The following is the keynote talk I gave at Girls Camp this morning. I just was only able to copy and paste it, so my apologize for any font or spacing errors… But this is girls camp, people! :)
“Arise, and Shine Forth!”
What does it mean?
We can’t arise if we are not first down – sitting down, laying down, downtrodden in our own shame or guilt or exhaustion.
I am sure none of you have ever felt tired, sleepy, exhausted, or worn out. I am sure none of you ever needed to just go home to your own beds (after a good shower first) and just sleep for days.
I am also sure that none of you have ever been cranky or rude or short-tempered when you were tired, either.
Though I also know some of you can be just downright nasty and mean!
That’s why we need to ARISE!
To arise means to separate yourself from all that is not-of-God, to purge out of you all that is not-of-God – which we do by repentance and the Sacrament and following the prophets – and to fill yourself up with what IS-OF-GOD – by prayer and scripture study and temple worship – to be so filled with Light – that is knowledge, understanding, and testimony – that you literally shine to those around you.
Moses did it.
He got so shiny that he literally had to cover his face with a veil (Exodus 34:29-35).
The same thing happened to Abinadi (Mosiah 13:5).
If your Spirit, the premortal part of you that has already made covenants, works hard to keep those covenants, works hard to commune with our Father, works hard to testify of what you know to be true, works hard to be the child of God He created you to be, the child of God you promised to be, then you will SHINE.
The people around you will be able to feel it, to sense it, to notice it, even in the midst of a crowd, even before they notice it is you that has entered the room… because it isn’t you, it is the Holy Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit of God will confirm to those around you the spirit which you bring – because it is from HIM.
We are all spiritual beings, and our task on earth is to teach our physical bodies to keep the same covenants our spirits have already made.
This is why sometimes it feels like such a great struggle, because our physical bodies cannot yet do what our spiritual selves have already mastered. But we must teach ourselves these things, like Peter Pan sewing on his shadow.
A couple I am friends with recently had their second child. He was all purple and wrinkly. I watched his newborn self fuss and cry because his spirit was squashed into such a tiny body. He was frustrated and angry because he couldn’t do the things he knows he needs to do.
We are the same. We know what we need to do, but are not yet able to do it. This is why we so often fail, or why we are weak when we should be strong.
But our Father-in-Heaven knew this was part of the process, and provided what we needed for this sacred time. Just as the new baby’s mother gently held him and cared for him so sweetly, so do our Heavenly Parents love and care for us. We will notice it more if we soften toward Them, and let Them care for us.
He wants us to say what the prodigal son said in Luke 15 (verse 18): “I will arise and go to my Father”. We do this in real and sincere prayer, which must be constant and ongoing, for it is the only way to get to know Him. You cannot know Him if you will not talk to Him.
We also do this by being obedient, and doing what our Father has asked to do, living as the Savior lived.
This story of the prodigal son is the story of the atonement, the story of the Father who embraces even us as we learn to return to Him. He has been waiting for us, watching from “a long way off”, ready to embrace us as we re-enter His presence.
The atonement provides a way that we can repent when we fail and do wrong, but also providing strength where we are weak and need help beyond ourselves. The atonement has a power that is both enabling and empowering, so that we can truly do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13; D&C 50:27).
But that empowering and enabling is for us to “go and do” (1 Nephi 3:7); “otherwise, we will perish” (Alma 27:10). He has not provided so much just so that we can be lazy or idle. He has given us so much not to spoil us, but to give us the things we need to accomplish what He has asked us to do.
He tells us to “Arise”, so that we can go and do: arise with healing (Malachi 4:2), arise and walk (Matthew 9:6), and arise and serve (Matthew 9:25).
Let me tell you about some friends that served me. Some of you have heard pieces of my story before, but let me give you a huge status update!
First, let me back up for those who don’t know my story.
Do you know that story in Luke 5, where the friends took their sick buddy on his cot – because he couldn’t even walk – and lowered him through the roof so that the Savior could heal him, because the building was too crowded to get in?
I had friends who loved me like that.
