Recently, a friend contacted me with some questions about the church. She is married, has a son, and is thinking of becoming Mormon. She had some questions she didn’t feel the missionaries could understand, and she turned to me. I hope I was helpful, and I answered her questions— both logistical and spiritual— as honestly as possible. As often happens when we think we are helping someone else, something important distilled and formed that was meant for me. She asked me if I had any regrets…
Without missing a beat, the answer bubbled up: No. I was surprised at my own hubris. I am the queen of angst and frustration and sometimes outright anger. I have had a stone lodged firmly over my heart since last November, and it has felt like it’s at home in my chest with no plans of moving. How could I say that? But there it was. And I knew it was true. No regrets.
Today, while I was still pondering my “why?” in the mire of hour 10 of the Sunday morning session of General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf answered me. While I was puttering around the kitchen, my children on the floor building with childhood blocks, President Uchtdorf delivered a sermon overflowing with grace and personal testimony of the Jesus I know, the Jesus that brought me here, and the Jesus that keeps me here.
Speaking about his childhood in Dresden, and the catastrophic damage inflicted on that “jewel-box” of a city during World War II, he reminds us that if the hands of man can rebuild such damaged and scarred treasure, how much more can God do?
It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God, can be rebuilt. Save those rare sons of perdition, there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.
In our regular world— even in our General Conference talks— it seems we sometimes forget this powerful and magnificent promise of the Savior. We get bogged down in the details of the rubble and dust, running caution tape and drawing boundaries; yes there is work to do in the Lord’s kingdom. We ask “What must we do?” and the answer is simple:
“Turn…to me. Come unto me. Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.”
President Uchdorf reminds us, in his gentle and welcoming way, that it doesn’t matter how we wandered, how we got lost, what we are afraid of, God loves us. He will find us, He will place us on his shoulders, and He will bring us home. All that is required is that we look to Him. If, in the place where we stand, we cannot muster faith, then a hope is enough.
Of this, I can bear testimony. There have been times where hope was all I had, and my life felt like Dresden. When the only strength I had left was to look in the direction of the Lord with utterly broken pleadings, the way was made open.
Then, acting on that hope, reach out to Heavenly Father. God will extend His love toward you, and His work of rescue and transformation will begin.
President Uchtdorf reminds us this is an act of faith and of obedience. This what the Lord asks of us- nothing more. It’s the mustard seed. It’s the widow’s mite. It’s the oil in the lamp burning long past it’s time. As we know better, we do better. This is obedience.
I am prideful and I bristle at the notion of obedience, and no sooner has he said the word than he firmly places his finger on why I bristle:
But sometimes I think we misunderstand obedience. We may see obedience as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. Or we may pound the metaphorical hammer of obedience against the iron anvil of the commandments in an effort to shape those we love, through constant heating and repeated battering, into holier, heavenly matter.
…perhaps there is a different metaphor that can explain why we obey the commandments of God. Maybe obedience is not so much the process of bending, twisting, and pounding our souls into something we are not. Instead, it is the process by which we discover what we truly are made of.
We are made of supernal material most precious and highly refined, and thus we carry within ourselves the substance of divinity.
And there it is.
The love of God fills our hearts; the light of truth fills our minds; we start to lose the desire to sin; and we do not want to walk any longer in darkness.
There is no destruction beyond repair. There is no life beyond redemption. There is no soul beyond hope.
This is why I have no regret. This is why I stay, even when the rock over my heart regarding a policy feels too heavy. I do believe. I do have faith. Despite everything, and despite our earthly failings- mine, and those of my church. These are my people and this is my church. This is the truth and core of the restored gospel for me. The moment we turn ourselves to God, no matter how fragile our faith or how thin our hope, the moment we turn our hearts, is the moment grace touches our souls.