DeAnna Murphy is a former Stake Relief Society President of the Minneapolis Minnesota Stake. She is also the CEO of People Acuity, and is an author, speaker, international leadership development consultant, and executive coach. She has shared her expertise and inspiration in several Leading Saints articles and podcasts.
I studied the woman across from me carefully. I could see confusion in her face, pain in her eyes, and frustration in her heart. Though we had prayed together at the beginning of our conversation, I found myself pleading with heaven for insight and help, as I knew that relying on my own power would not be enough to help her find peace.
I was still a relatively new stake Relief Society president, finding my way, and sometimes feeling a tad overwhelmed when new tasks came my way for which I felt unprepared. This was definitely one of them! A bishop, worrying deeply about a very highly influential woman in his ward, who was well known publicly and throughout the stake, asked me if I would take the time to meet with this good sister. She was struggling with her testimony and had begun to seriously consider leaving the Church as the solution to her confusion.
She laid out for me her concerns and the questions with which she was wrestling, and then she turned to me almost defensively to await my answers. I knew that I didn’t have them and that the real power would come if she could merely feel the Spirit again and reconnect with what she knew was true. In that moment, rather than try to answer her questions, I asked a few of my own.
“Before we jump in,” I said to her. “I’d love to ask you a question or two. Do you mind?” She shook her head and signaled me to continue. “I wonder if you’d be willing to share with me a time when you felt the Savior’s love. When was it? What was happening? What was it like?”
The experience of watching her find her answer was like watching dark storm clouds part to make way for glorious sunlight. As she began to remember, I watched the hardness and anger in her face soften as her focus shifted from her present confusion to past memories of peace and comfort. Before I knew it, the story of her conversion began to spill out.
She told me how she met the missionaries, how she struggled for answers then as she prayed, studied, and listened to them teach. She shared the story of a memorable walk across the temple grounds during that time, and a plea to heaven to know the truth. With tears in her eyes, she told me how the Savior answered her, and she described the Spirit of joy and love she felt when He did.
The more she talked, the more she remembered, and the more peace flooded her heart. Her eyes began to shine with a spirit of conviction and hope and she spontaneously shared her testimony with me. We were wrapped up in love, the Spirit weaving our hearts together in a feeling of unity, strength, and tenderness. When she finished speaking, I felt impressed to ask her, “What do you see now? What feels important, given what you have shared?”
She was quiet for a long time. Her head was bowed in deep thought. When she finally looked up, her eyes were moist, and the Spirit rested in her countenance. She told me that though her questions were not yet answered, she had found her most important answer, to wait on the Lord and to trust what she didn’t understand to Him. She told me she felt peace, and she reaffirmed her love for the Savior and desire to follow him, her conviction about the power of prayer, of the Holy Ghost and the answers that come when you are patient.
I have thought of that moment many times since when I have found myself in a position where I am expected to counsel someone, to answer difficult questions, to give advice or direction. I’ve learned that there is nothing I can say that would be more powerful than the conviction that comes from the Holy Ghost, particularly as He testifies that what has been spoken is true. Better yet if the other person is the one who speaks the truth and feels the power of it all over again!
Elder Holland was right when he said that remembrance has remarkable power. In fact, he taught us that “remember” is the most important word in the English language. Indeed, remembrance produces amazing blessings like those promised by King Benjamin: that we would always rejoice, that we would be filled with the love of God and that we’d grow to know more of what is true and right (Mosiah 4:11, 12). I certainly witnessed all of these blessings come to pass in a very memorable conversation – one where God did the counseling, and I just asked the questions for Him with love and nonjudgment.
When all is said done, maybe the greatest gift we can give anyone is the chance to remember what is already known to be true and when that knowledge seemed sure. It’s so simple to ask, “When did you feel the Savior’s love and what was it like?”