We would just like to say to begin with that we’re very happy to be with you this afternoon. We’ve been looking forward to this. And as you can see, our topic for today is “Faith Is Not Blind”. Our purpose for today is to teach a pattern and perhaps some tools, concepts, that might help us learn and grow through what we will call complexity rather than being overcome by it.
So let me start by giving you just a little bit of background about how we came to talk about and work on this subject for several decades. We had a class together, Bruce and I, when we were at BYU our senior year called “Your Religious Problems”. He was not a senior quite yet. And in that class we solved our biggest religious problem, which was meeting each other, because our friendship in that class grew into our romance and then our marriage. In that class, the format was that we would choose a challenge, or a problem, a religious problem. Some of them were church history. Some of them were criticisms of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Others were doctrinal issues. Some just wanted to learn how to live the gospel better. So we would study, prepare a presentation, present to the class, and then each member of the class would write a quick response on the issue that had been presented. So many of the issues that seem to be a challenge today were also questions at that time. But what is different today, of course, is the internet, which has magnified the challenges and presented, as all of you know, both more clarity in some ways, but also more difficulty, more chaos in others.
Now just as a little transition here, that class helped us to see that there’s a natural tension between the ideals of the gospel and the realities of life. When we’re young, we tend to be idealistic. Things are black or things are white, there’s not a lot of grey. We tend to believe what we read. We believe our parents. We believe our teachers. And we’re typically optimistic, loyal, and teachable. We believe what we read. New converts are similar in that way. But then as we grow older, we see the natural tension between the ideals of the gospel and the realities of life between what is and what ought to be. Then we begin to see what we will call today the gap. It’s the distance between where we are and where we want to be.
So here’s a little bit about what that gap looks like. The gap is often caused when something happens that was not expected. Maybe we see the human limitations of people like our parents, maybe local church leaders even. Maybe she has forgotten an important meeting. Maybe he got a little upset about an issue that—and we just hadn’t expected to see him lose his cool. Or maybe a prayer goes unanswered for a long time. Maybe there are health issues. Maybe there’s conflict with a family member or with a good friend. Or maybe we do see something on the internet that we haven’t seen before, so it’s unexpected. It’s a surprise. Maybe it’s something about Joseph Smith we hadn’t known before, or Brigham Young. New missionaries often go through this. They come out of the MTC so idealistic, ready to go, and to convert the world, or at least convert all those servers or flight attendants on their flight wherever they’re going. And then they’re surprised with the realities of life. And we have seen our grandchildren go through this.
So the gap stretches us, and that’s good for us to be treated. But it can produce some uncertainties, some confusion. And even when we read the scriptures, we sometimes come across ambiguities. For example the Lord said he can’t look on sin with the least degree of allowance. But at the same time, to the woman—not at the same time—when He was talking with her He said, neither do I condemn thee, go thy way and sin no more. So there was a condition of course. Justice, mercy, they seem to be in conflict with each other, at least contradictory. But they’re brought together by that overriding, most important doctrine of the gospel, the Atonement.
In today’s society there are strong conflicts, many public issues. On the extremes, people are very confident, but some of them would sometimes rather be certain than right. So life, wouldn’t you agree, is full of uncertainty? Learning how to manage that gap is part of the mortal plan.
In Lehi’s dream we see this as well. Some things are very certain and clear, like the iron rod. But in that dream also are the mists of darkness. So let’s consider more about the gap.
I faced the gap as a young man standing at the pulpit for my missionary farewell. I wanted to say I knew the gospel was true, but in good conscience I could only say I believed it was true. And that worried me. But as time went on, I had experiences that helped me close that gap. It was very gradual, and it’s a long and very interesting and important story, as many of you have experienced.
How can we deal with the uncertainty that we’re talking about, this gap? We recently ran across a statement from the American judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes that we think captures a way to frame a discussion of the problem. Holmes said, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity [on] this side of complexity. But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Now that may sound complicated, but it’s really simple. He’s talking about three stages, and so will we.
