Buena Vista YSA 3rd Ward - October 29, 2017
Esther Hi’ilani Candari
Shakespeare’s 116 sonnet states
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.”
Using this description as an agenda I want to ask you what do you truly love? What pursuit
or person in your life is your ever-fixed mark, your priceless star or guidance? Do you devote
yourself to this thing despite changes in yourself or it? Are you willing to stay committed to it
even to the edge of doom? As members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints our
first answer should be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
As it states in D&C 6:36, We should, “Look unto [him] with every thought. Doubt not fear not.”
Today though I want to talk about what happens when alteration we find, when we look upon
tempests, and when the rosy lips and cheeks of a young naive faith fall prey to the sickle of life’s
experience and the often resulting doubt and cynicism. I do not think that the fears and doubts we all face at some point in our lives come because we did not love Christ and the gospel to start with, but often because we do not understand that christlike love is not blind.
As Elder Bruce C. Hafen states “[Christlike] “Love is not blind; that is the last thing it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound, the less it is blind.”
So what does this mean that love is not blind, and what can we be blind to?
Christ taught both in the Bible and the Book of Mormon to become as a little child. Growing up I was rather confused by this because my first thought when someone said "little child" were my four small stubborn terrors of brothers whose diapers I had to frequently change. But as I have revisited this teaching later in my life I have seen countless applications for the analogy. In this case I want you to think of how often a young child has seen discrepancy in the teachings and behaviors of a parent (sometimes even pointing these discrepancies out at the most embarrassing moments) yet still loves that parent or older sibling with the pure enthusiasm that it seems only a child can. Does the child love and trust its caretaker because it thinks they are flawless? No! The child loves despite sometimes glaring flaws. But how often do we as adults cease to love and trust the gospel, our fellow members, our church leaders, or even God because we see sometimes minute discrepancies?
So what are some discrepancies we might see?
I would like to give a few personal examples. Both of these occurred on my mission and for me were a shock out of the fairly naive happy bubble within which my testimony had been functioning.
This first is not a singular event but a simple doctrinal discrepancy that was pointed out to me by many people. This discrepancy was the fact that to be temple worthy one cannot drink “tea”, even some teas which science has proven beneficial and healthy, but countless temple recommend-holding members of the church are addicted to caffeinated sodas which are unarguably unhealthy. I did my best to respond to this question by emphasizing the importance of trusting the counsel given by our modern day prophets and seeking personal guidance on how we can best live the word of wisdom, but I never felt fully comfortable with what I was saying.
The second was a few transfers into my mission I was assigned to train a new missionary for the first time. I felt like a new mother with a world of endless opportunity to introduce my new companion too. Things went well for the first few weeks until my companion began exhibiting symptoms of severe mental health issues. I did my best to manage on my own and constantly prayed for guidance and patience but I soon realized things were out of my hands so I contacted my mission president. He assumed my companion and I were both a just a little stressed, gave us blessings, and told us to go on our merry way. A few days later when my companion had another complete break down I called my mission president again only to receive a stinging rebuke barely short of ‘suck it up and stop being such a sissy’. This pattern continued for two miserable weeks. My companion refused to speak to me, seemed to be having suicidal tendencies, and spent hours sobbing for no apparent reason and I was the one that my mission president thought wasn’t handling life. I had never wanted to call my mother so badly before but I could not. I felt alone like I never had before and I felt extremely hurt and confused that the priesthood leader I was supposed to turn to for support, love, and guidance was treating me with mistrust and contempt. How could I go out everyday and ask people to join a church where they might be treated in the way I was being treated right then? (editorial note this situation was eventually given the proper psychiatric/medical attention for both my companion and I)
These are just two examples, I have had others during and since my mission.
