I have had a specific memory brought to mind the past few weeks. It has brought me joy, pain, comfort, increased my faith, brought up new questions, prompted some new ideas/goals, and created some confusion... basically the rainbow of thoughts and emotions have been happening! :D
I remembered October 2017 watching Women's Conference with my very dear friend, Amy. For several years we had a tradition of getting our favorite takeout (usually tomato, artichoke, and green olive pizza from Rusted Sun Pizzeria in Salt Lake City; I mention this mostly for selfish reasons and the fondness of the memory) and we would watch Women's Conference together while eating. It might be that you'd have to know Amy to understand her personality, humor, and history as a collegiate athlete to appreciate this, but after each talk during that conference, she would hold up her fingers to score the talk. I don't remember any of the scores, but I remember personally thinking every time that for sure she should hold up a ten!!!
Every single word that night penetrated my soul. At the time, I had made a friend online through Instagram who had questions about the church and, after many conversations and connecting her with the missionaries, she was planning on being baptized a month later. I knew she was watching conference so I was just filled with testimony and love as I thought of her receiving these powerful messages. Specifically, several lines from Sister Eubank's talk particularly struck a nerve. It truly was as if she said, "Tara... [tap, tap, tap] are you listening? I'm talking to you..." and then said the following:
How do you feel about Jesus Christ? Why do you stay in the Church? Why do you believe the Book of Mormon is scripture? Where do you get your peace? Why does it matter that the prophet has something to say in 2017? How do you know he is a real prophet? Use your voice and your power to articulate what you know and feel... Tell [others] why you believe, what it feels like, if you ever doubted, how you got through it, and what Jesus Christ means to you...
Will you be righteous? Will you articulate your faith? Can you bear being distinct and different? Will your happiness in spite of your trials draw others who are good and noble and who need your friendship? Will you turn on your light? I testify the Lord Jesus Christ will go before us and be in our midst.
I conclude with the words of our well-loved prophet, Thomas S. Monson: “My dear sisters, this is your day, this is your time.”
So this is such a cherished memory for me, but it's also a painful one. The friend who was going to be baptized changed her mind shortly before her planned baptism date. My friend, Amy, passed away this July and oh how I miss her. I never answered those questions specifically even though I KNEW that was something I should do. Yet I felt I was doing that to some degree since I then had an Instagram profile (LDS More Holiness Give Me that was changed to Truth Shines when we were encouraged to stop using nicknames for the church) where I essentially bore my testimony multiple times a week (until not too long ago, when I deleted that profile after someone close to me questioned my ability to receive revelation or speak as boldly as I did on that profile, and oh, how I regret that hasty decision made out of insecurity). So basically this women's conference memory was bringing up for me sadness, regret, and self-doubt with a side of guilt. No, thank you! I tried and tried to push this memory away, but it kept sneaking up on me.
I wondered ~ Why does this memory keep coming up? I couldn't help but think of Amy deciding how to score my performance. 'Wait, wait, wait,' I thought. 'Don't score me yet, let me get out there and give it a good try.' It's time. It's past time, actually, for me to answer these questions. But that's actually not what this post is, specifically.
This post is to echo Sister Eubank. This post is to remind, encourage, motivate, maybe even nag my fellow sisters. Please answer the questions. Please use your voice. If you don't feel you have a voice or if you think your voice doesn't matter, start there. Find your voice and feel the love of the Lord telling you how much your voice matters! In the work of the Lord, the work YOU have been called to as a covenant woman in the latter days, your testimony and your ability to share that testimony in as many ways as possible, is one of the most important tools that can give you access to priesthood power, to help invite others to Jesus Christ, to empower them with understanding from your unique perspective, to influence the lives of someone else because of how your life has been influenced by the atonement of Jesus Christ.
