Sister Gilchrist’s Stake Conference Talk

This last weekend we were able to enjoy Stake Conference. Sister Gilchrist gave a beautiful talk in the Sunday session, and she has graciously agreed to share it with us. Thank you for the inspiring words!

Peace Through the Savior


– A couple of weeks ago while I was at my safe haven (Target, late at night, w/ no kids) my phone rang. I answered to hear a voice saying, “Hello, Sis. Gilcrhrist, this is Pres. Walker”.  He asked if I was planning on attending Stake Conference and when I answered “yes,” I thought for sure he was about to ask me to participate in the stake choir as I had just heard they were looking for a few more sisters to join.  So I was floored when he asked if I’d give a talk (Target is no longer my safe haven)! I asked if there were anything in particular he’d like me to speak about it and he said, “No, just something to let the sisters know what a great job they’re doing, that they’re loved – something that will uplift them”.

-To say I am feeling very humbled right now is an understatement. I pray that I’ll be up to the task and that what I share today will help you feel uplifted.  That being said…

*Our Loads

– Now I’d like you to think of your day today.  Maybe you struggled to get your teenagers out of bed, your family fed, dressed and out the door on time to get a soft seat at conference.  Maybe you’re wrangling little ones on your lap that are wrinkling and hitching up your skirt as I’m speaking.  Perhaps you’re thinking about the dinner you’ll have to prepare and clean up this evening or the debacle of getting children’s teeth brushed and ready for bed.  Now think of your upcoming week.  Does it include early morning school schedules, rush hour traffic, a busy work schedule, cleaning, laundry, callings to fulfill, FHE to prepare, bills to pay, sickness, heartache, worry?

Are you feeling uplifted yet? 

-In his April, 2014 conference talk, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Elder David A. Bednar tells of the story of his friend who got his truck stuck in the snow and was only able to get it out after filling the truck bed with a load of firewood he chopped. It was the load that provided the traction he needed to move.  He goes on to say, “Each of us also carries a load.  Our individual load is comprised of demands and opportunities, obligations and privileges, afflictions and blessings, and options and constraints”.

I think it’s important to note that our loads are not always filled with negative things – he says there can be opportunities, privileges, and options!  He goes on to say “Two guiding questions can be helpful as we periodically and prayerfully assess our load: ‘Is the load I am carrying producing the spiritual traction that will enable me to press forward with faith in Christ on the strait and narrow path and avoid getting stuck?  Is the load I am carrying creating sufficient spiritual traction so I ultimately can return home to Heavenly Father?’  Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load.  But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.  Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most.”

-So we all have loads and we need to evaluate what is in them.  More work! Are you feeling uplifted yet?  Well, I promise there is peace to be found.  It is in the only place I could think to turn to when Pres. Walker asked me to share something to uplift…

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. (Matthew 11:28-30)

-Could your soul use some rest, could you benefit from a lighter burden?

Elder Bednar states, “Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ.”  I have found that when I learn of our Savior through the scriptures, pray in His name, and make and keep sacred covenants with the Lord, I can receive the blessing of the the Atonement.  The Atonement makes it possible for us to repent and be relieved from the burden of sin, and there are other blessings with the Atonement that I think we sometimes forget.

Elder Bednar asks, “…do we also understand that the Atonement is for faithful men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to beome better and serve more faithfully?  I wonder if we fail to fully acknowledge this stenghening aspect of the Atonement in our lives and mistakenly believe we must carry our load all alone – through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline and with our obviously limited capacities.  It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came down to the earth to die for us.  But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to enliven us – not only to guide but also to strengthen and heal us.”

I love that! “…by the power of the Holy Ghost to enliven us.”  It makes me feel so energized!

Our loads are not meant to be carried grudgingly, all alone by us.  Yes, we are meant to do our best and endure, but that can be done joyfully and peacefully when done with our Savior.

I’d like to suggest that one of the most efficient ways to carry our portion of the load would be to put the bulk of our efforts not into making schedules and checklists, but into drawing closer to the Savior and becoming more like Him.  This allows us to utilize the power of the Holy Ghost.  I’ve recently found a great way to evaluate how I’m doing at drawing closer to the Savior.

In her book, “What Would a Holy Woman Do?”, Sis. Wendy Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson, shares and experience she had travelling with her husband when he’d been asked to rededicate the remodeled temple in Tonga. 

She decided to ask 6 friends (varying in age, family situations, work etc.) for help.  She asked them for 3 days to just choose one of their daily activities and do it as a holy woman would do it.  How would a holy woman take on a difficult project, exercise, read to her child, shop, do laundry, talk to her husband – just move through her normal life?  Her friends then reported their experiences with her.

I’d like to share just a couple:

Marilyn (pgs. 21-22)

Canadian Sister (35-37)

We all have different loads at different seasons of our lives.  I can testify that as I’ve taken the time to evaluate my load and turn to my Savior, the Spirit has let me know how to best accomplish my tasks.  The answers have been very different for me at different times in my life.  Sometimes I needed to drop things that I thought were necessary but the Lord let me know that they weren’t.  And sometimes I’ve needed to carry them when I would have loved to chuck them right off my load! J  Some of the busiest, most challenging, heart wrenching times of my life have also been the most peaceful because I relied on my Savior and the sweet guidance and comfort He sent through the Holy Ghost.


