
He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, 
and kindles hope in a future reunion. 
You will discover compensatory blessings 
when you willingly accept the will of the Lord 
and exercise faith in Him. 6
To the afflicted people of Alma, the Lord said:
 “I will also ease the burdens … 
that even you cannot feel them upon your backs … ;
 and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, 
and that ye may know of a surety that I, 
the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
“And … the burdens … were made light; 
yea, the Lord did strengthen them 
that they could bear up their burdens with ease, 
and they did submit cheerfully and with patience
 to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13–15).
Attempt to be creative for the joy it brings. 
After their noble husbands were called home, Sisters Camilla Kimball, 
Amelia McConkie, and Helen Richards learned to paint. 
They not only leave legacies of art, but they will never see a sunset, 
a face, or a tree the same again. 
They now perceive subtle nuances of color and form and 
rejoice in the abounding beauty around them.
Select something like music, dance, sculpture, or poetry. 
Being creative will help you enjoy life. 
It engenders a spirit of gratitude. 
It develops latent talent, sharpens your capacity to reason, to act,
 and to find purpose in life. 
It dispels loneliness and heartache.
 It gives a renewal, a spark of enthusiasm, and zest for life.
Willing service to others is a key to enduring happiness. 
President Kimball said: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. 
But it is usually through another mortal that he meets our needs.
 Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.” 7
I know of a woman who was joyously happy.
Each morning she would ask her Father in Heaven to lead her
to someone she could help. 
That sincere prayer was answered time and again. 
The burdens of many were eased and their lives brightened. 
She was blessed continually for being an instrument directed by the Lord.
I know that every difficulty we face in life, 
even those that come from our own negligence 
or even transgression, can be turned by the Lord into growth experiences, 
a virtual ladder upward. 8
 I certainly do not recommend transgression as a path to growth.
It is painful, difficult, and so totally unnecessary. 
It is far wiser and so much easier to move forward in righteousness. 
But through proper repentance, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
and obedience to His commandments, even the disappointment that comes 
from transgression can be converted into a return to happiness.
Make a list of things you can do for happiness, such as:
    Ponder the scriptures to understand the plan of happiness.
    Pray with faith in Jesus Christ.
    Love and serve others.
    Receive the temple ordinances. Return to bless others.
    Listen to the prophet and obey his counsel.
    Be grateful for what you have.
    Smile more.
Your list will provide keys to contentment and joy.
A famous Brazilian song repeats a falsehood many believe: 
Sadness never ends, but happiness does. 
I witness that with faith in the Savior and obedience to His teachings, 
happiness never ends, but sadness does.
No matter how difficult something you or a loved one faces, 
it should not take over your life and be the center of all your interest. 
Challenges are growth experiences, 
temporary scenes to be played out on the background of a pleasant life. 
Don’t become so absorbed in a single event that 
you can’t think of anything else or care for yourself 
or for those who depend upon you.
 Remember, much like the mending of the body, 
the healing of some spiritual and emotional challenges takes time.
The Lord has said, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; 
but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” 9 
As you are patient, you will come to understand what the statement 
“I am with thee” means. God’s love brings peace and joy.
Your faith in Jesus Christ gives life enduring meaning. 
Remember you are on a journey to exaltation. 
Sometimes you have experiences that yield more happiness than others, 
but it all has purpose with the Lord. 10
As a witness of the Savior, I exhort you to forgive 
any you feel may have offended you.

If there is transgression, repent of it, 
that the Master may heal you.
Thank your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son 
for the plan of happiness 
and the gospel principles upon which it is based. 
Be grateful for the ordinances and the covenants they have provided. 
I solemnly testify they have power to crown your life with peace and joy,
 to give it purpose and meaning. 
You will learn that sadness and disappointment are temporary. 
Happiness is everlastingly eternal because of Jesus Christ.
 I solemnly witness that He lives, 
that He loves you, and that He will help you.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

"Christ has Felt My Pain

A gentle reminder about an aspect of the Atonement I had forgotten led to a change in attitude and perspective.
man sitting in chair
Photograph of author by Welden C. Andersen
I sighed heavily but quietly in the darkness of my hospital room.
I felt frustrated, but I didn’t want to disturb my mother, 
asleep on a couch not far from my bed. 
I was recovering from my fourth unexpected surgery in three weeks, with another operation planned in two months during the summer. 
That later operation, we had been told, would last about five hours, 
with four to six weeks afterward for recovery in the hospital.
I was born in 1986. 
Soon after birth, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy secondary to congenital hydrocephalus. 
Hydrocephalus, called “water on the brain,” 
is a condition in which an individual has either too much or too little cerebrospinal fluid. 
In my now 28 years of life I have had more than 
50 surgical procedures for these conditions.
Nevertheless, the Lord has richly blessed me. 
One of my first doctors counseled my parents,
 “Take him home and simply love him. 
He will never be anything more than a limp noodle on the sofa.” 
Thankfully, my parents didn’t listen. 
Throughout my life, they have encouraged me to do 
and accomplish many things. 
They never treated me any differently than they did my siblings. 
Thanks to them, in spite of my disability,
I lead the fullest life that I can.

I Heard My Name

Nevertheless, on what felt like the darkest and most dismal night 
I had ever faced, I forgot the many blessings 
I had received from the Lord. 
I thought only of the sorry state of my life. 
My negativity engulfed me,
 and I began to doubt all I had been taught about 
my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ
A loving God, I rationalized, would not have left me alone
 to face this nightmarish reality. 
Worst of all, no one knew what I was going through. 
My family felt a portion, but they did not fully understand
how painful my experiences had been. No one did.
I was about to voice these thoughts in prayer 
when I heard my name. 
Through my anguish I recognized the voice of the Spirit, 
carrying a message to my soul from my Savior
reminding me I was not alone. 
Jesus Christ knew what I was going through. 
He had felt my pain.
As the message resonated in me, doubt was replaced by shame.
 In my self-pity, I had forgotten about Jesus Christ. 
I had been taught much about how the Savior suffered for our sins. 
I had forgotten that in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross,
 the Lord had also borne my grief and carried my pain
 (see Isaiah 53:4;Alma 7:11). 
This reminder forever changed the way I look at the 
Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Inwardly, I resolved that I would never again forget. 
This reminder would govern my thoughts, words, 
and deeds in this life and in the life to come.
This change in perspective also brought a change in attitude. Remembering that I am not alone, 
I have been more positive about my situation.
 I believe that this allowed me to recover more quickly
 from the surgeries. 
It also helped me to come through the 
extensive surgery in the summer within three hours 
and cut my hospital stay 
(originally projected to be four to six weeks) to only three weeks.

Taking Courage

My disabilities and the trials that accompany them 
have not been easy to bear. 
But because I know that my Savior completely understands 
what I am going through, even if no one else does, 
I know He will always be there for me.
All I have to do is
 “drop my burden[s] at his feet and bear a song away”
(“How Gentle God’s Commands,” Hymns, no. 125).
I will be forever grateful to a Savior 
who not only carried my sins, sorrows, and afflictions
 but also took the time to remind me that He has done so. 
I hope that my experiences can help others to take courage,
 bear up under their burdens,
remember that they are not alone,
 and be blessed to endure to the end."
We Are Not Alone
Elder David A. Bednar
“There is no physical pain, 
no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul 
or heartache, no infirmity 
or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality 
that the Savior did not experience first.
 In a moment of weakness we may cry out, 
‘No one knows what it is like. No one understands.’
 But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, 
for He has felt and borne our individual burdens.”
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign,May 2014, 90.