Choose Ye This Day to Serve the Lord: Talks From the 2010 BYU Women's Conference (Hardcover )(edit)
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When the Lord called Enoch to prophesy to his people, the message He instructed Enoch to give was this: “Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you” (Moses 6:33). As the world was in the days of Enoch, it is now—and the message to our time is the same. This scripture serves as the theme of the 2010 Brigham Young University Women’s Conference, and the twenty addresses in this book speak to that theme. Readers will find messages that will bolster their efforts to fulfill their roles as sisters, mothers, leaders—daughters of a loving God who cares who they are and what they do.
“As daughters of God you are custodians of the powers of life and you are sponsors of the Spirit of the Lord in the homes of Zion. You are the principal nurturers in the family duties placed upon us by a loving Heavenly Father.”—Elder Dallin H. Oaks
“Women are like lionesses at the gate of the home. Whatever happens in a woman’s home and family happens because she cares about it and it matters to her. She guards that gate, and if something matters to her, it matters to her family.”—Julie B. Beck
“We must be aware of our children’s many situations and moods. As mothers, we are healers in our homes and one of the greatest healing powers we have at our disposal is the power of love. Do our children feel of our love?”—Ann M. Dibb
“Your Heavenly Father knows your name. He knows who you really are. He knows what you’re feeling and thinking about right now. He knows your worries, your concerns—and your joys, your hopes, your dreams, and what you’re looking forward to.”—Mary Ellen Edmunds
“The call for a return to virtue is a call for all of us. It is a call for the world now. It is for you and for me and for our daughters and granddaughters. It is for our families. Now is the time for a return to virtue. Now is the time for women everywhere to ‘arise and shine forth that thy light may be a standard for the nations’ (D&C 115:5).”—Elaine S. Dalton
This collection of addresses gives us both the strength to choose whom we will follow, and encouragement to continue on the path the Lord has shown us. By heeding the Lord’s message, we can, as Enoch, help to build Zion in our lives and the lives of our families.
- What Is Your Mission?
Julie B. Beck
- "But If Not"
Bethany Little Christensen
- Sharing the Gospel with Love
Ana Maria Coburn
- Lessons of Faith and Courage From Emma Smith
Jane H. Dudley
- When Prayers Seem Unanswered
Lynn A. Samsel
- Have Miracles Ceased?
- Seeing the Hand of the Lord In Our Lives
- "My Soul Hath Often Found Relief"
Mary Ellen Edmunds
- Arise and Shine Forth: A Return to Virtue
Elaine S. Dalton
- Standing Up for Truth and Righteousness and Decrying Evil at Every Turn
- The Intelligent Use of Agency
Sherrie Mills Johnson
- Building Our Fences of Protection
Ann M. Dibb
- Exchanging Guilt for Inspiration
Stephanie D. Smith
- Coming Together and Sustaining Each Other in Righteous Choices
- My Body Is a Temple: Representation, Respect, and Reverence
Mary N. Cook
- Becoming a "Repairer of the Breach"
Marie K. Hafen
- "Follow the Prophet"
- Angels Will be Your Associates
Heidi S. Swinton
- The Garden of Our Faith
Kristen M. Oaks
- "Choose Ye This Day to Serve the Lord"
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
- Size: 6x9
- Pages: 224
- Published: February 2011
About the Author
Exchanging Guilt for Inspiration
Stephanie D. Smith
I am a fairly new convert to our Church, baptized in 2007. Like many, this is the first Brigham Young University women’s conference I have attended. Given how new I am to all of this, you may wonder why I was asked to speak at this conference. I have wondered the same thing many, many times. As best as I can figure, I was selected for this topic because I am an expert on guilt. In fact, I have carried so many bricks of guilt they wouldn’t fit in a backpack, so I had to create my own brickyard. Yet by returning to the Savior with my whole heart, I have begun to exchange my stumbling blocks of guilt for building blocks of eternal value.
To begin, I would like to ask you to sit back, relax, and simply imagine a brick path. Perhaps your mind’s eye will conjure up a path from your childhood. You may envision the strait and narrow path from Lehi’s dream. But it is also perfectly wonderful if you imagine Dorothy’s fabled yellow brick road to Oz. Pick whichever path works best for you, and keep it vividly in your minds. We will focus on this essential point: Each of us has the ability to use the rich clay of our own lives to forge our path back to our Heavenly Father.
