So tomorrow I am giving a talk in church for the first time since 2010. (My last talk was on patriotism https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/patriotism-my-sacrament-meeting-talk/). The topic was ‘The Power of Testimony”. The more I thought about it the more I kept coming back to my relationship with my Heavenly Father and how essential that relationship is to my testimony. It’s not just a set of facts or experiences but a lifetime of being nurtured by the Lord.
It is a missionary farewell so I tried to relate it to my mission in a way that felt natural and on topic. So this is what I came up with , with a few modifications for the blog.
I’d be curious to know what you all think.
When I was a little girl I was bullied for 2 years. After trying the normal school channels, my parents took me out of the situation and then we moved across the country. It proved to be a fresh start for me and a chance to figure out how to make friends which I was able to do. However, I always knew that despite my best efforts the world could reject me. I could not rely on them for my self-confidence and happiness. So what was I supposed to do? I looked at the people I loved and none of them relied on other people for their self-worth. They had an inner fire that come from something higher.
I realized I needed to not only pray to God each night but that I needed something that could build a life around. Something that could protect me in the lonely times. It was then that I first started building my relationship with God. Some may call this a testimony but I prefer to think of it as a relationship that but is a work in progress.
Speaking to the women of the church Elder Russel M. Nelson described this type of relationship with God
“Her self-esteem cannot be based on physical features, possession or lack of a particular talent, or comparative quantities of anything. Her self-esteem is earned by individual righteousness and a close relationship with God. Her outward glow is generated by goodness within. And her patience is much more apparent than any imperfection.”
So to God I went and the first step in building this relationship was learning that He was there and that He loved me. As a middle schooler , I first asked these questions and have asked them again and again with each time getting the sweet confirmation that ‘Yes, Rachel. I love you. You are special’.
How could the bullies hurt me again with that in my pocket? I had the God of the Universe tell me I was special.
As I grew the relationship grew. I learned repeatedly about repentance, forgiveness, family, trials, rejection, patience and hard work and all of these experiences made the relationship better and stronger. It was work, but it was a sweet work. There were seasons where I forgot to trust him where my anxieties felt almost overwhelming but in the end I always knew He was there rooting for me if I just took the leap of faith.
Elder Wirthlin said,
“I have been impressed recently with the thought that this life is made up of little things—little things that count a great deal. I believe that the little things are of great importance in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationship with others, and in our relationship with God.
The Lord has said, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).
Now I don’t know if I’ve done many great things but I know the Lord is happy with my efforts. I know this because of the relationship I started way back as a bullied youth.
Elder Oaks described this type of relationship with God:
Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost.
So what can we do to develop such a relationship with God?
President Uchtdorf tells us how:
We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Christ].”10To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God
Doesn’t sound too hard right? A little quiet time, personal prayer and scripture study? I’m sure all you Mom’s are wondering how you can get such time and if it really exists? My only thought on that topic is to think of the quiet times I’ve had in my life where I was surrounded by people and yet alone. The mind can ponder while the body is busily engaged.
Regardless, Heavenly Father knows when we are trying. He loves us. He wants to bless us. He will bless us with time, patience, enhanced spirituality or the ability to persevere through seeming droughts of spiritual knowledge. We must trust in Him.
President Uchtdorf continues on:
Our relationship with God is most sacred and vital. We are His spirit children. He is our Father. He desires our happiness. As we seek Him, as we learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God’s eternal plan and keep His commandments.
I have a friend who went to the MTC and felt sad that her testimony wasn’t as seemingly strong as the other members of her district. Such comparisons miss the point of a relationship with God. Just as strong marriages come in many forms and styles a strong relationship with God can manifest itself with different strengths and weaknesses.
A testimony when seen as a relationship is not thrown off by questions in theology or seeming offenses of church members because a relationship ebbs and flows. It leaves room for questions and it can always be better. A relationship is never finished.
Now I have a long way to go in my quest for perfection and my relationship with God can be much stronger than it is today. So how do I do that? How do I make it stronger?
Since this is Elder Lampings last talk before going into the MTC, I thought I would answer this question with a little missionary advice. Because I think how to be a good missionary is the same as how to develop a relationship with God:
- Be obedient- You will meet people, even companions, who want to shrug off some rules. Many will say ‘I’m living the spirit of the law’. You will not know the spirit of the law unless you are living as close to the letter of the law as you can. Be obedient.
- Pray for Love- pray for love of yourself, your companion, your investigators and all the people you serve, even those that reject you.
- Study as Hard as You Can- Use your study time well. Yes, you will have mornings where you fall asleep into your scriptures but try your best to think about the needs of your investigators and how you, using your skillset can help them.
- Be happy- Find something to be happy about each day.
- Serve with No Regrets- Leave each area, each companionship knowing that you did all you could do, spiritually, emotionally, physically all you can do.
When I was flying home from my mission I had a distinct impression from the spirit that ‘We had done it’. That the Savior and me as His representative had found everyone we needed to find, we had helped everyone we needed to help and that the work was done. I promise it was the best feeling of my life. I left my mission with no regrets. I wasn’t perfect but I had no regrets. I honestly thought that all missionaries had a similar experience but in speaking with some of my fellow sisters none of them seemed satisfied with the breadth of their efforts. They had not received this same assurance
Now the reconciliation of their missionary labors is between them and the Lord but shouldn’t a life with no regrets be our goal no matter if we are missionaries or members. It’s certainly my goal. I want to be able to have a similar feeling that I had on that plane when I’m in the spirit world ready to move on. It should be a feeling of ‘we did it’. Because of our relationship, Jesus Christ and I did it together.
Our goals should be to say like Elder McConkie before his death
“And now as pertaining to this perfect Atonement, I testify that it took place at Gethsemane and at Golgotha. And as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person… And in the coming day I will feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s almighty Son and he is our Savior and Redeemer and that Salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.”
May we all strive to be obedient and to develop this relationship with God
Name of Jesus Christ,Amen.