By Patricia T. Holland
The theme for this year’s Women’s Conference comes from Doctrine and Covenants 88:125, which reads, “Above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity.” When we are thus clothed, the gospel truths which unite us are more inclusive and powerful than anything which might separate us. The women of the Church represent many age groups, many educational and cultural backgrounds, many aspects of family life and experience in the Church. All are variations within the rich collection that constitutes the women of the Church. As our theme teaches and as Paul taught, “There should be no schism in the body; but . . . the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor. 12:25).
Our sisterhood in this dispensation began with Emma Smith. If we are to enjoy spirituality in our sisterhood, we will have to do as the Lord counseled her to do: “Thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10).
I do pray that we can lay aside the things of the world, including anything in unrighteousness that would alienate or separate us, and that we might seek for the tranquil, hopeful, and serene things of a better world. The difference between our present world and the better one that we all yearn for lies within our hearts.
Our theme of charity suggests that we should be giving to one another the love and the strength associated with that word. But I wish to start at an earlier point in the process. I believe we cannot give love or strength we do not sufficiently have.
If we expect to bless others with God’s truths and compassion and sustenance, then I believe we must spend more time with God in a very direct way. We do not have to rely on anyone else’s witness of the Father. We can and should have direct encounters of our own. If our cup is going to bring relief to the spiritually parched lips of our sisters, we would do well to spend a little more time making sure that cup is filled–and refilled–by him every day of our life, in keeping with Paul’s injunction to the Ephesians to be “filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19).
It seems that more and more we live in a world that can be frighteningly empty. We ourselves are blessed to live fully and freely in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but in many elements of society that don’t have the gospel, both near at home and around the globe, we see ineffective communities, stress-filled professions, declining morals, ruined health, failing families, and, in the end, failing hope. We are told scripturally that we will live in a time when men’s (and women’s) hearts shall fail them. In this same scriptural injunction we are forewarned of the culminating catastrophes in this world’s history and that in a very real sense all things will fail.
Yes, all things but one shall fail and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel founded on charity, the pure love of Christ. This is the certitude we have in this church, and as members–both women and men–our task is to “cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail,” but charity never faileth (Moro. 7:46).
Our covenants within the restored gospel and our communion with the Father will give each one of us the certitude and confidence to move ahead in such empty times. We aren’t going to get that energy and enthusiasm and hope from “the world.”
In this light it is interesting to note one of the complaints of our time is there is no commonality among women. Across cultures and countries and even in our own neighborhoods, one of the complaints is women have become so diverse and so separated in their lifestyles, interests, and preoccupations that there is no one over the back fence to visit, to love and listen to, as there was for our mothers. Like earlier generations, we too need those with whom we can converse and identify when our joints ache, our children squabble, or (perhaps even more painfully) when we wish we had children to squabble or had others close enough for us to nurture. The world can be too much with us, as Wordsworth said. As Latter-day Saint women, let’s try to see that the modern world does not isolate or fragment or distance us from those we can love and serve.
Isolation can be one of the most fearful and stressful circumstances of the human heart. We all need other people and the strong, sweet relationships we have with them. That is one of the joys of membership in the Church, of membership in the Relief Society, and participation in a setting such as this conference–it is the sisterhood that we cherish and the association with others who believe what we believe, hope what we hope, and who love the things of God.
To receive the fulness God has intended for us, to offset the emptiness of isolation or hurt or sorrow, to clothe ourselves in the bonds of charity, we are all going to have to reach out with our hearts and let down some barriers. Dr. Dean Ornish, a cardiologist, has described how the heart is literally affected by our emotions. He says that to protect ourselves from pain–the slings and arrows that come from our friends, our enemies, and sometimes from ourselves–we figuratively protect the heart by building walls (emotional defenses) around it. In this metaphor we eventually have a well-fortified fortress around our heart.
But that is a two-edged sword, for the same wall that is built to protect us can also isolate us, and that isolation leads to the problems we see so many others in the world struggling with. Yet, if we can let down a few walls and believe that we are in the embrace of God, we are promised his fulness, against which no one need protect herself! Let’s receive the spirit of holiness, let our cups be filled with living water, and find ourselves at the end of the day better prepared to share love, service, testimony, and faith. Let us receive in order that we can give the divine charity that marks our belief and our sociality.