So that is a pretty bold statement, but I believe it is true. In April this year, I was seeking the answer of how I could help someone in my life who desperately needed help and I was taken to this scripture:
A book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration; And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled. Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also. -Moses 6:4-8
When I first read this, I thought I must be misinterpreting it because I had never heard or understood Priesthood as writing by the spirit and using those books of remembrance to teach children (certainly to be interpreted also as anyone who lives after that person). But that seems to be what it's saying, right? So I looked for evidence to the contrary or evidence to support it and I found vast amounts of evidence to support this idea. And when I pondered on it in a personal way, I realized how much this was true in my own life, how it related to family history and temple work and the gathering of Israel.
It seemed to be reiterated in the most recent women's conference as well:
As a righteous, endowed Latter-day Saint woman, you speak and teach with power and authority from God. Whether by exhortation (the form of words intended to incite and encourage) or conversation, we need your voice teaching the doctrine of Christ. -Russell M. Nelson
And we were encouraged to study multiple things regarding priesthood. Without even scratching the surface of thoughts and feelings that have come to mind as I pursued that endeavor, here are a couple of things that have particularly stood out to me in regard to the importance of speaking and/or documenting inspired words and testimony.
Expound the scriptures, and.. exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit... thy time shall be given to writing. -D&C 25:7-8
[Bear] testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you. Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature. -D&C 84:61-62
I'm not remotely suggesting this IS the message from all that has been taught in conference or in the scriptures on priesthood power. Even the things I've quoted, I'm certainly aware have nearly infinite layers of meaning for different people, different times, and different applications. Yet this appears to be ONE of the layers of meaning, one of the ways, and certainly a very important way, particularly in this time in history when we have access to the internet. ANYONE can post their testimony and it can go into all the world with the push of a button! And what our prophet has been trying to tell us, it seems, is that OUR voices in particular are not only allowed or wanted, but critically NEEDED, as authorized servants of the Lord Jesus Christ to testify with power and authority of Him and the truths of His gospel.
It's so hard to wrap this up because even as I've been collecting the thoughts and references I had in mind for this post, I've found even more. But I'll just move on because we've got teaching and testifying and exhorting to do, right?!
To exemplify just how Priesthood is given to us documenting with the spirit of inspiration to teach future generations in the last days (see again Moses 6:4-8), I'll share one example of one covenant woman. It circles back to the beginning of my post. My friend, Amy, before she was sick, before she passed away, was interviewed for a podcast on how she led as a single Relief Society president in a family ward. She never told me she did this podcast, that's just how she was. I stumbled upon it at the gym one time during her illness and it strengthened my soul. I forgot about it until the day after she passed away. I already missed her wisdom and was in unbelievable shock that I would never be able to talk to her again (even though I had known she was going to pass away for quite awhile). But the spirit that can bring all things to our remembrance reminded me of the podcast. Her voice, her personality, her POWERFUL testimony, her UNIQUE perspective, HER approach to sensitive and complicated situations are RECORDED for me, for you, for her nieces, nephews, and their great-great-grandchildren and people in all parts of the world, for ANYONE to receive if they will! That, my friends, is truly powerful.
Click here for the podcast details.
I recommend these sections, in particular, if you're not going to listen to the whole thing:
-39:06 Sometimes it's a jungle gym
-42:17 It's His gig
-53:41 How serving inspired her to be a better disciple of Jesus Christ
(Amy, I hope you see me holding up all TEN fingers. Perfect score! I LOVE YOU!!!)
If she had just had those insights, but kept them to herself, the power of those things would have gone with her. Now, my testimony is that she still absolutely is busy being HER and using her same gifts on the other side of the veil and how blessed Zion is to have her! That truth is one of the only comforting thoughts I could find at her passing. But, for the rest of us on this side of the veil, we have access to these beautiful truths also! I thank my loving Father that this is possible to lift and strengthen me, as it certainly has.
I testify that this IS priesthood and your opportunity to share this power is within your reach. Perhaps that's not what you are being called to do or you feel called to do that, but in a very different way. Perfect, great! Then do it! Let's do it! Let's not wait. Let's turn on our lights NOW and point our brothers and sisters in all the world and on both sides of the veil to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let's preach of Him and testify of His power to heal, bless, redeem, sanctify, lift, and deliver, because now and in eternity, there is nothing more important or crucial. YOU and YOUR voice are needed.