A bunch of seemingly unconnected things, but they do come together eventually – I promise!
I spent part of Saturday afternoon in the passenger seat. My youngest is fast approaching his sixteenth birthday, and it was practice time. In a few weeks he gets to take his driver’s test to get his license – hopefully, it will be a great day for all of us.
I know that for some parents, this is the parental equivalent of being drawn and quartered, but I have it pretty good. He, like all my other kids, is a good learner and picks things up quickly. As we were talking about how many things you have to remember to do simultaneously, he was more than happy to remind me that I have been driving for 40 years. (I did the math and he is correct.) Being that this is my fifth kid to get behind the wheel, I am pretty calm about it. I might freak out if things get dangerous, but mostly I just ride along and give advice when needed.
Yesterday, I sat there watching him fret about checking his mirrors, flipping the turn signal indicator, braking, accelerating- all while keeping a sharp eye for kids, cars, dogs, etc. Then it started raining. After some instruction and a few tries, he found the controls for the windshield wipers. He started looking a little panicky, and asked if we could be done for the day.
Watching him struggle to grasp things that I know so well was interesting to me. Any of you who drive a lot probably stopped thinking about most of this stuff a long time ago. (I have noticed that in Utah, people stopped using their turn-signals years ago.)
It is almost automatic. Scanning the road ahead, checking the mirrors, hitting the gas, braking, turning, changing the music, making a phone call – all while sipping on a beverage- is child’s play. Now. But at one time, I was in the same position as my son, wondering if I would ever be able to do all of it and be safe.
This past week, my EC and I traveled to Utah to visit and help our new grandson, Owen, and his parents. Owen has been struggling with what the doctors call a “tracheobronchial remnant.” It interferes with his swallowing and breathing. It is scary stuff, and he has had some frightening moments and stumped a lot of experts. His situation has yet to be resolved. Thankfully, he is surrounded by his remarkable parents and an army of people who love him, as well as angels and medical professionals. I believe he will weather this storm and emerge healthy and happy.
I had the privilege of staying up all night, one night,, holding him close, listening to him and soaking him in. My job was to make sure he didn’t aspirate food or saliva into his tiny lungs. It was a long night, but wonderful in a grandfatherly way.
As I watched him struggle to swallow and breath, I had very much the same thoughts I had yesterday when driving with my son. So many things are automatic: Swallowing, breathing, clearing the throat. The only time I ever really think about any of those things is when something is not right. Most of the time, those simple actions just happen without any conscious decision-making on my part. I don’t think about breathing any more than I think about making my heart beat – unless there is something interfering with the process.
On Tuesday morning, it was announced that Russell M. Nelson is the new President of the Church, filling the role previously held by Thomas Monson. President Nelson is our new prophet, with Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eying filling out the presidency.
It felt so good, and so right. I felt nothing but good feelings, and a peaceful witness that it was correct, and that the work of the Lord would be accelerated under their leadership. These sorts of transitions are easy for me – always have been.
As Tuesday wore on, I became aware that there were others who did not feel the same as I do. Some were struggling with the change. Some resented that President Uchtdorf had been released. Others were upset that Elder Oaks had been brought into the First Presidency. I saw complaints in social media, newspaper articles and other places. There was much more negativity than I ever would have imagined. The reason I didn’t expect it was because sustaining the prophets is, and has always been, easy for me – almost automatic.
But it is not the same for everyone. Some people struggle to accept the Lord’s will, my son struggles at driving, and my grandson struggles to breath. Some things that come naturally, almost instinctively to me, may be the cause of great stress to someone else.
As I was thinking about he disparity between how I and others responded in our hearts to the calling of the new First Presidency, a scriptural passage regarding spiritual gifts came to my mind.
To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.
And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
And to others it is given to prophesy;
And to others the discerning of spirits.
And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God. (D&C 46:13-26)
The point is that not everyone has the same spiritual gifts or strengths. Just because I might be have been gifted one, does not mean that someone else has – and vice versa. The Lord said it better:
“For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.” (D&C 46:11-12)
As I thought about that idea, in the context of sustaining a new First Presidency, it occurred to me that not everyone has that same gift of testimony and familiarity with the Holy Ghost. Some people struggle with finding that witness, that confirmation. It doesn’t come easily to everyone. One person may struggle with gaining spiritual confirmations, yet excel at having faith to be healed. One may struggle with learning languages, yet be able to discern.
When I look at it with that perspective, the criticisms I read are less irritating. I find it easier to be patient, to be kind, and to be less judgmental. I don’t criticize my son because of his immature driving skills any more than I would criticize my infant grandson for not breathing correctly. Why would I criticize those who struggle with their testimony?
Now I know this view does not apply to all. Some have chosen to fight because of disbelief and opposition. I am speaking about those who have a hard time finding a confirmation, even if they honestly desire one.
However, none of these things are stagnant, or devoid of hope for progress. All these things can be remedied:
• I am confident that my son will get a handle on driving and will pass his test.
• I am full of faith and hope that Owen will overcome his physical hardships.
• I have a testimony that anyone who desires a spiritual witness regarding the First Presidency can experience one.
The common thread is that in each of these three instances, the solution is to actually do everything required to get to the end result. Regarding spiritual witnesses, the prophet Joseph F. Smith taught the following:
Men do not receive the gift of a testimony of the Spirit of the Living God in their hearts, unless they seek for it. The principle is: Thou shalt knock and it shall be opened unto thee; thou shalt ask and receive; thou shalt seek if thou wilt find and if you want wisdom, ask for it; if you want knowledge and the testimony of the spirit in your hearts, seek for it earnestly. Put yourself in a position whereby you will be worthy to receive it, then it will come to you as a gift of God, and His name should be praised for the same.
A testimony comes to us because we put ourselves in harmony with the principle of communication from God to man. We believe, we repent of and confess our sins, we do that which the Lord requires in order to gain a remission of our sins, and thus we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our minds become attuned to the Spirit of God, and to the method which God has instituted for revealing His mind to the children of men.
The Spirit of God speaks to our spirits. The Lord does not communicate to us very often through our natural senses, but when He speaks He speaks to the immortal part; the spirit of man receives the communications the Lord sends to His children, and we must therefore be in harmony to receive them.
We must obtain this light of testimony by revelation, we cannot do it by our own wisdom. God will give us knowledge and understanding, he will lead us in the path of truth if we put our whole trust in him and not in man. (link)
This does not apply only to gaining a spiritual confirmation of the new First Presidency, but of any and all doctrines, policies and commandments. The knowledge is there for the taking, if we are willing to do what is required, beginning with having at the desire. If we would rather not know, then there are no requirements to remain unenlightened.
Seek. Repent. Ask. Receive.
That is the formula to receive a witness, and to thrive in all things spiritual. To those of you seeking, I promise that it works, and the answers are there. For some it might be a tougher process than for others. Manifestations of the Spirit do not come the same to everyone.
But come they may, and come they must.