-I’d like to end with an invitation and a promise Elder Bednar, an apostle of the Lord, gives:


“I invite you to study, pray, ponder, and strive to learn more about the Savior’s Atonement as you assess your individual load.”


“The unique burdens in each of our lives help us to rely upon the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.  I testify and promise the Savior will help us to bear up our burdens with ease.  As we are yoked with Him through sacred covenants and receive the enabling power of His Atonement in our lives, we increasingly will seek to understand and live according to His will.  We also will pray for the strength to learn from, change, or accept our circumstances rather than praying relentlessly for God to change our circumstances according to our will.  We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon.  We will be blessed with spiritual traction.”

-I know these things to be true.  Our loads can bring us closer the Lord, and help us be more holy if we will let them.  I know there is real, lasting peace in yoking ourselves with the Savior.  I love Him, I know He lives, and I say these things in His name, amen.


Family Councils: Sister Folkman’s Talk From Stake Conference

At the adult session of our most recent Stake Conference, Sister Folkman gave a beautiful talk about Family Councils. Her talk generated a great deal of wonderful discussion throughout the stake, and so we wanted to share her talk on the blog for all of us to ponder and consider. Thank you, Sister Folkman, for sharing.

Councils As A Single Mother

I am content- meaning, I guess we are the same as every family. I am 1 mom VS 4 boys, and that presented real challenges. I learned to control the environment.

Tina Taylor gave great advice years ago to read scriptures while boys are eating. When eating, they are an engaged audience. Use family dinner time as a critical time to have discussions.  We learn from the Family Dinner Project:

Do family dinners have any scientific benefits?
Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents. What else can families do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?

The rest of the world might say discussion, but we in the Church might say “council.”  The lord’s church is always ahead of the world’s advice.

Boys and teenagers might have a limited grunting vocab, but this is a natural time to open up. All electronics are off. That is rude to me at any meal.   I grew up in Virginia and Maryland, my mother is from Georgia, Southern’s talk at dinner. We usually start with the high point of the day and the low point of the day. And how we could react or deal in stressful, bad or challenging situations and just talk.

Get them beyond “HUH” and “WHAT!”

We talk about things. For example, “What do you do when” …all the stuff of high school. People offer you alcohol or marijuana or sexual pictures.  What do you do when you are in a scary car ride or at an inappropriate place? We practice and plan. It has helped them to thank in advance

We also like to tell stories of my childhood and theirs to rehash.

Another captured audience time or more controlled environment is while driving (while I am driving, not with a learning driver). While driving, I am NOT on the phone.

We drive to Breckenridge monthly to my sisters 2nd house- this is time to just talk and discuss needed topics. This stops me from telling them ” you need to do…” which is a quick shut down.

Rotate who sits in front, no head phones, we ask questions and wait.

While we are driving a beautiful drive they relax and talk about issues- sometimes.

As single moms, or, well, anyone- we all need councils with other involved priesthood.

We need advice / council from Bishops, Home teachers, brothers, brother-in-laws, fathers, and older children.

I have been very blessed with priesthood help who have prayed with me, for me, who have seen that I needed help. The precious advice of these excellent men is  a great treasure in my family memory.

Bishop Parry in Las Vegas helped me when I was going through the divorce.  What  a hero to help me plan a happier future.

Bishop Wray spent time advising me and helping to save a son in serious turmoil. He was a righteous Bishop and adviser who helped me with planning and with very tough decisions. He helped me see I have to let go of hurts and situations that can emotionally take me down.

Bishop Cutler saw another son who needed a loving father, and took C. on as a son. C. and G. and S. love you and Bishop Fotheringham because you love them and care about them.

With these bishops I have discussed the needs of my boys and made plans to help them be good fathers and men without an engaged father. Bishops and bishopric’s are amazing priesthood leaders. Thank you Bishops and stake leaders for your love and care from all those you have served.

The wives and families who support them are unsung heroes, thank you.

We have had home teachers who could see I needed help or advice and we worked out a plan. In council, home teachers organized the ward members to help paint the exterior of my house, taking out an old playground and putting in new sod, fixing mowers and frozen pipes, blowing out sprinklers, giving blessings for my boys, letters of support to my boys, discussing my needs- giving me moral support.

One home teacher David Clark came over Mother’s Day morning with a beautiful corsage. He talked to my boys about getting Moms flowers and helping to show their love and appreciation for mothers and women. Brother Clark passed away the following Mother’s Day morning. Michael Clark, David’s son, was at my door with a corsage. He followed his father and what a powerful lesson to my boys. Michael reminded my boys to take care of their mother. They have followed that beautiful example for Mother’s Day.

