Stephanie, at Diapers and Divinity, hosts the General Conference Book Club where they discuss one talk each week of the most recent General Conference. This week, they are discussing this talk:
Elder Shayne M. Bowen
When I first heard this talk, I cried through the entire thing. When I reread it, I cry. Because this talk so deeply touched me, I decided to post my reaction and comments to it on my own blog, instead of just making comments on Stephanie’s blog.
|photo credit: delparsons studio
Elder Bowen tells of teaching a family on his mission, a mother with several children these words in Moroni
“Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
“And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
“But little children are alive in Christ
, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!”
He then shares these words in his talk:
After reading this scripture, Sister Ramirez began sobbing. My companion and I were confused. I asked, “Sister Ramirez, have we said or done something that has offended you?”
She said, “Oh, no, Elder, you haven’t done anything wrong. Six years ago I had a baby boy. He died before we could have him baptized. Our priest told us that because he had not been baptized, he would be in limbo for all eternity. For six years I have carried that pain and guilt. After reading this scripture, I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that it is true. I have felt a great weight taken off of me, and these are tears of joy.”
I was reminded of the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who taught this comforting doctrine: “The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again.”2
After she suffered almost unbearable grief and pain for six years, the true doctrine, revealed by a loving Father in Heaven through a living prophet, brought sweet peace to this tormented woman. Needless to say, Sister Ramirez and her children who were eight years and older were baptized.
He then goes on to share his own story of when his sixth child, an 8 month old son, passed away from aspirating a piece of chalk. His story is deep, personal, and sweet. He shares his ‘natural man’ responses to that tragedy and expresses how the Atonement of Christ helped him through that period in his life and even how it helps him today in putting that experience into perspective. His words are so moving that I hope you will go and read them for yourself.
I have thought of these words often this week, as I have pondered about some of the tragedies that happen in the world in which we live. Two families in particular have been on my mind, this family suffering tragedy from the storm, Sandy , and this family, suffering tragedy from a long term nanny. As a mother, I have thought about both of these women and the insurmountable suffering they must be trying to manage and overcome. My heart hurts for them, though I do not know either of them or any of their circumstances other than those reported in these stories.
I wonder if the words of Elder Bowen and Moroni would provide the same ‘Balm of Gilead’ it did for Elder Bowen. Would this information bring them peace? Do they know it already? Like Elder Bowen, just because we know the information, does not mean that we automatically get to skip past the pain and the emotional and sometimes literally, physical process of healing. Life is so different in theory than it actually is in application.
The older I get, the more I learn that it is indeed the application of the doctrines of the gospel we have been sent here to learn. How difficult and soul stretching it is to put them into practice!! It seems that the Lord has a unique way, a specifically designed and tailored, individual path for each of us as we learn to put into practice those principles which are most difficult for each of us. He does require us to, or gives us opportunity to, make our weaknesses become strengths, if we will succumb to the required curriculum and allow the doctrines to penetrate our hearts.
I, personally, am not very fond of His teaching methods, but I can testify to their effectiveness. I do not like feeling pain, or sorrow, remorse, or any of the negative feelings. For a long time, I thought I could avoid them by just not feeling, or as I like to say, by blocking my feelings. I have learned that by doing so, I cut off my ability to feel all of the feelings. I could choose to be happy, but I did not feel a deep sense of joy. Since I have had to learn how to allow myself to feel and not let those negative feelings incapacitate me, I have actually had some days where I am deeply, deeply happy. I can feel my heart singing………. and I have to remind myself that I cannot have the good without the bad. Jacob, in the Book of Mormon
teaches us that very thing:
For it must needs be, that there is an a in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no a in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the b of God.
13 And if ye shall say there is a law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not b is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
I am still not at the point where I appreciate the negative experiences, knowing that I will also experience growth and development. I guess I am still learning how to apply that knowledge. But I do recognize that I receive significant growth. I learn. The lesson sinks deep into my heart and I change because of my trials. I think that is one of the reasons I so appreciated Elder Bowen’s message. I recognized the application of his teachings in my own life, even though I have not experienced the same depth of loss as Elder Bowen and the other mothers in this post. I pray that when my own, personally tailored trials come, that I will be able and willing to let the lessons penetrate my heart and I will be healed through the Atonement of Christ, as was Elder Bowen.