I was asked last month to speak to the Young Women tonight, in three different groups of twenty minutes each. Each group tonight got a portion and version of this talk, with it being adapted in the moment (as prompted) to be unique to each group of girls. Here are the notes from the talk, upon request for the leaders who wanted the whole thing. Our Young Women are amazing!
We always need “spiritual makeovers” because we should always be progressing, and this requires constant repentance so that we become more than we were, and are lifted higher and moved forward.
But we have to start with FAITH.
Joseph Smith said (Lecture on Faith, No. 3) that to have faith, we must have three things:
First, the idea that he actually exists.
Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which (I am) pursuing is according to his will.
If we do not daily do the work to study the scriptures to learn who He is, or if we do not consistently and often (constantly!) get to know Him through prayer, we will not have an accurate understanding of who He is or what He has done for us.
If we are not obedient, or doing the work (including repentance) to become more obedient, or if we are not keeping our covenants or doing the work to prepare to make covenants – or not living worthy of the Spirit that seals our covenants, we will not have the peace and confirmation and surety that comes from living according to His will.
If we continue NOT to do the work to learn who He is, or if we continue to disobey Him despite understanding who He is, we will not have faith – we will not have a testimony – and even what we did have before, will be taken from us (see D&C 1:33; 43:10; 60:3).
Thus, we are always doing the work to gain (increase) our testimony, or experiencing the consequence of not doing that work – which is to lose our testimony. There is no middle ground; we are either building our testimonies or losing them (Uchtdorf, 2010). President Harold B. Lee said:
Testimony isn’t something that you have today and you keep always. Testimony is either going to grow and grow to the brightness of certainty, or it is going to diminish to nothingness…
We see this contrast in the pattern in 3 Nephi 6, where those who were building their testimonies were humble and penitent (willing to repent) (verse 13). This brought the people knowledge, so that they could obey, even when they were being attacked. However, those who were losing their testimony were being stirred up by Satan to do iniquity (verse 15). These people were aware of what they were doing wrong, and so it was a willful rebellion (verse 18) as opposed to conscious obedience.
The sins of the people escalated into secret combinations that mock the eternal purpose of covenants. There are “secrets” in verse 23, and the people “combine” against righteousness (verse 28). We are guilty of the same kind of “murders” when we “combine” with our girlfriends in “secret” whispers and gossip behind others’ backs, harming and hurting our “sisters” and squashing the spirits of our friends.
When we are hurting others instead of helping others, this is evidence against us. Galatians 5:22,23 lists for us some of the fruit of the Spirit, and these fruit are the evidence of what is inside of us. If we pick an apple, we know it comes from an apple tree; if we pick an orange, we know it comes from an orange tree. These “fruit” are the evidence of what kind of tree it is. In the same way, the choices we make, and the things we do, and the types of interactions we have with other people are “evidence” what is happening inside us, and “evidence” of our relationship with God.
If we love Him, we are obedient to Him. The more we are obedient, the more our faith grows, and the more we learn who He is, and the more we love Him. The more we are obedient, the easier it gets to be obedient (1 John 5:2,3).
If we love Him, we love ourselves in good and healthy and appropriate ways. We take care of our bodies, which are temples of God, gifts of mortality, part of the reason we came to Earth. Just as we need constant nourishment spiritually (see Morrison, 1992 Conference), so we also need constant nourishment physically: food that has nutrients, exercise for feeling strong and healthy and well (not for fanatics or punishment), enough sleep, and plenty of play – and rest that is not sleep-time or play-time. We need to be patient and gentle with ourselves, having compassion on ourselves as being in-process and knowing that He understands we are in-process (Mosiah 4:27; D&C 10:4; Uchtdorf, 2011).
