President Uchtdorf is always a rock star- this is really no secret among Mormons. He’s where I turn when I feel brushed aside or when I feel my church experience is really not working for me- and he addressed me—and the many like me—in this morning’s Saturday session of General Conference.
I have come to rely on him for seeing me when I frequently feel some of my church leaders see *through* me. I know I am not alone.
While extolling the beauty and joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is his apostolic calling, and he acknowledges how well it works for him, he states:
“I recognize that there are some who have a less-than fulfilling experience—who feel their membership in the Church sometimes isn’t quite what they had hoped for.”
He empathizes. It’s amazing how validating it is to just have a leader see you; this is why I turn to him over and over. There is no shame in his questions—he acknowledges asking questions regarding the purpose and direction of our lives help us evaluate what is working—and what is not.
What President Uchtdorf does so well is gently invite the person who is struggling in. If you are not feeling the standard accepted peace and joy in the LDS vernacular, you are probably used to feeling windowed out. We like formulaic answers to what are sometimes complicated questions for some individuals- and standard answers can sometimes thicken the glass separating the saints.
President Uchtdorf cuts right to the core, reminding us to simplify things:
“…sometimes we take the beautiful lily of God’s truth and gild it with layer upon layer of man-made good ideas, programs, and expectations. Each one, by itself, might be helpful and appropriate for a certain time and circumstance, but when they are laid on top of the other, they can create a mountain of sediment that becomes so thick and heavy that we risk losing sight of that precious flower we once loved so dearly. “
What a beautiful balm this is to my harried soul. For me, the piling on of additional meetings, scripture study, seminary, Preach My Gospel lessons, RS meetings, extra callings, Counts, YM and YW meetings, service projects, Home and Visiting teaching, enrichment, and so on and so on… are all overwhelming and makes me want to not go to church. Underneath all of that gilt is my Savior… somewhere. Most weeks, I cannot find him, let alone a mention of him, in much of that extra gilting.
It’s not that is isn’t good, or that it doesn’t matter—but if it’s taking me away from my faith, it’s time to reevaluate. Keeping our faith simple can work beautifully, and if you feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to step back, and simplify your approach to the Gospel- he promises us God will be with us as we do so.
His second piece of advice is to begin wherever we are. This is a theme he’s visited before with his “Lift Where You Stand” talk back in 2008 at the Priesthood session. This phrase has been beloved by Saints since he first uttered it- what a relief and blessing to be counseled that wherever we are, at this moment, is a good place to turn to God.
We needn’t be “more” of anything, and believing we should be can be a wedge between us a hearing the word and feeling the love of God. God will take as exactly as we are, and begin to work with us. God does not give up on us, not ever.
While ‘exaltation is our goal; discipleship is our journey.” One needed look any further than the Four Gospels to find examples of the imperfection of the disciples of Christ. It just take a little bit of faith, and President U. promises:
“The Savior’s sacrifice opened the door of salvation for all to return to God. His “grace is sufficient for all [who] humble themselves before [God].” His grace is the enabling power that allows access into God’s kingdoms of salvation. Because of His grace, we will all be resurrected and saved in a kingdom of glory. “
I will remember this talk, next time I feel crushed beneath the weight of all the things I believe I should do to be a Latter-day Saint, or I feel invisible to my leaders. I will remember these words, and set down the burdens I don’t need to carry, and turn my face to the grace only my Savior can offer me. And I will remember that I belong.