While serving as a Relief Society president in Texas, there were many opportunities to visit members who did not come to church consistently. One day I was pondering on how to best minister to the sister I was going to visit and a very clear and profound insight came like a bolt of lightning: “Start at the beginning. Ask her about what experience she first had that began the awakening of a testimony for her.”
Later that day, as we sat in her living room, I felt her love of the restored gospel as she shared how her testimony began to sprout and grow in her youth. Thus, we had a beginning point for our visit that day.
The Spirit Always Testifies of Truth
When we start at the “beginning” of someones spiritual journey, the Spirit that testified to them, in the beginning, will testify again and again as they recall and share their experience. Then there is someplace to go as we strive to help that person get back on the journey they had left behind.
Thus, there is a starting point for every member of the Church to begin the rekindling of their testimony when we strive to learn about their beginnings. This applies to less active members, active members who are struggling with a faith transition and also non-members who are considering a faith transition.
In my opinion, a faith transition can be a good thing if we stay connected to the things we know to be true as we are questioning things that may be unsettling to our faith. As we strive to evolve to a different understanding of the restored gospel and remember that there are still things unfolding in that restoration, then the faith transition can deepen our love and commitment to Father and His plan of happiness.
A Broken Bow Is Also a Beginning of a New Bow
I think there is much to be learned from the story of Nephi’s broken bow in rekindling our testimony or making a faith transition:
And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food. I Nephi 16:18
If we view things about the Church as black and white and everything must fit into a specific box, then there may be times when things don’t fit into that rigid, steel box.
Our faith, or bow, that we have used for years could one day be faced with a trial or question that seems too big for our level of faith at that time. What we had always relied upon isn’t enough, so our faith breaks. This break could be caused by learning some historical fact that isn’t in line with the knowledge we previously had regarding the Church.
It could break because of a new Church policy that affects our family very personally (The LBGT policy of November 2015 that then changed again in 2019 certainly gave our family pause for thought), or the many changes we’ve seen over the past few years. If we are stuck in a black and white view of everything, then change can challenge the belief system that had been working for us for so many years.
At those pivotal crossroads we have a choice, throw away our broken bow (faith) and be angry and complain, or we can do as Nephi did and build a new bow with whatever material we have available. This “material” is eternal truths we know for a surety. Truths such as knowing Father is there and He knows and loves me; feelings of the Holy Ghost that testify of truths; past feelings of our heavy loads literally being lifted as we have turned them over to our Savior.
Case in point, when I was studying the restored gospel with full-time missionaries, they showed me the movie, The First Vision. At the point when Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, the Spirit just flooded the room and I knew what I saw really did happen. Every time, EVERY time that I think of that day or share that experience with someone, the Spirit testifies again to me just like that first time in 1977. That is a truth I know and can hold on to as I may struggle or question other things. When the November 2015 policy came out, my heart was aching for our family and specifically for our gay son. It was a long day with my husband and Heavenly Father as we were searching for understanding. I fell back to the truth I knew: Joseph Smith was a prophet, President Monson IS a prophet so this policy must be from Father and I need to study and ponder more to understand why the policy has been given.
Inspiration and understanding came that day and was confirmed by the voice of Elder Christofferson the next day in an interview regarding the inspiration behind the change. Insights that resonated with us the day before were restated by Elder Christofferson:
“This is about family; this is about love and especially the love of the Savior and how He wants people to be helped and fed and lifted, and that’s the whole motivation that underlies our effort,”
This powerful experience was a stark reminder that when we struggle, we need to always go back to the beginning of what we know and move forward from there.
As we begin to use this new version of our faith we can find success and happiness in our journey. We need to remember that Father’s plan is eternal and some things just don’t have clear answers during our earthly experience. That’s why it’s called faith. We know God is there and we trust His plan, even if on the face of it it doesn’t make sense or resonate with our heart yet.
As we build a new bow of faith, we still need to turn to our Father, as Nephi did in verse 23, and humbly ask, “Whither shall I go?” He will always guide us through these challenges that transition and transform our soul.
