May 2012 Visiting Teaching Message: Teacher’s Choice from Conference
Since it’s May, I thought I would focus on Mother’s Day because you can read conference on your own and pick out something that works for you.
Just kidding! I would never do that. But I know some people do. I suppose it isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t work for me. Another thing that doesn’t always work for me are Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s talks. His verbiage (to me) seems as though he overtly is only addressing the men of the church, and as I was particularly offended at his flippant television remote = grandchildren joke, I am resistant to consider his advice or direction.
But I love Matthew 20. And Holland’s talk is based on Matthew 20, Jesus’ parable of the labourers in the vineyard. In the parable, the labourers who work from the start of the day are paid equally to those who work only for the last few hours of the day. This passage of scripture plainly and clearly reminds us that we are all welcome to receive blessings of the spirit. Every one of us, no matter how long we have been “at work” in His kingdom. We do not need to be in a special calling, we don’t need to be “active”, we don’t need to be a member of the church and we especially don’t need to be male. So long as we desire and have faith to be guided by the spirit, we will be guided by the spirit regardless of who we are, our length of devotion, our religiosity, or anything else.
I like this. I perceive myself to be “active” in personal religiosity, yet rarely attend all three hours of Sunday services. I am often assigned to visit teach women who I have yet to see enter the church building. To be honest, I prefer to visit teach these “lass-active” women because I feel a more powerful spirit abiding with us as we visit. It is a beautiful witness that the parable in Matthew 20 is right, and that we all have the ability to call upon Christ, no matter who we are– judgement and unfair perceptions be blasted.
Now—with this in mind, have you ever held a grudge? I am ashamed to admit that I am holding several at the moment, including one against Holland’s writing style. Most days, I forget my grudges, but at certain moments, these grudges are triggered and I feel bound to hold my ground and fight as though that will make me righted from a past situation where I continue a feeling of being wronged. I hate feeling this way, so confess my (somewhat unwilled) doggedness in an attempt to heal my begrudged heart. So- with that in mind, if you’ll hold my hand through this passage from Holland’s talk, I endevour to avoid the grudge:
This is a story about God’s goodness, His patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a story about generosity and compassion. It is a story about grace. It underscores the thought I heard many years ago that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.
I do not know who in this vast audience today may need to hear the message of forgiveness inherent in this parable, but however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.
Okay. Hang on. I felt it too. That sting. Holland’s verbiage of being late, missing chances, making mistakes…. all of which reminds me of my mortality and persuades me to feel like all of my problems, trials and challenges are because I am somehow inherently not trying hard enough, even upon personal, physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion. This unappreciated reminder that I am imperfect slaps me in the face every waking moment, so I am pained at Holland’s words. But. When I ignore the balderdash and read the rhetoric-free sentences, I am healed:
that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it.
It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.
The first reminds me that sometimes those fun random happiness moments and things that surprise me. You are never beneath the light of Christ. Never. No matter how tired, inactive, unbelieving, “sinful”, imperfect, etc. you are. No one is EVER beneath the light of Christ. No one.
This brought me back to a brilliant Gospel Doctrine lesson I had many years ago in a ward in Boulder City, Nevada that I was visiting for a summer. I loved the Gospel Doctrine teacher; his lessons were academic, philosophical and perhaps unorthodox. Right up my alley. He described his first “real” prayer in a lesson by saying he was adamantly disinterested in the church, but felt naggingly impressed to read the Book of Mormon. He refused to read it, refused to pray, refused to acknowledge God. It came to a point where he felt harassed by the spirit, so he finally looked to heaven and, shaking his fist, said directly to God, “Alright! I will read your damn book!”
That was his self-defined prayer, and the spirit of that class absolutely sustained this fact. There was no formality, no opening, no closing. But he spoke to God, and God, in His thrill of being merciful, heard this prayer. Just as God hears all prayers, no matter who utters them, and in what manner they are uttered. No matter who we are, no matter how Mormon we are or are not, no matter how orthodox our prayers, lives, or appearances are: “whatsoever is right I will give you.” (Matthew 20:4).
So that is the visiting teaching message that I took from conference, via Holland. We don’t have to be perfect. Our Heavenly Parents God love us, and will still answer our prayers. Because none of us are ever beneath the infinite light of Christ. I really needed to hear that. Perfection is for the birds. God delights in, and hears ALL prayers, and the Atonement will heal you. No matter who you are.
“The Atonement is infinite. The ocean is endless; the waves, constant. Eventually, every hole, every gorge will disappear without a trace, no matter how ravaged the landscape, through the atonement of Jesus Christ.” - Sally B. Palmer, Clothed with Charity: Talks from the 1996 Women’s Conference, BYU Press, 1997, p 122-123.
(If you are looking for a further reminder of God’s love, I strongly recommend this podcast speech by Elder Patrick Kearon)
What are some “stock” Conference Visiting Teaching messages that you have been told?
Which conference talks appealed to you to share with the women you visit teach?
What messages from conference do you wish your visiting teacher would share with you?