The Lords church is organized through the priesthood. Please don’t consider Home Teaching as just a check mark DONE to be counted off. Wives please encourage and support the priesthood serving in their callings. As a single sister and mother I have needed the organization of home teaching to help me. I have needed priesthood council and will continue to need that help.

Council of family as adult children

A silver lining of going through my divorce was the tight bond created with my brothers and sisters and parents. They are committed to helping and loving me and my children, their advice and care has often been our salvation.

As a family we have had fasts and many conference council calls to determine needs and what help can be given for my family. The strong commitment we have to each other, to discuss and plan, have served us well. I am glad to have fasted, prayed and helped nieces, nephews brothers and sisters and not been the only needy person. Those conference calls are tight glue bonding us together; we have 3 to 4 per year for family needs- with other calls dedicated to planning family trips, and now, as our children get older, weddings. We hold these on the Sunday night of General Conference.

Thankfully we have a long precedent of discussing, planning, and giving assignments to carry out a goal.  We needed that structure of councils for a catastrophic event.  My beautiful mother got Alzheimer’s and because of her disease and confusion she had a very serious, ultimately deadly, accident.

We cared for our mother for 24 hours a day for 6½ months at Littleton Hospital after this tragic accident. At Littleton hospital they thought MOM was some celebrity because her husband and children never left her alone for 6 ½ months. 24 hours a day, until she passed away. There were many scary days and nights.  We have love and respect for each other- all of the 7 brothers and sisters who all gave up vacation time, sleep- pretty much all personal time- to serve each other and our Father as we served Dorothy Coates. We had to have schedules and rosters to help her. One of the intensive care nurses at Littleton Hospital I know from work. She and I were with my mother the first 2 nights, in intensive care- what an angel blessing. She marveled with me later over the months of our commitment. This nurse said the nurses knew you were Mormons or Catholics- they come and take care of their families.

We had daily, weekly calls to organize all our efforts to prepare and support each other. Our plans worked and we met our goal to care for our mother.

A final family council that has been a big part of our family are missionary councils. My son C. is in Belem Brazil- quick shout out to all the missionary Moms.  You are awesome!!! Your child is becoming through the Lords plan the adult they were meant to be. WELL DONE!

I have 3 other nephews serving right now and another nephew working on his papers. 11 grandchildren from my parents have served. We are a missionary focused family.

We have conference calls as they prepare to go. We discuss what the Elder will need and how to support them. My brother was in the RI Stake presidency and while the Boston Mission 1st counselor he created a list of things to do spiritually and mentally to prepare to go. We discuss these items and how to prepare the next missionary.

BEFORE they leave we have all the missionaries who have served in the family give advice to the missionary going out. Grandpa who has been a mission president writes a letter. This advice is written down so the elder or sister can remember and review.  Other close friends write council-loving words of advice to keep because we can’t call and have council for that missionary as they serve.

After they return, the returning elder gives council to us on how to be better missionaries at home and serious advice for the next missionary going out. This is such a joyous time to see their growth and to feel their testimony. But the events must be planned and scheduled to happen. A part of family dynamic.

The Lords church is organized and so should we be. Sometimes we are mired in just functioning. BUT planning and preparing for better is so important to have them happen.  The Lord is in our lives, I know Jesus Christ is our savior, Our gospel of good news and a hopeful future is Joyous. Counciling to prepare, plan, and execute makes our joyous future and time here happen. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.













Missionary Monday: Let Your Faith Show by Russell M. Nelson

(If you have a missionary out serving the Lord from the Highlands Ranch Stake, we would love to highlight them on the blog! Please send a recent letter, a picture, and the ward they are serving from to, and we will spotlight them on our Missionary Monday Segment!)
Dear brothers and sisters, we express our deepest feelings of love and gratitude for you. We are grateful for our assignments among you.

On a recent flight, our pilot announced that we would encounter turbulence during our descent and that all passengers must fasten their seat belts securely. Sure enough, turbulence came. It was really rough. Across the aisle and a couple of rows behind me, a terrified woman panicked. With each frightening drop and jarring bump, she screamed loudly. Her husband tried to comfort her but to no avail. Her hysterical shouts persisted until we passed through that zone of turbulence to a safe landing. During her period of anxiety, I felt sorry for her. Because faith is the antidote for fear, I silently wished that I could have strengthened her faith.
Later, as passengers were leaving the aircraft, this woman’s husband spoke to me. He said, “I’m sorry my wife was so terrified. The only way I could comfort her was to tell her that ‘Elder Nelson is on this flight, so you don’t need to worry.’”

