If I Could Reach Every Ward. . .

August 22, 2015

Here’s what I wish each ward could share and its leaders believe. It’s the talk I gave at the outreach fireside on Sunday, August 16,2015.

Trusting my All to Thy Tender Care

As Jesus began his ministry in Nazareth, he stood up in his home synagogue to read from the scriptures. I like to think that the words he spoke that day, he might speak again if he were with us.

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“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel . . . sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and . . . set at liberty them that are bruised.”1

This is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to heal, to deliver, to set at liberty. And although Jesus’ message may have anticipated at least partially his role in the resurrection and our eternal life, his ministry demonstrates that he meant to offer these gifts for our time on earth as well.

He spent most of the years of his ministry healing bodies and minds, delivering captives from rigid beliefs, and setting at liberty those who believed they were less deserving of God’s notice: the poor, the Samaritans, even the lepers who were seen as deliberately stricken by God. It was precisely those who did not experience themselves as belonging in the religious mainstream that Jesus focused on, spent time with, and defended from others’ criticism.

It was precisely those who did not experience themselves as belonging in the religious mainstream that Jesus focused on, spent time with, and defended from others’ criticism.

Modern medicine recognizes that when we experience ourselves as not belonging, as socially isolated, as experiencing shame in group settings, our physical health suffers.2 Social isolation is a robust predictor of adverse outcomes in the context of cardiovascular and respiratory health, infectious disease, and certain cancers.3

As a disciple of Christ, with desires to heal, deliver, and set at liberty, I want to begin with a plea to all disciples of Christ to follow his example by receiving and ministering to our LGBT and SSA brothers and sisters, regardless of their relationship status.

As leaders, teachers, members, we have a measurable effect on both the spiritual and physical health and survival of fellow members when our hearts, our language and our actions are welcoming of others into the fold of Jesus Christ.

As leaders, teachers, members, we have a measurable effect on both the spiritual and physical health and survival of fellow members when our hearts, our language and our actions are welcoming of others into the fold of Jesus Christ.

In the spirit of this gospel message, that the main concern of Jesus Christ is for our healing, our deliverance and our liberty, I will share with you words of the prophets and scriptures to offer “comfort, love, strength, and good cheer that embrace us all”4 and demonstrate that “The Lord ‘will feed those who trust Him.”5

Elder Lynn G. Robbins reminded us recently that Jesus was the most fearless man who ever lived,6 and he invited us to let Christ’s example strengthen us.7 Because Jesus Christ is fearless and he loves us, we can trust His tender care.

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Many people I counsel with, when they discover that they feel differently from others as they are growing up, begin to despise themselves for these differences and believe that they must hide in order to be acceptable to God. When they later seek counsel to reconcile their lives with their spiritual hopes, they may say something like, “My life has been a testimony that I believe in the gospel; I have exercised faith that God would make me into the kind of person he wants me to be; I have served a mission; I have diligently sought to ‘give away all my sins that I may know [him].’8 And yet, in my life today I am having trouble seeing myself and my talents, personality and hopes in the Lord’s plan of happiness. When I attend my Church meetings, I struggle to see myself as a valued participant, a contributor, a disciple of Christ worthy of God’s highest blessing — unless I change things I have come to believe God is not going to change about me.”

I would like to emphasize two fundamental principles taught by living prophets and apostles that may be helpful in supporting members of the Church who experience this conflict. First, these feelings have nothing to do with the people’s value to their families, their wards, their friends, or to God.

Each person should be treated by Church members as an invaluable part of the kingdom of God, regardless of differences in personal testimonies, experiences, relationships, or faith. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke boldly in General Conference, saying “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies”9 Then, speaking what the Lord surely intends the Church to be, he continued,

“The Church [should be] a place of welcoming and nurturing, not of separating or criticizing. It [should be] a place where we reach out to encourage, uplift, and sustain one another as we pursue our individual search for divine truth.”10

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And in one of his final addresses, President Boyd K. Packer said, “We need everyone’s wisdom and insight and spiritual strength. Each member of this Church as an individual is a critical element of the body of the Church.”11

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “Everyone one of us has been foreordained for some work as [God’s] chosen servant. . . “ 12 He asks us an essential question: “So how can we shine the pure light of God’s truth into our souls and see ourselves as He sees us” 13 and discover the pathway to our own work?

This question addresses the second principle, that each of us is entitled to seek personal guidance and the loving validation of God regarding the path we are taking as we consider how to love one another and choose God.14

Elder David A. Bednar noted that Enoch was taught that each one of us is expressly the workmanship of God’s own hands15 and that the commandments we received for our lives here were “that [we] should love another, and [we] should choose [Him, our] Father.”16 Elder Bednar goes on to tell us that “the fundamental purposes for the gift of agency were [for us] to love one another and to choose God.”17

It is an essential part of our life experience to seek to know what God would have us do with the love that is in our hearts. This is the process of personal revelation.