There’s the simplicity on this side of complexity, this innocent and untested. There’s the complexity. Marie just talked about the gap, uncertainty, confusion, conflicts between true principles, expectations are disappointed. But on the other side of that complexity is the simplicity that is actually informed by the complexity.
Let me give you a little illustration. A few years ago Marie and I were in a sacrament meeting at the Utah State Prison. We’d been assigned to go there, part of a larger assignment. We were with the women of the prison that day, and it was Fast Sunday. One of the women came to bear her testimony to the others. She said, “When I was a little girl, I used to love to bear my testimony. I’d run up in front of the congregation and I would say, ‘I love my mom and dad, Heavenly Father loves me. The gospel is true. Jesus suffered for my sins.’ And then I would scamper back to my seat and my mom would hug me, and it was so good. And now, after all these years and all this experience behind these bars, I’ve been thinking about what matters the most to me right now? What have I been discovering? And the way I can express what’s in my heart is to tell you, ‘Heavenly Father loves me. The gospel is true. Jesus suffered for my sins, and now I know what all of that means.’” She was discovering the simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Well let’s talk about these three stages. Some people stay in Stage 1 for a long time. They want to erase the inner circle of reality, usually unintentionally, but it feels better to not have the frustration of that gap. Sometimes this can happen for—what is the word the psychologists use? You’re in denial. You’re not seeing reality. You’re not seeing what’s really there. And sometimes we do that because it’s so painful to face reality. We might be unconscious of what we’re doing, but unless we can somehow learn to see what’s really there, we will not be able to deal with it. And in terms of the religious context, if we can’t see both the real and the ideal and cope with the frustrations of the gap, we’ll have a very hard time putting down roots into the soil of experience that will give us the strength to withstand the adversity, the complexities that will certainly come. So it’s better if we can see both, and accept and live with the gap.
But then comes another challenge. At Stage 2 some people accept uncertainty too much. We used to teach our law students when they were in their first year and they didn’t know how to deal with the law’s ambiguities, we’d talk a lot about ambiguity and conflicts between laws, and true principles. But sometimes by their third year some of our students were so in love with being skeptical, that they were skeptical about everything. And that’s a hazard of our profession. Many have managed it beautifully. But sometimes you’ll see people like that for whom skepticism isn’t just a helpful tool but a way of life, and some of these people really delight in popping the bubbles of those they see stuck in level one, and they want to convince them that just embracing the complexity, and the inability to really know and have certainty about anything is a brave new way of life.
I once had an experience with being overly realistic. I’ll just tell the brief version here. I’ve said more about this in other settings. But I thought about this recently when we were in Europe. I’ll tell you why. When I was on my mission, I’d been out about a year, I received a brand new companion named Elder Keeler. He didn’t speak any German; no MTC in those days. I had to go off to a meeting. I left him with a companion from another city, also very green. No German, either one of them. When I saw Elder Keeler at the end of the day, he said he’d found a woman who would surely join the church. The Spirit had born witness to him, and he was pretty sure about that. And so the next morning, I said, well let’s go find this woman. And he said, “Well there’s just one problem, Elder Hafen. I forgot to write down her name or her address. I was just so excited about her.”
I said, “Well do you know which street she was on?”
“Well, all the streets look alike to me, but you know our tracking area out there with those five-story apartment houses? She’s out there. And she’s on the top floor. And if we could just go up to the top floor of some of those houses, they put the name right by the doorbell. I think I’d recognize the name.”
“I didn’t say anything to him then, but I kind of rolled my eyes and thought, “Okay. It’s going to take him a little while to discover the realities of missionary work in Germany.” We went up and down stairs for several hours until I was ready to tell him it was time to get real.
I saw him cry, and he said, “You mean we’re not going to find her? I told you the Holy Ghost bore witness to me. That’s the kind of person I came to find.”
I think I muttered something under my breath, like “Maybe the Holy Ghost was telling you to write down the name and the address?” I don’t think I actually said that, but I believe I thought it.
