Hello! to family and friends at the end of a really discouraging week. It was really rough. I'm lucky to have a strong companion, supportive mission leaders, and a loving Heavenly Father.
Quote of the week--while grabbing a bite to eat at a members' house with the elders (the members took us to the Hopewell Rocks this morning):
Elder Roberts (quizzing us): "Hey, guess what this dessert is called!"
Sister Taylor (one of the members, from England): "They're butter tarts."
Elder Roberts: "You just gave it away!"
Elder Widdup: "Hmmm.... I think they're called.... butter tarts."
Elder Roberts: "Butter tarts are so good...." (points to a huge plate of cupcakes) "But I have a question, Sister Taylor, what are those called?"
Sister Taylor: "Those? They're... just cupcakes, dear."
He legitimately didn't know they were cupcakes. I couldn't stop laughing (like, seriously, for the rest of the time I broke into laughter every time I looked at the cupcakes). Maybe you had to be there....
Sam's* father won't let her be baptized anymore. We found that out a couple hours after dropping almost all of our investigators because they haven't been progressing. It was really difficult. And that was the cherry on top of a giant sundae full of exhaustion from being in my area so little over the course of the last 3 weeks, training all the sisters in the zone. Honestly, I'm completely exhausted and burnt out. It's amazing how much my testimony has grown of the enabling power of the Atonement. It's through times like this that I really feel prayers strengthen me. I'm feeling pretty darn week and tired right now, and if I didn't have the Atonement, or the divinity of my calling, or the prayers of so many people, I probably would have just buckled. It's very humbling to feel--almost tangibly--a power that's not my own carry me to do more than I can do. So basically we're in for a week of mostly knocking on doors again, and it's going to take extra focus not to lose faith, now that there's no way Sister Olson and I are able to baptize together this transfer like we wanted (they have to come to church a certain number of times before baptism) and now that our area is starting to feel the weight of us being out of it so frequently recently. Not much is going on despite lots of work, and it's hard. But if there's one thing I learned on my mission, I can't lower my expectations because of discouragement. Lowering my expectations weakens my faith.
On another note, I've been giving a lot of thought recently to a couple things that keep coming up and are very related: fathers and the priesthood. Yesterday was Father's Day, and Elder Widdup gave a talk on the priesthood. From what I hear from a member in the ward, there is a LOT of awful things going on in the media right now regarding the priesthood. Our Relief Society lesson was on the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which Sister Burton wrote an article on in the June Ensign. My little brother ordained my other little brother with the priesthood yesterday. And as I've been giving it so much thought the last couple days, here I go vomiting all my thoughts out about it right now:)
I remember when I was a little girl (5, I think), my family went camping with my cousins. From what my 5-year-old memory tells me, we were camping in the middle of tons of rock--not really any trees or anything living. Just lots and lots of rock. It was really hot.
I have a cousin I'm very close to who's about 6 months younger than me who was with us. One day, our dads climbed a smaller "mountain" right near our campsite, and when they got to the top, the two of us watched them and because the clouds behind them were moving so quickly, it looked like they, our dads, were actually moving with the mountain. We thought it was neat, so when they came down, they took us back up with them and from the top, we waved to our little sisters at the bottom so they could see the same thing: us moving on the mountain.
A little while later, my cousin and I decided to go do it again, this time without our dads. We'd seen them do it and wanted to be like them and decided to give it a shot. As we started, it was a little harder without our dads though, and my cousin was smart and turned around to go back down before we got very far. I wanted to get to the top so I could move with the mountain, so I kept going. In fact, I really kept going--I didn't stop for a really long time, and when I stopped to turn around and look at the campsite and show my family where I was, the site wasn't there anymore. It was gone. So I walked a little farther so I find the site. It was gone. I couldn't see them anywhere. I walked for a really long time and I got scared and anxious. I don't know how long I was lost up there for, but it was getting dark. I remember saying a prayer and some time later, my dad found me and carried me back down. In fact, we have a picture of us together that night from after we made it back to the camp site--I'm sitting on top of his shoulders and we have the same exact sober expression on our faces of worry and fatigue. It was a humbling experience that I've thought about a lot because of the heartbreaking attack the world has on dads and their divine roles right now.
I think it's pretty well established now that women and mothers are attacked in the media--we need to be skinnier, we need to look younger, we can't have wrinkles. We have to have perfectly straight teeth and smooth skin. And because of all that, motherhood is downplayed--children limit you. Do what YOU want in life first, before having kids. And sometimes stay-at-home moms are looked down on. And that's all tragic. It's well-accepted that women are attacked.
But I think it's sad the types of ways men are put down too... Women rolling their eyes and making comments about how lazy men are, or how illogical they are, and more. I think that's sad because my dad is my hero.