I’m not sure that my presence on that flight should have given her any comfort, but I will say that one of the realities of mortal life is that our faith will be tested and challenged. Sometimes those tests come as we face what appear to be life-and-death encounters. For this frightened woman, a violently rocking plane presented one of those moments when we come face-to-face with the strength of our faith.
When we speak of faith—the faith that can move mountains—we are not speaking of faith in general but of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can be bolstered as we learn about Him and live our religion. The doctrine of Jesus Christ was designed by the Lord to help us increase our faith. In today’s vernacular, however, the word religion can mean different things to different people.
The word religion literally means “to ligate again” or “to tie back” to God. The question we might ask ourselves is, are we securely tied to God so that our faith shows, or are we actually tied to something else? For example, I have overheard conversations on Monday mornings about professional athletic games that took place on the preceding Sunday. For some of these avid fans, I have wondered if their “religion” would “tie them back” only to some kind of a bouncing ball.
We might each ask ourselves, where is our faith? Is it in a team? Is it in a brand? Is it in a celebrity? Even the best teams can fail. Celebrities can fade. There is only One in whom your faith is always safe, and that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. And you need to let your faith show!
God declared in the first of His Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” He also said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” Yet so many people look only to their bank balance for peace or to fellow human beings for models to follow.
Clinicians, academicians, and politicians are often put to a test of faith. In pursuit of their goals, will their religion show or will it be hidden? Are they tied back to God or to man?
I had such a test decades ago when one of my medical faculty colleagues chastised me for failing to separate my professional knowledge from my religious convictions. He demanded that I not combine the two. How could I do that? Truth is truth! It is not divisible, and any part of it cannot be set aside.
Whether truth emerges from a scientific laboratory or through revelation, all truth emanates from God. 
All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.Yet I was being asked to hide my faith. I did not comply with my colleague’s request. I let my faith show!
In all professional endeavors, rigorous standards of accuracy are required. Scholars cherish their freedom of expression. But full freedom cannot be experienced if part of one’s knowledge is ruled “out-of-bounds” by edicts of men.
Spiritual truth cannot be ignored—especially divine commandments. Keeping divine commandments brings blessings, every time! Breaking divine commandments brings a loss of blessings, every time!
Problems abound in this world because it is populated by imperfect people. Their objectives and desires are heavily influenced by their faith or lack of it. Many put other priorities ahead of God. Some challenge the relevance of religion in modern life. As in every age, so today there are those who mock or decry the free exercise of religion. Some even blame religion for any number of the world’s ills. Admittedly, there have been times when atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. But living the Lord’s pure religion, which means striving to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ, is a way of life and a daily commitment that will provide divine guidance. As you practice your religion, you are exercising your faith. You are letting your faith show.
The Lord knew that His children would need to learn how to find Him. “For strait is the gate,” He said, “and narrow the way that leadeth unto … exaltation … , and few there be that find it.”
The scriptures provide one of the best ways to find our course and stay on it. Scriptural knowledge also provides precious protection. For example, throughout history, infections like “childbirth fever” claimed the lives of many innocent mothers and babies. Yet the Old Testament had the correct principles for the handling of infected patients, written more than 3,000 years ago! Many people perished because man’s quest for knowledge had failed to heed the word of the Lord!
My dear brothers and sisters, what are we missing in our lives if we are “ever learning, [but] never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”? We can gain great knowledge from the scriptures and obtain inspiration through prayers of faith.
Doing so will help us as we make daily decisions. Especially when the laws of man are created and enforced, God’s laws must ever be our standard. In dealing with controversial issues, we should first search for God’s guidance.
We should “liken all scriptures unto us … for our profit and learning.” Danger lurks when we try to divide ourselves with expressions such as “my private life” or even “my best behavior.” If one tries to segment his or her life into such separate compartments, one will never rise to the full stature of one’s personal integrity—never to become all that his or her true self could be.
The temptation to be popular may prioritize public opinion above the word of God. Political campaigns and marketing strategies widely employ public opinion polls to shape their plans. Results of those polls are informative. But they could hardly be used as grounds to justify disobedience to God’s commandments! Even if “everyone is doing it,” wrong is never right. Evil, error, and darkness will never be truth, even if popular. A scriptural warning so declares: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.”
After World War I, a rather risqué song became popular. In promoting immorality, it vowed that 50 million people cannot be wrong. But in fact, 50 million people can be wrong—totally wrong. Immorality is still immorality in the eyes of God, who one day will judge all of our deeds and desires.

Contrast the fear and faithlessness so prevalent in the world today with the faith and courage of my dearly beloved daughter Emily, who now lives on the other side of the veil. As mortal life was leaving her cancer-ridden body, she could barely speak. But with a smile on her face, she said to me, “Daddy, don’t worry about me. I know I will be all right!” Emily’s faith was showing—showing brightly—in that tender moment, right when we needed it most.
This beautiful young mother of five had full faith in her Heavenly Father, in His plan, and in the eternal welfare of her family. She was securely tied back to God. She was totally faithful to covenants made with the Lord and with her husband. She loved her children but was at peace, despite her impending separation from them. She had faith in her future, and theirs too, because she had faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son.

In 1986, President Thomas S. Monson said: “Of course we will face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. … Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with [faith] have courage as well.”
President Monson’s counsel is timeless! So I plead with you, my dear brothers and sisters: Day after day, on your path toward your eternal destiny, increase your faith. Proclaim your faith! Let your faith show!
I pray that you will be securely tied back to God, that His eternal truths will be etched on your heart forever. And I pray that, throughout your life, you will let your faith show! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

All Is Well!

