I am so humbled and honored to be among you valiant women today about the lessons I have learned in my life and we can Arise and Shine Forth in whatever circumstances we find ourselves because of glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
The beautiful plan of happiness teaches us that this life is a test – it is a temporary time of proving our faithfulness to our Father in Heaven – to Arise and Shine Forth – come what may, or as Elder Wirthlin says, “Come what May and Love it.”
Before this earthly life we participated in the grand council in heaven where the plan of salvation was presented to us. We learn from Job 38: 7 that when this plan was presented, that we shouted for joy! – When was the last time you were SO happy that you shouted for joy?!
We were excited at the chance to obtain a physical body, walk by faith, learn obedience to God’s commandments and try to become more like Christ – to essentially Arise and Shine Forth as disciples of Christ.
Still, we weren’t naive to life’s difficulties. Rather, Elder Richard G. Scott tells us: “in the premortal life we were taught and prepared for the circumstances we would personally encounter in mortality. [O]ur memory of premortal life would be kept from [us] to assure that it would be a valid test, but there would be guidance given to show [us] how to live.”
We knew this life would be hard. We knew some of us would be born with health problems, a challenging family life, poverty, or any other difficult situation. I believe we each knew of our personal circumstances and we all—every single one of us—still shouted for joy to come to earth because we could clearly see the end from the beginning.
We knew each of us would have the capacity to “bear our challenges in life because of who we are, who God is, and who we are together.” We could clearly see the end from the beginning so we had perfect faith in the glorious outcome.
For, as we read in Doctrine and Covenants 58:4, “For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”
Now that we are here on earth, the trials and disappointments of life can discourage us, break our hearts and even fill us with fear – that is why remembering what we once shouted for joy for is so important.
A lifelong test for my parents began as my older brother Justin was diagnosed with the chronic disease, cystic fibrosis. Although devastated by the prognosis, my parents were determined to move forward decisively with hope and learn all there was to know about the disease. They learned that CF is a disease which mainly affects the lungs and digestive system. Individuals with CF produce extra thick, sticky mucus that blocks the airways, pancreas and other organs, causing individuals to eventually suffocate to death.
After my parents visited the CF clinic in Salt Lake City my dad recorded in his journal:
It was hard for me to go up there and see the frail, thin children getting treatments. They looked as though they were from a concentration camp. I thought my heart would break for my special little son who is always so happy. Twelve years ago the average life expectancy was 6 years old and now it is 19, so they are making progress. I pray that they will continue and find a breakthrough soon.
My dad notes, “There was nothing I could do, so I prayed and I hoped.” He chose to Arise even when 3 of his 5 were born with cystic fibrosis.
Learning your child has a chronic disease is probably one of the most difficult situations a person can encounter. Instead of becoming embittered, and asking the often unanswerable and always destructive questions such as, “Why us?” “Why me?” My parents chose to draw strength from their eternal perspective and in their trust in God’s plan for their family.
Even though we can’t control all of our circumstances, we can control our faith. We can choose to remember why we are here. There is a reason “remember” is one of the most common words in the book of Mormon, found 161 times. All the waves of anger, heartache, guilt, doubt, despair, and loneliness cannot drown us unless we let them – if we forget why we are here and where we ultimately belong.
In order to remember, we need to strengthen our faith and communication with Heavenly Father every single day by reading our scriptures, reading the Ensign, saying meaningful prayers, following the commandments, turning off Facebook and Instagram and taking time to feel the spirit and to listen.
As each of us face mortal tests and trials – away from our heavenly home and away from our perfect perspective – I hope we can all find peace in Elder Scott’s apostolic promise that we were prepared for the situation we may be finding ourselves currently in and in any possible situation to come.
In addition to remembering where we came from, remembering who we truly are will give us the strength, courage and joy to Arise and Shine Forth.
