When I volunteered to do a blog post reporting on the talk by the Male Presider at General Relief Society Meeting, I had no idea who the speaker would be. To be perfectly honest, when I heard President Monson introduced as the concluding speaker, I felt disappointed. Many years ago I became tired of what I call “the foam on top of root-beer” conference talks I’d heard from the now president of our beloved church. But yesterday I did my best to turn off my Inner-Conference-Talk-Critic and prayed for humility and softness of heart. Then I listened.
You can watch and listen to his address here.
I will not comment here about those aspects of his address that I found off-putting. Rather, I’ll focus on the Good Word of God I heard in this talk.
President Monson begins with a story about his deceased wife, Francis. He speaks about her role as either a stake or mission Relief Society President during their time as mission presidents in Canada. And about her love for the Relief Society Organization and all the good things that happen as a result of Relief Society.
He continues with a focus on the power of prayer and of God’s unconditional love for us, especially during challenging times of life or when we feel undeserving or abandoned by God. Heavenly Father is always there for us. No matter what.
He talks about faith, patience and belief in Heavenly Father’s ability (and unwavering desire) to answer our prayers. He refers us to the hymn “Did You Think To Pray?” which I love. He also suggests that studying the scriptures can enlighten us, comfort us and strengthen our testimony of God and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Scriptures can also provide answers to prayer. He quotes the following:
Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.
~ D&C 90:24
Then he tells the story of a young mother whose husband is in the second year of medical residency. He describes the stresses of life for what sounds like a stay-at-home mom. He paints a realistic picture of the burdens this woman bears — she feels compelled to entertain extended family for the holidays. She runs the house essentially alone. She cares for the kids while her necessarily absent husband completes his residency. Then she learns that someone very close to her has been diagnosed with cancer. This becomes the tipping point for her already over-burdened heart and she essentially suffers an emotional breakdown. (Maybe you didn’t hear it that way, but my years as a psychiatric nurse left me no other interpretation. Also, I should mention that my word for emotional breakdown is emotional break-through, because that’s the purpose for the crash in the first place.)
President Monson beautifully describes symptoms of situational depression accompanied by anorexia (loss of appetite). Tiffany, the young mother, is simply unable to cope. Friends and family become concerned and try to find ways to support her and to encourage her to eat. At one point, a friend says, “There must be something that sounds good to you.”
Tiffany replies, “The only thing I can think of that sounds good, is homemade bread.”
What I liked most about this story was the way in which Tiffany presumably begins her ascent out of her pit of despair. A woman who had met Tiffany only once, brings a loaf of homemade bread to her door, hands it to Tiffany’s husband, who happens to be home that day, then gets in her car and goes on her way.
For me, the loaf of bread has multiple layers of meaning, not the least of which is the symbol of Christ’s atonement. He is the bread of life. His love is ultimately what nourishes and saves us all.
“And so it happened that the Lord sent a virtual stranger across town to deliver a clear message of love to Tiffany . . . She had an urgent need to feel she wasn’t alone, that God was aware of her and had not abandoned her.” ~ Thomas S. Monson
You can listen starting at about 09:08 in the audio file at LDS.org for the details of the story.
We don’t hear whether or not Tiffany arose the next morning filled with hope and renewed energy or if her professionally driven, yet compassionate spouse found ways to carry some of her load. We don’t hear about her follow-up appointment with her counselor or primary care physician. We just hear about a moment of grace, a tender mercy in the midst of this woman’s private hell.
I have experienced such moments. Sometimes as the giver. More often as the receiver. And the message is always the same: there is a God and s/he cares about you. Not just in a general sense, but in a most peculiar, personal and specific sense.
This talk left me with three reminders:
- Pray always.
- Love your neighbor.
- Feel God’s specific love for you.
What did you come away with?