President Uchtdorf and Why I Stay #ldsconf

Frauenkirche-Dresden-650x488-870a9fa117b86abb

Dresden Frauenkirche

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.

Why?

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.

Comments

  1. redhat37 says:

    I, as non-LDS, believe that Elder Uchtdorf is giving some much needed teaching on God’s love and grace and that is good. In his talk today, when he talked about why we obey, I wish he understood that we obey because we are so grateful and thankful for God’s saving love thru Jesus that how can we act otherwise-there is no other reason- nothing legalistic is there about obedience. He loves us and in gratitude for that unconditional love we do His will and serve Him and everyone placed inn our path. Love is the reason, there is no other!

  2. Redhat37 — My sense of Elder Uchtdorf is that this is what he thinks overall. His body of work reflects it.

  3. RedHat37 — In his talk on grace last year, I think President Uchtdorf said exactly that. Both that talk and this one were among his best. When I hear how he approaches the gospel, I know there’s a place for me in this Church.

  4. Jason K. says:

    I just put up a post arguing that Uchtdorf’s talk deftly evades the charge of legalism.

    This is really great, Tracy. Thanks for sharing your experience in connection with this talk.

  5. emilyhgeddes says:

    Thank you, Tracy.

  6. This was lovely, Tracy. Thanks so very much.

  7. Terry H says:

    Additionally, didn’t it seem that President Uchtdorf was uncharactaristicly emotional after Elder Kearon’s talk about the refugees. As for the rest, I’m not as troubled by the events of November as some, but I fully admire and appreciate Tracy’s testimony here.

  8. Whatwomenhavelearned says:

    Redhat37—exactly! I choose to follow him (obeying his commandments and teachings) because that’s how I show my inexpressible LOVE for him. That’s how I worship him. And the more I have done this, the more his grace washes over me. Thank you for your comment that touched my heart.

  9. You have such a wonderful and powerful perspective, Tracy. I too loved this talk and am grateful to see how it affected you — thanks!

  10. Clark Goble says:

    “…I wish he understood that we obey because we are so grateful and thankful for God’s saving love…”

    I’m not sure he doesn’t understand that. I think people keep taking him as offering “the one true way to talk” while that seems quite at odds with how he considers the different facets of grace.

    The metaphor here is what we truly are in our core versus what we are superficially. And of course to a degree he’s completely right. Some people go through the motions without changing their heart and are unsuccessful. We hear of that all the time with “checklist Mormons” who just stress themselves out. Likewise even Paul has the idea of the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. That distinction is often helpful but can also be misleadingly applied.

    One problem with the “true me” versus the “superficial me” can be seen in the whole “find myself” movement that started with beatniks and went up through the 70’s. Rather than building something people dropped out to find out what their true self was. Of course typically (although not universally) this was a complete disaster. Often we find ourselves only as we work at doing things that may not seem like ourselves.

    My sense is that Pres. Uctdorf also understands this extreme. What he offers, to me anyway, seems like a nice balance between finding out who and what we are as well as combined with crafting ourselves. Finding drives within ourselves that weren’t there are important. Ultimately they are the only way to succeed. However at the same time we sometimes are like the Brother of Jared, left to figure out how to apply this energy on our own. And likewise, as many missionaries discovered, sometimes you have to go through the motions until you find the spirit of the thing.

  11. Mary Bradford says:

    I too thrilled at my fave apostle’s jewel of a talk!