Sometimes we can get discouraged. We can see ourselves as weak or helpless or compare ourselves to others around us or on Instagram who seem to have it all. But we must remember who we really are because how we see ourselves affects every aspect of our lives. As President Uchtdorf said, “Much of confusion in life comes from not understanding who we are…”
A few years ago, a greeting card with a profound message caught my eye. On the cover sat a fluffy, white kitten gazing in the mirror. Staring back in the kitten’s reflection was a statuesque lion crowned with a gorgeous main. The caption read, “What matters most is how we see ourselves.”
Sheri Dew expands:
“It affects the way we behave, the way we respond to uncertainty, the way we see others, the way we handle pressure and disappointment, the way we feel about ourselves, and the way we make choices. In short, it determines how we live our lives. So the question we might all do well to ponder is not only who we are but who we have always been.”
And who we have always been is divine daughters of God – every single one of us. We come into this world “trailing clouds of glory.”
We would do well to remember that our Divine nature comes from God, it has nothing to do with the clothes we wear, how many likes we get on Instagram, our popularity or even our self esteem.
As Sister Wixom says, “Our divine nature comes from God. It was established in an existence that preceded our birth and will continue on into eternity.”
I believe we will never be truly happy, feel peace or live up to our abilities to Arise and Shine Forth until we overcome our “mortal identity” crisis and truly understand and believe that we are daughters of God.
A stronger understanding of who I really am began at age thirteen when my full, deep breaths were replaced with the wheezing of tightened, obstructed airways…
Ever since I was a young girl, I grew up knowing that the average life expectancy (at the time) for those with CF was in the early twenties. I was relatively healthy so I assumed I was live a little longer than average – so maybe to my late twenties, early thirties. I very matter of factly concluded that I would never get married and definitely would never have children.
As I entered middle school, my breathing became more and more labored. I constantly had a tickle in my throat and would hold my breath in class and at church just to keep from coughing every second. Every morning and every night I would pray to “please help me not to cough so much.”
As my health involved more and more challenges and frequent seemingly endless coughing attacks, I was increasingly brought to my knees in prayer, seeking both strength and comfort. Many nights I would feel reassured simply after confiding in my Father in Heaven, knowing He was there, listening, caring. But on a handful of occasions as I called on my Heavenly Father with my shallow breath, He answered me with His deep, infinite and tangible love – a feeling of overwhelming peace and love. There was no room to doubt what I already knew: God is real. God is my father in Heaven. And God loves me. I had nothing to fear.
True to Sheri Dew’s statement, the act of getting on my knees in meaningful prayer, and FEELING that I was a child of God – on a consistent basis – has shaped my entire life. The knowledge of who I really – and how loved I truly am – has allowed me to Arise and Shine Forth because I trust my Heavenly Father and his will perfectly because I know He loves me perfectly.
I know God’s arms of fatherly love are always waiting to embrace all of us. Most of us won’t have dramatic spiritual experiences of feeling God’s love but instead can be blessed with the quiet, reassurance of the spirit.
This spirit testifying to us of eternal truths comes by consistently doing the small things – by attending church, reading scriptures and learning to feel the spirit by being quiet. QUIET IS GOOD. When we aren’t quiet, we are often listening to the world, not the Lord.
Unfortunately, Satan the master of deceit will do everything he can to keep us from understanding we are DIVINE daughters of God.
“The world’s mirror is like a circus mirror in which a five foot, ten inch woman appears two feet tall, distorted and minimized. Satan wants us to believe there is no status or significance in being a mother. He wants us to believe that the influence of women is inherently inferior. And that is a lie. That is an evil lie.”
I believe that if we could catch a glimpse of our divinity, we would be amazed and thrilled at who we were before we came to earth and all our glorious potential. We would be kicking ourselves for getting down on ourselves, preoccupying ourselves with wordly labels or things that don’t matter, or for making choices that are below our divinity.
God who knows us perfectly – both our weaknesses and our strengths- reserved us to come now, when the opposition would be strongest- When he would need fearless woman who would ARISE AND SHINE FORTH, by valiantly fulfilling their divine callings as woman and mothers.
