I sit on the farthest seat of the front row choir seats. It’s actually not an official choir seat–it’s a cushioned Relief Society room chair brought in to hold the overflow of all the people who want to sing at this meeting with President Ballard. I can see the backs of the speakers’ heads, or if I look in the monitor they placed beside the podium I can see the front. I’m not in the camera’s line of view.
We’re asked not to transcribe what President Ballard says, or to record it in any way. I still take notes, extensive ones, for my daughter who was unable to be there. I’m listening so hard, praying for her, and for myself.
If I want to write about transcendence, how do I go about it? Obliquely, from an angle, telling a slant truth only because words don’t wrap around the holy very well. Because it feels like a desecration to pin down the Spirit with mere words, a kind of taxidermy, killing a living creature and putting it up for display. See what I witnessed. It used to be alive, but because I’ve decided to tell you about it, to display it, I’ve destroyed it, paralyzed it, placed it in infinite stasis, to be examined and analyzed and perhaps dismissed, which feels unbearable.
And yet if I leave the words unwritten, unspoken, especially when I feel I should bear witness, the memory of holiness can erode, etched away by life and time and doubt and fear. In some ways pinning down the holy with words makes it more real, solidifies the memory so that it lives in my mind and my heart.
I need those solid memories; I need to take them out again and look at them and remember what I saw and how I felt. I write them for myself, and for my children.
And sometimes for the internet, too.
Because I feel the need to witness, that even when General Conference is hard, God is with the men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators.
Two things from President Ballard’s talk make me feel light and alive that Sunday. One is ministering, which I am tired of hearing about because it makes me feel guilty and inadequate. But today, President Ballard teaches us about ministering in the prophet Joseph Smith’s family, how they ministered to each other. Something in this story resonates with me. President Ballard doesn’t speak about ministering as anything but work. No one says we should be naturally good at it, that it has to be effortless. It is labor–holy labor, but labor still. If I minister in my home, to my family, like Joseph Smith’s family, it’s work, work that God both requires and honors.
Two is when President Ballard reads aloud from 3 Nephi 11. I’m sitting a few feet away from an apostle of the Lord reading about my Savior’s visit to the Nephites. The air fills with thick, sweet Spirit; this ninety-year-old man shines. He is focused completely on this story of Jesus blessing, one by one, the people who await Him at the temple.
I know these verses so well I could almost recite them, but I have never before heard them like this. Just by reading them, he testifies of Christ, of the Book of Mormon, of the prophet Joseph Smith, of the Restoration. The very act of an apostle reading these scriptures aloud, in this deliberate, careful way, infuses them with layers upon layers of meaning.
I cannot contain my tears.
If you take iron filings and place them near a magnet, magnetic field lines appear, like magic: intangible magnetic forces made visible. I leave the conference. I’ve seen lines of the Spirit appearing, radiating around an apostle of the Lord.