The process of creating our path involves several steps that can move us beyond guilt and despair and move us forward toward greater joy and lasting peace. Christ promised us no less than this when He told us, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). With these words in mind, let us begin building a new path together.
Step One: Designing Our Path
Our progress will be hindered if we hang on to bricks of guilt. We must empty our backpacks of any we find there. Instead, we must build our new path from the lessons we have learned from past mistakes—the lessons contained deep inside those bricks.
This requires a self-appraisal process that takes a good dose of courage. When we examine our lives closely, we will see that our guilt has been constructed from some powerfully ugly emotions, like remorse and regret; anger and anguish; stigma, self-recrimination, and even self-condemnation.
When you lift one of these bricks, you will be staggered by the weight of useless emotion. No wonder our backs hurt all the time; no wonder our hearts are so often heavy.
In our appraisals, we must ask ourselves: What can I learn from the guilt I have been carrying? Is the lesson only of temporal value, or is it of lasting significance? The key is always to discard the bricks—the burden of our mistakes—and retain only the lesson.
As we appraise the guilt we have been carrying, however, we will see that not all lessons are of equal importance. Some of the guilt we have been carrying is really quite insubstantial. Perhaps we feel guilty that we cannot be super-wife, super-mom, or super-woman every day—or any day. Perhaps the best lesson to be learned from this type of guilt is simply to do the best that you can each day, and discard the useless weight of inadequacy.
It is also true that some of the guilt we have been carrying does not really belong to us. Perhaps someone has betrayed us, abused us, or abandoned us and made us feel that we are to blame. This kind of guilt is of no value to us so we must shed its dead weight. The only lasting lesson we can learn from these hard experiences is simply never to carry another person’s guilt, and never to force another person to carry ours.
Inevitably, our self-appraisals lead us to recognize guilt caused by our own bad decisions, our own mistakes, and our own sins. We all have these bricks. We formed them from the clay of our own lives.
Four years ago—against my will—I began a humbling and life-changing self-appraisal process. I was weighed down by tremendous guilt caused by an accumulation of serious sins. You see, although I had been raised in a loving Catholic home, I spent most of my adulthood living a life entirely devoid of true faith. For forty-nine years, I dutifully attended Catholic mass every Sunday. But I did absolutely nothing else to practice my faith. I never volunteered for my church; I never tithed. I simply attended, once a week, just about as often as I go to the gym. If you had observed me on a typical work day (and back then those included Sundays) you would never have been able to detect that I was a Christian. While I understood our Lord’s commandments, I strayed very far from them. Consequently, my spiritual foundation was horribly weak.
But if you had looked at my life from a secular perspective—sort of like looking at my resume—you might have been impressed. To be sure, I have achieved significant success at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). I was a very hard-driven person, and I believed in achieving my goals at all costs. And I did what it took to get there first: if it meant working seven days a week, up to eighteen hours a day, I did so. If it meant putting my ambitions ahead of my husband and family, I did so. If it meant betraying promises and vows, I am ashamed to say I did so. And I hurt many, many people in the process. I committed sins of pride, arrogance, ego, and vanity.
On the occasions when I engaged in any serious self-reflection, I felt tremendous guilt and I promised myself I would change, but it was quite easy to break those promises. You see, I was very good at sinning and even better at rationalizing. And if the truth be told, I was not ready to give up my comfortable bad habits.
Instead, I chose to carry so many sins and so much guilt that I had to discard some very precious and valuable things along the way: things like self-respect, decency, and compassion for others. Like Alma the Younger, I could see that my life was godless, faithless, and really quite pointless.
Still, I did not change direction. By 2006, riding a wave of success built on horribly compromised values, I was holding the pinnacle job of my CIA career: I was the first female Director for Support. I was managing more than half of the CIA’s workforce and all of its worldwide infrastructure. I was flying all over the globe on a regular basis. Then, in the space of one week, both of my bosses were fired—by the White House, no less. One of them was eventually convicted and imprisoned. Their stories were splattered all over the news for months. And I became collateral damage. After two decades of a relentless climb to the top of the heap, I was knocked off the ladder of success, and I took a steep and frightening fall. Soon enough, I had no job, no title, and no big executive office. Worse than that, I was shunned by many of my peers because I no longer held a high-ranking position. When I hit bottom, I hit it hard. And from that viewpoint, I could see very clearly that I had fallen far from grace.