We need to trust, be obedient and be content in the knowledge that we have been placed where we can have the most impact and simply do the best we can to ARISE AND SHINE FORTH, standing steadfast and immovable against all the lies and temptations Satan would challenge us with.
I will forever by grateful for my own mother who persevered every single day in hope and kindness as she fulfilled the divine role as our mother. This is Arising and Shining Forth in action. She is one of my heroes. She knew that as long as she did her best everything would work out – whether in this life, or the next.
Starting when we were just babies, my mom would wrap my brother and I up like little peanuts in a large towel, pinning our arms alongside our ears in order to clap our chest on all sides and loosen the mucus. And every day since we were old enough to be strapped into a high chair, my mom would start and stop our multiple aerosols…and every day my mom would diligently administer our oral medications and later our IV antibiotics. Our fridge and shelves were frequently stocked with IV antibiotic sacks or syringes housed in the veggie drawer, next to the milk and nestled in the egg compartment.
I cherish many groggy glimpses of my mom starting and stopping my IV medications in the early hours of the morning. She would hold the almost empty IV medicine sac high in the air, forcing gravity to pull every last antibiotic drop down the long tubing into my arm, as if each precious drop added time to my life.
At the time, these seemingly monotonous, mundane acts must have not seemed like much. But there is no way to count how many months, weeks or years my parents added to the lives of their children by arising and fulfilling her role as best she knew how.
Just as my mom’s daily ministering and nurturing must have seemed monotonous at times, it is our small and seemingly inconsequential actions and our steadfast examples that will have profound effects upon generations to come. Our every day acts form our lives and our lives are our testimony for all around us to see. Let us arise and shine forth in faith, kindness, purity and humility.
When we understand where we came from, who really are and why we are here, and where we are going, we have every reason to Arise and Shine Forth. We know there will be a glorious conclusion of our mortal test when God will reward the faithful in a perfect way.
As one of my favorite scriptures reads: And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelations 21:4
This is a glorious day to anticipate in the future but sometimes we unnecessarily postpone so much of the happiness that can be ours right now. Instead let us enough ARISE AND SHINE FORTH with joy every single day with the knowledge of the glorious plan of happiness.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Life is to be enjoyed not merely endured.”
I learned this great lesson from Justin who exemplified the quote, “Pain Is Inevitable but Misery Is Optional.”
You would have all loved Justin. And he would have loved you. He was smart, witty, funny, fun-loving, full of faith and courage. On a home movie, when my dad asked Justin what he would do to solve the “world’s current affairs,” he smirking replied, “Seconds, always seconds; and dessert, before and after dinner.”
Despite his cheerful quick wit, Justin was dying due to cystic fibrosis at the age of 18. Justin had been hospitalized a couple times a year for IV antibiotic “tune-ups” since he was 6 and was always coughing. His senior year, he was now doing home IVS and required oxygen while he slept. Still, he continued his senior year in his typical ARISE AND SHINE FORTH optimistic fashion – making having CF look easy.
With a PICC line in place (an iv that runs from your vein to your heart that can last indefinitely), he would gather up his IV paraphernalia, hang the IV to drip form the rear view mirror of his car and embark on the next adventure from church dances, to paintballing, to dirt bike riding, to buffet feasting.
Justin was a young man who knew his health was failing. He could have spent all his energy indulging in self-pity, worry or resentment, counting every breath as his body slowly decayed. Instead he was blessed with peace because of his faithfulness and spent his days SHINING FORTH uplifting others….
…playing volleyball with one hand to make a friend feel more comfortable whose arm was in a cast, joking that not everyone has both an “innie and and outie” when he had to have a gastro intestinal feeding tube inserted above his belly button, or joking with a slate face when a friend asked about his portacath (a titanium port surgically placed in the upper arm for easy IV access), responded, “I used to live in Los Angeles where I got into trouble with the law, so as a part of my probation, I had to have a tracking device implanted into my arm” or joking with his friend just three days before he died about how much fun they would have together “cruising the hospital halls looking for good-looking nurses”….never once mentioning the gravity of his health.