And the fact is that the family is ordained of God. Men and women are equal, and they are different, and that's the way God intended it to be. And God gives His priesthood authority to men and men only, and that's the way it is. And if the Church ever changed its doctrine according to polls and protests of women wanting the priesthood, then it would me man's church and no longer God's.
Women have special roles and responsibilities like men do. There are reasons God chose women to be mothers. And I think there's a reason God chose men to hold the priesthood.
Melvin J. Ballard describes this incredibly, after relating the story of Abraham and Isaac, and how difficult it must have been for father Abraham to sacrifice his only son:
"Our Father in Heaven went through all that and more, for in His case the hand was not stayed. He loved His Son, Jesus Christ, better than Abraham ever loved Isaac, for our Father had with Him His Son, our Redeemer, in the eternal worlds, faithful and true for ages, standing in a place of trust and honor, and the Father loved Him dearly, and yet He allowed this well-beloved Son to descend from his place of glory and honor, where millions did him homage, down to the earth, a condescension that is not within the power of man to conceive. He came to receive the insult, the abuse, and the crown of thorns. God heard the cry of His Son in that moment of great grief and agony, in the garden when, it is said, the pores of his body opened and drops of blood stood upon him, and he cried out: 'Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.'
"I ask you, what father and mother could stand by and listen to the cry of their children in distress, in this world, and not render aid and assistance? I have heard of mothers throwing themselves into raging streams when they could not swim a stroke to save their drowning children, rushing into burning buildings, to rescue those whom they loved.
"We cannot stand by and listen to those cries without its touching our hearts. The Lord has not given us the power to save our own. He has given us faith, and we submit to the inevitable, but he had the power to save, and he loved his Son, and he could have saved him. He might have rescued him from the insult of the crowds. He might have rescued him when the crown of thorns was placed upon his head. He might have rescued him when the Son, hanging between the two thieves, was mocked with, 'Save thyself, and come down from the cross. He saved others; himself he cannot save.' He listened to all this. He saw that Son condemned; he saw him drag the cross through the streets of Jerusalem and faint under its load. He saw that Son finally upon Calvary; he saw his body stretched out upon the wooden cross; he saw the cruel nails driven through hands and feet, and the blows that broke the skin, tore the flesh, and let out the life’s blood of his Son. He looked upon that.
"In the case of our Father, the knife was not stayed, but it fell, and the life’s blood of his Beloved Son went out. His Father looked on with great grief and agony over his Beloved Son, until there seems to have come a moment when even our Savior cried out in despair: 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'
"In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles until even he could not endure it any longer; and, like the mother who bids farewell to her dying child, has to be taken out of the room, so as not to look upon the last struggles, so he bowed his head, and hid in some part of his universe, his great heart almost breaking for the love that he had for his Son. Oh, in that moment when he might have saved his Son, I thank him and praise him that he did not fail us, for he had not only the love of his Son in mind, but he also had love for us. I rejoice that he did not interfere, and that his love for us made it possible for him to endure to look upon the sufferings of his Son and give him finally to us, our Savior and our Redeemer. Without him, without his sacrifice, we would have remained, and we would never have come glorified into his presence. And so this is what it cost, in part, for our Father in Heaven to give the gift of his Son unto men."
I just feel so blessed when I think about how much our Father loves us--enough to sacrifice His only perfect Son. And it's the priesthood that helps the already-amazing men I know become the type of Father God was to His Son. Elder Holland describes it well:
"When that unspeakable ordeal was finished, He uttered what must have been the most peaceful and deserved words of His mortal ministry. At the end of His agony, He whispered, 'It is finished: ...Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' Finally it was over. Finally He could go home.
"I confess that I have reflected at length upon that moment and the resurrection which was shortly to follow it. I have wondered what that reunion must have been like: the Father that loved this Son so much, the Son that honored and revered His Father in every word and deed. For two who were one as these two were one, what must that embrace have been like? What must that divine companionship be yet? We can only wonder and admire...
"In that most burdensome moment of all human history, with blood appearing at every pore and an anguished cry upon His lips, Christ sought Him whom He had always sought--His Father. 'Abba,' He cried, 'Papa,' or from the lips of a younger child, 'Daddy.'
"This is such a personal moment it almost seems a sacrilege to cite it. A Son in unrelieved pain, a Father His only true source of strength, both of them staying the course, making it through the night--together."
I wish there was something I could add to the words of Elders Ballard and Holland to perfect them, but there's not. I know that fathers are ordained of God. I know that God has chosen them to hold His priesthood authority. I am grateful for the blessings I receive from God through His priesthood holders. I am grateful I live at a time when the blessings of the priesthood are available to me. I'm grateful for my dad I adore--who loves me and works hard and uplifts me and just wants me to be happy. It's because of my own father and his example that I understand, to a small degree, the love my Heavenly Father must have for me.