In the 1840’s, Mormon Pioneers crossed the plains from Nauvoo, IL to Salt Lake City, UT. This was a difficult journey, but on July 24th, 1847 the first group of pioneers finally reached the Salt Lake Valley. Since that time, Mormons around the world have celebrated this momentous occasion.

Here is a recent talk given by one of our church leaders, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, speaking of those early pioneers- and how we can learn from their strength to make our own futures brighter. This talk was given at the Ogden Pioneer Celebration on July 13, 2014:

In a few weeks the eyes of the Church will be on this city as the Ogden Utah Temple is getting ready to be rededicated. The open house will begin August 1, and a cultural celebration will be held on September 20. So Ogden, get ready for this historic event. It will be wonderful and a time for a spiritual new beginning. You LDS members, I invite you to talk to your bishops to make sure that you have a current temple recommend—and take your friends to the open house. You who are friends of the Church, I invite you to ask your Mormon friends what the temple is all about.  Don’t be shy about asking, and if your friends don’t know the answer, the missionaries surely will.

It is interesting to note that when the original Ogden Temple was dedicated in 1972 there were only 14 temples worldwide, and now there are 142. Church membership then was 3 million, and now there are more than 15 million members worldwide.

With such great things happening around us today, it is wise to prepare for the future by looking to the past.  Lessons from the past can help us to better manage the present and prepare for the future.

More than a century and a half has passed since the first pioneers made the 1,300-mile trek from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Salt Lake Valley. What they and those who followed them did was difficult and dangerous. I doubt that many of those who set foot on that journey really understood what they were getting into or that they looked forward to the daily effort it eventually required. But they did know it was going to be hard and that there was a possibility they or someone they loved would not finish the journey.

And yet they came.

By the tens of thousands they came.

And we—the Church, the nation, and even the world—are richer because they came.

Theirs was an act of faith and courage. They believed that God had a plan for them and a place prepared where they could worship God and live their religion in peace. It is no wonder that 160 years later we still commemorate their achievement with songs, speeches, parades, fireworks, commemorative treks, pins, balloons, banners, and T-shirts.

I am pleased to accept the invitation to be with you today to celebrate, remember, and honor those remarkable pioneers.

As you might know, none of my ancestors made the trek across the plains to these valleys in the Mountain West.

But then, even though my ancestors were not numbered among those who took part in that great enterprise, I claim the heritage of those noble pioneers as my own. Their example has influenced my life for good. I treasure the foundation they established for the restored gospel. I honor what they did, what they became, and what they gave to us as a result of their sacrifice.

Today it is my great desire that those of you who descended from those noble pioneers will allow me to praise and honor these great souls as if they were my own ancestors.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf waves to attendees at the Pioneer Days Devotional in Ogden, Utah, on July 13. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Whether we descended from the pioneers or not, it is wise to remember that the glory of their sacrifice belongs to them. We can’t place the trophies they earned for their faith and industry on our mantels. We can’t pin the medals they earned for their courage and bravery on our chests.

Our generation will need to stand on our own achievements, not on those of previous generations.

In the life to come, I will be eager to meet with those legendary giants who gave so much to found these cities here in the valleys of the mountains. I think they will be pleased by our interest in them. I think they will be humbled by our admiration. But I also believe that they will be far more concerned not about what they did, but about what we did as a result of their sacrifice.
I have a feeling they will be pleased far more by our performance than by applause, praise, or parades. They will want to know if we gained anything from the hard-won lessons they learned through tribulation and trial. They will want to know if their sacrifice and endurance made a difference to us and to our children.

All Is Well?

Attendees at the Ogden Institute Pioneer Days Devotional in Ogden, Utah, on July 13. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

As I think about our pioneer heritage, one of the most moving things that comes to mind is the song “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”Those who made that long journey often sang this hymn during their trek. They sang it at night as the campfire was fading, giving way to the darkness of night.

When I think of the lyrics of that hymn and the context in which it was sung, it brings tears to my eyes. I am very much aware that all was not well with these Saints. All they had to do was to look around and see how it really was. They were plagued by sickness, heat, fatigue, cold, fear, hunger, pain, doubt, and even death.

But in spite of having every reason to shout, “All is not well,” they cultivated an attitude that we cannot help admiring today. They looked beyond their troubles to eternal blessings. They were grateful in their circumstances. I am in awe of those wonderful souls who, despite every evidence to the contrary, sang with all the conviction of their souls: “All is well.”

On a day such as this when our hearts and minds are turned to the great sacrifices of those pioneers, our praise for them is empty if it does not cause inner reflection on our part. Today I would like to talk about a few of the attributes that inspire me as I contemplate the sacrifice and commitment of those great souls.

Number 1: Compassion
The pioneers looked out for one another. They cared for each other irrespective of their social, economic, or political background. Even when it slowed their progress, even when it caused inconvenience, even when it meant personal sacrifice and toil, they helped each other.

