Thursday, May 12, 2016
Has it really only been two weeks since I wrote my last post? I guess two days of B.Y.U. Women's Conference, a quick trip from Provo to Rexburg, Idaho and back in one day and the drive home back to Gilbert, Arizona the next day, selling our house, putting in an offer on another, a grandson's birthday and a nephew's wedding open house all in the following 7 days might possibly warp my perception of said time. Oh, and I can't forget to squeeze in all the normal stuff like grocery shopping, laundry, home inspections (well, not so normal...), church callings and now this nasty chest cold.
Women's Conference. Where do I begin? The theme "One in Charity" says it all. Each and every lecture that I attended focused on doctrines and principles that taught me how little I truly understand about what charity. Elder Renlund and his sweet wife concluded the conference with this. They reminded the audience that the Lord can use us where ever we are to do His work. The forty something minutes it takes to watch that video are well worth it - even if it means you don't read the rest of this post...honestly, you won't regret watching it! Real charity is not something you give away. It is something you acquire - an attitude - a state of heart and mind as you serve.
Everything I saw and heard expanded on what our Prophet and Apostles taught us in General Conference this past March/April. Our Church leaders called upon us to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to our brothers and sisters around the world who seek refuge from war torn countries. News feeds and social media exploded with opinions about the who, what, where, when, why and how to care for millions of people who are now homeless, hungry, and suffering.
I admit that while my heart ached as I watched news reports of parents burying the starved and broken bodies of their children, I also harbored fear of what might happen to my own family if we allowed so many refugees into our community. Rumors of terrorists hiding among the ranks of the oppressed fed the fear lurking in my thoughts. After all, aren't we supposed to defend our families and freedoms? How do you do both?
I added these concerns to my growing prayer list, intending to study it out more when I returned home from my trip to Utah and Idaho. Until then, I would enjoy visits with family, celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary, graduations, weddings, and BYU fudge and ice cream at the Creamery.
My heart began to change the moment 10,000 voices joined together to sing hymns of praise. Sister Sandra Rogers spoke about Corrie Ten Boom's story "The Hiding Place" and reconciling our beliefs with the hate and anger that comes with suffering and oppression. She said that charity is far more than love or kindness. Unity is to become one in thought, desire, and purpose. "One in charity" is loving God first. Receive the charity offered by the Father and His Son and extend that love to others. Interact with others without being easily provoked. Our covenants teach us how to keep the two great commandments. The best way to help and love others is to put the first commandment first. Those who love the Lord are blessed with all the gifts of the Spirit - including being one with the Lord in charity - and helps us overcome any challenge of the natural man (including fear of what others might do to us). See that you do not judge wrongfully. Then Sister Rogers told the story of the Dutch Potato Project. "You can talk about it - but you have to do it - to be there - to feel it."
My Women's Conference high stayed with me all the way to Rexburg and back to Arizona, but the full dawn of light didn't happen until I opened my scriptures to Alma 24 - 26 a few days after I returned home. These chapters in the Book of Mormon tell about the people of Ammon (Anti-Nephi-Lehies) and their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They covenant to bury their swords and never risk shedding blood again. In fact, they chose to suffer death at the hand of their enemies rather than defend themselves. As the aggression against them escalated, the Lord commanded the prophet Ammon to take the people to the Nephites in Zarahemla to seek asylum. The Nephites not only gave them the land of Jershon but raised an army to defend them from the Lamanites. They treated them like the brothers and sisters in the Lord that they knew they were.
For the first time, I gave serious consideration to what it might have meant to the people in Zarahemla to be asked to take in the people of Ammon. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies had at one time been enemies of the Nephites. They had cause all sorts of problems, including death for the Nephites. Then the Nephites are asked by their king and prophet to take their enemy in and protect them from the very kinds of acts they had participated in before their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that's when I got it.
What President Monson and the Apostles have asked of me is no different. We are all brothers and sisters - sons and daughters of a Father in Heaven who loves all of His children. If I let go of fear and focus on what the scriptures and my Church leaders teach me and unite with my brothers and sisters in the Lord, I will witness miracles. I can share light and love, but my motive needs to be charity - expecting nothing in return because I love the Lord and I know all things come from Him. It's time for me to bury my own weapons of war - be they words or feelings of resentment or fear - and help others who are suffering. Speak up. Speak out. Unite with others in charity to defend home and family and religious freedom. The time to serve is now. The time to put away differences is now - to be united in our love of God.
Life is magnificent. Now it's time to help others experience that magnificence.