Justin was a model of quiet dignity. I would spend hours and hours in his room, scratching his back and just talking. In all our talks, Justin never EVER uttered a negative word about having cystic fibrosis. How often we pity ourselves and even parade our pity over matters that aren’t life or death.
Justin knew that peace is not the absence of trials but the presence of Christ. He knew as Amulek says, “This life is a time to prepare to meet God.”
In (Ether 12 :4), we read: Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, make an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God…;
Justin’s testimony of Christ not only encouraged him to endure all with dignity and a sense of humor, but allowed him to do so.
At age 19, Accompanied by angels, Justin met God face to face. There is no greater accomplishment than that.
My dad’s journal records: “It was on April 22 that the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ was placed on the U.S. penny, the same day Justin passed away [April 22]. How true this is. It is the only way to continue on.”
Although we all pleaded for Justin’s survival, it was not part of God’s plan for him.
One of the hardest lessons to accept is that despite our prayerful pleadings, not all of our struggles will be resolved soon, or in the way we want, or even in this lifetime. But we can have peace and hope that because of Christ they will be resolved.
President Uchdorf said, “when Jesus was born, the joy in heaven was so great it could not be contained, and angelic host parted the veil, proclaiming unto shepherds “good tidings of great joy…praising God and saying, Glory on God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward man.””
We were all there. Looking down upon that humble stable and shouting for joy again that someone would love us enough to come to earth to save us all. Just as we rejoiced then, we can rejoice today that EVERYTHING will be made permanently right through Christ if we are faithful.
“Don’t you quit. You keep walking, you keep trying, there is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon. Some come late. Some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ they come. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in Good Things to Come.” ― Jeffrey R. Holland
In (Romans 8:28) we are promised, “All things work together for good to them that love God.”
Bruce C. Hafen expounds: “All things working together for our good is very different from all thing working together for our apparent success or excellence as measured by the standard of this world. Because his making us perfect enough to enjoy eternal life is our ultimate goal, we may need all things to work “for our good‘ in such a way that there are growing pains, tests, afflictions and the purification by fire. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten (Revelation 3:19)….We may have had encounters that are harsh, painful, and beyond our ability (let alone the ability of other people) to understand.”
Our Heavenly Father is making of us something more than we would choose to make of ourselves. We might be content to merely be “a nice person.” He wants us to be like Him and accept and qualify for our inheritance.
Struggles are part of the test we willingly and enthusiastically shouted for joy for. They give us opportunities to prove ourselves and become who we were sent here to become. But no matter the trial, because of Christ, we have nothing to fear now and every reason to hope for the future which allows us to be happy in the present.
As struggles threaten to topple us, our peace and hope largely depends on if we choose to continue to exercise even greater faith and trust in our Heavenly Father’s love, wisdom and plan for us —or if we choose to fall victim to Satan’s feelings of anger, bitterness, discouragement and helplessness.
As Elder Oaks stated, “Faith means trust—trust in God‘s will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable.”
One of my favorite quotes: “The only reason I am upset is because I had the audacity to think I should know what should happen next.”
Only God knows what should happen next. We are not smarter than God nor we do love ourselves or even our family members more than God loves us or them. We do not see the whole picture like our loving Father in Heaven. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows what we need for our eternal progression despite our pleas for what we want at this mortal instant.
As President Brigham Young (1801–1877) taught:
We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful…during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows … ; you would be constrained to exclaim, “but what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here. We have been faithful during a few moments in our mortality, and now we enjoy eternal life and glory…enjoying the smiles and approbation of our Father and God, and of Jesus Christ our elder brother.”30
As we go through the trials and struggles in life that are surely to come, I have come to know that as we put our faith and trust in Christ, he will be there for us every step of the way. He cannot and will not let us down.
As I mourned Justin’s passing, I often felt helpless.