I wanted to learn how to dance, because dancing is amazing! Someone told me Deaf girls can’t dance, and I wanted to prove them wrong. So I found a ballroom dance teacher and began lessons.
This guy and his wife became good friends to me. They were kind to me, they listened to my story, they did nice things for me, and they took good care of me.
But they were different. She taught me the heads-shoulders-knees-and-toes rules when I bought clothes – do you know it?!
It is a modesty check for when you are shopping. Put your hands on your head, and if your shirt shows any belly the it is too short. Touch your shoulders to check the sleeves (and be sure it has sleeves). Touch your knees to be sure the skirt or shorts is long enough. Touch your toes, and if your pants show any skin or underwear in the back, they a too low cut. If your shirt reveals anything, it is too low cut.
Then, when I had a fancy party at my house, and everyone was guzzling all the alcohol they could get, she just wanted water.
When my fiancé offered her husband a cigar to celebrate a championship win, my dance teacher politely declined but kept chatting with him and laughing and telling stories.
When we met for breakfast one day, she ordered juice instead of coffee.
And then she prayed before she ate.
And when we talked about the hard things of life, instead of complaining or gossiping, she told me how her God helped her both endure life and enjoy it.
I had never known there was anything to enjoy about life.
This is how she taught me the Gospel by living it.
She never shamed me, but she also never joined me in the things that were not of God.
That’s the only way I knew there was something different about her.
If she had done everything with me, I would not have noticed anything different about her, and I would not have witnessed the power of the Gospel, and I would not have felt the Spirit pulling me into wanting the joy and peace that she had.
It was her righteous example that shined light into my life, teaching me about the gospel, and laws and covenants, and the atonement.
It was her lowering me through the roof to the Savior when she loved me through the process of repentance and conversion, never shaming me or judging me, but always pointing me to the Savior.
This consistent friendship and this charity, this pure love of Christ is what made me strong enough to sacrifice what it took to be obedient – not just taking metal out of my body, or throwing out the alcohol and coffee, but also the giving up my fancy house with the fancy pool and even the fiancé when he chose not to be baptized.
Because I knew we are commanded to marry within the covenant. I knew that I wanted to marry in the temple.
That’s my story, some of you know this.
You have seen what else happened, that I did get baptized, and I learned to live the laws of the gospel. I even found my family. Everything I gave up to get baptized, the Lord has restored to me in new ways – not just as it was, but better than before. These are the blessings of obedience.
But the blessings come with the challenge to live up to them, to be good stewards of them, to use them to prove our gratitude for the atonement and our worthiness for the presence of His spirit.
He softened my heart, that I might obey.
He gave restored my hearing, that I might testify.
He provided a new house, that I might care for my family.
These are the blessings of obedience!
But with these blessings, we must continue to obey.
He has not blessed us so that we can be careless with sacred covenants we made premortally.
Instead, He has enabled us and empowered us – an act of great grace and deep mercy – so that we will be able to keep those covenants we made already.
Making and keeping covenants is how we progress.
Making and keeping covenants is what cleanses us. It removes from us what is not-of-God, and refines our physical bodies to match the spiritual beings we were before we came to Earth. This is what it means to be sanctified, to sanctify ourselves, to choose the right.
Before we can “arise, and shine forth”, the Savior first says that we must “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11; Alma 39:9; D&C 6:35, 24:2, 82:7). We must make ourselves worthy now of all He has to offer, and practice even now being ready to do exactly what He instructs. It is now that we prove ourselves. Now is the time for keeping covenants!
He tells us to “Arise, and go to the city” (Acts 9:6; 22:10), and we know that “the city” means “The City of Holiness”, which is the Temple (Psalm 48:1; Jeremiah 31:23; Moses 7:19). It is in the Temple that ordinances are performed in which we make covenants after the pattern of those covenants we made premortally.
I will talk more about that at Youth Conference, so please come and be ready to learn about making and keep covenants.
It is the only way to become shiny, to become like our Heavenly Parents.