Like Alma, I was racked with torment and harrowed up by the memory of my profound sinfulness. But also like Alma, at the bottom of my long fall, I discovered a miraculous thing: the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And through the gospel, I discovered that it was not too late to change direction and to build a path back to spiritual abundance.
My new path began with a tearful phone call to an LDS colleague. He did not judge me in my despair, or try to talk me out of my feelings. Instead, he told me just three things. First, he told me that my Heavenly Father knew me by name and loved me, even if I did not love myself. Second, he told that my Heavenly Father had a plan for my eternal success, but perhaps not success as I had previously envisioned it. And then he gave me directions to the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors Center.
My vision for the future was forged on the temple grounds. I went there alone, feeling broken in a million pieces. But I left that day with a faint stirring that I was beginning something new. Soon after, I began studying intensely with my beloved sister missionaries and the members of the Annandale (Virginia) Ward. It is undeniably true that these remarkable Saints saved my life. Six months later, I was baptized with the full support of my family.
In the beginning, I could not see all the turns my new path would take, but I somehow knew that it would lead me back to those temple grounds. And so it has, almost every week for the last two years.
My dear sisters, our paths forward cannot be fully envisioned from where we now stand. Sometimes our vision of the future is clouded by the past. When we look at the clay of our lives, we may see only debris, damage, and despair. We do not see our infinite design possibilities. We must stop and recognize this distortion as the work of the adversary. He wants us to think we are too weak to change. With the adversary’s discouragement, we may decide it is safer to stand still—to remain stuck in the life we know, no matter how much despair we are carrying. But standing still is not safety. It is a form of paralysis. Over time, we risk becoming like Lot’s wife—we find we cannot move forward. What was once familiar ground has become quicksand, and we are sinking fast. And worse than that, our families may sink with us, because when we are consumed by sorrow, our families feel that burden too.
Whenever I feel immobilized by shame over my failings and weaknesses, I recognize that I must remobilize myself. Unlike Lot’s wife, I know I can move forward; my substance is made of much more than the salt of my tears. We must trust that God has a master plan for each of us, even if we cannot see it.
Step Two: Excavation
Once we have decided to chart a new direction for ourselves, we are ready for the next step: excavation. Experts tell us that before we lay out our path, we must dig out the rocky surface soil and replace it with a more solid base. What a powerful metaphor this is for our lives!
We must excavate our useless layers of remorse and regret through the miracle of repentance. Repentance replaces the hardscrabble of sin and guilt with rich new soil, upon which an unshakable foundation can be built. Repentance returns us to Christ, our bedrock.
For me, the process of repentance was private, deeply humbling, and very difficult. But when we choose to repent, we are choosing to place our hope in Christ, and we come to feel His welcoming embrace. Elder Neil L. Andersen reminds us that the invitation to repent is always a loving appeal to “turn around and to re-turn to God.”1 And so it is with each of us: as we excavate a new path, we are actually turning away from the things that have broken our spirits and our hearts and we are “re-turning” to God.
As we repent, we must also be willing to excavate our own negativity. Perhaps you, as I do, struggle with some negative self-talk—the painful inner monologue that tells us we deserve to be ashamed, that we are not good enough, and that we are somehow unworthy. We must turn off that soundtrack, sisters, and replace it with the nourishing words of daily prayer and daily devotion to the scriptures. It is difficult for me to stand before all of you and admit that I was forty-nine years old before I learned the true power of prayer and before I picked up any book of scripture. I literally learned how to pray from this single verse in Amulek’s great exhortation on prayer, in Alma chapter 34, verse 26: “Ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.”
When I read those words, I knew that Amulek was speaking directly to me, deep in my desperate wilderness. Since discovering that verse, I have never gone a day without my scriptures and without prayer.
As I excavated my new path, my debris was dissolved by the cleansing waters of baptism. And that cleansing process continues for me—and indeed for all of us—each week in sacrament meeting. As we renew our baptismal covenants, we nurture our foundational soil.
