The world always clamors for our attention. As covenant women, we have to be diligent with how we spend our time and the things we work for and involve ourselves in. In order to stir up contention and to divide us, individuals, the media, and social groups engage in divisiveness and the politics of destruction to get Latter-day Saint women to contend with each other. So I asked over 100 friends and acquaintances what Mormon women want. Is it material things, or mostly things of a deeper nature? Although, I will not argue with my friend who said she’d like a nap and someone else to pick up the house once in a while, most of my friends indicated that they want spiritually lasting things over the things of this world.
So how do we do this? How do we obtain those spiritual, long lasting, eternal wants? And most importantly, what will we do about it?
The first idea, and the one that was most expressed by my friends, was the desire to be better at building Zion. Several said they felt like this could be accomplished if we ministered to each other better without excuses. I remember a few years ago our ward’s Relief Society President gave a presentation during class about turning Visiting Teaching into an opportunity to minister to each other, as Christ ministered to others. It was so revolutionary to me to think of Visiting Teaching in this way. Because the Lord establishes patterns for us to follow, learning to recognize and follow the pattern of Christlike ministering is something that everyone should strive for.
How did Christ minister to people? First, he saw them as they really were. He was and is able to do that, because he knew us before we were born. He knows us by name as we are here on earth, and he suffered and atoned for us in Gethsemane. Do you believe the words of Alma when he said, “…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (see Alma 7: 11-12). We succor people as we try to see them as they truly are – as Christ sees them. Yes, some people have very rough edges, but sometimes those are the people that need us the most.
Years ago, when I was in a Young Single Adult ward, a sister named Shauna was assigned to be my visiting teacher. When I found this out, I was immediately put off by this. I did not like Shauna. I had judged her to be a goody-two shoes, holier than thou, Molly-Mormon and I was going to have nothing to do with her. Eventually she asked to come and see me, and with a lot of hesitation, and with a big kick in the pants from the Spirit, I said yes. Those first few visits were very rough, and we almost gave up on each other many times. Later on she told me that she was very suspicious of me for various reasons too, and had her doubts about me. But we both agreed to try each other out, to see past our rough edges, and to see each other as we really were. It’s a good thing too. Months later after we’d become friends, and as I was going thru a very big personal crisis, she saved my life and sanity. Every night after work she would come over to my house and go walking with me. As we walked, we talked – well, I mostly talked, and she listened. As she let me talk, she just loved me, and did not try and solve my problem, but was happy to give me her ears, and time, which is what I needed in the end. She took the time to minister to me as the Lord would have. She saw past my outward appearance and past my rough edges, too, for who I really was.
This leads me to the next idea that my friends shared with me. As Latter-day Saint women, do we see ourselves as we truly are? Do we believe we are literal divine daughters of a divine being? Do we really see that in ourselves and believe it no matter what our situation? I have long thought that one of Satan’s most effective tools he uses to get us to sin and move away from our divine Father, and to fight among ourselves is to get us to forget we are daughters of God. Every week in Young Women’s classes all over the world girls stand and repeat the Young Women’s theme, which starts out, “We are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love him…” I never really appreciated that as a teenager, but every time I repeat the theme as an adult I am moved by the Holy Spirit, which testifies to me that those words are true. We are daughters of God!
Because of this, we must be willing to strip away the facades we’ve put up around ourselves and let people in. And when someone lets us see who they truly are, we need to embrace them – rough edges, warts and all. In this last General Conference Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy spoke about the need of Latter-day Saints to keep on trying. He said, “Just as God rejoices when we persevere, He is disappointed if we do not recognize that others are trying too.” (Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying, Apr. 2015, General Conference). No matter what side you feel you are on in the great debate on faith, a little patience and moderation will help us as we try and see each other as we truly are – divine daughters, of a divine Father, with unlimited potential.
As divine daughters of a divine Father, what are our responsibilities then? Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon” (see Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light , 47). How do we give up that summer cottage? Doctrine & Covenants 97: 21 teaches, “Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—the pure in heart; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn.” To be a Zion people, that is to say, a people that can live in the presence of our divine Father, we have to be pure in heart. We do that by aligning our will to that of the Lord’s will. Simply put, we know what the will of the Lord is by following His prophets.
Elder Maxwell again taught, “To the extent that we are not willing to be led by the Lord, we will be driven by our appetites, or we will be greatly preoccupied with the lesser things of the day.” (Swallowed Up In the Will of the Father, Oct. 1995, General Conference). Our desires and appetites will drive what we do. This is where we have the opportunity to place our will on the altar of God, follow the prophet, and minister as the Savoir would. Are we willing to work for that?
I think a fear that many of us have in trying to submit our hearts, minds, and wills to the heart, mind, and will of our divine Father is that we somehow will lose who we are. Elder Maxwell counseled, “So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves” (Maxwell, Ibid). But Elder Maxwell also reminded us, “As one’s will is increasingly submissive to the will of God, he can receive inspiration and revelation so much needed to help meet the trials of life” (Maxwell, Ibid). As we desire to change into a more holy divine daughter of our divine Father, we have this promise given to us by an Apostle, that we will have the help we need to consecrate ourselves and our efforts at building Zion. The first step however, is dependent on us. We have to choose to work at having a pure heart and actively engage in building Zion.
Is this task overwhelming? It might appear to be, and sometimes when we are in the middle of it, it can be. However, we needn’t be overwhelmed or lose faith in our work. We have the promise that if we come to the Lord, and yoke ourselves with him (that is to say, agree to work at things on His terms), our burdens will be made light on our backs. We have this reminder from The Book of Mormon to cheer us on, “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage” (See Mosiah 24: 16-17).
My challenge to you, dear reader, is that you ask yourself, “What do I really want as a Mormon woman? What am I willing to do about it? And what will I do about it?” Remember we are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us. He wants us to be pure in heart; to build Zion and bring others along with us as we work. It will be hard work, but He is there to help, and He will help as we align our will to His, by following the prophet and ministering to his divine daughters.