This is a condensed version of a sacrament meeting talk given few weeks ago. I was asked to use President Uchtdorf’s address at the the recent General YW Meeting.
Back when I was a youth in the church, I often felt frustrated by the prescribed roles we seemed to be taught in YW, and in seminary. It all felt like a single track, with little room to be myself. I expected that my membership in the church would make me different at school, but to seen as different at church as well, and to feel criticised for not fitting into the mould, could be particularly galling. Things didn’t improve when I joined RS and went away to university, and it wasn’t unusual for me to be hurling the RS manual at the wall (I don’t miss those manuals). I much preferred Sunday School, and during one Sunday School lesson, this scripture spoke straight to my heart:
“Yea, verily I say, let all these take their journey unto one place, in their several courses, and one man shall not build upon another’s foundation, neither journey in another’s track.” (D&C 52:33)
In chapter 17 of his book “The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet” George Q. Cannon wrote about the circumstances surrounding the revelation given in that section 52. The 3rd general conference of the church had just been held in Kirtland. Cannon wrote:
“In the midst of the congregation the Lord made known through Joseph, that their next conference should be held far away in the state of Missouri upon the spot consecrated by God unto the children of Jacob, the heirs of His covenant. In the same revelation the Lord directed the prophet and Sidney Rigdon to prepare for their journey into the land of Zion; promising to them that through their faith they should know the land which was to be forever the inheritance of the Saints of the Most High. Special instructions were also given to others of the elders, commanding them to go forth two by two in the proclamation of the word of God by the way, to every congregation where they could get a hearing. Though the western frontier of Missouri was their destination, they were commanded to take different routes and not build on each other’s foundation or travel in each other’s track.” (Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, p. 114)
Their different routes to, what was for them such a special place: Zion, meant they would meet with different people along the way.
In his recent address at the General Young Women Meeting, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about the experience of his family. His father was a political dissenter in East Germany, and eventually it became necessary for the family to flee the country. He said:
“It was decided that the safest plan was to leave at different times and follow different routes to the West, leaving all our belongings behind.
“Since my father was at greatest risk, he took the quickest journey, through Berlin. My older brothers headed north, and each found his own way west. My sister—who would have been the age of many of you here today—together with Helga Fassmann, her teacher in Young Women, and some others took a train that passed briefly through West Germany. They paid a porter to unlock one of the doors for them, and after the train crossed the West German border, they jumped from the moving train to freedom. How I admired my sister for her courage.
“I was the youngest child, and my mother decided that she and I would walk across a mountain range separating the two countries.”
Our lives are our journeys, a journey we take from and, hopefully to return back to, our Heavenly Parents. Each of us has our own life to live, our own journey to take. President Uchtdorf described the beginnings of that journey, our having to leave our Heavenly Parents, our uncertainty over what lay ahead, but also the faith we must have felt in the plan we had supported, and as he put it:
“And so, [we] took a deep breath …
“And a great step forward …
“And here [we] are!
“[We] have, each one of [us], embarked on [our] own wonderful journey back to [our] heavenly home!”
There are 3 things we have to help us to return: The scriptures, the words of prophets and apostles and our own personal revelation that comes through the Holy Spirit. Elder Oaks described them as: “two lines of communication… what we may call the personal line and the priesthood line.”
Our scriptures, and the words of prophets and apostles constitute what he describes as the priesthood line, whilst our own personal revelation that comes through the Holy Spirit is the personal line. Together, these provide us with a personalised map. Both lines are necessary in this life. The priesthood line provides us with a general map or guide for living. Like all maps it does not highlight all the bumps in the road, road closures, flooding, or landslides and the like of our lives, many of which would be transitory events, some of which may permanently alter the topography. Just as today, we can use the internet to seek updates on traffic conditions for the journeys that we take, we have personal revelation to guide us in those details.
We can learn from Nephi. In the journey he and his family were taking, guided by the liahona, there were pitfalls and hardships. I am reminded of the broken bows, and the necessity of finding food. Nephi was also required to build a ship to sail to the promised land. He did not know everything at the beginning, but asked for instruction throughout, not doubting (1 Nephi 17,18). We can each experience this process of “growing up unto the Lord” as described by former RS General President Anne C. Pingree:
“we will be asked to do all we can, in some cases, even more than we know how to do. The challenges may be formidable and the route sometimes unknown. But inevitable wrong turns notwithstanding, those who strive to be truly Christlike—with steadfast determination to serve others and a willingness to press forward in faith—can come to echo this grand spiritual truth shared by Nephi as he continued his shipbuilding: “And I … did … pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.”
In his address President Uchtdorf highlights three important messages from the scriptures for us to remember on our journeys through life:
We are not alone on our journey, our Heavenly Father knows us, and even when no-one else is listening, He will listen. He rejoices with us and grieves with us.
