In the most recent general women’s session of conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared a parable about three sisters. One was always sad, one was always mad, and one was always glad. Their circumstances were very similar, and yet their personal view affected how they felt about life and themselves. It’s pretty obvious that the sister who is glad is the sister that all of us should aspire to be. President Uchtdorf said that all of us share traits with each sister at different times in our lives. The week leading up to the women’s session I was most definitely like the sad sister, and during his entire talk I felt like President Uchtdorf was speaking directly to me.
President Uchtdorf gave a very simple and powerful explanation of how to be glad: remember and follow the teachings that we find in Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Of this he said,
“…if you find it difficult to hold fast to the iron rod and walk steadfastly toward salvation; if the laughter and ridicule of others who seem so confident causes you to waver; if you are troubled by unanswered questions or doctrines you don’t understand yet; if you feel saddened because of disappointments, I urge you to remember Lehi’s dream.
Stay on the path! Never let go of the rod of iron – the word of God! And when anyone tries to make you ashamed for partaking of the love of God, ignore them.”
In Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi Chapter 8), he was walking in what he describes as a “dark and dreary waste.” After several hours he calls on the Lord for help. Shortly after his prayer, he came upon a field and a tree “whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” I find it important to point out that Lehi didn’t come upon the tree by chance. He reached out to the Lord first, and then the Lord led him to the tree. Such will be the same with us, we will not find happiness by chance, we must reach out to Heavenly Father like Lehi did.
Lehi partook of the fruit and described it as the sweetest he had ever tasted, and that it filled him with joy. This fruit made him so happy that he wanted his family to partake and feel that same happiness. He looked around for his family, saw a river and then found Sariah, Nephi, and Sam. He beckoned to them and they ate the fruit as well, but Laman and Lemuel would not come and partake of the fruit when their father called to them.
Nephi was also shown the vision his father saw along with an interpretation. It is from the record of this vision that we learn that the fruit is the love of God (1 Nephi 11:22). No wonder the fruit makes Lehi so happy! How could feeling God’s love not make us happy? And we should certainly want others to feel that love and happiness as well. Nephi also calls the fruit “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (1 Nephi 15:36) Why would God’s love be the greatest of all the gifts? Because his love is why we have the Plan of Salvation. His love is why we have a Savior. His love is why we have agency, why we can repent. Everything that makes it possible for us to return to Him is because of His love, and knowing that makes me pretty glad.
Next Lehi saw an iron rod running along a “strait and narrow path.” Nephi’s vision teaches us that the iron rod is the word of God, and it leads us to the tree, or God’s love. The word of God – or the scriptures, the gospel, the doctrine – leads us to his love. His love is always there, He doesn’t withhold it from us, but we must seek it and open up our hearts so that we can feel it.
Lehi saw countless people following the path towards the tree. Then a mist of darkness arose and pulled the people on the path away and they were lost. In Nephi’s vision we learn that the mist of darkness is the temptations of the devil “which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and lead them away.” (1 Nephi 12:17) Another group of people took a hold of the iron rod, and clung to it as they walked to the tree. These people made it to the tree and partook of the fruit, but right away they became ashamed.
When teaching his brothers, Nephi said that holding onto the word of God is the key to resisting temptation and not being ashamed.
“…whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:24)
When we give into temptation, we feel guilty and sad. When we allow others to make us feel ashamed for living the gospel, we feel sad and mad. If, like Nephi said, following the word of God helps us combat those, then following the word of God will make us feel the opposite of sad and mad: glad.
At this point Lehi saw a “great and spacious building.” There were people inside this building and they scorned and mocked those who partook of the fruit. The group of people that were ashamed, listened to the mocking and “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” In Nephi’s vision we learn that the great and spacious building represents “the world and the wisdom thereof.” Let’s also call this wisdom “the philosophies of men.” The building also represents pride. In Nephi’s vision he saw the building fall, “and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelves apostles of the Lamb.” (1 Nephi 11:36)
So how do we combat the scorn that can make us feel ashamed, sad, and mad? By following the example of the third group in Lehi’s vision. The third group of people “caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 8:30) This group did not listen to the scorn and mocking from the great and spacious building. They stayed by the tree. How were they able to do so? They clung to the iron rod, they clung to the word of God, and did not let go. The word of God was a refuge for them, a safe place, home, warmth, and happiness. They followed the iron rod to the tree because they wanted to, not because they felt they had to. When we view the word of God as a source of joy, we will cling to it as well and be able to endure the mocking. This will help us be like the glad sister.
There was a fourth group of people who did not even attempt to grab the iron rod or follow the path. Instead they headed towards the great and spacious building. These people either made it to the building, became lost, or drowned in the river and fountain. Nephi’s vision teaches us that the river and fountain are “the depths of hell.” However, Nephi taught his brothers that we should not dwell on that river, or what it represents:
“And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.” (1 Nephi 15:27)
Although bad things exist in this world, it does no good to our hearts to dwell on them and allow them to affect us. Of course we can’t – and shouldn’t – completely ignore them, but we should always seek out God’s love for peace and happiness above dwelling on anger and sadness.
Of the different aspects of Lehi’s vision, President Uchtdorf recommends that we focus on holding onto the iron rod and staying on the path. He said,
“The promises of praise and acceptance by the world are unreliable, untrue, and unsatisfying. God’s promises are sure, true, and joyful -now and forever. I invite you to consider religion and faith from a higher perspective. Nothing offered in the great and spacious building can compare with the fruit of the living gospel of Christ…I have learned for myself that the path of discipleship in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to joy. It is the way to safety and peace. It is the way to truth.”
I would like to add my own testimony to President Uchtdorf’s that when we follow the path of discipleship we will find true happiness. Last week I allowed myself to be pulled down by temporal sadness and anger. It affected my entire week. It affected my ability to communicate with my husband. It affected my ability to care for my children. It affected my ability to be happy. President Uchtdorf’s talk was one of the things that helped me rise above that sadness over the weekend. As I studied Lehi’s dream, followed President Uchtdorf’s advice, and made some changes in my daily schedule, I began to feel peace, love, and happiness again. I know that the same can happen for you too. Heavenly Father’s love is the greatest gift on earth, and feeling it is the greatest feeling on earth; and when we feel it and accept it, we can be like the sister who was glad.