The Prophet has said now is your time to “Arise, and Shine Forth”. This is from D&C 115:5, which answers the “why” of the command. You don’t get to just arise and shine forth to look all pretty. You are not Christmas trees that get to just stand there being shiny and making people happy because you are so awesome.
That’s not what dating is about, either, by the way. I see you girls already blinking your eyes at the boys. I just want to say that you do not need a guy that looks good, or that thinks you look good. You need a guy who knows what the Savior looks like, who knows what the Spirit feels like, and who will do the hard work with you to make and keep sacred covenants.
You don’t need a guy who gives you a shiny diamond.
You need a guy who knows you are one.
The “feel-good” of outward appearances isn’t going to last very long, but the “real-feel-good”, which feels-real-good, comes from the Spirit, and lasts for eternity.
You must learn to shine, not because of the best shampoo or the right makeup or enough tanning, but because your spirit is right with God, because your spirit is obedient to the commands of the Savior, and because your spirit is in tune with the Holy Ghost. That is what makes you shiny, and that is what gives you power.
You are told to shine, and given power to do so, because other people are hungry to learn what Light is.
If you are full of darkness, the world will not understand why you are any different. They will gain nothing from you, learn nothing from you. They will be left in the same darkness they have always known, and their sins will be upon you.
I would not have been baptized if my friend ordered coffee, gossiped, or drank alcohol with me.
I would still be lost!
Back there, when I was miserable and alone in the dark, drowning in shame and hurting my body and making a mess of my life.
Her choosing the right is what taught me I had a choice.
If you do not choose the right, the sins of your friends are your responsibility because you did not testify, because you did not help them claim their agency, their ability to choose the right.
But if you shine, then it is their problem because it is their choice.
Jacob 1:9 says: And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.
Your Light is to be a contrast to the darkness of the world, like the shiny diamonds on the dark cloth, like stars of the covenant shining in the night sky.
You cannot be shiny if you are part of the darkness.
You get your Light – your understanding and your power – from Christ, and the proof that you are shiny is in the good things that you do and the positive interactions you have with other people.
In Galatians 5:22-23, this proof is the “Fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Do an inventory – are you kind to your friends? What about your parents, are you kind to them? Are you patient with younger siblings – or older siblings that are not good examples? Are you patient with your parents as they learn to parent you? Are you faithful to the things your parents have taught you, even when they are not around? How much can the Lord depend on you, how mature are you, if you demand your independence but refuse to make good choices when your parents are not watching? How is that any different than the prodigal son? Do you have self-control enough to make good choices, even with peer pressure, or when a guy pays attention to you, or when you want to do something or be somewhere that you know is not good for you?
It is you, no one else, that must choose to be righteous. Your parents cannot give righteousness to you. Righteousness is only developed by the pattern of practice, by the habit of making good choices – one choice at a time, regardless of what others do to you, regardless of circumstances, and regardless of who is watching you.
You are teenagers now! Young women! You don’t need babysitters!
You ARE the babysitters!
Shut your mouths and stop complaining!
Then arise, and open your mouths to testify!
D&C 43:18 says the earth will testify in earthquakes and other disasters (which is already happening), and the trump of God shall sound (Elder Holland said a year ago at General Conference that General Conference *IS* the trump sounding!), and the Lord will say – is saying now – “Ye saints arise and live; ye sinners stay and sleep until I shall call again.”
Are you awake and ready to do what He has asked?
Or are you sleeping, and making excuses because you don’t want to work hard?
Are you awake and obedient, regardless of the circumstances in which you live, no matter what others around you are doing?
Or are you sleeping and blaming others for making bad choices and not participating?
The next verse (19) says: Wherefore gird up your loins lest ye be found among the wicked.
If you are one of the shiny ones, then act like it!
You have to do the girding up, the putting on of sacred clothes, the work to become who He says you are.
A diamond doesn’t start out all girly and sparkly. They don’t cut it out of the mountain set in gold and ready to be displayed. They don’t dig it up already with a price tag on it.
Do you know where diamonds come from? They come from deep in the Earth’s crust, underneath volcanoes. You think this week was hot? This is nothing. Diamonds are formed inside magma that can be as hot as 2400 degrees.