As one of the foundation stones for trusting that this can happen, may I share this statement from President George Q. Cannon. It should help us pull down those defenses–and our differences–in an effort to be unified and filled from on high. President Cannon said:
No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character. He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. We have found that God. We have made Him our friend, by obeying His gospel; and He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments.” (George Q. Cannon, in Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, vol. 2, p. 185)
I love that theology placed right at the heart of the gospel. We have every right to be hopeful. We have every right to have faith. God does live and he loves us. I believe that. I believe him. He will not desert us. He cannot. It would be an eternal contradiction to his nature. So we can let down a few of our defenses built up against a faithless world and we can, with Emma Smith, concentrate on the things of a better. We may pass through the fiery furnace and we may pass through deep waters, but we can do it. And we can do it without the thrashing around and the emotional barricades of those who do not know what we know. We shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall not be isolated nor forlorn nor frantic nor empty. We shall be filled with the fulness of God.
After referring to that passage so repeatedly I really ought to let Paul have his full say on the subject. He wrote:
Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Eph. 3:1319)
One of my many prayers for us this day is that you will, “through the love of Christ which passeth all knowledge,” guard against fainting at the tribulations which are your glory. If we can stay filled by God, if we can keep our hearts and souls and eternal wellsprings filled with the love and substance of his blessings, then I believe we will be so hearty in hope, so unflagging in our faith that the very jaws of hell cannot shake us from our divine destiny as daughters of Zion. We shall, as President Gordon B. Hinckley states, become “women of substance”–women of spiritual substance.
This consciousness of his power and presence in our life is the highest achievement of human experience and the supreme goal of human life. We are children of God and as such are “partakers of the divine nature,” as Peter said. We are by our very nature whole and complete and holy in our design. We are not empty. There is nothing of emptiness or isolation or fear in the great plan God has for each of us. We are placed in a world of temporalities and inadequacies to refine our natures, but if in the process we will commune with God and keep our spiritual reservoirs full, we can lift life to a happier, holier sphere. Paul said, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2, emphasis added).
To connect with God and to be filled with his fulness, to not be conformed to the world, but to prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God for us, requires a calm mind, a “renewed mind” as Paul said there, a spirit of contentment, a divine trust and serenity, and a surrender to God’s will. A renewed mind is one which has been illuminated by a new spiritual perception–revelation. When our mind has been illuminated to see as God sees, it becomes a joy to accept his will.
Recently I was anxiously pleading with the Lord that he would bless my oldest son in a special way. As I was pleading (with an eye fixed on my needs and my anxieties), asking the Lord to please bless him, these words came so resoundingly into my mind: “I am blessing him. Be patient with my plan.” I was stunned. I was moved to tears. I realized I was handing my views and my understanding and my determination to Heaven in a commanding voice, saying “Lord, here is your work as I have outlined it. Please notify me when you have bestowed my blessings, pursued my plans, and carried out my will.”
In sweet reply comes the mild rebuke, “If you don’t mind, Patricia, I prefer to bestow my blessings and to do it in my way.” When we can content ourselves that God has not forgotten us, nor will he ever, and that he is blessing us (albeit, and thank heaven for it!) in his own way, then the views of a better world come before our eyes. If we can be patient with his process–which simply means having faith–if we can commune personally and often with him, we can spare ourselves the emptiness and frenzy that surely awaits us if we are “conformed to the world”–fainthearted, impatient, troubled by envy or greed or pride of a thousand kinds. We can keep our minds fixed enough on eternity to remember that “God’s ways are not our ways” and that the mysteries of godliness lie in him–in his mind and his heart and his love. Those mysteries and that fulness will be ours only as we strive to make his mind and his heart and his love our own.
Once we have spiritual illumination–spiritual experience–we see how we are spiritually one with God and others. We no longer desire the enticements, temporalities, and emptiness of this world. We have no feelings of greed or jealousy or envy.
We then are enabled, as the Savior told his disciples, to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matt. 6:25). We have to worry about some of those things, but we don’t have to worry about them too much. It is these things that damage our unity and our charity. We can be consumed by “things.” You know, “What am I going to wear today?” and “I hope they don’t notice my nails!”
