Sunday, January 18, 2009

Leave It There

My idea of nirvana would be to sit at the feet of very brilliant people and discuss very big ideas without interruption for…oh… just about forever. That is why I look so forward to Tuesdays. From the ranks of America’s academia, the church’s general authorities, or global leaders in government, business, or social causes, BYU pulls the best to address its student body. And I’m there. Well, not there-there, but devotional/forums are broadcast live on BYUTV, so I sort of feel like I’m there. I am transported mentally to the Marriott Center and wonder what my kids are thinking -- while they sit in those stadium seats thinking, “What’s Mom thinking?”

At the rostrum this week was my “favorite” apostle (is it okay to have a favorite?): Elder Holland. My youngest, in our post-"game" analysis, tried to describe his passionate delivery: “Mom,” she said, “he was almost shouting he got so excited!” I wish I could quote him directly, but the talk was too recent; BYUTV doesn’t have a transcript or recording of it yet. You will have to take my word for it that this was one of his most moving ever. And the gist of it all?

“Don’t look back!”

That’s it; a very big idea in three little words.

Lot’s wife made the fatal choice of “looking back” (Genesis 19) and Elder Holland was pleading with us not to make the same mistake by (the highlights):

1) not forgiving ourselves for the past when we’ve repented and grown past it all

2) not letting others grow past the past when they have made intentional change

3) not giving up on a hard, worthy challenge

He emphasized that each of these grieves the Lord.

I was grieving, in acute pain, when I once sought refuge in the temple. I was hoping to keep my troubles private, but a bleeding heart leaves a trail. Sister C, a temple matron and Relief Society friend, sniffed me out. Her kind inquiry was all I needed to burst into tears.

“My dear!” she cried in alarm, “have you laid this at the Lord’s feet?”

Remembering all my prayers, I said that I had.

“But dear,” she continued as she looked into my wet face, “you didn’t leave it there!”

I was stunned. She was so right.

After hearing the truth from Sister C, I felt suddenly tired of the pains which had plagued me too long. It took a few more days of introspection, and then I finally cast my burden on the Lord, gushing out my angst in torrents of sorrow, with a passion and abandon I’d not given into during previous prayers: “This is too big and too complex for me, dear Lord,” I begged, and then, echoing Alma, I cried within my heart: "O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me....” (Alma 36:18) What followed was one of the most profound experiences of my entire life. Like a wild, raging river that suddenly, gently ebbs into a bubbling brook, my pain just melted away. I sat very still, hesitant to breathe. It was over. I felt it deep in my bones.

That was many years ago. I do remain sorry about parts of the past. I do regret those things still and some of the consequences live on. But I am free of self-recrimination (Alma 36:17-19). That was part of the peace package: the assurance that the Lord Himself would eventually bind up loose ends; the unraveling which was beyond my ability to sew up. He is the Master and will make something coherent out of raggedy, mismatched remnants.

Elder Holland has spoken on this theme before. In April 2006 Conference he said:

“…we must change anything we can change that may be part of the problem. In short we must repent, perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance. Certainly not everything we struggle with is a result of our actions. Often it is the result of the actions of others or just the mortal events of life. But anything we can change we should change, and we must forgive the rest. In this way our access to the Savior's Atonement becomes as unimpeded as we, with our imperfections, can make it.
He will take it from there.

At the beginning of a new year, I am glad Elder Holland reminded me to look forward, to let myself and others change…for “there is hope in thine end…” (Jeremiah 31:17). My armistice with the past is holding strong.

And the future is brighter for it.

(Elder Holland's talk will be rebroadcast on Sunday, January 25th at 4:00 and 9:00 p.m. MST. Watch it on BYUTV or at


The Happy Holladays said...

Wow! Your blog is awesome. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts, insights, and wisdom. I have so much to learn from you! I have always loved and admired you and will never forget the time you took me aside and taught me how to teach my 6 week-old firstborn. Now I can continue to learn from your sweet, gentle ways. Thank you so much! Keep up the great work. Love, Marcie

Bubbles said...

Thanks Ramona. I love the BYU talks too. They come into my iPod every week. I'll be on the look-out for this one. There is nothing better than listening while running in this gorgeous land! xo~Kelsey

Hannah Banana said...

It is SO true! Elder Holland's words were sharper than a two edge sword!! They FILLED the auditorium!

