Yesterday I spoke in church, and I thought I would share my talk with all of you.
Good morning brothers and sisters.
My topic today is about over coming our Challenges.
First of all, I want to say that in no way do I feel like my life is harder than anyone else, or that I am an expert on overcoming challenges. Every time I have spoken or taught a lesson I believe it was more for my own good than anyone else. But I would like to speak about how my particular challenge has affected me. And some of the things I have learned as I continue on this Journey.
The past 6 years of my life have been full of overwhelming uncertainty, confusion, frustration, and a lot of times, sadness. Last year, after visiting multiple doctors and specialists, and spending almost a year doing assessments, my son was finally diagnosed with Autism and Sensory processing Disorder.
The past year has been especially hard for me. For those of you who have gone through any type of diagnosis you understand how emotional that experience can be. I tried to be really strong and just focus on what we needed to do; however, by Christmas I was not doing very well, and one night while talking to Jason I told him that I just didn’t like the person I was becoming. That I look back at the person I used to be and I felt like I had lost so much of myself. I was really struggling to see the good in my life, and I felt like my spirit had been broken and that the light I used to have in me, was going out.
I am blessed with the gift of Faith. That is something that has always come very easy to me. So it wasn’t hard for me to know that in my darkest hour I needed to pray. I prayed fervently for months, I prayed for guidance and for comfort. And then one Sunday in Relief society I read this quote by President Uchdorft.
“[God] loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, he desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.”
I knew in that moment that God had a plan for me. And what I needed to do was to be worthy of it.
That day, I began what I call my spiritual transformation. This change has allowed me to feel the joy that comes with the many blessings that I receive everyday, it has helped me to better understand why I am given these challenges, and it has helped to bring that much needed light back into my life.
After that, I started being bombarded with lessons and articles about the trials we face in this life. I knew that God was speaking to me through others and that he wanted to comfort me, and remind me how important I am to him.
President Thomas S. Monson shared this “We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were – better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before. This should be our purpose – to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life.”
My challenges have taught me so much. One of the main things I have learned is the power that love has. I would like to share a story that happened a few years ago.
My son was about 4 and I would spend multiple hours, everyday fighting with him, He was out of control, and I tried everything to calm him down. He would kick and scream and say how much he hated me. We couldn’t leave the house without him having a complete meltdown and he was constantly running away and causing dangerous situations at home. I was in tears every day, and was at a loss for what I should do. After an exceptionally hard day Jason suggested that I pray about it. Not for it to be over or taken away but for help to know how to handle it better. So I knelt and prayed. The answer that came to me was “Love him, just LOVE him!” Yes, I know he is my son so of course I love him, but the next day I found out exactly what that meant. He was having a really bad meltdown and I finally placed him in his room and closed the door. As I sat outside his room crying the thought came again “LOVE him, just LOVE him!” I opened the door and very calmly said “Jacob I love you very much. Do you need a hug?” And I was shocked by his reaction. It was amazing to watch his heart soften as he allowed me to hug him. Now this is not always the reaction I get anymore but I have learned over the past few years the importance of Love during his meltdowns.
I started using Love and compassion instead of anger and contention. Meaning, when he would start getting overwhelmed and therefore start hitting or yelling I would respond with hugs and an outpouring of love. When he has a meltdown I first remove him to a safe, quiet place, and then let him release his anger. I usually remain in his room so I can make sure he doesn’t hurt himself, but I do not look at him, and respond to his ranting with only the occasional “I Love you”.
This method, of just love him, although it seems simple, is not always easy. Sometimes it takes everything in me to not start screaming on the top of my lungs. I have been punched in the face, had countless things thrown at me, but I have learned the positive impact that Love has on those situation.
This situation also taught me the importance of Prayer. I was taught since I was little to pray but had never had that overwhelming experience that changed my life; however, as I sat outside my son’s door that day, I felt my Heavenly Father answer my prayer. I was not trained in early childhood education, or taught how to care for someone with special needs, but through prayer I have been given guidance in how to care for my son. Every morning I kneel down and ask my heavenly father to help me and so many times I have felt the Holy Ghost with me, telling me what to do, and how to help him.
The knowledge of Love and Prayer has in turn given me insight into our Heavenly Fathers love for us.
President Monson said: “Gods love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there. Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart.”
Some days become too much and sometimes I give in to frustration and anger but I know that I need to remind myself that God will always love me, no matter what, so I need to provide the same opportunity of Love for my children.
President Monson goes on to say:
“Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.
