Forgive me for sharing a personal challenge, but my mother passed away recently. My father succumbed to cancer 11 years ago now, and it is still hard for me to imagine it’s been that long. You might think to have this happen right before Christmas would impact the holiday cheer. It did, but not in the way you are thinking.
Dad has probably been my best friend throughout my life. I didn’t think I would last a year without his support and love, but somehow it has been over a decade now. I can’t believe that. My mother suffered with arthritis and other various ailments. For all these years after his passing, she held the family together. I know she felt the least capable. My dad left big shoes to fill, but she did a remarkable job. Her absence too we are only beginning to keenly feel. But that is why Christmastime is so great: because we are able to celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ on both sides of the veil. I know I will be with my father and mother again, and that helps and comforts me today and every day. But it doesn’t stop there. We have hope in the welfare of our families, our righteous efforts, personal endeavors, and even in the midst of the paralyzing obstacles that we face.
How do I know this? How can anyone discern this? Knowledge of these truths comes in the same way as many other things: they hold up to our tests. I have put the gospel of Jesus Christ to the test throughout my life. Hopefully, if you know me and my family, you quickly see the influence for good the gospel has had in our lives. And not just us either, but thousands—perhaps millions—similarly testify of this truth. But what if you don’t know me, my family, or the army of others that bear witness of these truths? How can I share these sentiments with you in a way you can easily understand, and perhaps recognize in your own life? I have a sort of analogy—a metaphor, really—that will enable me to express this feeling and hopefully help you understand my point. Here goes…
Around this time of year, we are blessed to hear musicians and choirs perform many beautiful songs. Sometimes they walk up and down the neighborhoods caroling. At other times, they gather at locations like cathedrals, theaters, or concert halls. We have all heard them. Because we are blessed with digital technology today, we can enjoy these productions almost anywhere, anytime. I am not a particularly adept singer, but on occasion I join the choir, especially around Christmas. Gratefully, others around me help carry the part. That’s okay. It improves the outcome and is actually a whole lot more enjoyable for all involved. Additionally, we have a piano player and an organist, a conductor, and talented artists and writers whose music we follow. They have shown the way and provided the proper pitch so that I can sing on key. And if I get confused a little or fall behind, there are others in the choir singing beside me that, for the time, carry my part so that the melody is pleasant and continues without interruption. I loved the performances today (on the day I’m writing this). They were beautiful and comforting.
Yet we all notice when the keys are not harmonious or on pitch, because it just doesn’t sound right. Millions of us listen to the radio or other music sources every day for comfort, entertainment, or just enjoyment. If the musicians failed to follow the melody, skipped measures, and interrupted the beat, harmony would fail and the tunes we love would instead become disagreeable. Sour notes and discord would result. In turn, this would ruin the song and sting our ears. We listen to those musicians whose performances remain on key and are beautiful to hear and enjoy. That makes sense to all of us.
Similarly, we enjoy harmony and peace in our lives as we follow the music of the Savior Jesus Christ. Then, even in the midst of hardship and difficulty, we remember Him. When we remember Him all through the week, when life is good and in the midst of difficulties when hardship is everywhere, then we are not alone and our lives are rich in peace. Our covenant is to remember Him always. Actually, the covenant to remember Him really blesses us, just as do the other principles of the gospel. Think about it: the commandment to love God benefits us, not Him. I have another example to illustrate this!
You may know a lot about NASCAR racing, or maybe you know little or nothing, but even a lay person understands the need for refueling during the heat. It may seem like making a pit stop work – carried out by anywhere from two to twenty mechanics (also called a “pit crew”) depending on the series regulations – is the wrong move. Though the race continues in earnest, while the driver often waits in the vehicle, the stop is necessary for refueling, tire rotation, and other required maintenance. A driver could decide to avoid the delay that is absolutely necessary and the neglect would have severe consequences. Running out of gas, a blowout, or some problem even more severe would inevitably result.
Likewise, keeping the commandments may initially appear difficult or “less fun” to the beholder, but decades of examples show otherwise. Turns out that following the direction we have been given produces much better results now and in the future.
