I have had a neat experience these past few weeks pondering on the life of my Savior and relating it to parenting and grand-parenting. I hope I am able to share the things I have learned and insights I have gained with you effectively. Whenever I read stories about Jesus, I love to place myself at his feet in my imagination. I have always done this; as a little girl in Primary, as a teenager in Seminary class and as an adult in my own study. The Church, through many types of media has brought those stories to life for me, also. And so, I read those stories again looking for parables and lessons on being the best parents and grandparents that we can be. I found example after example of loving guidance, gathering, serving, forgiveness, trusting, teaching and seeking truth.
Jesus often encouraged and lifted those around Him by talking about the life to come. He encourages us to lay up treasures in Heaven. He encouraged us to set our candles on a hill where they can’t be hidden. He always sees great potential in all of us as sons and daughters of God. Only when our lamps are well taken care of, well loved and used often, do we have the light and energy to light the lamps of others, including our children and grandchildren. Our children need to see us going to the scriptures to gain encouragement, insight and personal revelation. My teenage daughter came to me recently with a question about her own path that was discouraging her. Knowing that I only have a few precious years left with her at my kitchen table, I recognized that, like Christ, I needed to acknowledge my Heavenly Father in all things and teach her to find her own answer. I phrased it like this, “Well, if I had a question like that, I would pray about it. And then I would read the scriptures and conference talks. And then I would pray again.” Jesus also knew that He would not always be nearby to answer questions and give advice. He knew He needed to teach us how to find the answers. I marvel at the way this method gives us each the answers we seek in the way we most need to understand them.
I sometimes feel jealous of the disciples who got to hear His voice in person. But we are privileged to carry His voice with us wherever we go. In our pockets we have an easily searchable database of information that we can read and listen to any time we want to. Maybe instead of the tried and true method of flipping open our scriptures and reading wherever we land, we can search a word and read scriptures, Conference talks and Ensign articles all before leaving our bed in the morning. Jesus walked everywhere and sat and talked and answered questions. We need to make sure we are taking the time to ponder and search and listen for answers when we pray. He is still there, willing to send inspiration our way.
Jesus was always gathering. Sheep, sparrows, chicks, the hairs on a head; all things are numbered and known by name to Him. Just like me on a field trip to Thanksgiving Point, He is constantly counting noses and making sure everyone is safe and where they are supposed to be. My youngest, who was about 5 at the time, still reminds me about the time I lost him on one such field trip. He hadn’t followed us to the next stop and as soon as we realized he was missing, we went back and found him searching for us. A couple of minutes felt like a long time to him! We never stop gathering. Even as our children leave the nest, we gather them back to visit as often as we can. And when someone isn’t there, they are missed. My husband’s family, the Sagers, are great at gathering. We really know how to fill up a chapel for a baby blessing. And even the generations before still have reunions and I am amazed at the hundreds of people that still make an effort to gather together and make those relationships strong. Gathering brings so many blessings. We are stronger together. We can share the gospel in our families and give them a constant support group of people to struggle and celebrate with. And as President Hinckley said in one of his lessons on home and family, “Once in a while, notwithstanding all the things you try to do, there is a rebellious child. But keep at it. Do not ever give up. You have never lost as long as you try. Keep at it.” We count the sheep, no matter how many there are and we notice when one is missing. This is the way our Savior looks at us. He notices when we stray and celebrates when we return.
Before my husband’s Dad died, he did a very special kind of gathering. One by one, he called us in and laid his hands on our heads and gave us very special Father’s Blessings to last us into the parts of our lives he knew he would no longer to be a part of. He used his Priesthood to bless and comfort and leave words of wisdom that have brought me comfort time and time again. He admonished us to stay close to the Gospel and to cling to each other. He knew he was going before to save a place for us and he wants every single one of us to make it. He made each of us a record that holds a transcription of our blessing from him, a letter to us with a scripture that he chose just for us and also his testimony. These are treasures beyond value not only for us as adults, but for my children, his grandchildren. Larry is a Christlike example to me in SO many ways and being gathered as one of his own is a goal I have a great desire to achieve. Families are gathered by divine design.
A powerful image of our Savior bending down to write in the dust while a group of men roughly bring a woman accused. He listened as all of them laid out not only what she had done, but how they felt about it. They laid their opinions bare in front of each other and the Lord. In unkind language and harsh words, they told the Lord how to judge her and what her punishment should be. Jesus did not join in. He did not begin to point fingers and show shock and egg them on, joining in their collective judgement. I have glanced through comment threads on social media or underneath well-intentioned articles that have felt very much like this. Stones made of words being cast at strangers. But what if the person being accused of the mob is your child? I have not yet had an ear full of something someone heard about something one of my kids has done or hasn’t done. May I be able to clear my mind of what the world is shouting and take time to draw in the sand as I gather myself in such a way that I can talk to my child without any stones in my hands. I always want them to be able to come to me and let me help them to find their own path to repentance and forgiveness. I don’t want them to be so afraid to see my face among the stone throwers that they don’t come to me and ask for help. We were placed in exactly the right place in our families to be able to walk through this life together. Let us sit down all of the motes and beams and stones and see each other how the Lord would see us. Let us turn the other cheek and be the best chance that our kids and grandkids have of making it back to live with our Heavenly Father with us. We are not gathered into families by accident or in random ways. Heavenly Father loves us enough to plan everything for our benefit and exaltation. Let’s make sure that, above all else, our kids know that we love them and are here to help them, not to cast the first stone.
