At October 2021 general conference, Sister Camille N. Johnson, the Primary General President, posed this question, “Will you invite Him to be the author and finisher of your story?” (“Invite Christ to Author Your Story,” Ensign, Nov. 2021). Her question reminded me of a temple recommend interview with a counsellor in a stake presidency who asked me, “How do you feel being a single person at your age?” He was sincere in his desire to understand my perspective.
Many years have passed since that interview, and I have often reflected on his desire to understand. I have asked myself “How did I get here?” The answer is both simple and complicated. My arrival at this place of being single in my sixth decade, childless, and facing many physical challenges is the culmination of many decisions along life’s path. Many decisions seemed minor, but some were very significant. The short answer is I did my best to seek the Lord's counsel and to follow it.
Co-creating through Personal Revelation
When I reflect on the life of Joseph Smith, I quickly recognize the truth of the statement President Russell M. Nelson shared in his book Daily Joy: “Joseph Smith became great because of revelation. Without revelation, Joseph would merely have been just Joseph. Gratefully, we, too, can become greater than we otherwise would be—by receiving and responding to personal revelation” (Daily Joy , 304).
My mission is one example of the effects of revelation in my life. I had no plans to serve a mission. I thought it was something beyond my capabilities. The Lord inspired my bishop to ask me to serve a mission. This proved to be a pivotal moment in my life as I chose to serve the Lord.
We can be co-creators of our lives with God by the guidance we seek from Him and the choices we make. We can choose to act, or we can simply react to our experiences in the world. It is empowering to think I am a co-creator with my Heavenly Father through the guidance received via the Holy Ghost. I am not a puppet on a string moved here and there. My agency provides endless opportunities to choose. I choose to believe I am a co-creator.
In many respects my journey has been easier because I could not see the future. One step at a time, one decision at a time was sufficient. The answer is found in this scripture: “Blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:14).
Dealing with Adversity
I was in my thirties when I became very ill. I moved back to my parents’ home. Life looked very bleak. My father desired something positive for me, so he suggested I try doing some family history. My father’s suggestion and the guidance of the Lord led me to 25 years of family history research on behalf of my ancestors and the ancestors of many others. My illness made it all possible.
Adversity is more than facing difficulties. Perhaps, it is also the things that don’t happen—the unfulfilled expectations. It can include goals you desire but never receive or experience. It may also involve circumstances you didn’t want to happen: an unfaithful spouse, illness, or loss of employment.
There are many things that remain unfulfilled in my life. The place I live now is because Heavenly Father made it impossible for me to live elsewhere. I have learned that adversity often requires me to redefine my life like Esther, Ruth and Naomi, and Adam and Eve (see Genesis 1-5).
The present coronavirus pandemic that is enveloping the world has brought to my mind the challenges faced by the pioneers on their journey to the Salt Lake Valley. I have pondered how mothers gave birth at sea or in a wagon on the trail. I have wondered how they managed to care for their newborns in such adverse circumstances. As my honorary grandson was born during the same week as the COVID-19 restrictions were first applied in our area, I have been able to gain a glimpse of the pioneer mothers’ experiences. Pioneer parents faithfully carried on in the face of whatever adversity occurred, and the Lord gave compensatory blessings.
As I face challenges of constantly changing restrictions, I have found myself reflecting on those Saints who struggled to remain faithful as they lived with the restrictions imposed in countries behind the Iron Curtain following World War II. Marvelous miracles occurred from 1975-1985 in preparing for and dedicating the Freiberg Germany Temple (see Thomas S. Monson, “Those Who Love Jesus,” Ensign, Nov. 1985). My appreciation for the enduring faith of those isolated Latter-day Saints in eastern Europe has grown immensely this year.
Because of COVID-19, I have also been spared trips to Calgary or Lethbridge to sit and wait for doctors. I have been able to wait at home for telephone calls. The results of these phone calls have been divided: some good and some not helpful. My suffering, though, has not been increased due to reduced travel. Finding some answers and relief have been great personal blessings!
The adversity we experience can change us from ordinary to extraordinary. We can progress from the natural man to celestial quality. It is the adversity in our lives that is the catalyst for the change of heart we seek. Adversity alone does not bring growth. It is adversity plus effort to overcome, to heal, and to apply lessons learned from the experiences that can make the difference.
Draw Closer to Christ
As Sister Johnson said, “Let the adversity and affliction that are part of every good story be a means by which you draw closer to, and become more like, Jesus Christ” (Camille N. Johnson, “Invite Christ to Author”). I now find myself with many quiet hours where I can study and ponder about my Saviour Jesus Christ and His gospel: priceless time invested and immeasurable opportunities.
As I face great and small challenges, I continue to seek the Lord’s guidance and help. Jesus Christ has been there all along and continues to be with me through each day. I know not what the future will bring, but the blessings have outweighed the challenges thus far. I pray it will continue to be so. I pray for strength to continue enduring and striving to do the Lord’s will. I seek to understand and trust in His plan for me that one day I might have the desires of my heart. I aspire to “Let [my] narrative be one of faith, following [my] Exemplar, the Savior Jesus Christ” (Camille N. Johnson, “Invite Christ to Author”).