Monday, April 27, 2009

Adversity Talk in Church

Ben and I spoke in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. I thought I'd put my talk up here so I could be reminded to change my attitude when needed.

Note: You are welcome to use any of this talk, I only ask that you leave me a comment.

Trials: We all have them. We are all faced with different types of trials that are unique to us. Some people are faced with illness, others with financial difficulty. Some are faced with addiction or hard heartedness or betrayal by a loved one or a class in school that seems difficult. The list is as long and varied as there are people on this Earth.

We are all faced with challenges to overcome. The key to dealing with these challenges is to decide how these struggles are going to affect us and how we are going to deal with them.

In short, our attitude toward adversity determines our emotional outcome. We can choose to let our situation get us down and make us feel depressed and hopeless or we can choose to face our problem head on and overcome it.

One of the prophets from my youth, Spencer W. Kimball, experienced many trials in his life. This was told by President James E Faust in a 1998 First Presidency message. He said:

Early in life, President Spencer W. Kimball learned the necessity of work. He had many painful experiences in his early years preparatory to his great ministry. As a young boy he nearly drowned. He suffered from Bell’s palsy. His mother died when he was a youth, and while he was still a young man he lost his beloved sister Ruth. Shortly after marriage he contracted smallpox, and Sister Kimball counted over 100 pustules on his face.
He learned early about financial reverses and lost some investments. Like Job, he suffered from boils, which continued for many years and on one occasion came on his nose and lips. On one occasion he suffered from 24 boils at one time; not long thereafter he began to suffer the excruciating pain of heart attacks, which continued for many years and finally resulted in open-heart surgery. He became bothered by a hoarseness of his voice, which was relieved through a blessing from the Brethren, only to return later, along with the boils. A serious cancer in the vocal cords required surgery and thereafter voice training and cobalt treatments. The Bell’s palsy returned, and skin cancers were removed.
President Faust says that, “The result of this refiner’s fire was to be manifest in a refined spirit, sensitivity, an understanding heart, kindness, and humility.”

President Kimball went through a lot in his long life; he lost loved ones, dealt with painful and humiliating illnesses, he also struggled with finances. However, he didn’t let these trial turn him into a bitter old man. He faced this adversity with prayer and humility. He turned to his loved ones and he turned to the Lord.

President Kimball could just as easily have let himself feel angry with his lot in life. He could just as easily have cursed the Lord and holed up in his home feeling sorry for himself.

Because he chose to face his adversity head first and rely on the Lord for strength and support he grew from his trials and tribulations. He would not have become one of the Lord’s beloved Prophets and the leader of our great Church if he had chosen to let the adversity in his life bring him down and overcome him.

Personally, I look at the challenges President Kimball faced and I am very thankful for my own challenges. It is the same kind of thankfulness I feel when I look back on my Mormon pioneer ancestors and my other immigrant ancestors. I am thankful for their adversity and I am thankful for how they chose to overcome it. I am reminded that we each are given trials that we can handle. The Lord knows us and knows what we can handle. We will not be challenged with more than we can overcome.

I am reminded of Nephi, when told to return to Jeruselem and retrieve the golden plates from Laban. First Nephi Chapter 3 verse 7: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I awill go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no bcommandments unto the children of men, save he shall cprepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

We are each are given our own personal challenges that are unique to us. We probably won’t be commanded to sneak into a city and kill our cousin so that we can retrieve our genealogy. However, we are commanded to endure to the end in Matthew chapter 24 verse13.

Jesus said: “But he that shall aendure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Often our challenges are not direct commandments from the Lord but are obstacles that Satan throws in our face. Sometimes the adversity in our life is even caused by our actions and our own poor choices. We have been given Free Agency and sometimes we make wrong choices and then have to suffer the consequences, however we can face them the same way – with a positive attitude and by relying on the Lord for strength, guidance and direction.

We all struggle varying degrees of adversity at different times in our life. When I was preparing this talk, my husband reminded me of a time in our life that had quite a bit of adversity. We were 22 and 23 year old kids who were just newly married, living in San Diego in a hole in the wall apartment. We had no furniture other than a bed and an a few items we had scrounged from our parents. We were driving a car that belonged to Ben’s parents and we were driving a two hour drive twice a month to his parent’s house in Hesperia, California so that we could do our laundry and go grocery shopping in their pantry.