But it’s not just the heat – what else do diamonds need to form?
Pressure. Extreme pressure.
Diamonds are formed in the Earth’s mantle, 120 miles below ground.
Do you ever feel the heat from life? You think mortal life is hard? You think school is rough, or family life is too hard, or your life seems bad?
Do you ever feel the pressure? Seminary, school work, squeezing in all your activities, church stuff, and your parents won’t let you do anything but expect you to do everything, not to mention all those rules from “for strength of youth”?
Why do you think it’s called “For Strength of Youth”?
Because it’s that heat and that pressure that makes you strong.
Heavenly Father thinks you are worthy of becoming a diamond.
Maybe you should stop complaining about how bad your life is, or how hard you think it is, and start being grateful instead, thanking your Heavenly Father that He would “count you worthy” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
That’s how diamonds are made, but what makes a diamond a diamond? What makes them so strong they can be sharp enough to cut anything else without breaking? In Greek, diamond is “adámas”, which means “unbreakable”. What makes a diamond unbreakable?
It’s the structure, the framework or internal shape inside. The atoms inside a diamond form a strong covalent bond by sharing electrons. This sharing can only happen with there is great similarity between them. That’s what makes the bond so strong in structure, making diamonds so strong by nature.
You will only be strong when you are in tune with the Spirit. You will only have power when your spirit is holy, when your spirit is the same as the Holy Spirit. This is how we become holy, by tuning in, by bonding with, by being the same as the holiness by which you were created.
What makes a diamond shine and sparkle? It is because it is transparent, with very few impurities. No impurities, no color. This removes the color from the rock, so that it is clear – so that it refracts the Light, making rainbows of colors, far more than the drab color it would be just by itself as a rock.
When we are honest, even about our weaknesses, this makes us transparent. We acknowledge our need for the atonement, and by doing so He makes us humble enough to receive it. We offer our broken heart and contrite spirit as a sacrifice, and in exchange He gives us the ultimate sacrifice (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 51:17; 2 Nephi 2:7; 2 Nephi 4:32; 3 Nephi 9:20; 3 Nephi 12:19; Mormon 2:14; Moroni 6:2).
That is righteousness (D&C 59:8)!! Do you see? Righteousness does not mean we are perfect already, with no weakness and never failing. Righteousness means we depend on the atonement of Christ to make us holy! That is how we are accepted by Him (Ether 4:15; D&C 20:37; 97:8)!
Ezekiel 36 says that it doesn’t matter how far we have progressed thus far, as long as we are all the way turned toward God – because being turned away is all the way turned away. But being turned toward Him is turned all the way toward Him – and when we are turned toward Him, He promises and is able to bring us all the way home, even from “a long way off” (Luke 15).
D&C 56:18 says: But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance!
What is our deliverance? It is being delivered from what is not-of-God, cleansed of all impurities, that we may be clear as a diamond, shiny as a diamond, holy as He is holy.
D&C 82:14 says that “Zion must arise”, and that Zion will arise by increasing in holiness and strength.
We are Zion!
Brigham Young said (JD 1:1, Salvation. January 16, 1853):
Zion is here. Whenever we are disposed to give ourselves perfectly to righteousness, to yield all the powers and faculties of the soul… when we are swallowed up in the will of Him who has called us; when we enjoy the peace and the smiles of our Father in Heaven, the things of His Spirit, and all the blessings we are capacitated to receive and improve upon, then we are in Zion – that is Zion. If… every mouth would be filled with blessings, every… hand be put forth to do good, and every woman and child… praising God, and blessing each other… would Zion not be here? What hinders you from doing this?
Are we becoming holy by blessing each other?
Or are we gossiping and saying mean things or being hateful?
Are we becoming holy by doing good?
Or are we complaining, blaming others, or refusing to help?
Are we being Zion? Are you Zion?
