Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe that we as humans exist because our spirits — created by Heavenly Parents before this world was — give life to our earthly bodies. (And death is simply the separation of the body and spirit. Mormons believe in a universal resurrection, where all will have an immortal body reunited with our spirits.)
We were sent here to this mortal sphere to learn by experience, and to discover and understand and live true to as much spiritual truth as we are able to gain in our lifetimes. Mortality gives us much opportunity to experience opposition, the full range of the sweet and the bitter. The sweet can be so breathtaking. And the bitter can feel leave us feeling like we are being hit by waves, unable to catch a breath.
This weekend, I had a chance to have heart-to-heart talks about opposition, trials, and growth with two of my friends. I listened to each share very personal wrestles (and how God is helping them), and they also listened to me open up about some of the “in the quiet heart” struggles I am facing. Some of these are struggles are fears I’ve dealt with since childhood, things I feel like I “should” be over by now. Tearfully, I expressed to both that I feel foolish struggling with (and sharing) these things. My head says that I “should” be better. (“I have a testimony. My spirit knows and feels the answers to my fears….”) But it’s as though my mortal self is not yet able to truly absorb and be changed by the truths. (Four decades is a long time. It’s hard to undo beliefs and thought/belief patterns that form in childhood. And that’s okay. Things take time.)
My friends were both so kind, reminding me that we each have our struggles. As cliché as that may sound, we truly do have experiences that can seem to push all our buttons and sometimes make us wonder what good could come of such pain.
Speaking of clichés, I don’t believe the cliché that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle. He does sometimes give us more than our mortal selves can handle. What good can come of this? We can experience the sweetness of God’s grace and the way hearts can be knit together when we are willing to allow others to help. Life’s experiences also allow us to have empathy for others, to serve and share and lift with educated hearts. This is what I experienced with and from my friends.
The feeling I had being comforted and encouraged by my friends came back to me as I was reading a 1971 General Conference talk by Ezra Taft Benson. A simple phrase leaped off the screen as I read. Then-Elder Benson (who later became the 13th president of the Church) was talking about how not following the Savior can be detrimental to our spiritual progression. As true as I know that is, the simple phrase that spoke to me was where he talked about “our individual battles to overcome our worlds.”
The kindness shown to me felt even more validated in these words. As much as struggle is just part of mortality, and there can be commonalities to our struggles, the journey we each walk because of them is so. very. personal. My childhood-turned-adulthood fears are an example of my own “individual battle to overcome [my] world.”
How about you? What personal battle scars do you carry so far in your mortal journey? What fears, beliefs, thoughts, weaknesses, or sins repeat in your life and leave you feeling battle weary, and sometimes in over your head, wondering what good could come of this?
For me, for you, I share what Elder Benson continued to teach:
“[W]e are not without his help. Again and again he told his disciples, and all of us, “Let not your heart be troubled. …”
“If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” [Other scriptures add meaning to this one, reminding us that He will do that which is right and expedient with God’s will for us — helping us understand why sometimes our heartfelt pleas are not granted as we would wish, or as quickly as we would like.]
“I will not leave you comfortless. …”
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. …” (John 14:1, 14, 18, 27.)
If there is one thing living prophets and apostles (and ancient ones, too) teach, it’s this: We need Jesus, and He stands at the helm of each of our individual lives (another thought from my weekend conversations) to help us. I hope you can feel of His strength, help, and love as you face your battles and overcome the trials of your own personal world.
– – – – –
Editor’s note: This post is part of a collaborative effort of Mormon bloggers who are reading and writing about General Conference talks. We’ve started with talks from 1971. The goal is to read and write weekly until all of the talks from prophets and apostles are read. If we keep up the pace we have started, we will have caught up by July 2029 with the April 2029 Conference!
This week, we read the following four talks. I would recommend them all.
Sometimes I hear people wonder and ask about what Mormon doctrine really is. One way to answer that question is to look at the patterns that are repeated across decades, even centuries of time. It’s a very powerful thing to see the messages from the past that are so relevant to the present (note even the title to Spencer W. Kimball’s talk).
Here are the posts by fellow bloggers about this first cluster of General Conference talks.