This weekend was General Conference for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I used to call it internet church because we could watch it on the internet from the comfort of our own home (or go to church and watch it via satellite broadcast). Now, however, we have satellite of our own, so I guess I should just call it broadcast church or something like that.
General Conference occurs every six months, in April and October. The weekend prior to the October conference there is always a broadcast for the women of the church (in April it is a broadcast for the young women, ages 12-18, of the church). The men go to a special broadcast every General Conference, and McH and I have always called it the Smackdown session.
Whereas the sessions for the women and young women are always along the vein of, “You women are wonderful and amazing,” the Smackdown session usually goes something like, “Work harder at being honorable men, don’t you dare abuse your wives and/or children, be more patient, spend more time with your kids, be more sensitive to your wives, strive to do better at reading your scriptures and being in tune with the Spirit. Stop being a scrub.”
I am paraphrasing, of course.
Though the speakers for the women’s session are mostly women, there is always one member of the First Presidency who speaks. This year it was President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency (which, for the non-LDS folks, kind of puts him in the #3 spot in the church, though not exactly. I’ll spare you the explanation, but would be happy to share if you really want to know). Anyway, I loved what he had to say, so I’m going to share a chunk of it with you. You can read the entire talk here. He even shares his recipe for Knusperchen.
To All Who Are Weary
Today I would like to speak to those who have ever felt inadequate, discouraged, or weary—in short, I would like to speak to all of us.
I also pray that the Holy Ghost will amplify my words and bestow upon them additional meaning, insight, and inspiration.
We know that sometimes it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. In fact, in our world of change, challenges, and checklists, sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed by emotions of suffering and sorrow.
I am not suggesting that we can simply flip a switch and stop the negative feelings that distress us. This isn’t a pep talk or an attempt to encourage those sinking in quicksand to imagine instead they are relaxing on a beach. I recognize that in all of our lives there are real concerns. I know there are hearts here today that harbor deep sorrows. Others wrestle with fears that trouble the soul. For some, loneliness is their secret trial.
These things are not insignificant.
However, I would like to speak about two principles that may help you find a path to peace, hope, and joy—even during times of trial and distress. I want to speak about God’s happiness and how each one of us can taste of it in spite of the burdens that beset us.
Let me first pose a question: What do you suppose is the greatest kind of happiness possible? For me, the answer to this question is, God’s happiness.
This leads to another question: What is our Heavenly Father’s happiness?
This may be impossible to answer because His ways are not our ways. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [God’s] ways higher than [our] ways, and [His] thoughts [higher] than [our] thoughts.”1
Though we cannot understand “the meaning of all things,” we do “know that [God] loveth his children”2 because He has said, “Behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”3
Heavenly Father is able to accomplish these two great goals—the immortality and eternal life of man—because He is a God of creation and compassion. Creating and being compassionate are two objectives that contribute to our Heavenly Father’s perfect happiness. Creating and being compassionate are two activities that we as His spirit children can and should emulate.
The Work of Creation
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.
Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.
Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.
You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”
If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.
But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy.4 Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.
If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.
You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us.5 The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.
What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.
If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.
Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.”6
The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.
Being compassionate is another great work of our Heavenly Father and a fundamental characteristic of who we are as a people. We are commanded to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”7 Disciples of Christ throughout all ages of the world have been distinguished by their compassion. Those who follow the Savior “mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”8
When we reach out to bless the lives of others, our lives are blessed as well. Service and sacrifice open the windows of heaven, allowing choice blessings to descend upon us. Surely our beloved Heavenly Father smiles upon those who care for the least of His children.
As we lift others, we rise a little higher ourselves. President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls.”9
President Gordon B. Hinckley believed in the healing power of service. After the death of his wife, he provided a great example to the Church in the way he immersed himself in work and in serving others. It is told that President Hinckley remarked to one woman who had recently lost her husband, “Work will cure your grief. Serve others.”
These are profound words. As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.
President Lorenzo Snow expressed a similar thought: “When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.”10
In today’s world of pop psychology, junk TV, and feel-good self-help manuals, this advice may seem counterintuitive. We are sometimes told that the answer to our ills is to look inward, to indulge ourselves, to spend first and pay later, and to satisfy our own desires even at the expense of those around us. While there are times when it is prudent to look first to our own needs, in the long run it doesn’t lead to lasting happiness.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.