“Every commandment is an invitation to a blessing.” is an old seminary quote written in my scriptures next to D&C 130: 20-21.
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
In October 2018, Russell M. Nelson issued four challenges to the women of the church. He invited us to take a social media fast for 10 days, read the Book of Mormon through by the end of the year, to attend the temple more regularly and to participate fully in Relief Society.
Effectively, he issued some invitations to give women some blessings. As I’ve pondered the fact that he offered these invitations to women only, and during the last four months of 2018, I’ve been awed by the trust and duties lying ahead of us. These tasks he gave us are particularly well-suited for the challenges we are facing (and going to face) as women in the church and in the world. We are invited to leave behind the world and more fully be led by the Spirit.
Social Media Fast
President Nelson invited us to fast from social media for 10 days, as well as any other unworthy media. He asked: “What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.”
My friend, Tina, shared that her experience being off of social media has made her a more patient, present mother. Gone is the listlessness, resentment and foggy brain when it comes to getting things done around the house and interacting with her kids. That has been my experience too. The thrumming, ever-present pull to be on my phone wasting time was gone and my brain cleared up.
Numerous other people have commented that being off of social media was such a nice break that they’ve decided to stay off of it. The Prophet’s challenge to take time off is just the push most of us needed to remember what life was like without a glowing-screen-siren-song constantly calling us in.
As I’ve thought about the purpose and outcomes of using sites like Facebook and Instagram, I have a hard time coming up with a really good reason to use them. Probably 80% of our social media interactions are for attention, validation, or to boast about our successes. So that’s not really that great from a spiritual maturity perspective; the audience is led to either criticize, or gush or covet, which isn’t really great either. Plus, just the time suck involved in both parties. As I’ve become more mindful about my motivations for posting, I’ve seen a plummeting decline in my own usage. Guys, I didn’t even post my first day of school pictures or Halloween costumes. . .
**side note: Instead of Facebook or Instagram, I primarily use Marco Polo and have personal, face-to-face conversations with a specific audience, whether a person or a small group. These have been richly rewarding interactions. Check out that app, if you don’t already have it. It’s like video texting with only the people you want to talk with–not a public forum.**
Reading the Book of Mormon
After he invited us to read the entire Book of Mormon, he said, “as you prayerfully study, I promise that the heavens will open for you. The Lord will bless you with increased inspiration and revelation.”
My friend, Randi had a neat experience at the temple right after General Conference. She was sitting in the waiting area, and a temple worker handed her and all the other patrons a set of scriptures. Randi looked around and saw that everyone was open to First Nephi. Even far away from home, and among strangers, she felt connected to those women who had a shared love of the scriptures and a desire to follow the Prophet. I have loved the gospel conversations this shared goal has produced among my friends and family. It’s natural to ask, “where are you at in your reading?” and then share insights, revelations and lessons we have been receiving from the Lord.
I heard a story of a wife of a recently-called General Authority asking for help from other General Authorities’ wives. She asked for advice and kept getting the same answer: “Read your scriptures every day.” Finally, exasperated, she questioned the seemingly trite answer. She was told, “If you read your scriptures and pray every day, you will have the Spirit with you. If you have the Spirit with you, He will teach you everything you need to know to handle the challenges of your new calling.” Not trite at all. The challenge to read the Book of Mormon in a short period of time is a rich invitation to the most personal and powerful blessing of all. Personal revelation in our day-to-day lives.
I started the Book of Mormon with my homeschooler in August, then also restarted it in my personal scripture study at the first of September. I was just passing into Second Nephi when General Conference came around. So for the third time in two months, I was reading First Nephi again. I could have justified starting right where I was at–that I already learned all the lessons that come from First Nephi, but dang it, I wanted the blessings! I have learned that reading the scriptures doesn’t necessarily bring insights and revelations about the scriptures, it brings insights and revelations about my life. And usually not even during the act of reading. So as I re-started First Nephi for the third time, I read with anticipation of increased knowledge, emotional intelligence and problems resolving.
President Nelson said, “More regular time in the temple will allow the Lord to teach you how to draw upon His priesthood power with which you have been endowed in His temple. For those of you who don’t live near a temple, I invite you to study prayerfully about temples in the scriptures and in the words of living prophets. Seek to know more, to understand more, to feel more about temples than you ever have before.”
My spiritual hero shared with me this weekend that she has been attending the temple weekly for the past 13 years. It has refined, taught and sanctified her. It will do the same to each of us as we internalize the lessons and blessings promised.
The power of the restoration is fully manifest in the temple. As we go to the temple learn and serve, we will be endowed with power. Real power. Satan-bashing power. Heaven-opening power. President Nelson wants the women to take advantage of that power and fill their homes with it. This is our protection from the evil tide rising around us all. We will find strength, power and knowledge in the temple.
Participate Fully In Relief Society
This one was interesting to me, because as we all know, most of us aren’t in Relief Society during the Sunday meeting. We are in Primary, and Young Women. It takes a huge force of women volunteers to keep the Sunday meetings going in the different auxillaries. But he didn’t really ask us to sit in Relief Society. He asked us to understand the purpose and mission of Relief Society and then to apply it personally in our lives.
“I urge you to study the current Relief Society purpose statement. It is inspiring. It may guide you in developing your own purpose statement for your own life. I also entreat you to savor the truths in the Relief Society declaration published almost 20 years ago.3 A framed copy of this declaration hangs on the wall in the office of the First Presidency. I am thrilled every time I read it. It describes who you are and who the Lord needs you to be at this precise time as you do your part to help gather scattered Israel.”
The Relief Society Purpose Statement is short:
Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they:
Increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement;
Strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and
Work in unity to help those in need.
The Declaration is longer–
We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who:
Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study.
Seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes.
Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.
Delight in service and good works.
Love life and learning.
Stand for truth and righteousness.
Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.
Rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny, and strive for exaltation.
I posted them here because if you are like me, you never looked them up and probably wouldn’t click on a link either. But we all intended to! He wants us to make these statements part of our personal mission on earth. I really love the part “find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.” That’s what this blog has been about since the beginning.
His ending paragraph thrilled me. “I love you and thank you and now bless you with the ability to leave the world behind as you assist in this crucial and urgent work. Together we can do all that our Heavenly Father needs us to do to prepare the world for the Second Coming of His Beloved Son.”
No more straddling the world and Zion both. We are invited to leave behind the world and the things that are dragging us down and making us dirty. Ancient prophets saw our day and told us to wake up, dust off the dirt of the world and claim our place in God’s kingdom.
“And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.”Moroni 10:31
As the heart of our homes, President Nelson appealed to us to focus our eye singly to God’s glory by eliminating the unworthy things from our lives–hopefully for longer than 10 days, and filling them up with purpose, Spirit and power. If we are going to bring gospel education into our homes in a meaningful way, we need to be spiritually prepared for the task. These invitations will bring about that great blessing. And maybe something beyond what we anticipate–
“My dear sisters, you have special spiritual gifts and propensities. Tonight I urge you, with all the hope of my heart, to pray to understand your spiritual gifts—to cultivate, use, and expand them, even more than you ever have. You will change the world as you do so.”