So I took a deep breath and decided, okay, he’s only going to learn the hard way. And I can go faster than he can. I’ve got strong tracking legs. So I figured I’d just go up and down as fast as I could until he begged to stop. And after another several hours, we stood at a door, the name Wolfhard was by the bell. We rang it. A woman came to the door. He poked me in my ribs and said, “That’s the woman. Talk to her. Talk to her.”
Brothers and sisters, 40 years later, Marie and I were in the Frankfurt, Germany temple in a sealing room where that woman’s husband was a sealer. He sealed their youngest child in marriage in the temple, and all four of the Wolfhard children were there, married to other Europeans in the temple. I pray that I will never forget that lesson, never lose sight of the ideal by being so realistic.
So maybe the best response then to being kind of stuck in that Stage 2 complexity would be to move upward to Stage 3, keeping eyes and hearts wide open; not just seeing Stage 1 and Stage 2, or innocence and complexity, or skepticism, but having a firm grasp of them, a firm hold on them and being willing to take both into Stage 3, where there is more texture and more wisdom, just more tried and true. Maybe a few examples of what Stage 3 attitudes look like might be helpful.
You can take action even when you don’t know exactly what the evidence needs to be. Or in other words, when we’d like more evidence we can still take action. Maybe we sense the value of a new church calling, even when we feel too busy to take a new calling. Maybe we can follow the First Presidency’s counsel to us, even when we may not understand all the reasons behind their counsel. Maybe we can trust what we do know more than those things that we still have questions or doubts about. We can give the Lord and His Church, and His Priesthood, and His gospel the benefit of the doubt with our unanswered questions. So it’s not just blind obedience, but knowing, trusting, experience-based obedience that Bruce has talked about with his missionary experiences. Not putting aside the tools of a critical, analytic mind, critical in the positive sense, but rather using those tools to improve the status quo and not just criticize it. Acknowledge the challenges and the problems, but being loyal enough to work on them rather than just criticize them.
The English writer, Gotcha. K. Chesterton distinguished between optimists, and pessimists, and improvers. That’s roughly Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3. So the improvers, let me just give you one example which would show what it looks like for a person to go through the three stages from innocence, to complexity, and back to that simplicity beyond complexity.
We knew a young woman who we’ll call her Holly. She grew up in a very active, Mormon home in a Mormon community. She was on automatic pilot through her Young Women. She was probably the youngest person to ever earn her Young Womanhood Medallion in her stake. But when she got to be 18, she encountered a doctrinal issue that just threw her for a loop. And she was so convinced of what had been told her about this doctrine, and so indignant about it, that she decided that she would resign her membership from the Church, which she did. A couple or three years later she was away at college, and her roommate decided she would take the missionary lessons. And Holly thought, “Well, okay, maybe I’ll sit in on those lessons.” And her heart was touched just a little bit. And as you would know, missionaries are going to challenge those who are listening to their talk about the Book of Mormon to read and to pray.
So Holly, being just a little touched, thought “Well, you know I haven’t prayed out loud for several years. Maybe I’ll do that. So when she started her prayer and she said “Heavenly Father,” then the ice around her heart started to melt, and that stubbornness turned into a little bit more softness. And she felt this tender connection with her Father in Heaven. And as some time passed, she prayed in a different way. She studied in a different way. And that tender relationship grew into what she called the “closeness” and it wasn’t too long before she was baptized again.
Somebody asked her a little bit later, what about that doctoral issue? I thought you were really turned upside-down by that? And she said, “You know I haven’t thought about that for a while. What I’ve decided is that I trust Him. I want that closeness, and I know that He knows what He’s doing.” For her, that had become the simplicity beyond complexity.
There are many applications of the principles we’ve been talking about. They apply to education, growth of all kinds. Let’s focus for the rest of our time together on how to apply this three-stage model to the internet age, and questions about the Church at this time.