I chose to turn to my Savior, He who knew what I was experiencing firsthand. There is no physical pain, mental anguish, heartache, weakness, or infirmity that we experience that the Savior has not already experienced. As He bled from every pore and wet His face with our tears, we literally became part of Him. He declared in Isaiah 49: 15-16, “Yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…”
In fact, in a resurrected, otherwise perfected body, Jesus Christ chose to retain the wounds in his hands and his feet and his side—signs, if you will, that he loves us, understands us, and is eager to forgive us and strengthen us – if but come unto Him, Him whose arm is “lengthened all the day long.” Because Christ suffered for us individually, He understands us completely, loves us unconditionally, and knows how to succor us perfectly.
In Alma 7:11-12, we read, “[A]nd he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”
As Camille Fronk said, “Christ’s mission was never intended to prevent hearts from breaking but to heal broken hearts; He came to wipe away our tears, not to keep us from ever weeping.”
Christ wants nothing more for us to utilize His grace in our lives because that is why He gave His. Why would we strive to endure our challenges on our own when He has already given His life for us so that we don’t have to?
If we come unto Him and let Him ease our agonizing and grieving, I know we will be encircled in the arms of His love as He cares, comforts and carries us. I have a testimony this is true as Jesus Christ my Savior, has become Jesus Christ my Savior as I have fallen at his feet and wept again and again and again. I could not have made it through my challenges without Him; and now I feel I can make it through anything because of Him.
A year after my brother’s death, my sophomore year of high school, the end stages of lung destruction brought on by cystic fibrosis put me in a downward spiral. I was on constant oxygen, constant IV antibiotics, throwing up constantly and barely had energy to brush my teeth in bed. After Justin died, I told myself that if my behavior ever mirrored his, then I would know I was dying. I reminded myself of this but I still couldn’t accept that death is what came next. How could I be dying when my mind was still so alive?
My day-to-day routine was not so bad; but some days, the accumulative effect of not seeing any improvement and not being able to do anything for myself, would cause me to cave. I tried not to let my family see me cry so it was often late at night when the tears would quietly and freely flow, bringing me to my knees…in bed. With swollen eyes, I would call on the powers of heaven, the very same powers that created this universe. I would plead for strength—in both mind and body.
For “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” (Isaiah 40:29,31)
I know the utterence of “My Heavenly Father” can have a profound effect upon our lives. He really does hear our prayers – no matter how big OR how small. As I poured my heart unto him, it was confirmed to me again and again that God was my companion – I was not alone. I echo Alma sentiments, “yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!“ Alma 36: 17-19
Before we came to earth, I am sure we sorrowed at leaving our Father in Heaven. I am sure we must have covenanted to always seek Him through prayer and to listen to His voice. Now we are here. We have forgotten those things we supposed we could never forget. But Heavenly Father has not. He is always waiting for US to knock.
The act of knocking me of years and years ago when I was teenager and I got up early to leave the house and saw my 10 year old brother waiting outside my parents’ door. His upper lip and eye were all swollen, he was scared, he needed help. And there he was, waiting for my loving parents just on the other side of the door to wake up so they could help him. I said, “Bryan, they can’t help you if you don’t knock. They would want you to knock.” All he had to do was knock.
We are all figuratively standing outside the Savior’s door with our swollen lips and eyes impairing our vision of mortality. But all we have to do is knock. The choice to knock and allow the Savior’s light to guide our lives is entirely our choice – there are never any disclaimers upon his invitation.
Sometimes when life gets hard, we feel paralyzed, we want to give up – we choose not to knock by either simply not asking, humbling ourselves or putting time and effort into meaningful prayers. But it is only by crying unto our Savior that we will learn that He is truly mighty to save.
During this difficult time, I also found great peace in the scriptures and learning more of my Heavenly Father’s magnificent promises such as:
Doctrine and Covenants 58:2-3
2 For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
3 Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
How beautiful are these promises?
