Yesterday I felt an anxious load, so Matt drove me up the canyon and we went on a walk. I tried to talk it out so I could identify what was making me feel overwhelmed. My kids’ schools are in flux because of varying levels of COVID status. I had just dropped one off at an activity that had felt safe when I signed him up, but now I felt less sure. I read a Facebook post by the school district and started feeling sick when I saw all the angry fighting in the comments. My fears turned to our collective ability to get along and support one another rather than cling to ideologies at the cost of relationships and civility and a little bit of humility.
We walked in the mountains and tried to make sense of it. I told Matt that I rewatched a news clip recently where Elder Christofferson participated in a discussion about ethics in the media, and a moderator pointed out that 78% of Americans, when they disagree on issues, don’t just disagree on the policies, they disagree on the very facts. I mentioned how that makes it feel impossible to come to an understanding of the truth. I’m sure I don’t have to explain this to anyone reading; we’ve all been dumbfounded by people sharing and embracing contrary “facts.” I feel this pressing responsibility to protect my family and make wise choices, and President Nelson once said that “Good information leads to good inspiration,” so I know I need to be informed, but when the information is so overwhelming and changing and confusing . . . ? Anyway, we had a good conversation about remembering what I can and cannot control, focusing on what I can reasonably do, and trying to move forward in faith. The exercise, the air, the talking all helped me to feel a little better, and back down the mountain we went to reenter real life.
Then this morning I read the talk “Shall We Not Go On in So Great a Cause” by Elder M. Russell Ballard. I was just trying to do my goal of reviewing all the talks before October conference and didn’t expect to get a lot of insight from a message about the Restoration, but something jumped out at me. It’s an obvious message that comes from the Joseph Smith story, one that I’ve taught myself many times, but today I saw it in a new light because of current events.
Joseph recorded: “During this time of great [religious] excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit.
So here’s me thinking through this: great excitement, yes–not about religion, but masks, race, riots, politics, elections, social distancing, etc… Serious reflection and great uneasiness? Check. I feel the pull to be aloof too. I don’t want to be caught up in all the fervor, but I am trying to read and study and understand different points of view…
… [Yet] so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.”3
It is impossible to know what information is totally accurate; I have sources I trust, but I still don’t know what information is missing, not being considered, etc …
Joseph turned to the Bible to find answers to his questions and read James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”4
And it struck me that I need to trust God more. Those familiar with Joseph’s story know that his prayer led to a revelatory experience with God and His Son and opened up a new era of restoration of His gospel. I don’t think God needs me to open up any new eras of anything, but he can help me filter mass confusion into some peace and certainty… even if it’s just for me and my family. (It’s ok that different people feel and act differently. So frustrating, but ok.) I don’t think I have enough information to get complete inspiration (It’s likely I won’t be blessed with a corona-cure or the secret to unlocking the social injustice for all mankind), but I can get the information I need to take next steps. Elder Ballard pointed out that this did not make everything easy for Joseph and his family (Spoiler alert: he was killed.), but I crave the peace of knowing I’m doing the right thing despite the noise around me, and Joseph stated that when he had his answers, he was “filled with love, and … could rejoice with great joy.” Plus I loved Elder Ballard’s reminder that “Because the family was united, they survived these challenges,” and that “it may be that they came to know God through their suffering in ways that could not have happened without it.”
So that’s my wish right now. To get to know God better (without wishing suffering on myself or anyone else) and let Him walk me through this, to stay a little more aloof of all the fervor and a little more plugged in to what He wants me to do. Maybe you find fault with this strategy; heaven knows we’re all coping the best way we know how, but today, this was a message that gave me some personal hope.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You have helped me to realize better what I can do to navigate these troubling times. Your message is very relatable and inspiring. You have given me something good to think about.
I can so relate to all the feelings you describe. The contention and war of words, the deliberate misinformation, the riots and protests and injustice, and the uncertainty of the future swirling all around while I try to make the best decisions for my family. It’s hard. Thanks for your thoughts about the first vision.