I believe in miracles. No my Challenge has not been taken away, I believe it will be with me for the remainder of this life. But over the past few years I have seen miracles happen in my life. I have seen the lord provide things that seemed impossible. We have had blessings in our life that has made this burden lighter and has allowed us to find joy in our journey. And yes some days I need to, as he say’s “drink it and be strong. Trusting in happier days ahead”.
Lately I was reminded of a time when I was in Primary. My brother who had just returned from his mission was helping me prepare a talk. I don’t remember the topic but I do remember what he told me. He said that every topic in the gospel can be brought back to the Plan of Salvation. I don’t know if it was sibling rivalry, or what but for years I tried to prove him wrong. But in the past few months I have been focusing my study on the plan of salvation and what it means to me in my life. And I have yet to find a Gospel subject that doesn’t come back to this essential teaching.
The Plan of salvation give’s us answers to life’s basic questions, like: “where did I come from?” “What’s my purpose here?” and “what happens when I die?” Knowing the answers to these questions have given me peace in my life, and strength to endure my trials. I believe that I chose to come here fully aware of what I would go through. In heaven I knew I would be pushed to my limit but I had faith in myself, that I would overcome my challenges and be made better for it.
There are 3 crucial parts to the plan of Salvation. The Creation, The Fall, & The Atonement.
Elder Russell M Nelson describes the creation:
The Creation culminated with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were created in the image of God, with bodies of flesh and bone. but not yet mortal, they could not grow old and die. “And they would have had no children” nor experienced the trials of life. (forgive me for using children and trials in the same sentence) The creation of Adam and Eve was a paradisiacal creation, one that required a significant change before they could fulfill the commandment to have children and thus provide earthly bodies for premortal spirit sons and daughters of God.
Next came the Fall. Scripture teaches that “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” Elder Russell M. Nelson tells us that “the Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death. Adam and Eve, as mortal beings, were instructed to “worship the Lord their God, and … offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.” They were further instructed that “the life of the flesh is in the blood: … for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” Probation, procreation, physical death was essential to—God’s “great plan of happiness.”
But mortal life, glorious as it is, was never the ultimate objective of God’s plan. Life and death here on planet Earth were merely means to an end, [but] not the end for which we were sent.”
Which brings us to the Atonement. Paul said, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The Atonement of Jesus Christ became the immortal creation. He volunteered to answer the ends of a law previously transgressed. And by the shedding of His blood, His and our physical bodies could become perfected. They could again function without blood, just as Adam’s and Eve’s did in their paradisiacal form. Paul taught that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; … this mortal must put on immortality.”
Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Through his atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled his father’s purpose and made it possible for each of us to enjoy immortality and eternal life.
Before the world was organized, our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Redeemer. The Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ made it possible for us to overcome the effects of the fall.
Preach my Gospel says: “To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He alone was able to do that. He was called and prepared in pre-earth life. He was the literal Son of God in the flesh. He was sinless and completely obedient to his father. Though tempted, he never gave into temptation. When the father asked his beloved son to pay the price of the world’s sins, Jesus was prepared and willing. The atonement included his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and his suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with his resurrection. Though he suffered beyond comprehension, so much so that he bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from him. He submitted to the father’s will in a supreme expression of love for his father and for us. The triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by his suffering and over physical death by his resurrection is called the atonement.”
As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with Joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
The plan of salvation and the gospel of the resurrection and exaltation, has given me great comfort through my challenges. There are days, that I get that feeling that life isn’t fair. And some days I resent the challenges I was given. But as I remember that, my family can receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, and that we can live forever in God’s presence, be perfected, and receive a fullness of joy, I am reminded of the second verse of the hymn Come Come Ye Saints which states:
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
How can I expect to receive all those wonderful blessings for eternity if I am not willing to earn them now.
There are days when I get to see a glimpse of my son’s precious spirit, unaltered by his mental and emotional challenges and I am filled with joy knowing that we will be together, in a perfected state, where I will really get to know him.
In General Conference Elder Jeffrey R Holland gave a talk “like a broken vessel” He says this:
“In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living and chose to live in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan, is that a savior was promised, a redeemer, who through our faith in him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the father who sent him and the son who came. IT is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.
I am so grateful for the knowledge this gospel has given me. I am grateful for God’s love for me and for my family. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to go through this life and to gain experience and to prepare for eternity. And I am grateful for my challenges because I know that if I allow my trials to change me for the better I will become the person that He wants and needs me to be.
I know this gospel is true. I know my Heavenly father loves me and that he is there for me. I know that as I draw closer to him through my trials the light of Christ will enter my life and I will be made better than I was. And I know that this life was given to me because I am strong enough to live it.
And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.