Hey, all. Spouse Unit and I were asked to speak in church a few weeks ago so I'm going to post our individual talks for you to read. They're a little long, since we spoke for 15 minutes each, so buckle up. We're going to start with mine this week, since I spoke first. Next week I'll post Spouse Unit's talk. It was amazing, so get ready to read that.
For those of you who are new to my blog, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We're commonly referred to as "Latter-Day Saints", "LDS", or "Mormons" because of our belief in the Book of Mormon, which is a book of scripture that was translated by revelation in the 1800s by Joseph Smith. I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to ask me any questions you have (no, we don't dress like pioneers, have horns, or practice polygamy anymore. I only have one husband--thank goodness) and I'll answer them the best I can, or you can visit Mormon.org or LDS.org to learn more!
HAVING HOPE IN JESUS CHRIST
Good morning, brothers and sisters. I'm Melissa Jennings and I'm married to Spouse Unit. We've been married for almost 4 years (our anniversary is on Wednesday!) and we have two daughters: Tina, who is 2 1/2 years old and Lil Spits, who is 17 months old (I used their real names, I'm not a weirdo). There's been this thing going around on social media where you're supposed to badly explain your profession, so here's a bad explanation of ours: Spouse Unit rides his bike and makes legs, and I express my feelings and then eat them. We're also on a surveillance team together watching over tiny, illiterate dictators. In common terms: Spouse Unit is a student in the Orthotics and Prosthetics program and I'm a stay-at-home mom with a blog and a baking problem.
We were asked to speak on Having Hope in Jesus Christ.
I think Heavenly Father wanted to provide me with a lot of material for this talk, because many things have happened recently that have led me to feel hopeless. Most of them did not happen to me personally, but I am a sensitive person and internalize things easily. There have been many tears shed on behalf of others lately.
However, I am grateful for the trials I have had and have been able to witness because it has brought me to reflect on a topic that I didn't know much about before.
There are some things that I've been able to do that have helped me cultivate hope and I want to share a few of those with you today. They are prayer, reading The Word of God, and giving service. I also want to talk about why we should have hope in Jesus Christ.
The first I want to focus on is prayer. Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
"If willing to pray, every living person may be sustained by the Lord through whatever tragedy or problem might come upon him or her... As with the Prophet Joseph Smith, we too can pray for answers to our questions and problems. Prayer is so important to maintaining hope. Even the Savior of the world prayed to Heavenly Father. Prayer is the entrance to heaven. And everybody has that privilege. What a great blessing." (1)
I love that he used the word "sustain." I'm a little bit musical, but did poorly in music theory. However, Wikipedia must have done really well because it provided a great explanation for what a sustain pedal does on a piano:
"When pressed, the sustain pedal 'sustains' all the damped strings on the piano by moving all the dampers away from the strings and allowing them to vibrate freely. All notes played will continue to sound until the vibration naturally ceases, or until the pedal is released. This lets the pianist sustain notes which would otherwise be out of reach, for instance in accompanying cords - and accomplish legato passages (smoothly connected notes) which would have no possible fingering otherwise. Raising the sustain pedal also causes all the strings to vibrate sympathetically with whichever notes are being played, which greatly enriches the piano's tone." (2)
I think when you make a mashup of the two quotes, the imagery is quite beautiful. Jesus Christ is our sustain pedal. He can sustain us when solutions may be out of our reach, He can help smooth over moments in our lives when we repent, and He can enrich our tone, or our testimony of the gospel.
The second thing we can do is read The Word of God. Sometimes it's hard to have hope because we are burdened by the world. As a blogger, I'm on social media quite a bit and I'm constantly being bombarded with conflicting opinions, negativity, terrible things that are going on in the world, things that waste time, and things that cause me to make unfair comparisons. A lot of times I get really down on myself because of it. I feel angry and sad, and yes, hopeless. I sometimes forget that I can turn it off, pray about it, and read my scriptures or listen to an LDS General Conference talk and move on. It really can be that easy.
Joseph B. Wirthlin also said:
"Just move forward regardless of the world. As [you] read the scriptures, [you] will know what [you] should do. [You] shouldn't be dwelling on all of these other things. Keep busy in doing the right things. When I have decision or advice to give to people, I explain that it is all laid out in the scriptures. As the Savior said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.' (3) Peace and hope come from knowing the Lord and our Heavenly Father and following their way of living.