If the Savior had been speaking in Provo in the 1990s rather than in Jerusalem in the meridian of time, he might have said, “Sisters, be peaceful. Be believing. Live close to God. Let go of trying to keep up with the Joneses. ‘Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?'” he asks. “Please don’t worry,” he pleads, “about pride or position or self-seeking–that just puts you into the ‘thick of thin things.’ You are silly to spend so much time worrying about temporal, often petty things, because you can’t do very much about them anyway.”
That is my loose translation of what he said. What he really said was, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his [or her] stature?” (Matt. 6:27). Why waste time worrying that we are 4-foot-11 and, well, “solid” when we would like to be 5-foot-9 and slinky. It is the wrong concern about the wrong things, and we can’t really change much of it anyway.
Let’s put our arms around the 4-11s and the 5-9s, and around those who have degrees and those who don’t, around those who are married and those who aren’t, and let’s keep striving for the fulness of God and the charity of Christ. Let’s not be conformed to this world.
Let’s not worry about what’s going on inside our bodies or what we ought to wear on the outside of them. If we are selecting a pair of shoes, let us choose a pair that will rush to the aid of the poor. If we are choosing a skirt, let us choose one that will skirt vanity and envy and faint-heartedness in difficult times. A valuable blouse would be one that rejoices in the truth and vaunteth not itself. Our coat could be something that allows us to be long-suffering and kind, something that covers us from anything unseemly. For earrings and necklaces, and a bracelet if we have one, let those be accessories against self-interest, against being easily provoked, against rejoicing in any iniquity.
And our nails? Well, I have long since given up worrying about my nails. I ask only that my hands can bear all things, that my mind can believe all things, that my heart can hope all things, and that my life can endure all things. This kind of apparel and preparation “never faileth.” This is the kind of assurance–and charity–we are all going to need a lot more of in the years that lie ahead.
In the never-ending battle with this world, and that includes battles with the Joneses, let us just give ourselves over completely to the truth that “your heavenly Father knoweth that [you] have need of all these things” (3 Ne. 13:32). So we will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things–at least the ones that are needful–shall be added unto you. Remember, you do not have to be perfect to have these blessings added unto you, but you must be willing to let go, to give over, and to trust God perfectly.
Isn’t it sometimes discouraging when we see just how easily the adversary uses such earthly issues as vanity and worry and envy and pettiness to distract us from our divine mission and the unity which we could enjoy as sisters in the Church? Because it can be so discouraging at times and because we all do get caught up in the thick of thin things, my sole purpose is to beg, plead, cry if you will, that we seek “the fulness of God” to offset that.
In our time we certainly can’t waste much time or energy or emotion on what dress to wear or whose living room is the loveliest. We have real things to think about, things of the kingdom of God and the peace promised to his children. We need to drink more deeply and be filled more fully for the work that lies ahead of us.
Let me suggest some ways in which this fulness can come. Often when I face difficulties, I need to turn off the phone, lock the door, kneel in earnest prayer, then curl up in a chair and meditate, contemplate, search the scriptures, and cry out again and again in my heart, completely focusing my mind on the mind and will and presence of God until I can see a clear picture of him. I like to think of him with loving, outstretched arms. With such a loving image, I begin to feel my connection with him and a confirmation of his love. Sometimes we may have to work at this for hours, for a significant portion of the day, or for several days.
Now stop it! I can hear every one of you saying, “Pat, get real. We don’t have five minutes to do that, let alone an hour or two. We are exhausted now just trying to keep up with things.” I know all about your life because it is my life, too. I am busy also, and I have been for as long as I can remember. I know what it is like to chauffeur teenagers, face the laundry, serve in the church and in the community, and be married to one of the Lord’s busier servants. But that has everything to do with the point I wish to make.
I realize that life has to go on and that you will not be able to pursue this heavenly communication in a completely uninterrupted way; but if it is a high priority and a fundamental goal in your life, you will find ways, early or late, to be with God. If the key to your car were lost or your check for the mortgage payment were lost or a child were lost, could you take time to find it? Would finding it provide the only peace you could have to then go about your day? If God is lost in your life and you are not going to be strong or stable without him, can you be focused and fixed enough to find him?
I know many of you have had loving fathers on this earth. If you believed your earthly father could comfort any heartache, heal any illness, solve any problem, or just hold you in his arms and carry you over the crucibles of life, wouldn’t you call to him constantly and in every circumstance? I am just childish enough to believe that our Father in Heaven can literally give us all these blessings. To so believe, some things (at least on some days) may have to go. Some things will have to be laid aside, particularly the petty, the trivial, the egotistical, and the envious.