There is so much to look forward to, not backwards. The gospel of Jesus Christ is focused on the future: future potential, decisions that will later determine the future, eternal marriages, the next life, the gospel path, enduring to the end, etc. We should and must learn from the past, but not be more focused on it than progressing forward and letting others progress forward too.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes the forward possible. And when we don't allow ourselves and others to move forward, then we are stopping the very thing that is the center of the plan of Salvation and the reason Christ came to earth. Repentance and Forgiveness - the very two things the other intelligences wish they could do.

Elder Holland also related a story about an overwhelming time in his life, when he was newly married, going to school, and working. His wife and him were trying to decide whether to give up on it all, their education, and go back. But his wife was determined and reminded him of why they were there. His story made me bawl as I thought about who Elder Holland was now - the future at that time. What would have happened had they given up? We wouldn't have Elder Holland as an apostle. Because they determined to trust the Lord, not go backwards, but forwards, we have a man today who has become a Special Witness of Christ and effected millions of people everywhere. That's powerful.

We EACH have our own mission on this earth that we must remember to look forward and progress to. We must!

"Shall we not go on in so great a cause?!"

Harrison said...

Old sins may cast long shadows. We can't escape all the consequences of our actions and we may be foreclosed from some opportunities because we made mistakes... Nonetheless- You can't saw sawdust. Repenting and forgiving are more about letting go of the past- past hurts, past mistakes, past feelings- as well as hoping for the future. We hope that we may be clean, that we may be happy, that we may be truly Christlike, that we may return to Father. And our faith leads us to act today in furtherance of that hope. We choose to cease our sins, hating others, being lazy. We embrace our opportnities to serve, grow, and love. And we are thankful for the whole ball of wax... because that's why we came here in the first place, no?

Michaela Stephens said...

Excellent blog post. I'm adding you to my list...
I too would love to listen for hours to brilliant sermons. Occasionally it's good to take some time to really fill up on it, but at some point the rubber must hit the road and we have to practice what we've learned.

Good words about not looking back. I've been looking back too much lately.

Danielle Logan said...

Hey Ramona,

You know, I think you were truly inspired to include me on your email list to read this post. I have been dealing with overcoming some of my own trials (one of which, I would love if you would read and comment on my blog too, I wasn't quite sure how to do it. I have prayed to the Lord many times, but I had not left it at His feet. I am going to apply that principle! Thank you for sharing!

Danio said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This is a great lesson for me to apply to my life, I tend to have a hard time letting go and forgiving myself. Its good to get a reminder that when I do this its like refusing the gift of the Atonement.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ramona,

Thank you for inviting me to your blog..I've been struggling with my Activity at Church for quite some time. I find I do better worshiping on my own at home with BYU Tv etc. So this will be nice

Deanna "Gum" Gilmore

Mona said...

I've receive lots of email comments on this subject by those who would rather not go public with their feelings. One sister has given me permission to publish her email here:

"I don't know anything about Blogging, but I do know wisdom and truth and the talk by Elder Holland was both. Years ago as a Relief Society President I became acquainted with a sister in our ward who had the heart of an angel. This family had been converts of several years. As we became good friends I noticed that she kept bringing up the past indiscretions that she and her husband had done before they joined the church for which they had already repented. I gave her this same council "Don't look back, you need to move forward!" There seems to be an excitement when people talk about their former sins which makes there righteous life look dull and uninteresting. To make a long sad story short. The did look back and eventually he went back to the chicken ranches (houses of prostitution in Nevada), she seduced a young man about to leave on his mission. Her children lost their way, they marriage was destroyed. All by dwelling on the past. I think this is one of Satan's was of poisoning our souls. God remembers our sins no more why can't we?"

Becoming LDS said...

Thanks for your nice email about my blog. It always makes my day to know that someone out there is reading it, enjoying it, and hopefully getting something out of it.

Your blog is wonderful yourself. I love your style of writing and it is easy to hear your voice throughout your posts. Wonderful!!!

I am also amazed by how many readers and commenters you have in such a short time of having your blog up and running. Wow!

Kimberlee said...

What a great reminder to us all to forgive ourselves! We are always harder on ourselves than we are on others and we need to remember that once we have truly put it in the Lord's hands we can leave it there. Thanks Ramona!