I gave my first talk as a married woman today all by myself! That's right: no JC to accompany me or counter any introductions I gave about our mini-family.
I wanted to share my talk with you. My topic was on the life, teachings, and ministries of Jesus Christ.
(Pictures were not included)
Hi. My name is EO. My husband, JC, and I were kicked out of the singles ward last month so we decided to see how we like it here. It was great until a few minutes ago when my stomach decided to turn into butterflies.
I’m from a small town in Southern Oregon most people haven’t heard of called Central Point, JC is from Corvallis. I attend Oregon State and study microbiology. JC attends University of Washington and studies business finance. I have two years left he has one term. So, if you see me coming to church by myself in a month no worries, he hasn’t gone inactive, he just left me. I’m still not sure if he has plans on coming back.
So for today I am going to talk about developing inner strength. I hope that each of you will be able to get something out of it and that the spirit will be here this afternoon.
Sis. Ellen W. Smoot, a past General Relief Society President once asked, “How do you and I become so converted to the truth, so full of faith, so dependent on God that we are able to meet trials and even be strengthened by them?” Each of us has times that we are met with adversity and affliction. Like last Friday night, JC and I were planning on going on a much needed date when our dishwasher and kitchen sink became backed up and flooded part of our apartment. I was pretty upset because it had been a long day at work and JC didn’t really seem to know what to do either but in the end nothing was ruined. It is how we react in those times of trial that define us and help build our character. But how can we build our inner strength in such a way that when we are faced with hardships we can react in a way that will spiritually uplift us?
There are, I believe, four fundamental steps to developing inner strength. The first is Desire.
We must desire to have strength and to be converted. As we desire to be strengthened other righteous desires may manifest themselves. A desire to have a testimony, to draw unto Christ and be like him. It was Joseph Smith’s desire to know which church was true that lead him to the Sacred Grove.
But desire is not enough. I may have a strong desire to get good grades but until I study I will not receive them. Which brings me to the second step: Study and Ponder.
We must study the scriptures; study the gospel teachings according to the prophets. We have been instructed to not just read but really ponder their meaning so that we may understand. For our daily scripture study JC and I just finished 2 Nephi which contains many excerpts from Isaiah. It would have been so easy for us (and a lot less frustrating) if we had breezed through those sections without a second glance. But it would have been a waste. We would not have fully understood the meaning of what we were reading unless we took the time and effort to study and ponder out in our minds what that Prophet of God was trying to tell us.
As we study and ponder we will be strengthened. With a deeper understanding of the gospel our testimonies can increase and we will come to better understand our Father in Heaven. It is my personal testimony that as I read the scriptures and learn of my Heavenly Father, my love and faith in Him increases and I become stronger as an individual.
As Moroni taught the third step is Prayer. For he states that after we have pondered the teachings out in our minds that he “would exhort [us] that [we] would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if [we] shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto [us], by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Prayer, the ability to directly communicate with God, is a miracle. We can gain for ourselves a testimony and knowledge of the truth. That is something I love best about the gospel!
Elder Richard G. Scott taught that “a key to prayer is to learn to ask the right questions. Consider changing from asking for the things you want to honestly seeking what He wants for you. Then as you learn His will, pray that you will be led to have the strength to fulfill it.” As we seek to develop inner strength it is essential that we call upon the Lord for help and guidance. It was through continual prayer that my family was strengthened when my dad was deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Prayer has been a constant support throughout my life.
The last step is to Act. There is a saying that, “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.” I may have all the righteous desires and good intentions in the world but until I act upon it, it means nothing. As we are confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ we are told to receive the Holy Ghost. As we live our lives our willingness to obey its promptings governs whether or not it will be with us. We must be in tune with the spirit and willing to act upon its guidance to be fully strengthened.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks defined a testimony this way: “A testimony of the gospel is a personal witness borne to our souls by the Holy Ghost that certain facts of eternal significance are true and that we know them to be true.” At another time Elder Oaks said, “Testimony is to know and to feel, conversion is to do and to become.” If we are fully converted to the gospel and its teachings we have the inner strength to act as God would have us do.
Now there is no general order to these steps but the overarching concept is striving to maintain the spirit. The Holy Ghost is a comforter that can help guide and strengthen us. But we need to make sure we have done what is necessary to be in tune.
In high school I participated in sports. One of which was cross-country running. In the midst of racing with the loud cheering, noise, and excitement it would be very difficult to hear anything. Yet, my dad’s voice was one that I could always hear. When I was tired and weak his words of encouragement and advice would help me make it to the finish line. His voice was one I recognized, knew and trusted. I knew that he loved me and wanted me to be happy and succeed. I also knew that he was an experienced athlete and his advice would be invaluable. Likewise, we must become acquainted with our Father in Heaven. Elder Allen F. Packer of the First Quorum of the Seventy taught, “We need to be acquainted with the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and we need to practice and apply gospel teachings until they become natural and automatic. These promptings become the foundation of our testimonies. Then our testimonies will keep us happy and safe in troubled times.”
President Howard W. Hunter stated that, “developing spirituality and attuning ourselves to the highest influences of godliness is not an easy matter. It takes time and frequently involves a struggle. It will not happen by chance, but is accomplished only through deliberate effort and by calling upon God and keeping his commandments.” He again went on to say that, “part of our difficulty as we strive to acquire spirituality is the feeling that there is much to do and that we are falling far short. Perfection is something yet ahead for every one of us; but we can capitalize on our strengths, begin where we are, and seek after the happiness that can be found in pursuing the things of God. We should remember the Lord’s counsel: ‘Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.’”
A President of the Provo Missionary Training Center taught that, “with spirituality, we are successful, and without it we are not. It is that simple! … It is not only the thoroughly genuine desire to live in harmony with the will of God at all times, as guided by the Spirit, but also the ability to surrender totally and willingly to this guidance—and thus to do that which the Spirit whispers. To be truly spiritual is to walk with God. It is the key to true happiness and success in our lives in all kinds of circumstances. When spirituality and testimony have become part of an individual’s experience, that person becomes more independent, self-disciplined, confident, and happy, and at peace with whatever circumstances he may face.”
As we strive to build ourselves we may often stumble and fall. That is why the atonement is so wonderful! It allows Christ to be there for us in our times of need; to help us as we struggle under our own burdens. As you strive to grow closer to Him, He will help lift you. Joshua 1:9 teaches, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” I cannot think of anything more comforting or strengthening than the knowledge that as I strive to do my personal best my Father in Heaven will be there, not just on the sidelines but in the race with me, cheering me on.