Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lesson Recap: Righteous Choices and Unity

Based on a talk, Coming Together and Sustaining Each Other in Righteous Choices
By Renata Forste, BYU Women’s Conference 2010. Watch video

Sister Forste starts her talk quoting Paul in 1st Corinthians 1:10
Now I beseech you, [sisters], by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Sister Forste breaks her talk into three parts.

First, she says: Paul admonishes the saints, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you.

When Paul directed the saints to speak the same thing, I do not believe that he was suggesting that we all think and be the same, but that we speak the same testimony. It is our testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration that is the same—that is what unites us.
I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago back in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Mike and I lived in student housing on the south side of Chicago and attended the Hyde Park Ward. My first visiting teaching companion was Sister Cathy Stokes. She was the Relief Society president and a long-time south side resident. One of the first things Cathy had to teach me was how to parallel park!
Later, my companion was Sister Nancy Johnson, a new convert to the church. I remember sitting with Nancy in the humble home of Sister Susan Walker as we visit taught her. Susan was an older, very gracious woman and had grown up in the South during segregation.

Both my companion and sister Walker were African American, older, single sisters with whom – at least demographically—I had very little in common. Yet, as we sat and shared testimony of Joseph Smith and the restoration, I felt very close to these sisters. We spoke the same thing – the same spiritual language. I loved them, and I knew that they loved me.

In contrast, I didn’t feel the same connection with my fellow students at the university—even though we were very similar in terms of race, age, education, and socio-economic background.

We didn’t share or speak the same faith and testimony.
Sister Forste says: As covenant women, we come from all walks of life, all ages, marital statuses, incomes, education levels, race and ethnic backgrounds—but together, we speak the same simple testimony, we comfort each other and sustain each other in our mutual faith. Our testimony of Jesus Christ crosses all boundaries—political, racial, economic, and national. We are the same, as covenant daughters of God. That doesn’t mean we are the same in all of our life decisions, or even in how we live the principles of the gospel. Lord wants us all to return to him, but not in a straight line—meaning that the Lord doesn’t expect us to all be exactly alike.

We should come together as one.

To illustrate, here is a page from a phone book.

By itself, it is very weak and easy to tear. But on the Discovery Channel it was shown that if you interlock the pages from a phone book with those of another book it is almost impossible to separate the two books. On Myth Busters they drilled holes and put brackets and chains to secure the ends of the two interlocked books.

Amazingly it took 8000 pounds of pressure to pull the books apart!

This interlocking is similar to the command Alma gave the priests he ordained to minister to the people at the waters of Mormon: And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.

Sister Forste says: Now think about the force of millions of Relief Society sisters from all over the world, perfectly joined together—their hearts knit together in unity. To be perfectly joined together—we are unstoppable. Satan won’t have Sheridan tanks big enough to pull us apart.

So how do we then become perfectly joined together?

Sister Forste explained: This is the second part of what Paul asked us to do.

She says to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, means that we willingly conform (or sustain each other) in humility. We become one in the body of Christ and if one member suffers, we suffer with them. If one member is honored, we rejoice with them.

Elder Pace, in an Ensign address said:
I am convinced that when we obtain a witness of who we really are and possess healthy feelings of self-worth because of it, our joy in the accomplishments of others is magnified. When that joy is felt, we should share it.
Being humble and rejoicing in the accomplishments of others does not mean we should lack confidence in ourselves.

One woman writer, in her article, Why Can’t Women Get Along?, noted that...
...secretly, we all have ideas of what the perfect woman is like; and when we see another woman possibly attaining even one of these attributes, outcome the claws.
But, she asks, is it jealousy of each other or a lack of confidence in ourselves?

She relates the story of talking with a couple of her friends about the perfect woman—each describing what they thought the perfect woman was like. What she realized was that they were each describing someone the complete opposite of themselves.

She said it’s us!

It’s not about what some other woman has that is stopping us from getting along with them. It’s what we feel we don’t have that is getting in the way.

She writes: What women need to learn is how to truly appreciate themselves for who they are and what makes them truly beautiful. Until we get there, we’ll never get to appreciating each other and building real friendships among ourselves.

In his talk, The Other Prodigal, Elder Holland said:
Who is it that whispers so subtly in our ear that a gift given to another somehow diminishes the blessings we have received?