If we love Him, we are good and kind and loving and nurturing to others, serving them sweetly and willingly. He commands us to love each other as He has loved us (John 15:12). That means we serve them, minister to them, offer them peace, and grant them mercy. It means we are gentle and kind and good. It means we forgive them, provide for them, and protect them. It means we stand up for them when others attack, teach them when they do not understand, and love them whether they deserve it or not. It means we are giving, making sacrifices to be sure those around us have what they need. It means we are kind, making sure those around us feel loved. It means we actively seek out ways to do for others what they cannot do for themselves.
This is the fruit, the evidence, of the Spirit working in our lives: that we are loving, and that we serve others. That is the action that is the evidence.
When we do not, our action is evidence against us: we are haters, gossipers, or mean girls. There is drama and contention and negativity and bitterness. We hold grudges instead of forgiving. We punish instead of loving. We withhold affection instead of serving.
This isolates, instead of uniting.
This destroys, instead of creating.
We were designed to create. We were designed to create life – whether it be painting or writing or music or dance or school work or friendships or service or anything that counts as creating. Everything we do that is life-giving and strengthening counts as creating:
We were designed to create. This is the plan of salvation. Satan wants to stop that plan of salvation, to end that plan of creation. Satan wants us to destroy instead of creating. Satan wants us to be mean to each other, to roll our eyes at our parents, to gossip about our friends, to say mean things to other girls, to snap impatiently at our grandparents, and to tattle on our siblings. Satan wants us to do things we should not do with our peers, and to give away pieces of our selves that we should not give away. Satan wants us to destroy our relationships instead of creating them. Satan wants to stop not only us, but those who will come after us, those we will bring into the world.
Helaman 15 tells the story of a people making covenants to bury their weapons of war. As women, whether we are young women or not-so-young women, our weapons of war are often our words, the looks we give, and the attitudes we have. Verses 9-10 say this:
And ye know also that they have buried their weapons of war, and they fear to take them up lest by any means they should sin; yea, ye can see that they fear to sin—for behold they will suffer themselves that they be trodden down and slain by their enemies, and will not lift their swords against them, and this because of their faith in Christ.And now, because of their steadfastness when they do believe in that thing which they do believe, for because of their firmness when they are once enlightened, behold, the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days, notwithstanding their iniquity—
It says that if they would keep this covenant of burying their weapons of war – and leaving them buried – they would be blessed with “prolonged days”. There is only one other place we receive that specific promise, and it’s in Exodus 20:
I think these are very connected.
I think it is significant that at each of the last four General Conferences, the Young Women were specifically told to smile more often. Smiling is one of the easiest ways to maintain a cheery attitude, respond sincerely, and interact respectfully. Smiles are contagious, and can create life in others.
In a similar way, gratitude melts our own hearts and treasures the hearts of others. At General Conference in April, they talked to us about gratitude 17 times, and talked to us about it 13 times in October. It’s that important.
Creating life by being kind, smiling more, and having gratitude are all ways to be shiny and bring light to the lives of others (D&C 59:15).
In Joseph Smith History, verse 30, he tells us the story of literally seeing the physical light. We also read a similar account of Moses being shiny after having conversed with the Lord to receive the ten commandments – so shiny they had to cover him up (Exodus 34; 2 Corinthians 3:7). On the other hand, when someone who knew God and had made covenants and breaks them in disobedience, their countenance “falls” because they lose their light and/or darkness leaves them – such as what happened to Cain (see Genesis 4:5-6 and Moses 5:21-22).
Thus, like our behaviors and interactions, our very countenances are evidence, or “fruit”, of the light that is in us – or not.
If we have spent time with our Savior, in prayer and in scripture study and in following the words of the Prophets and our priesthood leaders (being obedient!) and in the Temple, and if we are demonstrating what we have learned by loving and serving others, then our countenance will be bright in such a way that other people are able to sense it, notice it, and feel it. It is part of our testimony that they can sense without any words, just noticing a life in us, because the Spirit confirms our light to their spirit, the Spirit draws them to our Light, to Him who is the Light.
(For more about “light”, see THIS BLOG: Temple Physics.)