I want to tell you a story about a friend, who we got to know a number of years ago. We’ll call him Mattias. Mattias grew up in a Latter-day Saint home. He served a mission. After his mission he was married in the temple. He and his wife began to have children. He was called as a bishop, and through his leadership role, he found people were sometimes asking him questions. And as time went on, he found some of them, because now this was getting into the internet age, people were coming to him with questions about something they’d found on the internet. And he didn’t know how to answer them. He later talked about how unsettled he was by the experience of trying to answer these questions that he didn’t have the answers to. He said some of the questions included: Did Joseph Smith really practice polygamy? And what was going on with race and the priesthood until 1978? How did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham?
As he described his experience, he said, until these questions came, I think his phrase was, we had been living in a bubble, and were so happy. But this felt like an earthquake. He later added that once he got into the specifics on these questions, they were less troubling. But what bothered him is that he felt betrayed because he didn’t know the answers to these questions. He hadn’t heard about them before. We know other members of his family who said they had heard about these things, and they wondered why he hadn’t? And we don’t know the answer to that. We don’t judge Mattias. But we compare our own experience, and we know that in a worldwide church, not everybody is going to have a class at BYU on your religious problems.
So what was happening with Mattias? I see two things there. One is living in a bubble is a pretty apt description of what we call Stage 1. But at the same time, history illustrates for me that in this day of the international church—we need to do a better job of preparing people for the very kinds of things we’re talking about now. During our own service in the Church over the past couple of decades in the international areas, we’ve seen why it is so important that the Church maintain a consistent, simplified curriculum and materials. So many languages, so many new members, you simply can’t offer a really sophisticated, in-depth treatment of everything that could come up. So where is the advanced curriculum? I think that’s kind of the need that we’re facing now, and the brethren have sensed that need. And there are several things that offer a response to that need, and I think these kinds of resources will help us and help others as we navigate our way into Stage 3.
For example, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism was published in 1992 by the Macmillan Company and BYU together. It’s a wonderful resource, four very thorough volumes, containing information about every one of the questions that Mattias wondered about, and it’s been on the internet for years. But as we’ve been around, I find many people haven’t been acquainted with the Encyclopedia. And I think as we’re coming to understand this better in the Church, we’re finding ways to have materials that are not simply encyclopedic and academic, but will reach everybody.
That brings me to the next point on this slide, and that’s Saints, this wonderful new history of the Church, only the third official history of the Church ever to be authorized in this dispensation. And this one is different from all the others, because it’s written for everybody. It’s accessible. It’s written in story form, and it’s based on very careful, accurate information and research, very well footnoted. We find where we’ve been here and there outside the country in recent times, we find people know about Saints. They’re reading it. We’re very encouraged by that. That puts the issues we’ve been talking about into a better context. It will help us long-term.
The other resource I suspect everybody in this room would know plenty about, and that’s the Gospel Topics Essays that are available on the Church website. Those essays were prepared as a response to the very phenomenon that we’ve been talking about here, and they’re very helpful for that reason.
These resources aren’t just samples. They will help us find our way into Stage 3. As we do that, the goal here is not just to be optimists, or just to be pessimists. The goal is, as we’ve tried to explain it, we see the value of complexity. We see the value of encountering questions we don’t have all the answers to. And in that process, we can become more mature so that we can enter Stage 3 with our eyes and our hearts wide open, prepared to help.
We’d like now to suggest four ideas on how to apply these concepts in the internet age. We’ve listed the four of them here. Marie will talk about the first there, and then I’ll talk about the fourth one.
You can see the four of them on this screen. So the first one, to invite faithful questions, we did have a young person come up to us probably three or four weeks ago, it may have been a couple of months, who said, do you think I’m a bad member if I have questions or if I can’t find answers to my questions? And we said, “No.” No. Questions are what give us the opportunity to go deeper, to go higher. It’s a good thing to have questions if you’re looking for good answers, and you have some good resources to look for your answers. We’ll get into that in a few minutes.
