Relief Society General Broadcast: Thomas S. Monson

Posted by on September 29, 2013 in faith, Mormon women, Relief Society, women | 15 comments

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.

Stress freeHe 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?

 

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15 Comments

  1. Here’s what I took away from your post –

    Thank you for such a charitable review of President Monson’s talk. Thank you for prayerfully looking for God’s Word. You helped me to feel the Holy Ghost as I thought about President Monson, the Relief Society, and the worth of every soul. Reading your post was a spiritual experience for me.

    • What a lovely thing to say. Thanks for taking time to comment. Happy Sunday, sister.

    • I was pretty mad to read that you were “disappointed” that The Prophet of God on earth today was going to be the speaker.
      I often hear about the exponent women and that is the times I’m disappointed.
      Have you ever questioned the negative effect this group has had in the lives of many women. when are you going to stop to give counsel to God? or his Servants?

      • Lia-When I wrote that I was disappointed, I wondered if it would be offensive to someone. My love and respect for the office of President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deep and broad and true. My feelings about the individuals who have held that office vary. Just as you might have a bishop whom you connect with better than another bishop (or relief society president, or young women’s leader), I have those feelings about our prophets. In my post I clarified that I had not really appreciated his speaking style in years past. But, surely as you read my post, you saw my profound appreciation for the message he shared. You saw my love for the truths he spoke and for the Lord who serves and saves us all. Please soften your heart toward me and others here.

        And consider that my gratitude for my role in God’s kingdom as a woman may be as pure and noble as is yours. [This is a response to the LDSmag.com article you linked.]

    • Just another thing about this group that have made me sad. here is the link
      http://ldsmag.com/article/1/13341#.UkxvJCxECgA.facebook
      do you see what is wrong ?

  2. Melody, thanks for this wonderful post! I especially love the richness you bring to the story by observing that bread is a symbol for so many things, including Christ’s atonement. We truly are Christ for each other when we listen to the Spirit and serve each other.

  3. (And following)

    • Edward, yes! I should add that sometimes these experiences recounted in church meetings come across as trite or contrived. But my own similar experiences have been profound in both their simplicity and impact on my life. As you say, Christ-love is the reason. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. The part of President Monson’s talk that I cherished the very most was his emphasis on God’s unconditional love for us, that you mentioned above. The words were so beautiful, about how God’s love for us is always there. ‘He loves us even when we don’t deserve it.” I believe that all persons Always deserve love, but understand that there are moments where it can be difficult for us to remember this. Being reminded that God’s love does not go away is powerful.

    • Rachel,
      Yes. Yes and yes.

  5. Yes and yes. The bread story was what struck me most from his talk and made me appreciate his talk. I love the points you bring up– that Tiffany’s suffering did not end, not was she miraculously cured– it was a moment, a small thing, for her to know that she was not abandoned by God. We all need that reminder at different times, very much so. Another point that I appreciated is that, from memory, Tiffany mentioned this desire for home-made bread to a friend. This friend did NOT drop everything, run home and work her butt off to bake a loaf of fresh bread. Because, sometimes I think that I am *supposed* to do it all, and to know that the job of her friend was only to be a witness to the miracle, and not to force the miracle, to me, makes me feel like it is okay if sometimes I really don’t have the time/money/energy to be the prefect friend/visitingteacher/churchmember. It also reminds me to follow those small prompts, to be the bread-giver, for sure. But I don’t have to be that person every time.

    Phew.

    • I love this, Spunky.

  6. Although I also loved the bread story, I was wondering what folks here thought about his comment that during their mission presidency, his wife *presided* over women.

    He chose to use the p-word, but there is much question on this blog about whether women ever preside, and what the role of upchain women are. Anyone have thoughts?

  7. President Monson’s talks can be so hard to distill. Unlike a Holland or an Eyring who usually has a thesis and all the material is refers back to it, our prophet is a story teller who moves from tale to tale, message to message. I find I get much more out of listening to him where the spirit can guide me, than I ever do reading the talks after. So what I really enjoyed here is you were able to pull out the thesis, the thread that wove throughout his talk but was below the surface. I’m mixing metaphors. My point is I loved your thoughtful review. You pulled out the best stuff. But even more I love that the editor in you could SEE what I couldn’t hear.

    • Thank you, Heather.

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