Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Final talk in the EMC 4th Ward

I may have been a little over-ambitious about speaking on the same weekend as moving, so I hope the spirit will fill in where I haven’t had the time to prepare as much as I would like to. My goal today is to keep it together. So fingers crossed.

I have lived in this neighborhood for 17 years, 8 months and 5 days. All of us together we have raised two amazing girls whose talents, intelligence and compassion surpass my hopes and dreams for them. How deeply grateful I am for how you have all influenced them. I am a big believer in the concept of it taking a village to raise a child and know that the Lord has prompted many of you over the years to teach, inspire and comfort them. You have done the same for me – and I was definitely the more challenging child to raise.

Having the opportunity to look back on this chapter of my life I realize that what I will miss the most is not my house, but the comfort of being nestled into this ward. Knowing that I had a friend on every street, knowing I’m not alone.

When Bishop Sean asked me to speak on “small things proceedeth that which is great” it seemed like the perfect theme to pay homage to all of you. Your small acts of service through my 17 years, 8 months and 5 days have strengthened my testimony and have been a perfect example of the gospel at work.

When I think about small things proceeding that which is great what I really think of is the process of change and learning to trust in the Lord’s plan.

Change for many of us can have negative connotations. Change, even when positive, can still be stressful and hard to maintain. Several months ago I shared one of my favorite sections of the book of Mormon with the sisters in relief society. About a year ago I was preparing for a young women’s lesson and studying Ether chapters 1 and 2. Heavenly Father had told the brother of Jared that he had a great land prepared for him. To gather his flocks, family, friends and the Lord would lead him to a land “which is choice above all the lands of the earth.” The brother of Jared followed the Lord’s command and gathered all that was asked of him and he and his people traveled for some time until they came to the sea. And there they stopped to rest….for four years. Until one day the Lord came to the brother of Jared and chastened him for three hours because he had stopped calling on the Lord. He was comfortable there on the beach. The Lord reminded him that he had greater things in store for him. Journeying had its challenges and I’m sure the brother of Jared must have felt, at times, weary. Staying put certainly must have seemed easier. But he repented and continued his journey staying focused on the Lord’s plan for him.

The Lord has great things in store for each of us as well, but change can feel daunting and frightening. Or perhaps you feel alone in the process, or turning your heart fully to the Lord seems too difficult. Maybe you have strayed from His plan for you and the journey back simply doesn’t seem like something you’re capable of. I promise you there is always a way and the best way to make permanent change has to do with having the courage to let all of the people in this chapel into your life.

I work at the University of Utah editing medical manuscripts and managing resident physicians in Radiation Oncology. Almost every month I have the opportunity to teach all of the other managers of resident physicians across the campus. Recently, I gave a lecture on making positive changes in your department. In preparing for this lecture I read a book by Alan Deutschman called “Change or Die.” In the book he studies groups of people and corporations that have made dramatic, seemingly impossible changes and studied how it was possible for them to make permanent changes. Of the three keys to successful change, the first is the most important. “Relate”

“If you face a situation that a reasonable person would consider hopeless, you need the influence of seemingly unreasonable people to restore your hope.” I absolutely love this quote. What he’s talking about is the idea of surrounding yourself with people who not only believe that you are capable of difficult changes, but that can even sell you on the idea when you are discouraged. In each step of the process those “unreasonable people” are there to cheer you on, share ideas, work alongside you, or just listen to the frustrations of the journey. Through their support you will find yourself in a place that you previously didn’t believe was possible.

As I read this I couldn’t help but think of the way the Lord has designed the church to create this same kind of system. Through visiting teachers, home teachers, and callings we are given a built in support system that can help us stay on or return to the plan that the Lord has for each of us.  In a time when more and more of our struggles are internal battles of the mind. When the pressure for worldly perfection smothers the deep need for being loved for our true selves we must trust and rely on the Lord’s gospel and the brothers and sisters we are surrounded by within the church.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 we are taught “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” This is the expectation the Lord has of us. To become one with each other.

Staying in this mindset of being one takes great humility and courage. We must be willing to both offer love and support and to receive it. Needing the help of our brothers and sisters within our ward family is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of trust that the Lord has put us in this ward at this time for a reason. It is often much easier to be the one supporting people than being willing to accept the support of others. Set aside your insecurities and allow yourself to be fully immersed in the body of this ward and church. When I have allowed others to bless me with their service my love for them and for the Lord has deepened.

Perhaps you aren’t comfortable with letting people see your struggles, or perhaps it’s difficult to let people into your heart. The Lord constantly gives us small opportunities to increase our courage to let others in. Work alongside the ward members. Sign up for service projects or accept a ward calling. In so doing you will find that you will not only increase in the number of friends within the ward but you will have an increase in the confidence that those within these walls will love you for your true self.

I have been able to make great changes in my life based on small teachings I have learned from this ward family. When I had first moved in to the ward Renee Craigo made the comment that “we are raising adults not children.” This one small comment helped shape my parenting in to one that focused on teaching independence and maturity. Linda Thompson made a comment one time while we were visiting teaching that “the one that needs a hug the most is the one that seems to least deserve it.” Which helped me to set aside frustrations and always have a hug for everyone. Jerie and David Holley taught me that I can be accepted and cared for with all of my odd little quirks and my all too frequent personal disasters. Diana and Sean Esplin showed me that everything should be done in love.

There simply isn’t the time to talk about all that I have learned from each of you. The point is, all of you unreasonable people, through small acts of love and service have helped me stay focused on the Lord’s great plan. When I have felt angry or bitter, discouraged or weary, you have helped me turn back to Him. I know the Lord loves me by letting me be a part of this ward family. I will hold that love with me forever.


Lisa Olivier Sorenson said...

Beautiful talk!

Allyson said...

Love you Michelle! Thanks for posting this. We will miss you!