Step Three: Planting Our Stakes
Once we have built up a strong base through repentance, we are ready for the third step in the process: planting stakes to mark the borders of our path. Stakes serve as guideposts to ensure that our course is straight. Many builders use stakes made of scrap wood, but our stakes are made of far sturdier material: faithfulness to God’s commandments and our covenants. We cannot stray off course if we faithfully follow these navigational aids. How I treasure Moroni’s words to us: “Awake, and arise from the dust . . . ; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father . . . may be fulfilled” (Moroni 10:31).
My dear sisters, I contend that our paths will be far easier to walk if we also draw upon the stakes of Zion. As sisters together in Zion, we are important guideposts for each other. When we love and encourage each other—when we cast aside judgment and criticism—we are safeguarding our mutual paths.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminded us in general conference that we must not “make others feel . . . deficient.”2 We cannot know the bricks another sister is carrying. We cannot guess the tragedy that might be buried deep inside her. Instead, we must choose to support one another.
Please plant your stakes near mine, sisters. You cannot imagine how much I need you.
Step Four: Paving Our Path
When our stakes are in place, we can begin to pave our new path. And a remarkable thing happens as we piece together our new foundation: We begin to see the rich mosaic of our lives. We see the beautiful new patterns formed from the sins and transgressions we have forsaken, the guilt and remorse we have overcome, and the hard lessons we have put to good use.
Each of us forms her own path from the clay of life God gives us. I cannot judge your journey, and I cannot worry that you might be ahead of me on the path. Each of us is of precious and individual worth to our Savior. He knows us and loves us by name. Isaiah reminds us of the Lord’s great promise: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isaiah 43:1). Never despair that your efforts are not enough. Your clay is remarkably rich. The Lord sees the righteous path you are setting; He is walking beside you.
Step Five: Filling the Joints
As our paths take shape, we are at last ready to fill the joints with mortar. But our spiritual mortar is much stronger than the customary sand, lime, or cement. We rely upon the Atonement. President Boyd K. Packer tells us that sometimes “we break things that we alone cannot fix.”3 At those times, we need more than superglue. We need the supernal glue of the Atonement. Unlike conventional mortar, Christ’s Atonement will not deteriorate with the passage of time.
Its supernal power holds us together, it steadies our footsteps, and when we stray, the Atonement is the lifeline that puts us back on course. But we must choose to use its power.
How does the Atonement make us whole again? How does it mend our broken pieces and our broken hearts? I do not know, but it is not necessary for me to understand the infinite power of the Atonement. I accept that it is the greatest mystery of my life and the most transcendent event in the history of mankind. I simply need to choose to use its power. After years of iniquity, I take great comfort in knowing that I have not fallen beneath the Atonement; I am, indeed, healed by it.
To walk back to Heavenly Father we are required to do all that we can do: we must return to Christ fully, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And then we must do the hardest thing of all: we must let go of our guilt and move forward with faith and hope. We must forgive ourselves.
Each day I am renewed by the words of Alma: “And now, behold . . . I could remember my pains no more. . . . And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:19–20). Each of us can feel Alma’s joy. We must choose to walk the path of the disciple, step by step, simply doing our best. This is the most simple and powerful decision we can make each day.
Our paths will not be paved in perfection. We will have trials and adversities. We will sin again, and we will have cause to repent. And, from time to time, we will cleanse our path with our tears. That is all part of our journey home. Isaiah reminds us that our Lord finds us in “the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). Isaiah does not say we are found in abundance, tranquility, or bliss. When we face adversity and setbacks, it helps deepen our understanding of the painful but ultimately victorious mortal journey of our Savior.
During our mortal journeys, let us be fortified by the knowledge we share as daughters of this dispensation. Through the Atonement, we have the power to overcome sin. We have the power to exchange the pain of guilt for Alma’s joy. We have the power to find the eternal peace that our Savior has promised each of us—even sinners such as I.
1. Neil L. Andersen, “‘Repent . . . That I May Heal You,’” Ensign, November 2009, 40.
2. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “‘You Are My Hands,’” Ensign, May 2010, 68.
3. Boyd K. Packer, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Liahona, July 2001, 27.