Our Ward Relief Society has challenged us to read the Book of Mormon in 40 days. This could not have come at a better time for me. Personal scripture study at a lull... (I don't count the 5 minutes we read with the kids each night... that's more of a battle of the 'sit stills' than it is spiritual upliftment for me). What a great excuse my amazing RS leaders have given me to start anew and refresh my spirit. I have found, which we always do when we stop and then start up again, that when I thought I had no time to read even a chapter, I have now found time to read 5-10 chapters, getting all other reasonable duties done and plenty of time for relaxation in my day. Amazing how that happens, no?
In our study today, I came upon one of my absolute favorite scriptures and it caused me to ponder. 2Nephi Chapter 2 is one of my all time favorite chapters. But it holds this scripture:
"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient to man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself."
I memorized this scripture my freshman year at BYU by assignment from my Book of Mormon Instructor. This Brother changed my life. Perhaps not in the dramatic sense that you may think, but my spiritual life. My testimony, while it may go through weak periods, has always been there, and my faith has never faltered, for which I am so grateful. But he introduced me to a deeper meaning of the scriptures, who I am, and my relationship with My Savior.
I"m sure this scripture means something slightly different to everyone, but to me its freedom. I have the CHOICE, to live eternally, or live a captive to the devil. And Satan is so very clever and sneaky. I think we live as his captive and don't even know that's what we're doing. And the Savior has made it so simple. Choosing to live through the great Mediator brings us liberty and eternal life. Choosing against that, makes us a captive to Satan.
While I'm quite sure my trials pale in comparison to many around me, my life thus far has not be without pain and trial. I have experienced suffering. In this past week or so my husband has been thinking a lot about his mom, whose 2 year anniversary of her death is approaching. I think most look at Aaron and think he handles it remarkably well, but what a painful experience it was 2 years ago, in the moment. And certainly, where death looms, I often reflect on my own experience of when my sister passed away. Memories of pain, tears, emptiness and loneliness flood my mind. I still hate the smell of flowers. 15 years later, I have so many new memories, new experiences, new things to be grateful for, I don't mourn her actual loss very often, its usually only in unexpected moments. She mostly appears as a happy memory, that we speak of as an angel watching over us. Someone we feel, together as a family when we are in the temple, or an otherwise sacred family experience. As an adult, I have a completely different view of it. My mourning comes as a heartache to my parents. As a parent myself now, I can easier relate to their feelings of loss. As a teenager, your understanding is of course limited. I admire my mother more now, for being strong. For still being a mother to me. Even when our house felt so empty and cold, with one less bubbly 8 year old loudly running around, she pressed forward with such undeniable faith. Never was there blame on God. Never was there a deteriorated faith. She was so absolutely certain that everything was going to be okay, and that we were an eternal family and would be together again, that I felt I had no other option but to feel the same. And I have. And two years ago, while it wasn't my own mother that passed away, I had to watch my husband, and his family experience this similar thing. Its awfully hard to watch and support a spouse go through something like this. I was SO grateful for my experience with my sister. I'm sure there were some things I could have done better, but I just knew... with everything in me, because I had experienced it, that everything really would be okay, if we CHOSE the great Mediator. If we CHOSE life eternal. Death and trials in general are not easy. That's why they are called trials. They test us. They refine us. They mold us into people I believe we would not have otherwise become.
Something Sister Clark (a dear woman in my ward) said on Sunday in her testimony really enlightened me. And I hope I'm not taking her words out of context, but this was how I remember her words. She talked about how as she was just starting her family, there is usually an expectation (from ourselves) of perfection. Perfect kids. Perfect marriage. Perfect house. And while perfection is something we strive for, Perfection was not the Savior's plan. It was someone elses... Satans. Every question answered. Every doubt physically debunked. Our plans laid out perfectly. There is no progression. There is no faith needed. 2Nephi 2:23 "And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin."
I don't know why my sister was chosen to pass away at 8 years old. I don't know why Aaron's mom was taken so quickly at 65. I don't know why it took 4 years to get pregnant with #1 kid, while all the others have come so easily. I have guesses. But really, for me, it doesn't matter. Because no matter what, I will always choose the great Mediator. It may take me awhile to get there in a particular experience. But I know God wants me to be free. I know he wants me to have eternal life. I want to be a family with my sister again. I miss her. And I'll be danged if I'm going to let someone as miserable as Satan bring me down with him lessening my chances of being with my family again.
I am ever so grateful for my testimony. Specifically my testimony of eternal families. I know my Savior loves me. I know he held me when I was afraid 15 years ago. When I was lonely in a dorm room thousands of miles away from family 11 years ago. When I was sobbing tears of thoughts I may never be a mother. And so many small moments in between and now. I know he forgives me for all my crazy long list of imperfections. I know he wants me to be more than what I am... I'm working on it. And I know that even when I have thought I know better, and have left Him in the back seat, he always opens His door for me when I come to my senses. I Choose Eternal Life.
And I think this will be a good... no a great... 40 days.