"Our lives should be filled with hope, positive thinking, and great anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ and our literal resurrection to live with our Heavenly Father and His beloved Son, the Savior of the world, forever. That is what we should hope for." (4)
The third way to gain hope in Jesus Christ is through service. We became friends with our amazing neighbors a few months ago. They have two children--one with spina bifida who is doing amazing things--and four dogs. This family was getting ready to move, and while they are Christian they are not members of my church. This means they're not used to free, professional moving companies.
When I offered to help them clean their house and watch their children while they packed, they were so grateful. The happiness and hope in my friend's face made me feel so good. I never thought about service being a way to bring hope to others before but I'm so glad I was able to help them because it brought me hope, too.
The last topic I'd like to talk about is the reason I feel that it's so important to have hope in Jesus Christ. It's because He has hope in us! If we want Him in our lives, he will 100% be there for us. I guess that's my takeaway message, and if you only remember one thing from my talk that's what I want it to be: that Jesus Christ will be there for us 100% if we want Him to be.
While I was writing and researching what I wanted to tell you about Hope in Jesus Christ, I did a quick search of the scriptures to see how many times some form of "I am with you" or "I will be with you" turned up. I found close to 40 scriptures with those phrases in them, and that doesn't count all of the other variations of those beautiful words uttered by the Savior.
I was also thinking about the Allegory of the Olive Trees found in Jacob chapter 5 in the Book of Mormon (5) and how the Lord visited his vineyard many times. He did everything possible to set his olive trees up for success. He tried planting them in different types of soil, He pruned them, He digged about them, He grafted them, and He fertilized them. He was patient, even when the trees weren't producing good fruit. In the account, He asked three times, "what could I have done more for my vineyard?"
He loved us so much He suffered and died for us, so we would never be alone in our suffering and so we would also be able to repent, then He broke the bands of death so that we would be able to be resurrected, return to God's presence, and have eternal families.
Isaiah 41 verses 10 and 13 say:
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness...
"For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." (6)
How does it feel to hold someone's hand?
I don't mean romantically, even though that's fun and exciting, too. If we hold someone's hand when we are upset, it is a comfort. When we are in distress and danger is is a form of protection. When we are mad, it can have a calming effect. If we are already happy, it can make us even happier. That is what Jesus Christ can do for us if we have hope in Him.
Having hope in Jesus Christ doesn't take away our problems or the problems of others. However, it does make it easier to get through them.
Matthew 11: 28-30 says:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (7)
Mosiah 24: 14 says:
"And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions." (8)
Even if you are doing everything right you won't be exempt from trials, I'm sorry to say. All of the best people have had terrible events happen in their lives. Pick any one of the prophets from the scriptures or anyone that you look up to.
In a personal recent event, my daughter Tina has been super into princesses. We were watching a movie about a princess--who shall remain nameless*--and this princess (who wears primary colors, has quite a unique singing voice, and lives with a bunch of short miners) has a wicked stepmother. Her stepmother hired a hit man to kill her, then when that didn't work, she tried to give her food poisoning. Literally.
This princess wasn't doing anything wrong. All she wanted to do was sing and clean other people's houses and make pies. She sounds like she could be my kindred spirit. Anyway, despite all of the good things she did, her stepmom still sought her life. Everything ended up being okay in the end, as it will for us if we trust and have hope in the Lord.
Scriptures, patriarchal blessings, fasting, prayer, reading words of living prophets, and turning outward to love and serve others are things we can do right now that will strengthen our hope in Jesus Christ. All of these things can remind us of how much God loves us and that He is rooting for us.
I know He is, and the things that I've learned about hope lately have strengthened my hope in Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(1) Hope and Faith: A Discussion by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign February 2005
(2) Wikipedia Sustain Pedal
(3) John 14:27, King James Bible (New Testament)
(4) Hope and Faith: A Discussion by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign February 2005
(5) Jacob 5, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
(6) Isaiah 41:10,13, King James Bible (Old Testament)
(7) Matthew 11:28-30, King James Bible (New Testament)
(8) Mosiah 24:14, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
*Okay, if can't figure it out by the context clues and you just have to know it's Snow White. You're welcome. Now, go watch it.