Handcart pioneers near South Pass, Wyoming.

In our goal-driven and partisan world, individual or party objectives can sometimes take precedence over taking care of fellowmen or strengthening the kingdom of God. In today’s society, reaching certain ideological goals can appear to be a measure of our worth. Setting and achieving goals can be a wonderful thing. But when success in reaching goals comes at the expense of disregarding, ignoring, or hurting others, the cost of that success may be too precious.

The pioneers not only looked after those in their company, but they considered those who came after them—they planted crops for the wagon trains that followed to harvest, whoever those harvesters might be. They included people of all walks of life.

They learned the practical benefits of helping others. It must have given them comfort to know that just as they reached out to others, when the time came that they needed help, others would reach out to them.
In our day, it is easy to isolate ourselves, look only to our own desires, and discount the interests of others. The pioneers knew the strength of family and friends. And because they depended on each other they became strong.  Friends became family. They knew that becoming insulated and thinking primarily of themselves was a road that would lead to almost certain disaster.

In our world, examples of self-interest and self-indulgence are so abundant. It is very easy to slip into that mindset. The pioneers serve as a good reminder of why we must break away from the temptation to isolate ourselves and, instead, reach out to help each other.
We must have compassion and love for one another.

Number 2: Work

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife, Harriet, with their first great-grandchild, Eva Mae Evans, and grandson Eric Evans at the Pioneer Days Devotional in Ogden, Utah, on July 13. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

The pioneers knew the value of work.  The first line of that great pioneer hymn is “Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear.”

This phrase became an anthem to the weary travelers—“No toil nor labor fear.” It is difficult to imagine how hard these great souls worked. Walking was one of the easiest things they did. They all had to pull together to supply and provide food, repair wagons, tend to the animals, minister to the sick and feeble, seek and collect water, and protect themselves from the pressing dangers of the elements and the many hazards of the wilderness.

Today we sometimes struggle in the morning to get out of our soft beds and into the bathroom for a hot shower. We eat a nutritious breakfast and drive in comfortable cars to air-conditioned offices.

We can learn something from the pioneers. They woke up each morning with clearly defined purposes and goals that everyone understood—to serve God and fellowmen and to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley. Every day those purposes and goals were clear to them; they knew what they needed to do and that each day’s progress mattered.

They knew they couldn’t simply take a day off. Each day they literally put their shoulders to the wheel in order to get closer to their new place of refuge. Some days they made good progress. Some days they made little. But they didn’t have the option to give up.  In spite of feeling overwhelmed, in spite of many good reasons to become discouraged and disheartened, they did not give up. They could not give up. No matter how difficult, no matter how much they wanted to do something else, they kept their eyes on their goal and on their purpose. Each day and with every step they edged relentlessly closer to their destination.

In our time—when so much of what we desire is so easily within our reach—it is tempting to turn aside or give up whenever the road ahead seems a little bumpy or when the slope tends to rise so steeply before us. In those moments, it might inspire us to reflect on those men, women, and children who did not allow sickness, hardship, pain, and even death to deter them from their chosen path.

A pioneer family with a handcart.

But the pioneers did not work only because they had to. In the process, their labors enlarged their character and broadened their understanding. Work diminished their natural tendencies toward self-love and magnified their understanding of their divine nature. It heightened their compassion for others. In the labors of each day they discovered and solidified an inner strength and profound spiritual depth.

They learned that doing the hard things—even applying themselves to the tasks they really did not want to do—deepened and strengthened body, mind, and spirit. This habit firmed their souls and became a blessing to them long after their trek across the plains and mountains had ended.

Lorenzo Clark was a baby when his English emigrant family arrived in Salt Lake City in 1853. He later wrote of what it was like growing up during that time: “My earliest impression is one of work,” he said. “The idea and ambition of everyone around me seemed to be to accomplish more and do it better than anyone else. Work was more [natural] than play, even among the young children who were expected to carry wood and water, run errands, feed the chicken and pigs, kill crickets and grasshoppers on sight with sticks, gather [alfalfa] seed, and help as far as possible with the gardening. … Though we … enjoyed and remembered the willow whistles and spool tops made and put into our hands by older persons, the real spirit of the pioneer group was industry and everyone [despised] the idler.”

President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “We play too much. We work too little. We overeat, overdrink, and overplay. We are the richest people in the world, but not the sturdiest. We are at ease in America. And so we need to recapture the spirit of our parents and grandparents.”

The next time we groan about an uncomfortable, inconvenient task that we know we should do, perhaps we can remember the example of these great pioneers, rise up, and do it.

Number 3: Optimism
When the pioneers sang “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” they voiced a third lesson: “But with joy wend your way.”

A choir of institute students performs at the Pioneer Days Devotional in Ogden, Utah, on July 13. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

It is one of the great ironies of our age that we are blessed with so much and yet we can be so unhappy. The wonders of prosperity and technology overwhelm us and shower us with security, entertainment, instant gratification, and convenience. And yet all around us we see so much unhappiness.