We need the scriptures to remind us of our true purpose on earth. They help us Arise and Shine FORTH on a daily basis by helping us see life through the lens of eternity.
Just as you would never think of skipping a meal, we need to spiritually feast on the scriptures. In this day it’s far too easy to feast on Instagram and facebook instead. But which one will fill your soul? Which one will leave you empty no matter how long you scroll? What are you willing to give up to Know the Savior and in turn have His peace in your life?
When we look to other sources for peace we are like the 1 month old baby whale I read about off the shores of Sydney who got separated from her mother and confused a yacht for her mom. The exhausted baby whale followed and repeatedly tried to feed from the yacht, and obviously came up empty handed. Wildlife rescuers commented, “”The outlook is not good. We can’t feed it…”
Like the whale, If we mistakenly look to the world for our purpose or identity, we will spiritually starve.
I have heard it said, “The mist dangerous day of your life is when you don’t read your scriptures.”
In addition to giving us perspective and strength against the adversary, the scriptures help us feel the spirit. The promptings we receive are individualized messages from heaven that can only be heard in the quiet of pondering.
As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught as quoted by Elder Nelson in this last conference, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”
After months of being bedridden, I had become too sick to wait for a cadaveric lung transplant (transplant from a brain dead individual) and so a living donor lung transplant was pursued. Everyone has five lobes that constitute your two lungs – three on the right side and 2 on the side of a heart. In a living lobar lung transplant, all 5 lobes are taken out of the patient and replaced with the bottom lobe from two donors.
There are too many tender mercies and miracles to name them involved in my transplant process but one of them was the blessing of my courageous donors.
When all of my family members and three friends who were tested were disqualified to be donors, 2 family friends –Graham Bullick and Dr. Jim Davies – stepped forward to offer me lobes of their lungs.
Dr. Davies recounts: As I placed my white lab coat in the laundry basket, a difficult question entered my mind. “Do you realize that you may never put this coat on again.” It was a fleeting though, but I knew that I was doing the Lord’s will…I knew of my love for the Sabins, and though I didn’t know the outcome, there was an overwhelming sense of peace that we were all involved in something much bigger than any of us could imagineand that a long series of events and decisions had brought each of us to this point in time…
“There was great comfort in the thought that we were all in our Heavenly Father’s hands and that long before we were born these events were known to him for all things are “continually present before him.”
I am breathing today, alive today, and forever grateful today because these two faithful men lived worthy to feel the spirit and had the courage to follow it – to truly ARISE AND SHINE FORTH– even though it meant risking their own lives.
After many scary ups and downs, I was finally taken off the ventilator after my transplant. The weight of my donor’s sacrifice became even more real as I sat inhaling and exhaling with lobes from their lungs, all the while not feeling like I was breathing at all.
When they visited me at the ICU and I gazed at their smiles through the glass, I was overcome with awe and tremendous gratitude for their sacrifice. It is indescribable to express what it feels like when you are so helpless, can do nothing for yourself and someone steps forward and says, “l will do that for you.” They have given me a greater appreciation for the atonement as I have tried to live my life worthy of their sacrifice.
More recently, I was again blessed by the selfless sacrifice of others when my older sister donated her kidney to me in October 2013. (and in fact, when Graham Bullick heard I needed a kidney he personally called me and told me he had two healthy kidneys and he didn’t need one of them – check donate organ box.)
After the surgery, my sister and I were staying in hospital rooms a few doors apart. The day after surgery, she slowly walked into my room, hunched over on the arm of her husband, and sat down on the guest chair. She tried to smile, but did a terrible job. She lasted all but 15 seconds before she was too overcome with pain and had to leave.
It was so hard to see my sister like this – especially knowing I was the cause of her pain. Yet, she repeatedly insisted she was fine and repeatedly insisted it was an honor to sacrifice for me. I am eternally grateful for her sacrifice and am doing everything I can to safeguard her sacred gift.
Christ, our Elder brother – too has sacrificed, suffered a great deal of pain and even gave his life for each one of us. He lived a perfect life so that He could be the infinite sacrifice. As the Apostle Paul wrote, we were “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20).