We both had part time jobs and made enough money to pay the rent, utilities and occasionally buy beans and rice. If I remember correctly, we had Ben’s mom’s Chevron card and so she very generously paid for our gas.

Ben was a full time student and I worked as many hours as I could get at a SCUBA dive shop. We didn’t have money for anything. We were so poor. But we had a really good attitude about it. Sometimes, especially when I was trying to balance our checkbook, we would get kind of down about it. However we would quickly remember the things that are important. We had each other. We could rely on the Lord for the necessities and were very happy.

Those summer days in San Diego, were spent at the beach, partly because it was free but an benefit of that was that we were enjoying the beauty of our world and growing together. We also spent quite a few mornings at the temple. I think we went to the temple more those first few years than any other time in our life. I think part of that was due to not having small children at the time, but another part of that was due to our relying so heavily on the Lord for guidance, direction and strength.

Now that we are parents and we’ve been married for a million years, we are still faced with adversity. Thankfully we’ve been able to make more than $11,000 dollars a year pretty regularly, but we are still faced with challenges. I try to teach my children the power of a positive attitude. We regularly have talks in our home about changing your attitude and choosing to be happy.

I was reminded of this by my 5 year old son, Ulysses, the other day. I was upset about something and he said to me, “ Mom! You need to change your attitude.”

My first thought – which thankfully I didn’t say out loud, “ Was don’t talk to me like that. I am the mother!”

His words got through to me and took me aback and I was thankful for his reminder, He was right. I needed to change my attitude. I was thankful that my son was able to help me remember how much of a difference a simple attitude adjustment can make.

President Faust has a small list of suggestions that can help us have a good attitude when facing adversity in our life. In his talk he was specifically talking about financial troubles but I think these items can be applied to many other kinds of adversity.

He says:
May I suggest a few things we might do to be happy whether we are affluent or less affluent:
1. Avoid being totally dependent on material or physical things. This could mean considering a bicycle instead of a car, perhaps walking instead of riding a bicycle. In President Fausts’s day it meant skim milk instead of cream.
2. Learn to do without some things and have some reserve to fall back on. President Faust recalled an article in Indiana that brought much publicity and attention about a member of the Church who was a coal miner and who had a year’s supply of food.
3. Develop an appreciation for the great gifts of God as found in nature: the beauty of the seasons, the eloquent testimony of God in the sunrises and sunsets, the leaves, the flowers, the birds, the animals.
4. Engage in more physical activity, including walking, jogging, swimming, and bicycling.
5. Have a hobby that involves your minds and hearts and can be done at home.
6. Pay tithes and offerings. The keeping of this commandment will not ensure riches—indeed, there is no assurance of being free from economic problems—but it will smooth out the rough spots, will give the resolution and faith to understand and to accept, and will create a communion with the Savior that will enhance the inner core of strength and stability.
7. Develop the habit of singing, or if this is not pleasant, of whistling. Singing to one’s self brings less comment and question than talking to one’s self! President Faust’s father once came home from a deer hunt empty-handed, but his heart was renewed and his spirit lifted because, as he recounted with great appreciation, one of his companions had frightened the deer away by always singing trumpet-voiced as he walked through pines and quaking aspen. His father was more enriched by the mirth of the song than he would have been by the meat of the venison.

While President Faust is specifically talking about overcoming financial adversity, you can see how doing these things can help you have a healthy attitude so that you can face other trials in your life.

I know that having a positive attitude is not always easy. It is sometimes easier to wallow in self-pity and have a “Why me?” attitude. It takes work to be positive. It takes practice to be positive just like exercising a muscle. If we practice positive thinking on a regular basis and are in the habit of relying on the Lord we will more easily be able to shrug off Satan’s influence of unhappiness and face our challenges more easily. Unfortunately, some challenges won’t go away. Some challenges may actually be insurmountable. We may be afflicted with a specific trial for the rest of our lives, but if we have exercised our positive attitude muscle and our knees are well worn from prayer, our quality of life will be much better. We will be happy.

I would like to leave you with a few motivational quotes about attitude.

Martha Washington said:
"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."

Zig Ziglar said:
It is not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you.

Merle Miller said:
"Everyone has his burden. What counts is how you carry it."

I bear testimony that through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and our own efforts of maintaining a positive attitude we will have a better quality of life and be generally happier in the face of adversity.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.