Difficulties today are not all in distant lands or just affecting diverse people around the earth. Challenges face us right here at home. Protecting our families in these tumultuous times is a full-time job. We can rely on the Savior and benefit from the strength and steadiness of our peers. Much of the solace I receive at challenging times comes from people just like you. I was visiting with my daughter recently, reminiscing about an experience we had a few years ago.
As we chatted about the choice experiences of our lives and the role others play, I reminded her about the time she was attending USU in Logan, Utah. We arranged to meet half way, and I said that I would pick her up in Salt Lake City. It was the Christmas season then, and she was coming home to spend the holidays with the family. We had agreed to meet at JB’s Big Boy. I don’t recall the circumstances exactly, but I remember I must have been a few minutes late. When I pulled up and stopped by the intersection near the restaurant, she didn’t notice me because she had her backpack on and was resting her head on her knees. I was getting ready to honk the horn or park the car off the main road and get out, when all of a sudden a woman exiting the restaurant reached into her purse and handed my daughter a bill. She assumed my daughter was homeless and offered this kindness in an effort to help. My daughter was so taken back by the gesture and surprised that she didn’t know what to say.
As quickly as this all happened, the woman was gone. Rather than laugh at the unexpected situation in which we found ourselves, I felt a great debt of gratitude and appreciation for this unknown woman because of her kindness. Likely assuming my daughter was homeless, she felt she could do something to alleviate her pain. The small gesture has stayed with me all these years later because as a parent, there are times I am unable to assist my children, so witnessing someone come to my daughter’s aid in a time of need (even one that was mistakenly perceived) was a surreal experience I will never forget.
That occasion I got to see, but many times we do not. I still admire the kindness of this woman whom I will probably never have the chance to thank in person in this life. She probably doesn’t even remember the incident.
Here is another incident I love: the same daughter was returning from a summer job in Alaska. She misplaced her purse on the train, and all the way home from Alaska, had no money for refreshment or anything to eat. Another family noticed her predicament and took her under their wing. I don’t really remember the circumstances exactly (obviously I wasn’t there), but I remember that because she didn’t have any money for food, they shared what they had and made the trip much more pleasant. I appreciate these folks all these many years later. I encouraged my daughter to write that experience down so she can reflect on it with gratitude and share the story with others—especially her children.
People right here in our very own neighborhoods and families need help. We can often provide for that need if we make an effort to befriend them and treat them the way we would like to be treated.
“Duty is ours, results are God’s” is one way that I heard this sentiment expressed.
John Quincy Adams was the 6th president of the United States and an amazing man. Because he felt compelled to end slavery, he continued his political career long after he was president. The Benham brothers explained, “While in Congress, [John Quincy Adams] lost many political battles, but when asked why he refused to give up, he simply said, ‘Duty is mine, results are God’s.'”
So your mission wasn’t as successful as you hoped. The recent service project sort of fell flat or didn’t turn out the way you had planned. Perhaps a friendship went sour despite your best efforts or the job interview did not go so well. Seemingly unsuccessful or unappreciated efforts are soothed when we remember the results are God’s.
Very possibly the small gestures you extend have benefits that you will never know. Yet someone will long remember your kindness and admire your ministering. I read recently a statement posted on Facebook referring to a “very faithful home teacher (recently promoted to ministering brother),” and that is just the way we should think of it. Ministering to others is perhaps our most important calling.
As we keep the commandments, we prosper—many times financially and emotionally. I have seen for myself the fulfillment of this promise.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren. (1 Nephi 2:20-22)
Sometimes we have to face obstacles in faith. Gratefully, we have many people in our families, church, and friends that provide protection for our day until that time when it is easy to be happy and hopeful.
We all look forward to that day; meanwhile we hope for healing, do the best we can, and endure.
“Heavenly Father really does just love us for our intrinsic value as his children. He does not love us because of our strengths or weaknesses or because of anything we do or anything we don’t do. And it is not anything we deserve and it’s not something that we earn. It just is, and is always going to be there.”
The Savior can heal you and me and give us hope. There is absolutely hope.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.