The last year has sure been different from any year to date. The challenges of wearing a mask, keeping physically distant, sanitizing hands, and virtual meetings have become very familiar. As I was recently walking through a grocery store with my wife, Karri, I laughed to myself. If we had walked through that same store two years ago looking as we did recently, we would have likely been apprehended as we may have looked like we were up to no good.
Trusting in Christ
Our youngest daughter is currently a Young Single Adult (YSA) living away from home. She has commented to us a few times that it is a challenge to be a YSA when you are not supposed to be congregating outside of your home. Limited interaction with others, including those in her ward, have made her YSA experience much different than the YSA experiences Karri and I had in our younger years. Yet, she and others seem to still be able to adapt.
Miraculously, missionaries put their trust in the Lord, submit their papers, and continue to be called. They serve with great faith. It has been refreshing to see people returning to church meetings, as able based on local/provincial requirements. One of the things that we have all learned is how to adapt and be flexible. No matter what the requirements are currently, if we wait one or two months they likely will have changed. Amidst the constant change, we all look for consistency. Consistency brings peace and assurance. It helps us feel calm, and it brings a steadiness to our lives. This consistency is something we have all felt in the past as we have attended sacrament. No matter where we attend sacrament, the Spirit is the same. It is reassuring.
Recently, it has brought me great joy to see many units start to stream their sacrament meetings. Some have even initiated online quorum, class, or Relief Society meetings. These meetings have allowed many to feel connected to each other and to the Savior's teachings from the comfort of their own homes. We long to be able to gather together and to feel association together. This sense of connection bonds our hearts together. While it is unnatural for us to not shake hands, give hugs, smile with more than our eyes, or invite each other into our homes, we have learned how to adapt.
In the Book of Mormon, the people of Alma were forbidden for a time from praying vocally. So, they prayed silently in their hearts. They prayed for relief, and the Lord did hear their prayers. In Mosiah 24:12-13 we read, “And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.”
Elder Dale G. Renlund spoke about turning to the Lord in the April 2020 general conference when he said, “When we remember the greatness of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and what They have done for us, we will not take Them for granted” (“Consider the Goodness and Greatness of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2020, 43).
Finding Ways to #GiveThanks and Look Forward to God’s Plan
I was recently visiting a ward, and I heard the bishop bear his testimony about the gratitude he felt towards Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for the COVID-19 pandemic and the things that he had learned from this experience, such as the remarkable ability to be part of a ward council meeting from his hotel room in a distant city.
He reminded me of Nephi as he spoke about the Lord: “And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness … [we were blessed]. And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:2-3). I find it refreshing to be reminded that the Lord is in control.
None of our current situation is a surprise to the Lord. This is part of the plan. His plan. When Nephi and other ancient prophets saw our day and the unfolding of the world up to Christ’s Second Coming, the COVID-19 pandemic is part of what they would have seen. While we have no idea how much longer this pandemic will afflict us, we can be certain that the Lord will “nourish [us] and strengthen [us], and provide means whereby [we] can accomplish the thing which he has commanded [us]” (1 Nephi 17:3). Likewise, in 2 Nephi 26:24 we learn that “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world.” All of our experiences through COVID-19 will benefit us.
Learning to Face New Challenges
Karri and I had a chance to virtually watch our granddaughter learn how to crawl this past week. She was stuck as she was on her hands and knees and wanted something that was just out of her reach. She could lay on the ground and roll in a circle, but she could not reach the object just ahead of herself. After her futile attempts, she learned to lift her hand and then put it down in front of her. She had discovered a new method of doing things! She now can get around much better. Her ability has grown. Her confidence has increased. We will continue to cheer her on.
We all have individual challenges that the Lord has given to us. These challenges will help us learn new methods and will move us in the direction that the Lord is trying to send us. Perhaps in the direction to things or to receive blessings that are figuratively currently out of our reach. Our individual experiences will help us grow; our confidence can increase, and we will wax strong in His love and through His grace. Just as we cheer on our sweet granddaughter, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us that heaven does the same for us when he said: “Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever” (“Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You,” Ensign, May 2016).
Some of your challenges are very difficult. More than I could bear. Likewise, there are others around you whose challenges are extremely difficult. Perhaps they are more than you could bear. Look outwardly and see those whom you could help. Ironically, it will help you. Although you are not currently able to associate together to the extent you would like to, please continue to be creative and reach out to help others around you, and if needed, seek help from others as well. Find “another way” (Alma 8:18) to associate together and to minister to each other. “If you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:8).
I bear witness that the Lord is helping to prepare the world for His Second Coming. I don’t understand all things, but I believe there is a plan. While the details and timing will be a wonderful, welcome surprise to us, we can take comfort in knowing that it will not be a surprise at all to our loving Heavenly Father.