Sister Roy and I are doing so well and feel so blessed to be so busy :) Even though we have days where we look at each other in silence as we kneel down to pray, our hair in shambles, eyes red from tears and laughter (looking like two burnt holes in a blanket). We look at each other, smile with a sigh of relief for another day that we know was truly God guided.
I heard a part of a conference talk in the car as we were driving that really hit me, it said something about how this is truly a divine calling and that we don't truly understand/comprehend the things/talents that are enhanced for this time that we need it on our Mission. So we need to take a step back and appreciate them now and have thankfulness in your heart for a loving and merciful God that gives you every opportunity to help build up his kingdom.
President Packard's letter to us :
Dear Elders and Sisters,
When I served as a bishop in Texas, I issued a call to a woman to serve as the new Relief Society president. We will call her Susan. She was quite insecure about leading an organization where so many of the women were mothers and grandmothers because she had never been a wife or a mother. After assuring her that the Lord and I both had confidence in her, I asked her to submit recommendations for counselors. After almost two weeks, Susan came to my office in tears saying something like this:
“Bishop, I am no good at this revelation thing. I simply do not receive the type of spiritual feelings and promptings that I hear you and others testify about during fast and testimony meeting. When people talk about their own spiritual experiences, I believe them, but I do not have these kinds of experiences myself. I never have. If I can’t even discover who the Lord wants as my counselors, how can I ever do this calling? Maybe I am not worthy of those kinds of spiritual experiences. I am not even sure if God loves me.”
My heart broke for Susan. I reminded her that she was one of the finest, most compassionate people I knew. She had always expected that she would find a spouse and have children, but rather than feel sorry for herself because the Lord had a different timetable for her, she had happily busied herself obtaining a PhD and spent her life quietly serving everyone around her. In our long visit, I tried to share two concepts with her:
• First, our standing before the Lord is not based on the number of powerful spiritual experiences we have had in our lives. Spiritual experiences are important because they give us instruction and fill us with desire, but ultimately, our standing before God depends on our choices and the desires of our heart. After all, the devils believe and tremble. I told Susan that the best way to determine whether she had genuine faith in Christ was to examine her life. Our faith is sufficient if it motivates us to make and keep sacred covenants and to continue progressing in our spiritual journeys. On that standard, Susan clearly had great faith.
• Second, and this was really important to Susan, the Lord does not speak to all of us in the same way, and he has not given us the same spiritual gifts. In fact, Paul teaches us that, just as the body has eyes, hands, feet and a brain, the Church will be filled with people who have very different spiritual gifts. I told Susan that the Lord has given her a customized bag of tools – spiritual gifts and attributes – that are designed to give her all she needs to have a full life and return to her heavenly father. However, he has not given anyone else the same bag of tools. I told Susan, who had a brilliant, analytical mind, that spiritual impressions may come differently to her than they do to someone who thinks more intuitively. Moreover, some people will have great faith because of direct experiences with God while others will be given the faith to believe on the testimony of others. Indeed, the Savior said that those who believe because of the testimony of others are more blessed than those who have encountered God directly. I told Susan that, rather than constantly comparing her spiritual gifts to the gifts of others, and feeling inferior because she did not have the same gifts given to someone else, it is far better to focus on the gifts God did give to her and magnify those. I promised Susan that if she did this, she would find that God has given her more than enough to find joy in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
Buoyed up by these two thoughts, Susan suggested that we select counselors together, which we did, and I am happy to report that Susan was an exceptional relief society president who touched women and men in ways that nobody else could.
That was more than fifteen years ago, and if I had known what I know now, I would have added at least one more thought: The quality and quantity of our spiritual endowment is not stagnant. We all have the opportunity and obligation to seek and develop new spiritual gifts. For example, if we are not sufficiently charitable, we are to pray with all the energy of heart to be filled with this love. (Moroni 7:48). Today, we may not be able to have the types of spiritual promptings President Monson talks about in conference, but we can work towards learning the language of the Spirit, and we can practice developing the capacity to feel the Spirit in new and different ways. In that regard, I know of no activity that is likely to generate the guidance and confirmation of the Spirit more than sharing the Gospel.
I pray that each one of you will seek to have your own, unique spiritual gifts magnified in a way that glorifies God.
My response to President's letter:
I really enjoyed your story of the woman (Susan). It is so true that you can believe in something and in the experiences of others but struggle to have them yourself. This was one of my struggles but through much tender guidance from my Mom and Dad, they helped me to know that God doesn't want to tell us all the answers straight out but wants us to use our agency to chose. I have had many a times where the spirit has been so soft that I felt as though it was as light as a feather and if I was to breath it would blow away. And other times the Spirit would feel like a ton of bricks were pounding in my heart. Then one experience I had with an investigator explained it beautifully when she had felt the spirit for the first time, "I feel so heavy and yet like I can float away." I love her. :)