I like what J. R. R. Tolkien said when he said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” And we have a young one in our extended family who is wandering around out there. But we have hope for him, because he is willing to keep looking, to keep searching, and he’s not doing it with a really skeptical brain pattern.
So living in a bubble? The Church does not ask us to live in a bubble. Sometimes that bubble is just the habits of a Stage 1 innocence, kind of a black and white mentality. So what about Stage 2 then, let’s see what there is in that realistic Stage 2. Maybe there are unexpecteds? Yes. But maybe there’s more color, there are more nuances, there are new meanings that we can get a hold of. But the best thing is to get out of the complexities, those surprises, those unanswered prayers, those situations that invite us to have more faith, to inform our faith into a deeper, experienced-base level. So Stage 3, a wise perspective. Then we won’t let the questions that we don’t yet understand get in the way of the fundamental truths that we do understand.
So being a doubting Thomas is not the end goal of discipleship. And we don’t want to be so closed minded that we look through the world through a soda straw. But then we don’t want to be so open minded either that our brains fall out. So I really like the scripture, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing….” [Doctrine & Covenants 90:24]. There’s the choice. What do we choose to do? Because if we can do that: search, pray, and choose to be believing, I love the promise, “…all things will work together for your good….” [Doctrine & Covenants 90:24]
So the second suggestion? Be cautious about the internet’s weaknesses. The internet of course is a blessing. Many of you would know that more than we do. But it also can be a curse, because there’s so much unfiltered, unlimited information, all seeming to have equal credibility. The bloggers at the extremes seem as qualified to speak as experts, because they’re right there on the internet. Right? Everything is on Google, like real rocket scientists, or instead of the real rocket scientists. And the internet can be manipulated. You know that. Because often you cannot verify the identity, the accuracy, or the motives of website authors.
So we had one friend who was struggling with the Church history issue. And we said, “Have you read some reliable LDS scholars, church scholars? And he says, “Oh, I can’t trust those people. They’re already biased in favor of the Church. We said, “Don’t you think that the anti-websites are biased against the Church?” All websites reflect a bias, and it’s not always self-evident. So it pays to be careful about the sites that you’re accessing, because the anti-Church sites won’t say which criticisms have already been discredited by those LDS scholars who are very qualified. The Church’s scholarly credibility has never been higher than it is now.
So speaking of biases, let me relate one little thing that Richard Bushman said to his son when he was going off to college, because we do need to add a little footnote that sometimes it’s not an intellectual problem that’s getting in the way of especially a young person who’s trying to find his footing for his testimony. Because sometimes there are behavioral issues, or choices that they have made that haven’t been so good, and they may be looking for some justification for the choices that they have made. So what Richard Bushman told his son when he was going off to college is, “As you continue searching, keep the commandments,” and he said, “especially the moral commandments, the law of chastity, or you will bias your search, because you will subconsciously be wanting to justify your behavior.”
So the third suggestion in our internet age is [to] focus on the Restoration’s hugely positive doctoral content, not so much on the details of how Joseph received it. So imagine a golf course. You’ve been to the Tetons, right, in Wyoming? There’s a magnificent—I shouldn’t use that word for the golf course—but there’s a golf course at the base of the Teton Range, and it’s a very good golf course. But if you’re in the rough searching for golf balls and you don’t see the magnificence of the mountains, it’s like a comparison of looking at those secondary questions, and doubts, and issues rather than the primary, hugely positive doctrinal sources of those magnificent mountains. If you haven’t had a chance, read Elder Larry Corbirdge’s BYU Devotional two or three months ago. In fact we noticed it had been reprinted in the BYU Magazine, because he talks about the primary and the secondary, and distinguishing between those two. And it’s a very helpful distinction to make between the primary sources, resources, evidence, doctrine, and the secondary. [See https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/lawrence-e-corbridge/stand-for-ever/]
So if we look at Joseph Smith as a seer, he didn’t translate the way we would think of the scriptures or other papers being translated, where Joseph Smith was sitting there with the gold plates at his side and he was writing on the other side. We have the stories of him looking into the hat; of Emma, or Oliver Cowdery, or others transcribing as he spoke. So we don’t know exactly what was happening, going through his mind. He was translating the Book of Mormon as he said, “…by the hand of Mormon,” but it was by divine inspiration was the way he put it, both the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Abraham, and the Book of Moses. So his precise methodology is unknown.