I remember an experience of my own: my first child had just been born, and people would come up and ask how I was, and then immediately launch into their own stories. I began to feel, nobody wanted to know how I was, no-one was listening to what I said. I was feeling particularly sorry for myself on one occasion when there came a quiet voice into my mind that said, “I’m listening, you can tell me.” Sheri Dew expressed it:
“The Lord has promised to heal our broken hearts and “to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18); to give power to the faint, to heal the wounded soul, and to turn our weakness into strength (see Isa. 40:29; Jacob 2:8; Ether 12:27); to take upon Him our pains and sicknesses, to blot out our transgressions if we repent, and loose the bands of death (see Alma 7:11–13). He promised that if we will build our lives upon His rock, the devil will have no power over us (see Hel. 5:12). And He has vowed that He will never leave us or forsake us (see Heb. 13:5). There is simply no mortal equivalent. Not in terms of commitment, power, or love.”
President Uchtdorf spoke about the language of love. He said:
“That language is the pure love of Jesus Christ. It is the most powerful language in the world. The love of Christ is not a pretend love. It is not a greeting-card love. It is not the kind of love that is praised in popular music and movies. This love brings about real change of character. It can penetrate hatred and dissolve envy. It can heal resentment and quench the fires of bitterness. It can work miracles.”
He tells us that
“we can know if [we] are learning this language of love by evaluating what motivates [our] thoughts and actions. That when [our] primary thoughts are focused on how things will benefit [us], [our] motivations may be selfish and shallow. But that when [our] primary thoughts and behaviours are focused on serving God and others—when [we] truly desire to bless and lift up those around [us]—then the power of the pure love of Christ can work in [our] heart and life. … This deep and abiding influence is a language that reaches to the very soul. It is a language of understanding, a language of service, a language of lifting and rejoicing and comforting.”
I have on a few occasions in my life, felt cocooned by the warm and comforting love of Christ, and our Heavenly Parents. On occasion I have caught a glimpse of what it is to feel that for those around me. It is truly a privilege, and something I must work at to feel more often.
President Uchtdorf suggests that we don’t focus on the bumps, detours and hazards, but look for the happiness in life. We need to find peace in the big things, Elder Ballard noted that:
“At some point in our journey we may feel much as the pioneers did as they crossed Iowa—up to our knees in mud, forced to bury some of our dreams along the way. … Tapping unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance, we, as did our forebears, inch ever forward toward that day when our voices can join with those of all pioneers who have endured in faith, singing: “All is well! All is well!” (Hymns, 30).”
And also in the small things as described by former YW General Presidency counsellor Virginia H. Pearce:
“Most of our lives are not a string of dramatic moments that call for immediate heroism and courage. Most of our lives, rather, consist of daily routines, even monotonous tasks, that wear us down and leave us vulnerable to discouragement. Sure, we know where we’re going, and if it were possible we would choose to jump out of bed, work like crazy, and be there by nightfall. But our goal, our journey’s end, our Zion is life in the presence of our Heavenly Father. … The pioneer steadiness, the plain, old, hard work of it all, their willingness to move inch by inch, step by step toward the promised land inspire me as much as their more obvious acts of courage.
“… Do you recognize the fortitude and belief in the journey’s end that are required in order to keep saying your prayers every day and keep reading the scriptures? Do you see the magnificence in giving time a chance to whittle your problems down to a manageable size?… how happy people are who have learned to bend to the rhythm of paced and steady progress—even to celebrate and delight in the ordinariness of life.”
I like that of all the things he could have chosen to emphasize, President Uchtdorf emphasises we should be fearless, loving and optimistic. I would describe myself as a cautious realist, often wary of others, so I have plenty to work on. I particularly appreciate his recognition that we each have different journeys.
Of the journeys his family had to take, President Uchtdorf said:
“Even though each member of our family had taken very different routes and experienced very different hardships along the way, eventually all of us made it to safety. We were finally reunited as a family. What a glorious day that was!”
Of the journeys to Zion, made by those listed in section 52 of the Doctrine and Covenants, George Q. Cannon wrote:
“Joseph himself says that the meeting with his brethren who had long awaited his arrival upon the confines of civilisation, was a glorious one, moistened by many tears. It seemed good and pleasant for brethren to meet in unity and love after the privations which, for the sake of obeying the commands of God, they had endured since their separation.” (Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, p. 115)
Our return to our Heavenly Parents ought to be far more glorious than either of these reunions. As President Uchtdorf described:
“as [we] honour and live true to the covenants, the principles, and the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ, at the end of [our] journey Heavenly Father will be there. He will embrace [us], and [we] will know once and for all that [we] have made it home safely …. in the end, [we will] rejoice and join [our] voice[s] with a heavenly chorus singing praises to His holy name.”
- How can we better recognise and appreciate the differences in our journeys, as well as the similarities?
- How can we best help eachother?
- What are the things that help you on your journey?
- Which scriptural messages would you choose to highlight?