The Role of Inspired Leaders is Critical
As leaders, we can have a very powerful impact on saints in our flock that Father has entrusted to us as part of our callings. Thus, every visit we make to someone’s home needs to be done as a result of Father sending us there. We need to know that we are on the Lord’s errand and we need to boldly testify to that member that Father sent us. We are there to minister to them but we need to know what is in their heart so that we can help.
There are 3 things we must do regularly if we are to we spiritually available for the Lord and His children:
- Study the scriptures regularly and look for answers to current concerns and questions as we study
- Attend the Temple regularly, seeking insights and new understanding about the endowment; sealings and initiatories
- Take time daily to ponder on where Father needs our hands that day
Revelatory Scripture Study
There are many ways to study the scriptures and receive revelation. The key is finding something that stretches us to grow then doing it consistently.
Although my scripture study has evolved throughout the years, for several years I studied the scriptures by reading through the same section 3 times. The first time was just to read the verses, the second time was to discover an eternal truth; the third time was to seek revelation on how I could apply that eternal truth to my life that day. I wrote step 2 and 3 in my scripture journal so that I could remember what Father had taught me that day. This method helped me to discover the power of feasting upon the scriptures and as it has evolved, it only gets better.
As a side note, we had a wise stake president once teach us the importance of writing down insights or inspiration that we receive during talks, lessons, or scripture study. He said it was critical to write those personal revelations down because Satan wanted us to forget them. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve referred back to my scripture journal to share an inspired thought with a friend or family member, or to remind me of what Father wanted me to do.
Can you see how revelatory scripture study can provide us with resources of things to share with those we visit and also prepare our hearts to hear Father’s promptings?
Temple Attendance That Stretches Our Souls
I have found through personal experience that there are many blessings awaiting us and our families by just the mere fact that we attended the temple. I know without a doubt that my family has been “protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary.” That alone keeps me attending very regularly. However, there is another reason I attend, I know that I can receive revelation that Father has for me that day if I attend seeking understanding of a specific question or concern. I know that when I go seeking I will always have a revelatory experience that will not only bless my life but the life of those Father places in my path.
Satans Great Distractions
I’m sure you have seen as I have, if you want something done, give it to the busiest person and they’ll make sure it happens. In our efforts to be actively engaged in a good cause, we often get engaged in too many good causes and aren’t available to do the work Father may have for us that day. If Satan can keep us too busy with “good causes”, then we won’t even be listening for, let alone acting upon, promptings from Father.
Thus, I would suggest that in our personal morning devotional we ponder on what our “good causes” are for that day and strive to discern what Father really needs us to do. Sometimes we may have to say to someone, “sorry, I can’t do that for you today”. Additionally, any long-term time commitment needs to be one we go into with a confirmation that this is going to be in line with Father’s long-term plan for us.
When we lived in Texas, I had been very actively engaged in many good causes but found that on more times than I’d like to admit, I had limited my availability to what Father may have needed of me some days. Thus, when we moved from Texas to Utah I was determined to not get sucked into every good cause that was going on in a 50-mile radius of my home. I have been amazed at the many opportunities I have been given by Father to provide small acts of service to my family, friends, and sisters in my ward simply because I was available to Him and listening to promptings during my morning devotional. (By the way, in my opinion, it’s okay to pause in our prayer if we feel prompted to text something specific to someone. I don’t think Father minds waiting for us when we are acting immediately on His prompting.)
We Are Called and Qualified
As we go on planned and unplanned visits to saints in our ward, we will be more prepared to help Father guide them back to their treasured faith experiences. Just as Esther was called to sacred duty, so are we called and qualified to help Father bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of the sheep in our fold “for such a time as this.”
Beth is the written content manager at Leading Saints. She is a convert of 41 years; served a mission in North Carolina; has been married for 31 years to her sweetheart, Bob Young; has 5 children and one grandchild. She raised her family in Texas for 25 years where she served in various capacities in her community. This service included 18 years in Texas PTA; assisting several non-profits and developing relationships for the Church with local City management organizations. She has served in a variety of ward, stake, and regional leadership positions. She loves writing and inspiring others to make changes to their physical, mental and spiritual health.