Regarding seeking God’s guidance regarding our personal life’s work, President Henry B. Eyring noted in a Sunday morning conference, “There are many listening today who feel a pressing need for that blessing of personal revelation from our loving Heavenly Father.”18 That is surely true today as well.

And Elder D. Todd Christofferson teaches:

“We do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help – divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience.”19 “[His] plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.”20

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Elder Jeffery R. Holland reminded us of Alma and Amulek’s counsel to faithful souls who were denied privileges of full participation in their synagogues, “whatever privileges others may deny them, they can always pray.”21

While prayer may be the first line of defense to fall away when we feel less acceptable, I encourage you to remember Elder Richard G. Scott’s certainty that God wants to hear from you “your full range of feelings and experiences.”22 He will not  shy away from your deepest and truest feelings about yourself. “Tell Him everything that concerns you,” Elder Scott pleads.23

It has been my experience that God is not put off by my real feelings, not even my anger, nor does he turn away if I let him know that I mistrust what I see of his plan for my life. His tender care allows him to hear our complaints and bear our burdens, and his tender care can help us find others who understand our burdens so we do not have to bear them alone.

I testify to you along with President Eyring that Heavenly Father knows your name.24 He knows what your feelings mean in your life. He knows what parts of you need healing and what parts of you are your more eternal in nature. He knows the purposes of your mortal life. He knows what He sent you here to do. He knows what lessons he wants others to learn from you.

As Sister Chieko Okazaki once noted, A family with a gay child is not a failed family. It’s a family with a member who needs. . .love and understanding and who has love and understanding to give back.”25

Your life is a beautiful life. It is a life that will flourish when offered love and understanding and it is a life that has love and understanding to offer.

As Elder Bednar expresses, “[W]hen logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life. . . when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone,”26 then we most benefit from recognizing the moments when the Lord tenderly cares for us.”  Let us remind ourselves daily of those small moments in our lives when we recognize God knows us and loves us. Let us once again try prayer. Let us be brave in seeking the Lord’s guidance and be open to even unexpected revelation as we make choices about loving others and loving God.

In the words of a hymn by George Mattheson:

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.27

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My prayer is that each of us can come to see ourselves as valuable in all aspects of our Heavenly Father’s kingdom, that we can be included in our homes and wards as essential contributors, with love and experience to share, that we can boldly seek for God’s guidance through personal revelation, that we can come to know what God would have us change about ourselves and what he expects us to accept and use for good in our lives as we exercise faith in Him and trust in His tender care.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen


 

References

1. Luke 4:18
2. Pressman, S. D., Cohen, S., Miller, G. E., Barkin, A., & Rabin, B. S. (2005). Loneliness, social network size and immune response to influence vaccination in college freshmen. Health Psychology, 24, 297-306; Loucks, E. B., Sullivan, L. M., D’Agostino, R. B. S., Larson, M. G., Berkman, L. F., and Benjamin, E. J. (2006). Social networks and inflammatory markers in the Framingham Health Study. Journal of Biosocial Sciences, 386, 835-842; Dickerson, S.
S., Gruenewald, T. L., & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). When the social self is threatened: Shame, physiology and health. Journal of Personality, 72, 1191-1216.
3. Miller, G., Chen, E., Cole, S. W. (2009). Health psychology: Developing biologically plausible models linking the social world and physical health. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 501-524.
4. McConkie, C.F. Live According to the Words of the Prophets, Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 79.
5. Ibid., p. 79, quoting Roger Hoffman, “Consider the Lilies.”
6. Robbins, L.G. Which Way Do You Face? Ensign, Nov 2014, p.11.
7. Ibid., p. 11.
8. Alma 22:18
9. Uchtdorf, D. F. Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth, Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 22.
10. Ibid., p. 22.
11. Packer, B. K. The Reason for our Hope, Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 8.
12. Monson, T. M. Guided Safely Home, Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 68, quoting N. E. Tanner.
13. Uchtdorf, D. L. Lord, Is it I? Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 58.
14. Moses 7:33.
15. Bednar, D. A. The Tender Mercies of the Lord, commenting on Moses 7:32. Ensign, May 2005.
16. Moses 7:33.
17. Bednar, Idem.
18. Eyring, H. B. Continuing Revelation, Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 70.
19. Christofferson, T. D. Free Forever, To Act For Themselves, Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 19.
20. Ibid., p. 19.
21. Holland, J. R. Are We Not All Beggars? Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 41.
22. Scott, R. G. Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority, Ensign, Nov 2014, p. 93.
23. Ibid., p. 93.
24. Eyring, Idem., p. 73.
25. Okazaki, C. What a Friend We Have In Jesus, Deseret Book, 2008. P. 57-58.
26. Bednar, Idem.
27. http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/O_Love_That_Will_Not_Let_Me_Go/; accessed July 26, 2015.

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One comment on “If I Could Reach Every Ward. . .

  1. Lisa. Your talk lifts and inspires me. It nudges me into places I’m not familiar and that are not easy to reconcile, but I believe these are places I must go in order to grow. Thank you and may you feel the Lord’s grace abundantly in your life. Your words have had that effect upon me.