I’m going to make a confession. When the General Conference Challenge was first issued, I couldn’t think of any specific questions to bring to General Conference. I wondered if it’s because during the last six months, perhaps almost more than any other time in my life, I have been in a sort of ongoing process of going to the Lord with questions and finding answers as He and I have been working hard on my life, my heart, my soul. I have felt His love, His guidance, His power, and His grace in amazing ways this year.
So, in a way, I planned to enter this conference weekend in a sort of “open slate” mode, waiting to discover what would reach me the most.
But then things sort of fell apart in my world on Friday night. I got a migraine. The stress of having hubby essentially gone for a month on business had caught up with me physically and emotionally. In addition, some significant responsibilities I have had on my plate managed to came to a head all at once in my scattered brain and life. All of a sudden, I was drowning, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
So I actually came to Conference needing a lot.
I heard so many talks that were a balm to my soul. I can’t name (or even remember) them all, but Elder Holland’s reminder that angels are among us, that God never leaves us alone, was, not surprisingly, a favorite. I loved Elder Cook’s tender talk, ”Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time.” (Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?) President Uchtdorf’s talk on hope is one I want to read and re-read. There were many speakers who powerfully testified of God’s eternal love for us, for me. I was reminded time and time again that God is aware of me and my life and that brought great comfort to my soul.
I also heard talks that were hard for me to process, to be honest, simply because I was already feeling so weary and weighed down. This was not because I didn’t love the talks (because I really did), but just because of where I was personally.
I felt an intensity in many messages, a sense that we are being invited by the Lord through our leaders to “raise the bar” in our lives, individually and collectively. The Lord expects much. We must be prepared for His coming. We must be more like Him in our hearts and in our lives. Reminders of the need for unity, the declaration of what is required for us to become a Zion people, the plea to reach out and help change lives, and even the call to simplicity and the outline of how to improve my prayers all combined in a way to leave me feeling a bit like I was drinking out of a fire hydrant. And drowning.
As a result, while I found some significant answers, reminders, and strength to face my challenges, partaking of this wonderful conference also left me with more questions.
How do I focus?
How does God want me to spend my time?
There is too much to do; how can I do it all, or what shouldn’t I try to do right now?
I care so deeply about this work — all of it! — and yet my energy and resources are limited. Truth be told, at times like this weekend, my head spins (literally and figuratively) and my stomach churns and I can wear myself out before I even begin!
In this seeming dichotomy of emotions — comfort and strength to face my trials on one hand and feeling overwhelmed on the other — a clear but unexpected thought came to my mind. The General Relief Society Meeting laid the foundation for me for this entire weekend.
I loved every minute of the Relief Society broadcast. I loved both the call to action that came from the Relief Society leaders (Sister Beck in particular, but really from all of them), as well President Uchtdorf’s encouraging and powerful words as he spoke “to those who have ever felt inadequate, discouraged, or weary—in short…to all of us.”
Sister Beck began the broadcast by saying:
We rejoice in the knowledge that you are going about doing good, as the Savior did. You are doing a magnificent work. Yet we feel impressed to say that there is more to be done. It is time for…[us]…to fulfill its purpose as never before.
They are raising the bar!
But I remembered what President Uchtdorf said:
We know that sometimes it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. In fact, in our world of change, challenges, and checklists, sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed by emotions of suffering and sorrow. I am not suggesting that we can simply flip a switch and stop the negative feelings that distress us. This isn’t a pep talk or an attempt to encourage those sinking in quicksand to imagine instead they are relaxing on a beach. I recognize that in all of our lives there are real concerns….These things are not insignificant.
He then proceeded to teach beautifully about the principles of creation and compassion. I loved all of what he said, but wanted to include something in particular:
What you [do] doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.
The Lord prepared me for both the variety of messages I heard and the range of emotions I felt this weekend with the Relief Society broadcast last weekend, when I was less stressed. Am I supposed to do more or be patient and compassionate with myself? The answer is yes!
There will simply always be a tension between what I need to be doing and what I am able to do. Negotiating that tension is, I believe, a key part of life, and a key reason why the gift of the Holy Ghost is so critical in our mortal journey.
It is clear that for me, the answers weren’t supposed to all come this weekend. I have more work to do, more questions to explore! But this is the work of life. I am determined to take these fresh questions to my personal study of the powerful and broad-reaching talks of this weekend. I can feel already that I am going to find even more guidance — and probably more questions — that will help me continue to press forward and to do so with a brightness of hope, not those dreaded feelings of despair, inadequacy, or of being overwhelmed that are all too familiar in my life.
Postscript I: As I have been writing, I have had General Conference playing in the background. The very minute I finished writing the first draft of my last paragraph, President Uchtdorf quoted that scripture in 2 Nephi. Wow. I am grateful to the Lord for tender mercies. I needed to write this post so that I could really get that message. Onward and forward!
Postscript II: (And you won’t believe this….) The talk I had left to listen to was President Monson’s address from Sunday morning. (I slept in to help with the migraine and had to catch up.) Yeah, there’s a lot for me there. But I’m going to keep the post unchanged because it represents an important part of my process of finding answers this weekend.
Besides, the main purpose of this post is to invite you to share your experiences from this weekend. What themes struck you? What answers did you receive to your prayers and questions? What questions will you take to your personal study, prayer, and pondering? As I have experienced here, writing can sometimes help answers to distill. And so, we invite you to write!