In return, all Christ asks of us is to follow him, trying in our own small way, to love as he loved. We can only begin to repay the ransom for our souls – and in turn fill our souls with joy – by striving to Arise and Shine Forth and emulate our Savior.
What does this look like?
To me, it simply means striving to follow Christ by loving and ministering, following the commandments and following the holy ghost.We pass people everyday who are literally and metaphorically hungered, naked, and homeless. I believe Satan wants desperately for us get caught up in own selves – either or our own problems, pride or insecurities – that we fail to see everyone around us as the sons and daughters of God that they are -and that they are in need of our help.
Or he tries to discourage us—that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never make much of a difference – because Satan knows the beautiful truth that we all have the potential to change each other’s lives through service and love.
I know my life has been forever changed by love. From loving parents who dedicated their waking hours to preserving my health, to selfless home teachers who have given me countess blessings, to friends who have brought me meals, to my donors who offered up the ultimate act of love by risking their own lives to save mine. To the Ottesens who delivered a life size cardboard cutout of Stone
SLIDE(pic) – Cold Austin to my ICU room after surgery with quotation bubbles:
I was a lobe transplant recipient 3 weeks ago…now look at me
Maybe you didn’t hear me buddy…I said she’s sleeping in till noon!
Are your ears painted on?? I said no one comes in without my permission
You call this food? Send in the cook for a little one on one chat with me…
…to other loving sentiments such as letters, posters, stuffed bears and emails. It is truly profound the healing, both physically and emotionally, that small acts of kindness bring.
As Emily Dickinson so eloquently stated, “If I can stop one Heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”
At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, what labels we wear, how clean our house is, what car we drive or how many great things we have done in the eyes of the world, we will be judged by “I was hungered and you gave me to eat. I was naked and ye clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.”
President Uchdorf reminds us: “Don’t focus on the insignificant at the expense of the profound.”
I love this true story Bruce R. McConkie relates about his mother:
“Mother was president of the [ward] Relief Society. … [A family in the ward had several children; now they had a new baby. They were very poor and Mother was going day by day to care for the child and to take them baskets of food. … Mother herself was ill, and more than once was hardly able to get home after doing the work at [this family’s] home.
“One day she returned home especially tired and weary. She slept in her chair. She dreamed she was bathing a baby which she discovered was the Christ Child. She thought, Oh, what a great honor to thus serve the very Christ! As she held the baby in her lap, she was all but overcome. … Unspeakable joy filled her whole being. She was aflame with the glory of the Lord. It seemed that the very marrow in her bones would melt. Her joy was so great it awakened her. As she awoke, these words were spoken to her, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ ” (quoted by Bruce R. McConkie, in “Charity Which Never Faileth,” Relief Society Magazine, Mar. 1970, 169).
How would our attitude of service change if we remembered that everyone we encounter is a son or daughter of a king. King Benjamen said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
Elder Eyring said, “Treat everyone as if they are in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”
No one knew of Justin’s situation as they gawked at his coughing and no one knew of his health condition as they derided him about his weight. How guilty the ridiculers would feel if they knew these were their last words to him before he was to meet his Maker.
Christ loved and served all those who came in his path. He never witheld his love for ANY reason. When the women was taken in adultery and brought before the Lord – Jesus did not ask if it was true, about the details, the circumstances, the gossip, he simply stated, “if any of ye are without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
Sometimes we are guilty of withholding our love because we have judged the individual or their circumstances as not worthy of all of our love. But as Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Instead, may we Arise and Shine Forth with love and kindness. May we NEVER suppress a generous thought for that is the spirit and you and your kindness are the answer.
