We talked a lot about the Atonement in our third hour combined lesson yesterday and it was amazing! Sister Hoag, who I really look up to, gave an amazing lesson using Elder Bednar's talk "Bear Up Your Burdens With Ease". It was too good not to share. She started out by asking us what some of the burdens, trials, or hardships we face now a days in our families. People gave answers such as addictions, drugs, pornography, financial troubles, divorce, etc. Mosiah 24: 13-14 reads, "And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. 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."
Sister Hoag shared this incredibly powerful and profound quote about the Atonement that had me in tears. It is a little intense, but it is made me so incredibly real for me. “Well, my dear [brothers and] sisters, the gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief." (Chieko Okazaki, Lighten Up)
Alma 7:11-12 then tells us all of the many things that Christ suffered for us. So we know that the Atonement is so great and most of us cant ever express in words how much it means to us...so what prevents us from using the Atonement? Ego, pride, fear, anger, inadequacy, shame, judgement. Shame and guilt are two very different things. Guilt can be a tremendous motivator. With guilt you can hold up who we are against who we want to become and turn to the Savior. Most of us feel shame though. Shame is feeling "I am bad and will always be bad. There is nothing I can do about it." For women, shame usually stems from a web of un-achievable dreams. For men, shame usually comes from being weak. No change comes from shame. Guilt creates lasting change. The antidote of shame is empathy. Empathy is what fuels connection. Rarely does an unmeaningful response make something better. A connection is what makes things better during a struggle. For example, instead of saying, "well thats too bad, that sounds hard." We say, "I don't know what you are going through, but you are not alone." The Savior is the one who can empathize completely and perfectly. He says, "me too. you are never alone." I was so grateful for this profound explanation about the Atonement. My testimony of the Atonement was strengthened immensely this week. I know my Savior suffered for all of my individual burdens, trials, and I know He suffered for all of yours.
I read a talk this morning titled "Continue in Patience" by Elder Uchtdorf. There is a Mormon Message from this talk that I have watched more than a dozen times, yet I had never read the actual talk until today. I think we all understand patience differently, but most of us just think that it means to wait around for something or someone without complaining. This talk gave me a whole new perspective on patience that I love. So here are some of my notes from this morning of things that I loved. Patience is the ability to put our desires on hold for a time. Patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace. Patience is not something you can just obtain by asking for it, you have to work for it. It is an action word. It takes steady and consistent work-patient persistence-helps you learn. Patience is far more than just waiting. Patience requires actively working toward worthy goals and not getting discouraged when results dont appear instantly. Be patient with those you serve, they are imperfect, and like us, make mistakes. They, like us, want others to give them the benefit of the doubt. Never give up on anyone and never give up on yourself. Sometimes it is in the waiting rather than in the receiving when we grow the most. The promises of the Lord are not always swift, but they are always certain. So 1. courageously trust the Lords promises and His timing, 2. Act towares each other with the same paitence and compassion we seek for ourselves, and 3. continue in patience until we are perfected. Patience is something we can all obtain as we actively wait and endure well.
Taylor was baptized on Saturday and it was a great day! Her dad was able to come and support her, which was truly a miracle. We had an incredibly spiritual lesson on Friday night as we talked to her about baptism and confirmation. She told us that she was very nervous and I had felt strongly all week that we needed to discuss why she was being baptized. Taylor had mentioned that her parents had asked her why and she couldn't give them a straight answer, so we wanted her to realize why it was so important. The spirit was so strong the entire time and by the end of the lesson, her nervousness was gone and she knew exactly why she wanted to be baptized. It felt like the right thing and there was nothing but good feelings that came to her when she really thought about it. It was an amazing day and I am so grateful for sweet sweet Taylor and the example she is.
I can't remember if I told you all or not, but Sister Byrne finally got her visa to Brazil and left two weeks ago! I got an email from her this week and she is doing great! She had to go to the MTC in Brazil for two weeks before being sent out to the field again. She met Elder Holland and gets fed fresh mango juice, so sounds like she's going to be alright...
I am so grateful for my mission. This morning as I was thinking of the faith-building experiences I have had so far on my mission, I couldn't help but think that the Lord's timing was so perfect. I left on my mission at just the right time. If I would've left later or earlier, I could have missed out on so many experiences that I had and my mission would be completely different from what it is. I would not have had the companions I have had or served in the areas I have. It would a completely different experience, yet because I came when the Lord needed me to, I have had the most unique and uplifting experience I could have hoped for. I am so grateful that we have a loving Heavenly Father who guides our lives. He knows whats best. Patiently, actively wait and he will take care of everything.
I love this gospel. I am so grateful for all of you. Thank you for your love, support, encouragement, prayers, and kind words. You all mean so much to me! I can never ever express how incredibly grateful I am for this gospel and a loving God who has restored this gospel to the earth to be shared.
Love you all with all my heart,