THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS – April 2020

It has been a beautiful experience since writing my last SPIRITUALLY DEFINING MOMENTS post, thinking on other moments when I’ve received communication from Heaven – and I know it, and I know that God knows that I know it.

“These spiritually defining moments come at different times and in different ways, individualized for each of us. Think of your favorite examples in the scriptures.”

During a very difficult time for me, I found myself on my knees more often and for more time. My husband and I discussed it, and decided to convert a walk-in closet in our basement into a prayer closet for me. Years later, now my daughter uses it too. But we don’t put anything in the closet except our scriptures, journals, pen, tape, and a couple dozen inspirational quotes. It is a prayer closet. And I have never left that sacred space, to this day, without seeing more clearly what the Lord wants of me.

One morning, in my prayer closet, praying, pleading for the Lord to help me “see”, the impression came to me: Read Jonah. I had my scripture right there next to me, so I opened up to the book of Jonah in the Old Testament, and read the whole account. I knew the story. And I didn’t see anything new or inspiring. So, after finishing the book, I put down my scriptures, returned to my knees, and began praying again. Again the impression came to me: Read Jonah. So I opened my Bible again, to the very same page, and read the entire book of Jonah. Nothing new. It was the same story, ending with an immature prophet sitting outside the city, complaining that the Lord didn’t destroy people Jonah thought unworthy of life.

I got back on my knees, and then I saw the lesson in this story – the lesson for me on that day with those trials. I was, that very day, on my knees, in my prayer closet, essentially “sitting outside the city”, passing judgement on those in the city, and being absolutely overcome with frustration that the Lord isn’t doing something about it!

But then, the Lord, in His perfect mercy, as he did for Jonah, “prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over (me), that it might be a shadow over (my) head, to deliver (me) from (my) grief”.

Jonah was in a dark place – a very dark place. And we have all been somewhere similar. We have felt out of control, judgmental, overwhelmed with our selfish desires. Unworthy of relief or deliverance, to be sure. But the Lord has given us the space to not be okay. He has mercifully even protected us from the blaring sun and the harsh winds, while we sit in our dark place.

His Son’s Atonement not only can change us, but it gives us a safe place to sorrow and then begin the process of changing ourselves. “I haven’t seen a person wake up, who hasn’t gone through something hard.”

I remember the Sunday I walked into church late, in London, six years ago, and the congregation was singing: “Grid up your loins, Fresh courage take, Our God will never us forsake.” There have been times in my life when I have been able to do just that – gird up my loins and take courage in the face of hardship. There have been other times, though, when I have had a very difficult time taking courage. But He has never left me. Like Jonah, outside Ninevah, sitting in his own grief and frustration. The Lord, in His mercy, prepared a gourd, “that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief”. I am so grateful for the “gourds” in my life – then and now! Unworthy, yes. Forsaken, never.

“We hear Him in our prayers, in our homes, in the scriptures, in our hymns, as we worthily partake of the sacrament, as we declare our faith, as we serve others, and as we attend the temple with fellow believers. Spiritually defining moments come as we prayerfully listen to general conference and as we better keep the commandments…

‘[This knowledge is] given by my Spirit unto you, … and save it were by my power you could not have [it]; Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.'”