But you would remember that Joseph Smith also said, “If you could gaze into heaven for five minutes, you would know more than you could by reading everything that had ever been written …” about a text or a subject. And Bushman even said, “Unlike the scholarly translators, [Joseph] went back beyond the existing texts to the minds of the prophets, and through them to the mind of God.” Even if we could understand how he translated—his methodology–maybe we couldn’t even understand that, but at least we do know for sure the profound, huge, doctrinal gift that he gave to us.
What was that gift? Well he only revolutionized Christianity with what he brought to us. The nature of God, and our relationship to Him, the nature of mortal man, the fall, the atonement, the purpose of life, so clear that the details of how the Lord gave it to Joseph are much less important than the content. So I would just bear witness to that, that the doctrinal content is much more important than exactly how Joseph Smith received it.
Our fourth suggestion is to cultivate an attitude of meekness, because when we confront really hard problems that feel like earthquakes, how we feel about what’s happening is more important than what’s happening. I like what Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said about doubting. Doubting “…can either soften or harden hearts, depending on [our] supply of meekness.” Meekness, that’s softness of heart, that desire to believe that Alma talks about in chapter 32.
I had a missionary experience that taught me about this meekness. I think I’ll give you just the short version. But this was again back in Germany. We met a young couple from the US, taught them the lessons, they were ready to be baptized, and then Paul, the father, received a letter from home, [from] his family warning him that the missionaries from the LDS Church were dangerous. They should stay away from them, because they believed that African men shouldn’t receive the Priesthood. And this just threw Paul and his wife Wendy for a loop. When we went to see them, and they had run into this obstacle, we could tell this was probably going to be our last meeting with them. It was really gloomy. And after they vented their frustrations about all this, how could God treat one—you can imagine the questions. I had some of the same questions. Well, they looked at me, and I knew I had one last chance. I did not know what to say. I’d never heard a discussion of this subject.
And then suddenly I had the thought, “Let’s read Acts chapter 10.” I’d read that in my personal scripture study only a couple of months before. And there we were reading the story of Cornelius. And it only occurred to me as we were reading it what this had to do with the problem we were discussing, because the Lord had restricted the gospel to blood Israel up until the time of after Christ had died. And this suggested that maybe He had a timetable, and there could be a timetable of some time in the future. Of course it wasn’t a complete answer, but it was an insight that was helpful.
Anyway, we left, didn’t know if we’d hear from them again. They called. They had prayed and fasted. They were eventually baptized. They raised their children in the Church. They weren’t going to let the things they didn’t understand get in the way of the things they did understand. Paul and Wendy were meek.
Paul and Wendy’s meekness reminds me that what we’re talking about is as fundamental, brothers and sisters, as the story of Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, it was innocent, simplicity. They had agency, but not until they partook of the forbidden fruit did they enter the complex world that taught them what was really going on. And as miserable as it was, they continued to be faithful. They offered sacrifices without knowing why. And then an angel came. Why do you offer sacrifices? We don’t know. Then the angel taught them the plan of redemption. And listening to all of this we read in Moses 5, Eve heard all these things and was glad, saying, “Were it not for our transgression, we never should have had seed….” [Moses 5:11], never could have known the joy of what God offers us in eternal life, what He offers to all the obedient. It’s that fundamental.
And I would just say, brothers and sisters, that as I look at Adam and Eve, in fairness to complexity, they wouldn’t understand. None of us would understand the joy of eternal life in the presence of the Lord without having experienced the misery of mortality. That’s what the plan is about. What we’re discussing, then, is that fundamental. And so I would offer that when we encounter questions, close questions, unless we’re willing to give the Lord and His Church the benefit of the doubt, it won’t be long until we’re unwilling to go down the road of faith and sacrifice at all.