How does a diamond get from being formed in heat and pressure to being set in a beautiful piece of jewelry? I got to see this recently when I was in Israel, one of the places most famous in the world for its diamond business. The diamond itself is not just prized because it is a rock, even though it has already survived such heat and pressure. It starts out ugly and shaped weird and it is hard to tell it has any value. It’s worth comes from the chiseling and cutting and hacking away at it that happens. This is what gives it the shape, and what tells what it is worth.
We have the Spirit that corrects us, chiseling away at what is not necessary, refining us into something beautiful. We are instructed by the Spirit, through prayer and scripture study and the words of the prophets, so that we can take the shape He sees within the roughness we feel. He is the craftsman with eyes that sees us like no one else, a heart that loves us like no one else, gentle hands that cut away what does not belong – so that our worth can shine.
I know some of your stories. Some of you have met with me, talked with me, written me, and we have discussed the struggles you face and the challenges you have. You have talked with your leaders, and the priesthood knows you and loves you and prays for you.
Life is hard. I do not mean to say you must think it is easy. Of course it is not easy.
I do not even mean to say that you have to put on a fake Polyanna smile or pretend everything is fine. The struggle is not for us to fake our way through. The heat and pressure teach us to turn to our Father, to give our struggles to the Lord – only by doing this do we learn about the atonement.
The Lord knows you even better than I do, better than your leaders do, knows you better than anyone does, and He knows what is good for you.
He knows how to make you shiny.
Diamonds can only be cut by other diamonds. Your parents and leaders hack away at you because they are shaping you, because Heavenly Father is shaping you. He knows what shape will make you most valuable.
He knows what experiences you need, what challenges you must face, what pressure you need to cleanse you from the impurities that take away your value – because He knows your true worth.
He believes you are worthy.
He knows you are His daughter.
He loves you, and He knows your value.
“Zion must arise, and put on her beautiful garments”, it says in that verse (14). Garments are sacred, part of the robes of righteousness that set us apart as a people. They have always been associated with the people of God, so much that even many other religions who love God have their own sacred garments even though they do not have the full gospel.
My Muslim friends wear their garments on the outside, and my Jewish friends wear their garments in between layers. My Catholic friends have only certain people in the church who wear sacred clothing, and my other Christian friends make their cross jewelry be their sacred clothing.
All of us are called to live up to these sacred garments, that our behavior and interactions be evidence of our holiness. Sacred garments in other religions is evidence that the full gospel was once there, was once here in its fulness, and that it needed restoring. We are the evidence that it has been restored, but must prepare now to be worthy of these sacred things.
You are part of this restoration.
You are the diamonds that refract His Light.
You shine His Light as you testify, in both words and behavior.
This is how people know where to turn, how to turn to the Savior.
Moses and Elijah restored the keys of the gathering of the Saints, right? But think about it: why, besides having two witnesses, did we need both of them to restore these keys? Because “keys” is plural. Two kinds of keys were restored.
Elijah restored the key of gathering the saints on the other side of the veil. You do this work when you go to the temple. You do this work when you do your own family history, whether learning about your ancestors and their stories and their examples, or whether taking their names to the temple for those sacred ordinances.
Moses restored the key of gathering the saints on this side of the veil, the living people in the wilderness of mortality just as he guided the people from bondage to the promised land. You do this work when you testify, either in words or behavior. Every interaction counts, from facial expressions (why do you think they say SMILE MORE every time we have the Young Women session of General Conference?!) to dance recitals to music performances to sportsmanship to your efforts in school to the way you interact with your friends to who and how (and when) you date to the way you respect and honor your parents. All of this counts as testifying, if you are following the example of the Savior and relying on His atonement.
Mosiah 5:15 says, “Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
You are a divine daughter of God, a diamond in the making. The heat and pressures of this difficult mortal life are what carve out your character, remove the sins of this generation, and shape you into who He has promised you will become. The Holy Spirit tells us where He is working in us, what must be refined, what needs reshaping, what must go, and what shape we will take. The atonement of our Savior enables and empowers us to find what is beautiful in us, to become who we were created to be, and to become like Him so that we may return to our Father by becoming holy as He is holy. Testifying of these things is what makes us shiny, and I know these things are true.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.