How many people do you know who are truly happy? Can you say the same for yourself?

The pioneers, those wonderful souls who sacrificed so much, went without and hungered for even the most basic of necessities to survive. The pioneers understood something about happiness. They understood that happiness doesn’t come as a result of luck or accident. It most certainly doesn’t come from having all of our wishes come true. Happiness doesn’t come from external circumstance.  It comes from the inside—regardless of what is happening around us.

If they were here with us today there is no doubt in my mind that they would tell us we can be gloriously happy even if our favorite TV show is cancelled, traffic comes to a crawl, the rain spoils our picnic, or the fast food worker forgot to include straws or packets of ketchup at the drive-through window.

I do not need to tell you stories of pioneer tribulations or the deprivations they faced. I do not need to tell you of how they went without food, how they suffered in sickness, endured heat and cold, and how they tearfully buried their loved ones in shallow graves.

And yet, listen! Can you hear them? Can you hear their voices singing? “We’ll make the air with music ring, shout praises to our God and King.”

Oh, what inspiration we can take from this.

When we complain about a Church meeting that has gone four minutes over its allotted time, perhaps we can hear the voices of those blessed pioneers: “Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right.”

A covered wagon on a raft being pulled across the Platte River, where other wagons are waiting.

When we cover our face with our hands and complain that someone else got the promotion, someone else got the part, someone else got the biggest slice of pizza, it might be helpful to remind ourselves that there is a difference between the profound and trivial.

The pioneers sang, “But if our lives are spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain, oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell—all is well! All is well!”

So often our excuses for not being happy are in reality trivial and vain, as though we are looking for a reason to be at odds with the world—as though we want to prove somehow that we cannot experience joy.

The pioneers knew that the things around them did not determine their happiness, but the things within most certainly did. And with that spirit they found happiness in every circumstance and in every trial—even in those trials that reached down and troubled the deep waters of their very souls.

The pioneers were not supermen and superwomen. They were just like you and me. How often did they wonder if they could go on? They must have asked themselves over and again, “Can I do what I have been asked to do?”

But they pressed on.  In faith, one step at a time, they pressed on. They trusted in God and His divine and merciful plan. And they left a legacy that will inspire and strengthen generations to come.

Their Trials, Our Trials

The pioneers had their trials.

We have ours.

Some might say theirs were much more difficult than ours, but I am not so certain. You are familiar with Brigham Young’s famous saying: “This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear is that they cannot stand wealth.” “The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country [and] forget God.”

Attendees at the Ogden Institute Pioneer Days Devotional in Ogden, Utah, on July 13. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

We sometimes look back on what the pioneers had to endure and with a sigh of relief say, “Thank goodness I didn’t live in that time. I couldn’t have survived.”

But I wonder if those courageous pioneers, had they been able to see us today, might not have voiced the very same concern. Of course times and circumstances are different today. They had their challenges—we have ours. They had their successes—we have ours. But as the circumstances may have changed, the principles for respectfully and successfully living together as a caring and prospering community under God have not changed. They remain the same.      

If we think that we have become successful as a result of our own abilities and intellect only, if we worship our own capacities and idolize the gods of money, power, and fame,” we have much to learn from the pioneers.

From the pioneers we can learn to have faith and trust in God; we can learn to be compassionate to others; we can learn that work and industry not only bless us temporally but spiritually and that happiness is available to us no matter our circumstances.

Pioneers burying a baby.

In the end, the best way we can honor the pioneers—the best way for us to repay our debt of gratitude to them—goes beyond making and hearing speeches, marching in parades, or attending fireworks celebrations. 

The best way we can show our gratitude is by incorporating into our own lives the faithfulness to God’s commandments, the compassion and love for our fellowmen, the industry, optimism, and joy the pioneers demonstrated so well in their own lives.

As we do so, we can reach across the decades of time and take the hands of those noble pioneers in ours. We can add our own voices to theirs as we sing with them the great pioneer anthem and “make the air with music ring, shout praises to our God and King; above the rest these words we’ll tell—all is well!  All is well!”
May our hearts, spirits, and voices be filled with the same passion, industry, and faith of our pioneer forefathers today and always, and may we teach our children the same is my prayer and blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sister Wilcox’s Stake Conference Talk

Sister Wilcox spoke at stake conference in March. Here is a copy of her talk:

My nephew sent an email from his mission about a talk he gave and his testimony of 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 about the body of the church.  Verse 13 says:  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be bond or free and have been all make to drink into one Spirit. It is essentially passage that is talking about a body needing all its pieces.  And how the arrangement of these pieces are really divine.  And that we each have a place.  I had a chance to reflect on the places that I belonged throughout my life, but one place came to mind teaching me that I also knew what it felt like to feel out of place.

I was in the 4th grade.  It was picture day, and I took picture day seriously. The night before I put my hair in rollers.  I wore the Easter dress my mom had made me.  It was blue and white pin striped and at that time of life, the more ruffles the better. I had white knee socks and light brown sandals. 

