Friday, July 11, 2014

A Response.

I've tried extremely hard not to lend my voice to the many in the bloggernacle and on Facebook who have decided to share their views and opinions about the church recently. I've noticed that those conversations very rarely seem to be productive and are almost always divisive. However, in all of this I felt very confused. I'm a feminist and I believe in equality for women and it is difficult to see so many people decide that if you don't support certain things then you're not really a feminist. Or questions of how stupid are you to believe what you do, like I'm a blind follower of my church. I don't speak out about religion or politics over the internet often, but I think that a lot of people feel the same way I do about all of this and I really want to share what I think. I'm really grateful to have been given the opportunity to speak in my ward in the midst of all of this discord within the church. I prayed to be able to say what the Lord wanted me to say and I found writing this talk so helpful to me. After delivering this talk something is just pulling on my heartstrings that I need to share it here. I'm not sure who even ends up over on this neglected corner of the internet, but I hope this helps someone that comes across it.

Small Choices of Faith
Today I’m going to be focusing on President Eyring’s talk from the last General Conference entitled A Priceless Inheritance of Hope. In the beginning of his talk President Eyring said, “Whoever you are and wherever you may be you hold in your hands the happiness of more people than you can now imagine. Every day and every hour you can choose to make or keep a covenant with God.”
Many of us have already made covenants like the covenants we make at baptism that we reaffirm each Sunday, covenants as part of the temple endowment, and covenants when we are sealed to our spouses.  These covenants affect our posterity and as we choose to make and keep covenants we not only help bind our physical families together, but our posterity as well. Our covenants with God should be at the forefront of our lives. However, I think it is all too easy to become wrapped up in the everyday pieces of our lives and lose our eternal perspective. We must come to the understanding that when we choose to follow Christ that “it is not one great choice….but many small choices.”
Our church is not a church of a few great choices instead it is a church of many small choices, you don’t just choose to be baptized and you’re done. You don’t just get sealed in the temple and you’re done. These are good decisions and pretty big ones too, but often it’s the smaller choices that are much more difficult like getting to church on Sunday or completing our home or visiting teaching. These smaller choices determine our worthiness for the bigger choices, and without making the correct small choices we would never have the opportunity to make the big choices. Sometimes making the covenants is the easiest part. The difficult part comes in living up to those covenants, making the covenant is one action but living up to the covenant and keeping it is many small actions throughout the rest of our lives and into the eternities.
I want to focus on these small choices of faith. Because faith is not a perfect knowledge sometimes that means we are faced with circumstances and events that shake our faith. We are not perfect and will therefore encounter doubts in our lives. Sometimes these doubts become trials of our faith. We don’t always have all the answers, and we often don’t receive immediate answers when we search for them.  President Utchdorf explained in October Conference that, “A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.” I think that it is important for us to ask questions and work through our doubts, I know that my most spiritual experiences and confirmations from the Lord have come in the times when I have wrestled the most with my faith.
When I was in high school, I encountered a trial of my faith. I was having a really difficult time feeling the love of my Father in Heaven. I had read my scriptures, I had prayed, and I had fasted. However, for whatever reason I was not feeling his love. So in a last ditch effort I found myself in the temple baptistery. As I was being baptized for the dead I remember very clearly as they went down the sheet of names noticing a pattern. Every sister that I was baptized for had my same first name or some variation of it. I did two full sheets of names and the entire time I stood in the font I kept watching the screen for the next name to appear. As I exited the font an overwhelming feeling came upon me. It seemed to say, I know you, I love you and I am here for you. And I knew that was my answer. I don’t believe, especially in the temple of God, that there are mere coincidences. I knew that I had gotten to that point by praying, reading, fasting and finally attending the temple. Small choices.
These small choices of faith are so extremely important in our lives because I believe that faith and character are intimately related. Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “Faith in the power of obedience to the commandments of God will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need. Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation. That is when it is intended to be used. Your exercise of faith in true principles builds character; fortified character expands your capacity to exercise more faith. As a result, your capacity and confidence to conquer the trials of life is enhanced. The more your character is fortified, the more enabled you are to benefit from exercising the power of faith. You will discover how faith and character interact to strengthen one another. Character is woven patiently from threads of applied principle, doctrine, and obedience.”
To summarize as we exercise our faith our character will be strengthened. Our faith is exercised in making small choices of faith like faith in obedience to the commandments, and when our faith builds our character, our character, in turn, increases our capacity to exercise more faith. So that when we encounter the greater choices of faith or challenges in our lives our faith is already strong. Faith is not necessarily built up during those immense challenges we face, our faith is to be exercised and strengthened for those times.
President Hugh B. Brown said, “Man cannot live without faith, because in life’s adventure the central problem is character-building – which is not a product of logic, but of faith in ideals and sacrificial devotion to them.”
I think that it’s interesting to think of the main problem of our lives as being character-building. It is so incredibly important for us so understand that our lives aren’t about having the fancy job to make the most money to buy a fancy house and car etc. Our lives are about becoming better each day so that we are prepared to return home to our Father in Heaven. We do this not through logic but through faith. Elder Scott continues, “Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and when acted upon are confirmed.”
The choices we make are always rewarded in kind, but the effects are sometimes delayed for a purpose. If we received blessings immediately after each good choice and experienced sorrow after each bad choice there would be no room for faith.
President Eyring suggested that “we take both the short and long view as we try to give the inheritance of hope to our families. In the short run, there will be troubles and Satan will roar. And there are things to wait for patiently, in faith, knowing that the Lord acts in His own time and in His own way….we will need the long view when those we love feel the pull of the world and the cloud of doubt seems to overwhelm their faith.”
My point is that it’s difficult to live the way we need to when we are constantly bombarded with information, some of it in disagreement with what we believe or support. When we stop making the small choices of faith to help us build up our faith it becomes increasingly difficult to hold out against the attacks of the world. When we see friends and family falling away and making decisions not in accordance to what we believe we can be tempted to give up on them. President Eyring said, “Christ has made promises to us as we keep trying gather people to Him, even when they resist His invitation to do so. Their resistance saddens Him, but He does not quit, nor should we…..Heavenly Father and the Savior are our perfect examples of what we can and must do. They never force righteousness because righteousness must be chosen.”
If you feel that you especially struggle with these small choices of faith let me reiterate what President Utchdorf said in October conference, “Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this church.”
It is important for us to remember that everyone is at a difference place on the journey back to our Father in Heaven. Try not to be judgmental because someone’s doubts are different than your own. And if you feel that your doubts are different than others remember than as we make small choices of faith we will eventually work through those doubts and you may find that they build your faith.
Let us not forget the threefold mission of the church. First, to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue and people; Secondly, to perfect the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation; Thirdly, to redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on earth. It is our sacred responsibility to help the church attain its threefold mission. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Trust the Lord and His unfolding purposes even when His purposes are not always completely clear to us at the moment.” We’re not always going to have all of the answers, but I believe that as we continue to exercise faith and build character by making the small choices of faith we will overcome any thing that comes our way.

In closing I want to share a scripture from Romans 8: 35, 37-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.