Turning back to that “singular message” of Pres. Monson’s that has been such a rich source of study material for me…
He nailed so many little topics, I’m just going to look at one right now:
Mortality is a period of testing, a time to prove ourselves worthy to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. In order to be tested, we must sometimes face challenges and difficulties. At times there appears to be no light at the tunnel’s end—no dawn to break the night’s darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, I plead with you to turn to our Heavenly Father in faith. He will lift you and guide you. He will not always take your afflictions from you, but He will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face.
My favorite quote is “we are inclined to view or own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. ” Yeah, that pretty well hit home. I am frequently guilty of wallowing in my own troubles. But something else that Pres. Monson said was amazingly poignant, partly because it came as a very personal message to me. When I heard Pres. Monson give this talk in the Sunday morning session, he said, “He will not always take your afflictions from you, but He will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face.” I have just listened to that part again, just to make sure, and sure enough, that is what he said. But that’s not what I heard him say that Sunday morning. What I heard was a very personal message directed specifically at me, and in fact I was a little surprised to hear him say it in such a general way to the entire world. I won’t say here what it was, for it was very personal and only really applied to me anyway. But I testify that the Spirit spoke to me through the Prophet’s words, and that I heard the message I needed for myself personally. And not just once. I downloaded conference talks to my iPod to listen to while driving in the car, and when I listened to this talk again, he said it again. It was only when I read the talk that I saw a discrepancy in what I had heard and what was written. And then I listened to that part alone, and I heard him say this time what was written. I knew then for certain that I had heard a different talk than what was given generally. What a beautiful witness of God’s love for me; that He would give me specific counsel in that way. I have often thought (like many others) that the messages in General Conference were directed specifically at me. And this one truly was.
How, then, can we remove that prism and view things as they really are? Pres. Eyring gave me the answer in the October 2007 General Conference. He had just been called to the First Presidency. I personally was not surprised. He is perhaps the one person on the Earth I would love to meet over any other, excepting perhaps the Prophet himself. I love this man and his inspired counsel. From my perspective, he is well qualified to be there. But he himself felt inadequate. He said, “The … message you will receive as you pray for help in facing a hard assignment came to me very early Friday morning. I had prayed, as you will, about overwhelming inadequacies.” Like I said, obviously he sees inadequacies that I don’t, but I can sympathize with the sentiments. I have received callings that felt overwhelming. I have been in situations where I didn’t know how I would survive. I have felt inadequate, overwhelmed, and unworthy. And the answer Elder Eyring has given: “The answer was very clear and very direct and really a rebuke as I prayed. ‘Forget yourself—start praying about the people you are to serve.'”
This talk helped me to realize what is wrong with my prayers, and why I have often felt they were ineffective. I have prayed many times, wringing my hands and lamenting my lot, demanding to know, “What’s wrong with me? What am I to do about it? How am I supposed to deal with it.” Often, GID has seemed to me to be the most important issue in the entire world. I have obsessed with wanting to understand it and somehow know what to do with it. I despaired. In other words, I was viewing my misfortune through the distorted prism of pessimism. The problem is, I was praying all wrong. I wanted to know what to do, but I wanted to know what to do about myself. What I should have been doing is praying about other things entirely. I should have been praying about how to more effectively serve in my calling. I should have been praying to know how to better serve my family. I should have been focusing on service rather than problems.
Elder Holland, in the great talk “Broken Things to Mend,” which I have mentioned here before, spoke of coming first unto the Savior. I had thought that meant being more devoted in praying, studying scriptures, learning of Him. But there is more to it than that. It is doing His work. It is acting as He did, always in service of others. I have started praying less for myself and more for other people. And when I do that, I find that my problems don’t seem so all-encompassing anymore. I find my burden lightened. Is it any wonder? The Savior says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That is not an invitation to cast our cares upon Him and then just sit on our haunches. It is an invitation to cast our old yokes upon Him by taking upon us a new yoke and burden; His yoke and burden; the yoke and burden of service. When we take up the burden of serving others, we find that our own burdens are lightened and our service becomes consecrated to Him. There certainly is no time to wallow, lament, and wring our hands. And that, I guess, is the ultimate point of the message I heard from Pres. Monson: That what I needed to do was serve others more diligently.