Today, 18 years after my lung transplant, I have surpassed the survival statistics. In fact, only 17% of lung transplant patients live past 10 years. Each time I develop pneumonia or go into rejection, I am forcefully reminded that my time on earth is more limited than I like to admit. Still, I have as much peace, hope and happiness today as I did at age 16, when I arrived at Children’s hospital just a couple days before my scheduled lung transplant and told my dad, “Dad, I think this surgery will be fine, but if not, don’t be sad because I’ll still be fine. I will either wake up with new lungs or wake up on the other side. Both would be great.”
I have learned firsthand that faith and trust in the Lord is power and peace and the fastest way to increase faith is by Arising and Shining Forth through personal righteousness.
You NEVER HAVE TO FEAR when you are following HIS commandments and living you’re your temple covenants – Everyone who keeps their temple covenants will be in the celestial kingdom.
I know as I strive to follow the commandments, I am filled with His spirit and a perfect hope that all will be made right – in this life – or the next. And when we have a perfect hope – the timing of resolution really doesn’t matter because WE KNOW everything will be fine. We know we are doing all we can and the rest is in God’s omnipotent, loving hands.
God has promised, “[H]e who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even PEACE in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23)
Following the commandments keeps us free to be an instrument in God’s hands. Free to feel the spirit. Free to be at peace knowing the Lord is pleased with you. Free to be at peace with the knowledge that you have stayed the course, free to Arise and shine Forth and be a beacon to those around you.
And If there are things you need to repent of, You can! The atonement is greater than any of your sins. As Elder Sabin said, “No one has sinned tomorrow.”
The greatest reward of living a righteous life and following the Savior is my dear husband Patrick. As I dated in college, I never dated anyone very long, because the spirit would tell me they weren’t for me, and I would listen and break up.
Such was the case the very day Patrick saw me for the first time. He was visiting my ward and sat behind me at church. Although I never saw him and no words were exchanged between us, I had a strong prompting to break up with the serious boyfriend I was dating that day. So that very day, I did.
I had learned – through repeated practice and following promptings – that you will never be wrong when you follow the Spirit because God is always right.
But unfortunately, as Elder Eyring said:
“Most of the messages from heaven we lose because we are so busy.” We have our phones, IPADS, TVS constantly in front of us, that we don’t pause, we aren’t listening-or we simply aren’t humble. We have to disengage from everything – all the “noise” of our devise and just pause, [knock] and listen.”
I am so so grateful for the Holy Ghost in my life. I would be lost without it. I know that with the holy ghost as our constant companion, we never need to feel alone or confused, helpless or hopeless, week or overwhelmed. Our lives will not be perfect, but as we seek the holy ghost, I know we will be blessed with strength, wisdom and optimism beyond our own natural abilities with increased ability to Arise and Shine Forth.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said,” There is no price too high, no sacrifice too great, if out of it we enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Finally, there is nothing that will endow you with more power to Arise and Shine Forth than remembering all your blessings.
I am grateful every single day to be alive. I am grateful to breathe deeply. I am grateful to have found my sweetheart and I am so grateful I still get to spend time with him – even though we both know that my time is limited on this earth. Instead of focusing on dying, I am grateful for living now and for eternity.
It can be so easy to focus on what’s wrong or on what we don’t have, that we no longer appreciate what we do have. This leads us to get discouraged, feel helpless and even hopeless and feelings of pity or resentment – the opposite of looking outward and shining forth.
Until we choose to be grateful for everything we have, accepting there will always be a gap between our real circumstances and our “ideal” circumstances, we will never be content and therefore we will never be happy.
A favorite ancient proverb of mine reads, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”
Said one well-known author: “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Being grateful chases away despair, negativity and hopelessness and instead transforms what we do have into enough.
But even in those times when it seems we have lost everything, when everything is going wrong, we still have all that matters. We have THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. We have a knowledge of the glorious plan of happiness. We have an infinitely loving and merciful Savior who loves us, understands us and suffered for our sins so that we can repent and be made clean again, worthy to live forever with our families.
We always have Christ to be grateful for, we always have the reason to Arise and Shine forth with peace and joy every single day.
May we always remember Christ, and all the joy that he makes possible every single day of our lives.
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.