Well, in our last 10 minutes here, I want to tell you a step we’ve been taking. We’ve been working on this project, as Marie said, ever since we met more than 50 years ago. But as we’ve tried to think how could we talk about this, okay, we’ve written a little book. But our children, and their friends, and some other friends remind us of the kind of world we’re living in. When Marie and I say social media, we’ve exhausted our knowledge of the subject. But our children, and our grandchildren, and our friends are helping us. And without taking a lot of detail, this is the new website with podcasts that they’re helping to put together with support from the More Good Foundation. You’re free to look at this. We hope you can join us.
And today, I’d like to give you a sneak preview. If this will just work, here are samples from four recent podcasts to give you a flavor. Yes, this is generally—every one of these people that you’ll [see], as short as these clips are, have moved into Stage 3 in the way we’ve talked about it. But two of these offer a kind of nuanced important perspective that on the way to doing that, how they were treated by friends and family is enormously important, as you’ll see in a couple of these responses. When they were—instead of feeling compelled to do what friends and family wanted, if they felt enough support so that their choice could be a free one, that made all the difference. Well, let’s hope this works.
I was the young woman with the picture of the temple on her wall, and all the quotes everywhere, and just so believing, just so in all of that. And so I went from that to this feeling of absolute failure, like I had missed the ideal. I had gotten a divorce, and that was just not okay. But on the other side of that, I found it’s—sorry, it’s so hard for me to talk about this in a calm way. I thought I could kind of do this in a calm way, but I found—I found Heavenly Father in a deeper way than I had ever found Him before, my relationship with Him. And interestingly, instead of now trying to look the part of a perfect Mormon life, I felt like I had found something deeper than that. I felt like I had found the true meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it was actually—again, I will use the word “relief” to detach from all of that expectation for myself and for my children, and to just have a life experience.
And when I was 30, so five years ago, I just—I wasn’t sure I could stay in the Church. It just felt like I was trapped. I just couldn’t do it anymore. And I had opened up to my parents and kind of unloaded 30 years of experiences on them. And my mom said to me, the most faithful woman you’ll find, she said, “Ben, if you need to leave the Church and marry a man, you and he will always be part of our family.” And so by honoring my agency and telling me that no matter what I did, I was going to be her son, that gave me the freedom to know, like should I go? Or should I stay? Because I had felt trapped, like I had to stay. And then as I got to explore that on my own and reconcile my will with God’s well, and as I pointed myself to Christ, I felt pointed to His Church. And interestingly I had the same conversation with my siblings. I said, ”You know, I’m not sure I can stay.” And they all said, “If you leave, you will always be welcome in our home.” And that did so much good for me, because that’s not the reaction that a lot of people get.
Because I want to be balanced, and I want to be complete, and I think philosophically I think the best way for us to deal with difficult things is to approach them head on, and to learn everything we can about it. We always have to have humility there. We’re not going to know everything. But when we approach it head on, and when we can learn as much as we can about something, I think we’re able to deal with it. It’s when we assume we know what happens, or when we don’t do the work to really learn as much as we can, I think that’s where the problems come.
The main response I got from family came from fear. A lot of my questions or a lot of my beliefs seem to match people who had left. And they were afraid I was going to be an empty chair at their celestial kingdom table, and I knew it. And I felt it. And I felt rejected. And I didn’t feel trusted. And I didn’t feel loved. And it was harmful. The more that I got of that, I think the harder it was for me to stay. I think one of my lifelines was my husband, who started—a little nervous—when it all started he was very nervous, but it came to a point where he sought to understand. And he didn’t need to—he didn’t think he needed to agree. And I didn’t—there were times I really wanted him to agree and to see things the way I did, but we never forced each other or put pressure on each other to be where the other one wanted to be to a point where it created conflict. And he just—even if he didn’t understand while he was trying to, the fact that he tried to, and the fact that he said, “I will love you anyway. I didn’t fall in love with you because of your belief in ‘blank’.” And I felt safe. And I felt like everything would be okay no matter what happened.