There is a price to be paid for this kind of communion, but fortunately it is not a painful price. It is a wonderful, renewing, energizing price, but it requires time and the best powers of your concentration. That investment of time should not be surprising when we realize we are trying to offset what can be many hours–or days and weeks and months–of struggle or sorrow or pain.
For me, sometimes this has to be early in the morning–that is the very best time–when I am fresh and revelation is strong. Occasionally it has to be at night before I go to bed. In any case it has to be when things are still, when the house is quiet, and when my mind is calm.
I have the good fortune on those beautiful early mornings or late nights to look out my front window and see unobstructed the beautiful Bountiful Temple just three-quarters of a mile from my home. As I look at the temple I see first its holiness, its brightness and beauty and light. That, too, is true early in the morning or late at night. It has the appearance of stability and serenity whether it is raining, whether there is snow falling, whether the clouds are low and hovering, or whether the sun is bright. It is steady and resolute and firm through all the seasons of life and all the weather of mortality. Its immovable and firm quality brings sustenance to my soul, particularly on those days when I seem so very movable and so very drawn and driven in many directions.
Those spires tell me to keep my spine straight, my shoulders strong, and my eyes lifted to heaven. The entire splendor of the scene tells me that my spirit is not driven and movable, unlike the temporal things in my life–my health and the demands of the day and the laundry waiting to be done. The real me, the spiritual me, the real Pat Holland–the divine in us and the divine nature Peter said we could have–is firm and fixed and stable and settled. It is like that temple on that hill. It is always there. It is unmoved and unshaken and unaffected by snow or storm. I take great comfort in that thought, that the things that swirl around us are not us and the demands on our life are not life itself.
President Hinckley has been speaking often lately of meditation. My husband has commented on how often, in speaking to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, he has asked that they make sure they take time for thoughtfulness, for pondering, for introspection, for meditation. He often refers to President David O. McKay in this matter who said, “Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as a form of private devotion or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme.”
Somewhere in our lives there must be time and room for such personal communion. Somewhere in our lives there must be time and room for the celestial realities we say we believe in–or when will millennial peace be ours?
In this effort we ought to do everything we can to make our homes–or our apartments or our condominiums–the temples, quite literally, that God intends them to be. Places for the spirit of the Lord to dwell. Places for meditation, contemplation, prayer, and study. Places where good conversation and charity borne of a pure heart can be present. Places where we find the fulness of God and rejoice in having our spiritual cups overflow. Second only to dedicated temples, our homes are to be the sacred edifices of the Lord, places of peace and holiness and sanctity.
The kind of contemplation, reflection, and yearning for God I am speaking of can’t be accomplished very handily in competition with cellular phones, computers, or a constantly blaring TV. God can enter our realm only at our invitation. He stands at the door and knocks always, but someone has to hear that knock and let him enter. And we can only do that if we understand his gentle approach. We need to simplify and spiritualize and celestialize. If most of what we are doing doesn’t fit these categories, if at least some portion of our day is not turned to heaven, then we have a wrenching, rending, emptiness awaiting us–isolation of the first order–and we will find no cloak of charity with which to protect ourselves or our sisters. We simply have to see what can be eliminated, what can be replaced with something higher and holier, with something more reflective and compassionate and eternal substituted in its place.
I am not being Pollyannish about this. I have already said that I know very well the work a woman has to do, and the demands upon her time. Indeed it is because I know it oh so well that I am speaking as I am. I am speaking not only out of the depths of my heart but also out of the depths of my experience. You can say, “It can’t be done, there is too much to do, it takes too much energy.” Yes, you can say that–until the divine knock at the door is missed forever. Or as the scripture says even more poignantly, “The harvest is past, the summer is [over], and [our souls are] not saved!” (D&C 56:16)
I believe a woman seeking the cloak of charity, a woman desiring with all her heart to receive the fulness of God, has a chance to break through these telestial, temporal trappings we hang onto. I believe she can find special powers, sacred powers, to bring to latter-day tasks. As I have heard our dear sister Ruth Faust say, “Because of a woman’s charitable nature, she can have a direct pipeline to God.” I testify that it is through that conduit that we receive the power to serve and sustain and sacrifice.