Before my mission I had never seriously questioned any aspect of the gospel or had I been placed in a situation that had put my idealistic views of the gospel in juxtaposition with the reality of flawed humans who are supposed to be living it. Yes, I had questions about church doctrine or history but I would simply sweep the ones I didn’t want to deal with under the rug because they were never personal. But during and after my mission many of them became personal and I felt like that rug I had been using to hide my questionable dust had been pulled out from under my feet. About a year ago I found myself in a place where I was beginning to question if there was even a God. I was still going through the motions of being an active member, but I felt like I was simply accruing more and more unanswered questions. I felt like my eyes had been opened to “truly” see the gospel. And, where naive love had once reigned, now, all I could see was an apparition. I saw the gospel I had loved my entire life only to find it covered in warts and grey hairs. Thankfully, though, God continued to find ways to remind me of how powerful and sweet it is to embrace the gospel. He did this through my love of music and art, and through the inspired words and actions of family members and friends. And I slowly realized, “ line upon line” and “precept upon precept” as it says 2 Nephi 28:30 that there was a difference between questions and doubt.
So how can we be proactive about not having blind love?
Step one is to recognize that living the gospel will not always be sunshine and roses, it will sometimes feel like a cold muddy hike down a dead end road lined with misleading signs. Yes, our brother, Christ, promises that he will help carry our burdens as we take his yoke upon us, but a yoke is still a yoke; burdens are still burdens. Once we have recog
nized this we must be willing to ask ourselves and others hard questions. We all enjoy being comfortable and not having our ideas and ideals challenged. Because of this we easily fall into the trap of thinking church should always be the most comfortable place for us so we avoid talking about hard topics and deep questions. Or we are afraid that if we bring up hard questions or topics in church we will be judged as being doubting, or unfaithful.
President Uchtdorf stated in his 2015 General Conference talk “On Being Genuine”, “The Church is not an automobile showroom—a place to put ourselves on display so that others can admire our spirituality, capacity, or prosperity. It is more like a service center, where vehicles in need of repair come for maintenance and rehabilitation...We come to church not to hide our problems but to heal them.”
Let me emphasize again. Questions do not equal a lack of faith, neither are they proof of doubt. On the contrary, questions are often the proof of the most active and sincere faith. It was hard and seemingly unanswerable questions that led Hannah to the temple, that led the brother of Jared to a mountain, and Joseph Smith into the woods to pray. If we can have the courage to get out of our comfort zones as members and have conversations about things like the church’s history with plural marriage, racial discrimination, and odd spiritual phenomenon such as seer stones, or current topics such as gay marriage and modern applications for the word of wisdom in our homes and classes, we will not be blindsided by these topics when we are forced to face them.
What we must remember as we approach these topics is to “Look to the Lord in all things.” Seek for the answers in the RIGHT places. Study the words of prophets, both past and present. If it is a very personal question, study your patriarchal blessing. And remember it will take sincere study. For example when the brother of Jared approached the Lord with the dichotomy of being commanded to build and sail in boats that could not support life Christ asked him, “What will ye that I do?” After what I am sure was a few weeks of serious research and study the Brother of Jared returned to the Lord for confirmation of an answer he had come to through his personal efforts. Also be willing to accept that some answers may take weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime. Even Nephi a pillar of strength and faith admitted, “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Nephi 1:11)
In the parable of the ten virgins five virgins were considered wise because they prepared extra oil in advance. They did this because they were not afraid to admit that what was in their lamps would not be sufficient for what was to come. They did his because they knew that they would have to face darkness and uncertainty.
Joseph Smith stated: “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! …”
Let us look to our ever fixed mark, let us not be blind to the tempest but be not shaken. Let us remember what star guides our wandering barks. Let us remember as it states in 2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a strong mind.”
As we look unto the Lord and actively, courageously, and humbly address our questions instead of fostering doubt we can face uncertainty but dout not and fear not because we know that just like Hannah, the Brother of Jared, and Joseph Smith we will one day see the hand of God in our lives. I know this because I have seen it in my life. Are all my questions answered? Not even close! But I know what I love, and I do not love blindly, but most of all I know who loves me and that He does not love me blindly.
Bruce C. Hafen, "Love is Not Blind"
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "On Being Genuine"
Joseph Smith, "Teachings of Joseph Smith: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths"