Editor’s note: This post is part of a collaborative effort of Mormon bloggers who are reading and writing about General Conference talks. We call it the General Conference Odyssey. This article at Meridian Magazine explains more about the Odyssey, and includes some thoughts from those of us participating in this project.
One of the things I appreciate about being a part of this effort is to read the words of my fellow brothers and sisters. Their perspectives and experience enrich my experience engaging the words of the prophets. Of course, we don’t want our posts to replace the words of the prophets, but we hope perhaps this project will inspire you in some way, as it has us.
The other posts from this week’s reading, which focused on the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 1972 General Conference, are at the bottom of the post. (I’ve also included links to last week’s posts.)
There were a lot of things that stood out to me from this week’s reading for the General Conference Odyssey, but there is one message I feel most pressed to record for my life’s record.
The quote I will center my thoughts around in from Hartman Rector, Jr.
“[D]o the right thing because you love the Lord. It is so vitally important that, I feel, if you do anything in righteousness for any other reason than you love the Lord, you are wrong—at least you are on very shaky ground. And, somewhere your reasons for acting in righteousness will not be strong enough to see you through. You will give way to expediency, or peer group pressure, or honor, or fame, or applause, or the thrill of the moment, or some other worldly reason. Unless your motives are built upon the firm foundation of love of the Lord, you will not be able to stand.”
As a recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser, this concept of doing things for the right reasons is a critical life principle for me. I repeat the phrase “Do it for God” on almost a daily basis. But I can feel that God wants me to understand this little mantra of mine more deeply. This week, the concept of offering all that I do to God (and God alone) has come through in multiple ways: in a movie my daughter and I watched a week ago, in my 12-step meeting this week, in Relief Society on Sunday.
One hand, it seems so simple. Just do good because you love God. I think few of us who are religious choose such a life without some measure of love for God. And yet, the natural-man tendencies to want human reassurance are strong for me. As Elder Carl B. Cook said in his 2012 General Conference talk, “Look Up”:
I think the challenge for all of us…is to try not to look sideways to see how others are viewing our lives but to look up to see how Heavenly Father sees us. He doesn’t look on the outward appearance but on the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7). And He knows, better than anyone else, what each one of us needs.
In addition to having the fear of man inside of me, I also am coming to realize that while I have always loved God and tried to be obedient, I have also feared Him. I have misunderstood His character. I spent four decades thought somehow I had to earn His love through my behavior and mistake-free living. I had grown up believing that God was somehow keeping score on my life, and I could never measure up. I wore myself out by trying to earn something that was freely given and always available.
I am still basking in this quote from Elder Rector, and the power of the scripture he shared as well.
It seems that, at this day and time, everything is in a state of change. There appears to be nothing in this life that is not subject to erosion, or decay, or just change for the sake of change—like the new automobile models each year. There is only one place where we can go and find consistency, and that is where Joseph went: to the Lord, for “he is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” And the most important fact is that there is no place you can go where he is not. In the words of the psalmist,
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
“If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
“Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
“If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
“Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” (Ps. 139:7–12.)
I’m reminded of the quote from the last General Conference that left me weeping and still leaves me rejoicing. (*See footnote) Elder Holland said,
“My brothers and sisters, the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. Indeed it is only with that reassurance burning in our soul that we can have the confidence to keep trying to improve, keep seeking forgiveness for our sins, and keep extending that grace to our neighbor.”
President Uchtdorf also testified, “The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd.”
I use my little mantra, “Do it for God” whenever I feel myself slipping into insecurities, or worrying about what people think of me, or second-guessing myself, or trying to explain/justify/defend myself to get someone’s approval, or trying to manipulate or control someone else. But even after writing this post I’m realizing that the real message of “Do it for God” is more something like this:
Believe that His love for you and everyone else really is that big, so there is no reason to worry. He’s got this.
I am so grateful to be learning more in a heart-deep kind of way how much He loves us all. How much He loves me.
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*God is amazing. He knows how to prepare the ground of my heart for truths I most desperately need. He uses many ways and means (see Alma 37:7) for my salvation. My heart had been prepared for Elder Holland’s words months before General Conference, in part because of chapter in a book by by Max Lucado (creator of children’s books about a beloved character named Punchinello). The chapter was about the New Testament story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet — a story that has become a favorite of mine in the past year. Lucado talks about how often we try to willpower our way to Christlike living — and fail in our efforts.
“[W]e try. Teeth clenched. Jaw firm. We’re going to love [serve God and others, obey] if it kills us. And it may do just that.
“Could it be that we are missing a step? Could it be that the first step of love is not toward [others] but toward [God]?…. (1 John 4:19)
“Long to be more loving? Begin by accepting your place as a dearly loved child…. (Eph. 5:1-2)
“Want to learn to forgive? Then consider how you have been forgiven…. (Eph. 4:32)
Finding it hard to put others first? Think of the way Christ put your first…. (Phil. 2:6)
Need more patience? Drink from the patience of God” (2 Pet. 3:9). Is generosity an elusive virtue? Then consider how generous God has been with you (Rom. 5:8). Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors? God puts up with you when you act the same…. (Luke 6:35)
(Cast of Characters, p. 24; scripture references included in original; NIV is used by author)
As John said, “We love him, because he first loved us.” The next time I think of doing whatever I’m doing for God, I’m going to also remind myself to consider all He has done and continues to do for me. Loving Him is so much easier when I first let Him love me.
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This week’s posts from the General Conference Odyssey:
Last week’s posts, discussing the Sunday morning session of October 1972’s General Conference:
- Saviors in the Home by Nathaniel Givens
- A Home Where Mission is Part of Life by G
- Satan’s Effort to Influence and Control the Human Mind by Daniel Ortner
- Abomination and Understanding, Works and Grace by Ralph Hancock
- Divorce, Pornography, Turner, Persky, and Being a Mormon Woman by SilverRain
- Zombies, Mormons, and Ants by Jan Tolman
- We are the catalyst by Marilyn Nielson