Most of us are well acquainted with the responsibility of serving others. We certainly get that chance in the Relief Society and at places like BYU. I am sure many of you have had the experience of baking cookies until your spatulas began to melt or babysitting your neighbor’s children until your brains began to melt. Occasionally when I am in such situations I often wonder if my fatigue (and eventually even some danger of resentment) may not only prevent me from developing new charity but actually diminish the supply I thought I had. However I have learned that while we may not have a completely willing heart every time we are asked to serve, such service will mold our heart, and bless us, and we do come out with a greater capacity to give. We must remember, too, during periods of our lives in which we feel that all we can do is keep our own families or immediate circle of friends afloat, that emotional and spiritual service to others can sometimes be as important as physical acts.
In a conversation I had with my daughter Mary, she referred to that kind of an experience with a friend whom she had been assigned to visit teach.
Mary said that she actually dreaded her visits to her friend’s home because that sister, who had three pre-schoolers and was pregnant with a fourth child, regularly seemed frazzled and frustrated. Mary expressed feelings of guilt for not wholeheartedly wanting to take over all of her friend’s tasks, but of course she had two pre-schoolers of her own, a husband in medical school, and a very demanding church calling as a 24-year-old president of the Young Women in her ward.
She said that the idea of having three more children in her two-room apartment adding to her own children’s chaos, even if for only a few hours, seemed overwhelming. However, partially out of a sense of responsibility, but mostly out of love, she regularly offered to tend her friend’s children, clean her house, and help relieve her of some of her other burdens. Occasionally those offers were accepted, but often they were declined. Even when they were accepted, Mary wasn’t sure that they made much difference in her friend’s ultimate disposition–but she labored faithfully in her behalf.
One day, when Mary herself was having a particularly exasperating time, she called her friend–in the spirit of good visiting teaching–just to tell her that she was thinking of her and that she empathized with her struggles. Mary said that during the course of that conversation she felt a material change in this sister’s attitude and well-being, indeed, a kind of happiness she wasn’t sure she had sensed in her very often.
Near the end of the conversation, it turned out that her friend was nearly ecstatic at the idea that Mary Holland McCann, daughter of Patricia Holland (to say nothing of the Apostle who dwells in that home), was having a miserable day. As the phone conversation came to a close, the sister said, “Mary, I am so grateful that you would share your personal feelings and some of your own frustrations with me. I’ve never had anyone share their frustrations with me. They are always terribly concerned about mine, and they know I can’t handle any others. Your honesty and the love I feel from you as a visiting teacher has made me feel so much better. I didn’t think you ever felt frazzled like I do. I have always thought you were perfect. I guess maybe you are, but today I see you more realistically. I think I am doing just fine. I don’t really need much help. I just need to know that I am normal. I am particularly grateful to know that someone else struggles the way I do–even briefly–even Mary Holland.”
Often we do more service by offering someone our emotional strength and our honest shared sorrows than we do by quickly finishing a physical task for them, though those are obviously very important, too.
What I wish to affirm–and really my primary message–is that we do need to charitably share and serve–emotionally and spiritually as well as temporally–but we must fill ourselves at the fountain of living water, at the feet of our Heavenly Father himself, or we have nothing of real strength to give. When we connect with God, then we will connect with others. When we pay the price to see God, we are enabled to see how closely connected we are to each other.
Listen to this call God has given to us as women: “Awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, . . . that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, . . . may be fulfilled” (Moro. 10:31).
The phrase, “O daughter of Zion” was Isaiah’s metaphor for all the house of Israel, but I deeply believe it applies literally to women, especially in these last days, and specifically as it relates to our influence in the times we have spoken of here today.
One bright crisp British morning in Solihull, England, as I was sequestered with my scriptures trying to practice exactly what I am preaching, I read this verse in the Book of Revelation: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1).
I know that the Book of Revelation is filled with allegory and symbolism and that there are several interpretations given to the woman in this passage that I have just quoted, including a very important one from the Prophet Joseph Smith. I acknowledge those multiple meanings and I believe there must be profound purpose–again–in the Lord’s selecting the symbol of a woman to represent something of glory and grandeur in God’s power and influence in these last days.