So now we have a closing song for you. If you have your phone, or some other device, and you want to try this link, it will take you to the song Marie is going to tell you about, and we’re going to sing it together. Lauren, are you here somewhere?
But where’s Soren, Lauren? She was going to bring her baby, too. Lauren is our granddaughter. So we appreciate her playing today. If you’ve had a chance to bring that up on your phone. If not, we will go to verse one, the words should be the next slide to verse one, the words to verse one. This song is called Day by Day in English. We first ran across it in Sweden. We were there on an assignment with a stake conference. This is a favorite hymn for the Swedish saints. We had a translator. She translated the words. We love the music. We love the words. We said, can you get us a translation? She said, this is a poem. It will take me some time.
A few months later we received the words that she had translated. Her name is Jennifer Usterud. The writer of the words was a Swedish woman in the 19th century who had grown up in a Christian home. Her father was a minister, and she was very tied to him. She never married. As a young woman about 20, they were crossing a lake, and he was washed overboard. And despite efforts to get him back, he drowned. And in her deep sorrow and grief, she began to write these poems of belief and faith. And a guitarist, whose name was Oscar Ahnfelt, wrote some basic—very basic music. And so these words are Jennifer Usterud. And Jennifer said of Lina Sandell-Berg, that her faith was based on trust and not on blessings. And therefore, she could withstand any trial, because she had the trust in God and wasn’t looking to [get] blessings from Him, hadn’t bargained for blessings. Trust, not blessings, therefore she could withstand any trial.
So what I’d invite you to do, if you’ve got your phone—can I see how many of you have it on your phones? Okay. Some of you. Then you’ve got the music. (desbook.co/DayByDay)But what we’ll ask Lauren to do, is if she’ll play the first verse through and you’ll get an idea of what the music is like with the words, and then we’ll sing the second and third versus. So, Lauren?
Let me live in moment after moment,
let me truly trust Thee day by day.
Let me not forget Thou art my Father.
Let me live by every word Thou sayest.
Every trial Thou has for me constructed,
and hast given me the strength I need.
Even when I cannot see tomorrow,
may I pay Thy counsel every heed.
I read that slightly wrong, but I think you get the idea. Okay. Let’s go to the second verse, and let’s sing it. Okay.
I will walk the way Thou hast commanded,
even when the way is dark ahead.
When I fear, and when my spirit weakens
I will trust in all that Thou has said.
I will praise Thee for Thy loving kindness,
I will surely place my hand in Thine.
I will not be worried for tomorrow,
for I know that all Thou has is mine.
Okay. Notice how those words to fit in with what we have been saying. I will walk the way Thou has commanded, even when the way is dark ahead. When I fear and when my spirit weakens, I will trust in all that Thou hast said. Now in the third verse what she’s doing is moving from, “Okay, we get ourselves in a good situation, and then we’re able to reach out and help others who are sorrowing, or grieving, or having challenges.” But now I’m going to be the Primary chorister, and I’m going to invite you all to sit up straight, take a deep breath, and we’re going to sing this, Lauren, at a little more pace, just a little faster, and with full of trust and dedication. Okay?
Day by day I feel my spirit strengthen,
so that I can help my fellow man.
Let me see another’s pain and sorrow
so that I may help as best I can.
May I keep my hand in Thine, my Father,
may I take each step with trust in Thee.
May I keep each one of Thy commandments,
that in heaven Thou canst welcome me.
You are good. I think you’re going to like it as much as our grandson, who took it to his band at high school, Lauren’s little brother. He’s in the trombone section, and they played it, all the parts, in trombone. So it’s a great song. The words are terrific. We really have grown to love it. And thank you. You’re doing a good job with this.
[Lightly edited for clarity and readability.]