I had an experience a week or so ago that has given me much to ponder.Since we've been on our mission, we've had the privilege of being in the presence of four of the twelve apostles of the Church. That's pretty amazing when you consider that normally we live in Salt Lake City (O.K., Draper), Utah and we only see them once in a great while from a distance if we attend General Conference.
While in the MTC, our little group of MTC Presidents and Visitors' Centre Directors had dinner with Elder Nelson before he presented a fireside one evening in Provo. Then Elder & Sister Holland spent several hours with our group in Salt Lake on our last day before we flew to London. Last fall, my friend, Eva, and I ran into Elder Nelson and his wife on the steps of the London Temple early one morning while we were out walking, and had a sweet conversation with them. Elder Ballard came and addressed our mission in a special meeting at Hyde Park a few months ago. Then, on September 10th, Elder Oaks spoke to the Wandsworth Stake in London. I was able to go with two our our Mission Office sisters to hear him. It was a wonderful opportunity.
I bring all this up because it hit me as I was listening to Elder Oaks two weeks ago that the world is searching for what I felt that night. I had been tired and discouraged when I arrived. We'd been working hard. I was feeling like I needed a vacation! I was looking forward to taking a break from our responsibilities for a few hours to be in the presence of an apostle, but I wasn't expecting the strength and renewal I felt so strongly as I sat there. Elder Oaks humbly spoke of things that really matter. The sweet comfort of the Holy Ghost was there and I was immediately lifted by the spirit of the meeting. There was a tangible feeling of peace, love, and happiness and hope that filled the room and filled my heart. I needed it. I wanted it to stay with me.
All of us look for experiences that renew and strengthen us to meet our challenges. We look for peace and love and happiness in a lot of places in the world, yet so much of what we find is temporary. We pursue success at work and in other activities. We look for peace, love and happiness in the perfect vacation or the perfect car or the perfect personal image or the perfect hobby, sport or interest. We look for those feelings in our relationships with people. We search for renewal in entertainment. All those things have the ability to make us feel good -- maybe for a few hours, maybe for a few months or years. But there is only one source of lasting peace, love, happiness and hope -- and that is in God, our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Everything else, eventually, fades; they are counterfeit sources of the eternal peace, love and happiness that God and Christ promise. Why do we so often forget where our real sources of peace and hope and strength come from and settle for less?
Real lasting peace, real love, real happiness, and real, lasting hope all originate with God and his Son, Jesus Christ. We feel it through the power of the Holy Ghost which can come into our hearts and continue to witness it to us. The times when that witness of peace or love or hope comes to us through the Spirit never have to dim. As I sit here writing, the peaceful, hope-filled feelings I felt that night are just as real as they were then. They continue to strengthen me now.
Elder Oaks' message touched many different topics that night, but the spirit he brought with him into the meeting spoke peace to my soul. It filled my heart with feelings of love and turned my discouragement to a sense of hope. The Spirit of the Holy Ghost can do that for us if we will just listen. It will testify of Christ, help us recognize truth, provide spiritual strength, show us the right path to take, comfort us during times of trial, warn us of physical or spiritual danger, and speak peace and hope to our hearts.
Elder Oaks said that too many members of the church today have spiritual apathy. We attend church, have family prayer, read our scriptures daily and go to the temple, but we are converted to the church rather than to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as a missionary focusing full-time on the work of the Lord, I often find that it is true for me. I get caught up in "the thick of thin things" and forget to focus on what's most important - what's real. It's easy to go through the motions but miss out on the real power of Jesus Christ to bless our lives. So many counterfeit distractions that scream for our attention these days keep us from the real peace, love, happiness and hope we need.
Elder Oaks asked the Wandsworth Stake congregation to ponder what we really think about Christ:
(1) The work (atonement and mission) of Jesus Christ
(2) The authority of Christ - the Priesthood
(3) The essence of Christ - his essential character and nature
When we think of all that Christ has done for us, wouldn't it be a good idea to worship him more deeply, keep his commandments, and serve him? When we partake of the Sacrament every Sunday, we witness that we are willing to take his name upon ourselves, always remember him, and keep his commandments, so that we will always have his Spirit to be with us. That is where the real power comes from in this world - the REAL peace, the REAL love, the REAL happiness and the REAL hope. That's what really matters.
Our Savior taught us, as recorded Luke 12:34, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I want to treasure up in my heart the things that will bring lasting peace, love, happiness and hope. I know where to find them. They are always there waiting for me if I will pay attention. I just have to choose the real over the counterfeit. ~Pat~