I look forward to General Conference. Since I joined the church almost eleven (!) years ago, I haven’t missed one. Like so many of us, I turn Conference weekend into a fun family thing. We cook all our favorite foods, have a picnic on the living room floor, the kids get to bring their blocks and toys downstairs and we all basically live in our pajamas and loll around listening to church. For eight hours. Yeah, I’d say my conversion is pretty complete.
My perspective on things over the years has changed- from bright-eyed, idealistic newbie, to fairly typical Ensign family, into divorced single-motherhood and full-time school. I’ve been in the position of being utterly embraced by my faith, comfortable with orthodoxy, and then sucker-punched by life and feeling windowed out. But one thing has remained constant- my testimony of the things that matter. While I may not be a poster-child for the cover of the Ensign anymore, and being a solo-parent to three kids has drastically changed the lens through which I experience church services, what I own— what no one can take from me— is my faith in the founding principles of the Gospel.
When I tune in to Conference now, the talks about the perfection of the family, the talks propping up what I used to imagine was the perfect life, now fall rather flat for me. I’m aware of privilege in a way I wasn’t when my family fit the ideal, and I’m aware that while we are different now, we are still very much privileged in our own ways. It’s harder for me to find words that resonate in my heart, words that feel like something Jesus would say. Saturday was particularly difficult in this regard. There were talks on tolerance being a slippery slope, reaffirming the priesthood (which is not in my home, I am so frequently reminded), well-meaning but quite disastrous words on young women’s value, a strange talk about sex and marriage, and then… finally, some words to soothe my soul. Richard G Scott delivered lovely sermons on the blessings of having a Christ-centered home. This is what my heart and my soul needed (my heart did not yet know of the tsunami of awesome on it’s way from President Uchtdorf).
I chuckled that Elder Scott’s talk was the first substantial sermon after lunch- where his delivery is so dulcet and soothing, he frequently makes me sleepy. Which is really too bad, because his words are powerful. Now, I can’t manufacture priesthood in my home, and I cannot eighty-six the tolerance I feel towards my loved ones who have lives different from mine- but I CAN have a Christ centered home. And I want one! So I listened.
In his soothing, quiet way, he opens by telling us to slow down. Somehow, when this man tells me that… I believe I should.
Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures.
Do you think Elder Scott is an introvert? I know for my soul, this kind of quiet is necessary and with the structure of my family, requires real effort on my part to carve out and maintain. But it’s vital, he’s right. We all function better when I protect our open space, when the air at the margins is left clean and open, and thoughts can form and coalesce.
Some homes have a father who is a worthy priesthood holder joined by a faithful, devoted mother who together lead in righteousness. Many homes have a different configuration. Regardless of your circumstances, you can center your home and your life on the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the source of true peace in this life.
Thank you! Here we are! Here is my family, he sees us and validates us. I cannot overstate how important this is to my children as they lay on the floor, listening for the word of the session (vacuum. ha. ha.) but also absorbing unintentionally all the other talks. It’s quite uncomfortable in our home when I feel as though I have to proof-text or explain to my children— who have been hurt enough, thank you very much— what an Apostle means with words that sound further hurtful to their ears. Here was a man we sustain and love telling us we can do just as well as Ideal Families. Yay for us!
Elder Scott goes on, gently encouraging each family to consider what Jesus would want for them, to weigh out their own needs and invite the Savior to be a part of the decision making process for that home. It’s kind, loving and welcoming to imagine the Savior wanting to be in my home, to be part of our family- rather than just tolerating us. We actually are part of the body of Christ.
I have learned a truth that has been repeated so frequently in my life that I have come to know it as an absolute law. It defines the way obedience and service relate to the power of God. When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves.
He is sharing something very valuable here, and it’s for everyone. Each woman, man, girl and boy can take this counsel and in their own way apply it to their lives. If we do these things, our homes and our inner lives will be enriched, and we will walk closer to the Lord. I am so grateful as I listen to him, and I am hoping my children are soaking this is. It’s a balm to my tired and prickly spirit. The Lord wants us, and he loves us- not just on the surface, not just on page 12 as a footnote- but He really wants us to claim our place, and to allow Him to work through us.
He follows with counsel to be a good, genuine friend, not to seek personal advantage. To smooth the way for our loved ones, and to hold onto hope. We are not to worry if we can’t manage all of this at any given time, but to be kind to ourselves and to others. I exhale on the couch, and look at my children, building Lego creatures to inhabit the unit block world. I am grateful for the voice of an Apostle, and for the first time Saturday, they ask me no questions for which I have no answers. Those are some foundational principles I can get behind.
I bear testimony that living an obedient life, firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, provides the greatest assurance for peace and refuge in our homes. There will still be plenty of challenges or heartaches, but even in the midst of turmoil, we can enjoy inner peace and profound happiness.