Who makes us feel that if God is smiling on another, then He surely must somehow be frowning on us?

You and I both know who does this—it is the father of all lies.

It is Lucifer, our common enemy, whose cry down through the corridors of time is always and to everyone, “Give me thine honor.”

. . . As others seem to grow larger in our sight, we think we must therefore be smaller. So, unfortunately, we occasionally act that way.
Finally, Paul instructs us to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

To illustrate this, Sister Forste shares a very personal story.
Everyone who interviews for a faculty position at BYU has an interview with a general authority of the church. Over fifteen years ago in my interview, I raised the question about me, a mother, being employed at BYU. The general authority who interviewed me did two very important things. First, he reaffirmed the principles laid out in the Proclamation on the Family. Then he said, “You and your husband need to pray to Father in Heaven and decide what is best for your kingdom – that is your family.” And then he said, “I am happy to recommend you to teach at BYU.”

I came away from that experience with a testimony that we each must individually keep the commandments. As we are obedient, keep our covenants, pray and read the scriptures—we will receive personal revelation regarding how we, individually, should apply the principles of the gospel in our lives.
Remember sisters’ it is the friction or tension between the phone book pages that creates a force that holds the pages together.

As sisters in the gospel, our uniqueness as individuals can be a force binding us together or, can create contention that eventually pulls us apart. Being of the same mind does not mean we all make the exact same choices, but it does mean that we sustain each other in our decisions as individuals.

As covenant women, we should be as the Nephites after the coming of Christ as recorded in 4th Nephi, among whom there were not any manner of –ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God… and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

We may not have it all together but together we have it all!

I love the sisters who are young and just joining us in Relief Society as they bring a fresh perspective to me and my testimony.

I love the sisters who are older and have substantial life experience. They testify that even in the darkest hour of our trials, “this too shall pass.” Their examples help me keep anchored in the Lord.

I love the sisters who worry over everything; it reminds me that only the Savior can bring peace in my life so I will go to my knees more often. My Grandpa used to say “worrying is like a rocking chair, you can do it all day and never get anywhere.”

I love the sisters who have raised children who have stayed true to the faith because they give me hope as I look at my children. They also give me ideas that I can use in my own home.

I love the sisters whose children are wayward, because they know and testify that the covenant will follow after these children and the Lord will bring about miracles in our lives. These Sisters get life experiences that our Heavenly Father has all the time.

I love the sisters who think they have perfect children because it reminds me to relax and know that image is not everything.

I love the sisters who have children that are wild and run all over. They remind me of the time my children were little and the sweet experiences I gained pouring out my heart to the Lord expressing feelings of inadequacy. He was with me during this time.

I love the sisters who don’t have children because they have taken the time to help me raise my children. I get to know mine, and have helped me to riven my children experiences that I have not. In our ward we have a couple of these wonderful couples and my boys love to spend time with them.

I love the sisters who have judged me; they remind me how it feels to be judged and that forgiveness is action not a thought.

I love the sisters who have forgiven me when I have judged them. They allow me to go back to the basics, feel sorry, say sorry and do better.

I love the sisters who feel they are obligated to speak their mind.

I love the sisters who forgive me when I speak my mind.

I love the sisters who have lost someone they dearly love; they understand when I cry over my losses and they testify to me that I will see my loved ones again. Through the sharing of their testimony, mine testimony is strengthened.

I love the sisters whose sing beautifully they bring a special spirit to our meetings that I really cannot.

I love the sisters who work outside of the home as they bring knowledge to our meetings and help to bridge a gap to the world that some of us don’t experience.

I love the sisters that serve me. They understand the true meaning of the pure love of Christ and seek to live His Gospel.

I love the sisters that allow me to serve them. Because of that service I am able to forget the problems in my life and allow the Savior to carry the burden and focus on the way he would have me live.

I love the sisters that are confident in the Lord. They have been bathed in the Atonement and know the sweet fruit therein. When Satan tries to remind them of their past, they boldly remind him of his future.

These are the sisters of our ward. I love you. Your Heavenly Father loves you; he testified that to me this past week.

I saw so many of your faces as I wrote these words.

We are the yellow pages unique in our lives, experiences, and application but we all have favor in our Heavenly Father's sight.

Please take time to learn this, know this, and treat yourself and your sister like the precious daughters of God you are.


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