As I read that scripture that morning, the sun shining brilliantly upon the written page, I can truly say that suddenly the glory and beauty and blessings of womanhood were illuminated in my heart. In my mind’s eye I literally saw a woman–a woman like you–clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, wearing a crown of stars. And the glory around her from all these celestial sources was light. To my limited view I could see “woman” as a transmitter, a conveyor, a conduit of light and love. I could see that a woman can, if she lives for it and wants it and asks for it and seeks it, be the medium through which gospel light and truth can pass to or be conveyed from one person to another.
But I do not believe that we can pass such light and such glory and such charitable influence on to the men or the women or the children we love, or to the millions out there in an often empty world who do not yet have the gospel, unless we have received that glory ourselves. That is why I make my urgent appeal for us to be filled with the fulness of God. We need power and influence and light in our lives, and certainly the world needs it from us.
It is interesting to me that in this same scriptural description from John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, he says that the woman fled into the wilderness. God prepared a place for her, a place of safety and strength and protection. (Here it is important to note that the woman is also a symbol for the Church, suggesting that as a group, as well as individually, we will need our place of communion, safety, and strength in the last days.) In dark and dangerous days, God will provide for us safe places, even wilderness places (I take that to mean sacred places undefiled by over-much worldly civilization), where he protects us against evil and nourishes us with strength. Please allow yourself to take the time to go to that wilderness retreat now, that sanctuary if you will–the temple, our own homes, places of privacy and revelation, places filled with prayer and meditation and scriptural truths. Allow yourselves to turn a few things down and turn a few things off. Seek to prayerfully position yourselves in some solitude and serenity to receive the mind of God. Stop what you are so frantically doing and go into your private wilderness. Shut the door, turn out all earthly lights, set aside all earthly sights. Position yourself calmly, quietly, in humble serenity until your prayer flows naturally, lovingly. It is my personal witness that when you feel God’s presence, when you feel he is with you, you are filled with a wonderful strength and you can do anything that is needed in righteousness.
When we are thus filled and strengthened, then we can return to the battle. We can return to some inevitable noise and commotion and, yes, even some drudgery; but we do it happier, more hopefully, more optimistically because we have communed with God and been filled with his fulness. We have been filled with his joy, his charity, and his compassionand we bear something of his light as we return. And because we are filled and strong, we can serve others.
Best of all, as we spend such time with God–a lot of time–as much as possible–we will become more like him. I am sure many of you have had the experience of having a friend with whom you have spent so much time that you began to talk alike. You use the same figures of speech, the same gestures, the same mannerisms. I have even seen married couples who have been together for so long they actually begin to look alike. It is inherent in human nature that when we spend time with another soul whom we love we begin to assume at least some of their characteristics, some portion of their personality.
Perhaps we ought to bear this in mind when we desire to become more like God. To become as he is we need to spend spiritual time with him every day. In doing so we will not be found as inadequate as we often feel nor so frustrated in a world of threats and emptiness and failures. We need to go to the source of our strength more regularly, for we surely need that strength and will need more in the years to come. We need it, our families need it, our friends need it, our sisters and brothers and all the world needs it. We will go to God as the great source of our strength. Then from our wilderness places and our private time with him, we will return to provide light and life and love–charity–in a troubled and faltering world.
In conclusion, may I try to bring some of these thoughts and images together in a favorite scene from the Book of Mormon. Christ has appeared to the Nephites, and after they had all knelt down, “he commanded his disciples that they should pray.” Then he “departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them,” the scripture says (see 3 Ne. 19:17, 19). (Note his desire for privacy, his search for some solitude.)
After he himself offered prayer, Christ returned, the Book says, to bless the others while they prayed. (I love that thought–Christ blessing us while we pray.)
Then something singular happened, something wonderfully transforming that I wish for all of us. As he watched them pray so devotedly, “his countenance did smile upon them,” it says, “and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and . . . the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof” (3 Ne. 19:25).
We can receive so much of Christ’s charity–so much light and life and love (and then in turn give it)–if we will only go to the source of such strength for the smiling and stabilizing generosity that awaits us there. If we can commune more with God and be filled with his fulness, we can be a source of light, we can literally lighten our little corner of the world. And if enough of us do it, and if we do it through thick or thin, and if we do it with charity that never faileth, one day the whole world will be bright. For such a blessed time I humbly pray in the name of him whose countenance smiles upon us all, now and always, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
Patricia T. Holland delivered this address at the BYU Women’s Conference, 2 May 1996.