Another thing I love about this story is the tender way that the Lord talks to the woman after the mob has left. He does not excuse her from what she has done. She knows and He knows and that is enough. When he says, “Neither do I condemn thee,” the footnote says mercy. After a harrowing experience at the hands of forces she though surely would be her downfall, she is shown mercy. When we repent and take our sins to the Lord, He helps us through the steps and shows mercy all along the way. Do we show mercy to ourselves? Do we welcome the Savior into the other side of the yoke we wear and let him carry part of the burden until it is lifted? When we have accomplished all that is asked of us to repent do we sit down the burden and walk away? I testify that we can take the Lord at His word when he says, with love in his eyes,“Go, and sin no more.” Forgiveness is a powerful gift. One which we need to remember to give to ourselves.
There is so much Love in the Savior’s Ministry and the words He left behind. We are commanded to love one another, love God, love our enemies, love thy neighbor as thyself. And we are told over and over by word and example how much He loves us. Love one another as I have loved you. John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. And verse 14; Ye are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. When we feel loved, we obey. We had a great discussion in Relief Society last week about our homes being the basis of a righteous life. We zeroed in on a list of attributes listed in D&C 121:41–42; that we lead our families “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” We concluded that these attributes look different in every family. For some families, persuasion doesn’t have a volume knob, but can still be kind. Sometimes long-suffering goes on for a very long time. Gentleness and meekness often means we still get to say what we mean, but in a language unique to our family that only we understand. To me, the last one, love unfeigned, wraps all of them together and gives them the meaning that we intend. When we genuinely love each other, say it often and show it often, all other communications are given surrounded by the light and love of Christ.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know there are many different learning styles among us. They teach us the same principles over and over in different ways to accommodate the many ways that we learn. The parable of the seeds and the different types of soil comes from their experience in trying to bring about the salvation of all kinds of different people. So, when we teach each other in our families, let’s always remember that we all have a different pH, different nutrients, different seeds and different water levels. And as parents and grand-parents, let’s always remember that the same amount of water is absorbed differently and at different rates by different types of soil. I know, a Sagers giving a plant analogy, but it’s a great analogy and it’s in the scriptures! I used to think that a family was made up of pretty little flowers all in the same flower bed, all growing together in the same sunlight and rain. I am learning that as I give my children experiences and opportunities for growth, they cultivate the seeds and soil themselves and they are all different. I need to adjust the light and rain I shower down on them for their individual needs. And even as I do so, the world is trying so hard to wash that good soil away and expose the rocks and hard places. Jesus taught parables that the people He was speaking to could relate to. He speaks to us all of the time through todays Prophets in ways that we can relate to. Seeking good soil, light and rain has always been up to us.
Christ always sought the will of His Father. He always knew His mission and purpose because He asked and was answered over and over again. He glorified His Father’s name in everything He did. We, too, have the power of prayer and fasting on our side. We can know what our mission and purpose is in the roles we play in our families. We can know how best to help each other by praying about it. Prophets watch over us and give us counsel and commandments from Heavenly Father as a Church, a people. Prayer offers us one on one communication with Heavenly Father to help us to use that counsel in an individual way. Prayer and fasting allow us to open up our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to guide us to do His will for us. Sometimes we say that satan will not tempt us as directly as he did Jesus while he fasted for 40 days. But doesn’t he? He tempts us in ways that push fiery darts into our most tender and weak places. But we have the power to know what our purpose is and to know how much our Heavenly Father loves us because we can ask and He can answer. We have the power to pull out those darts, leave them on the ground and walk away because we have learned who we are and whose we are and we can pray again for that knowledge even in the lowest of times. Jesus has promised again and again that He will be there for us if we only ask. He was the greatest example of asking the will of the Father and doing it. We can ask Heavenly Father what His will is for us personally and then doing it.
For me, prayer is only half of the battle of knowing the Lord’s will for me. The other half is trust, that comes from faith, that He WILL answer my prayers. We must build our house on the rock and act in faith in order to learn that “with God nothing shall be impossible.” We know that He will answer because He has answered before. We hear the still, small voice because we have prepared and we are listening for it.
In John chapter 8, verse 12 we read, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” When we follow the pattern that Jesus Christ left for us, we will return with our children and grandchildren back into His presence. He lived as He taught. He left a perfect trail for us to follow in His footsteps. When we do as He would do, then we lead and guide with love and forgiveness. We encourage and uplift while gathering and teaching. We pray with earnestness and act on the impressions we are given. We continue to seek and knock and ask, so that we can know the Father’s will for us and the spirits He has trusted us with in our families. I testify of the Lord’s love for us. He wants us to return to live with Him so much that he gave us everything we need in order to return and put us in families to work together towards that goal. Being parents and grand-parents are divine roles that are so, so important in the Plan of Salvation to help us to all gain eternal life while sealed together. I know this is our Heavenly Father’s greatest desire and why He sent His son to be our example and to give His life for us so that we can all continue along the iron rod together.
American Fork Stake Conference