As we lined up to go into the cafeteria, I just realized that, with my almost 5 foot frame,  I would be in the back row again. I threw a fit and unfortunately ended up getting what I wanted.  I was sat in the front row.  My hair covered the student behind me, dress covered the students to my sides, legs stuck out a mile in front of me as my classmates legs tucked pretty neatly under their chairs.  And to top it off I had a mouthful of crooked teeth.

I wonder as a mom now if it was as painful for my mom to see this… and I can only imagine what my classmates parents thought of it!

In 1 Corinthians 12:13 it says the by the Spirit we are baptized into one body.
Verse 14: It says the body has and needs many members. 
Verse 17: Is my favorite as it says;  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing, or if the whole was hearing, where were the smelling… (or in my case… if we were all on the front row, where were the back row?)  
Verse 18:  “But now hath God set the members everyone of them in the body as it hath pleased him.”  He knows where we are and our placement in places is where it pleases Him.

I have gone grudgingly into callings,  trying to be ‘all ears’  and forgetting that hands are also necessary,  but I tend to end up repenting plenty.

One calling I had years ago, I thought certainly no member in the church in my life time had ever suffered quite as much as I.  I was nursery leader at the time when my second child was in nursery and my third was on the way.   I struggled plenty to feel the importance of that place for me then. 

I slowly realized that I became my nursery aged daughter’s hero when she grabbed my hand after Sacrament meeting to go to nursery together.  We practiced songs together at home.  I was able to decide the types of games she likes to play in nursery … rough and active ones.  And she helped decide on the treat.  She was very happy in nursery, and eventually I was too.   And I was able to see the joy in it in every other nursery calling I got, but for that first one, I gained the chance to struggle with the Lord in prayer and to find a testimony of that every piece of the body is important.  I have spent very few callings away from primary in the 20 years I have been an adult in this church. 

Lately the Olympics have been on in our home and very often throughout the coverage there has been a commercial for ipad air using a poem by Walt Whitman… It says; “What amid these oh me oh life?  Answer; That life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on and we may contribute a verse.” 

That life exists and identity even an eternal identity.  Our identity truly existed far before this mortal existence as we were taught and loved and enjoyed, as we enjoy our own young children at our Heavenly Father’s knee.  What an exciting experience to prove ourselves, and write our verses.  But often there we have struggles remembering this.   Next week all of us Junior Primary workers will teach Lesson 10, which is titled “Heavenly Father Watches Over Us.”  If we learned this and learned this well, and sealed it in our heart, (like Joseph Smith and  like the Brother of Jared), we would no longer need faith because we would know. We would know our Heavenly Father, we would know our identity and our worth to him.  We would know our place in His kingdom and rejoice for the chance to serve in even the smallest part.  We would see everyone we encounter as such as well.  How much less scary is it to invite someone back to a place they already belong!

My mom passed away at the end of my high school years, and for a while there my dad fell apart.  For the next 4 years I didn’t have a home to go home to and even if I was away, I didn’t have a home to support me from a distance.  I had many times in which I recognized tender mercies of the Lord, but overall I struggled those years. 

Then I had the opportunity to enter the Endowment Room of the temple for the first time, and then the Celestial room.  And with each of these rooms I regained a sense of belonging somewhere.  I had the chance to kneel across the alter of the Temple to be sealed to my husband.  He’s a great guy and we have had a great life trying to focus our family around service in the temple.

Through the years I have felt the influence of my mom at times, but much more often I have felt the influence of my Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost…  Which is I am sure how my mom would want it, which is what I most desperately want for my own children as well.  

Many times my husband and I have prayed to Heavenly Father to know his will when it comes to what we say and what we should  do for his children in our home on this earth.  We have received many answers to this prayer.

However, this last year,  I have had the opportunity to be with my oldest child as he received his patriarchal blessing I was a bit surprised at how it both humbled me and lifted me to understand again that my son, is His son.  He is watched over by Heavenly Father most carefully.  

What an exciting time to be here!  Heavenly Father knows what our special verse should be!  It’s definitely more than time to leave the 4th grade behind… (except for you that actually are in 4th grade.. stay there, work hard and look cute in your pictures:)

But I mean leave pain and regrets behind.  Being a part of the church, and in the part that you are needed,  and writing our little verse is the most exciting thing to wake up to every day!

In 1 Nephi 8, Lehi teaches of his vision of the Tree of Life.  There is more commentary and analysis in 1 Nephi 11.  And there are lots of parts to it.  But 2 parts mean the most to me.   First,  the iron rod:  the word of God and my day to day effort  to inch my way down it.  That daily effort is needed  and returning to it is necessary for safety and progression.  And second the Tree of Life where there waiting for us is great joy and the sweetest of fruit.

I am grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ that allows this relationship to be maintained through repentance and forgiveness, and all the ordinances, covenants, scriptures and safe guards that are our iron rod that lead us ever closer to him….

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thank you so much for sharing your talk with us, Sister Wilcox!