Back in May, I was sitting in the Kingwood Stake Center getting ready to pull a “double header” with one of my favorite people who happened to be a high counselor in the Stake High Council. This is a group of higher priesthood holders called to serve in the stake by offering support to the wards as a liaison between the Stake Presidency and the congregations. One of their duties is to give talks on a set Sunday each month on a topic given by the Stake Presidency. I never paid much attention to this particular organization of the Church, but on this particular Sunday, I was also set apart as the Stake Young Women President which is also a stake calling. I, too, receive my direction from the Stake Presidency and in different ways convey their counsel to all of the ward Young Women Presidents. I was excited to give a talk in a ward that was not my own and a little too calm to be giving the same talk in another ward just 45 minutes later–hence, the “double header” reference. I have never given a talk twice in one day and I felt the uniqueness of it. I knew that if I was willing to serve the Lord in this capacity that everything would go fine.
To prepare, I had just a couple of days to prepare for speaking twice, but I had been pondering my topic, reading scriptures and listening to conference talks for a few weeks. I was hoping that what the Lord wanted to say through me would be my focus. As a challenge, I also decided to employ a technique that my companion speaker uses. I had once watched him give a talk with just his scriptures and an itty-bitty piece of paper with notes. We were both in ward callings at the time, and I had written and agonized over four or five pages of a written talk that I read. I was inspired by his example and hoped that I could do as he did one day. So I decided to pick a few scriptures that stood out to me and have a post-it with notes and my scriptures. I felt it would be interesting to see if I could pull it off, relying on the Spirit.
I recorded my talks and later suffered through listening to them to see if I could learn from them. I noticed that I said, “Um,” a lot. It reminded me of my sister giving her maid-of-honor speech at my wedding reception. Josh has said that it was the best set of “ums” he had ever heard. She was in high school at the time, so I can hardly blame her for her nervousness. It has become a great memory, too. Despite the humor, however, I made a conscious decision to eliminate the “ums” from my talks.
This past Sunday, I was again sitting on the stand in the Kingwood Stake Center getting ready to pull a “double header” in the same two wards as before, only this time it was to the Kingwood Second Ward first and the Kingwood First Ward second. The high counselor who had asked me to speak was someone I did not know well, but I had spent time with his wife the past two years at Girls’ Camp and he was now the high counselor assigned to my ward. He gave me the direction to speak to the youth. He felt they should know that High Council Sunday sacrament meetings were for them, too.
I was amazed that I would give a talk twice in the same day and felt the uniqueness of being asked to do it again within a three-month period. I have since the first time been relying on the Spirit a lot. One Sunday, I was impressed to bring my scriptures with me to visit the Young Women in a particular ward because I might be asked to give a lesson. Well, I got there, and there were only two ward YW leaders and no one from the presidency. After the young women conducted opening exercises, I told them that I would be happy to give a lesson. And then, after consciously telling myself not to talk about the decision for the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, the first thing out of my mouth was talking about that historic event. Many more experiences and miracles have happened at Girls’ Camp. I feel as if the Lord is still teaching me and preparing me for something greater. Maybe just a greater capacity to do things that I am not used to doing? So when I was asked to speak twice in one Sunday again, I figured that it was for a reason. I have yet to learn what that reason is.
Still, I press on, make mistakes, am humbled, and blessed. I learn and grow and I’m almost always in the face of some new thing with regard to my calling. (The next challenge being to host a dance where six stakes are invited… we are preparing for twice as many youth.) I’ve had some great examples to watch in this calling in previous years, and I’m glad that I paid attention. I also still text them when faced with a problem to see how they handled it in the past. This is something that I’ve slowly stopped doing as I have gained experience.
When I spoke on Sunday, I gave examples of the different ways that I study my scriptures. I have the same quad that I’ve used since I joined the Church. I remember that I could not wait to get my own set of scriptures. I was working at Bubbie’s Ice Cream near the University of Hawaii at the time. I shared an apartment with a Jamaican student which was above a Chinese restaurant across the street. I did not have a lot of money and often ate ice cream for dinner because the owner’s rule was that we could eat as much ice cream as we wanted as long as it did not hinder us from serving customers or doing our duties. I used a good portion of my first paycheck after I was baptized to buy my scriptures. I carried them around in the box that they came in for several months to protect them. I am now using a scripture carrier that I bought at the BYU-Hawaii Bookstore the Spring Break after I was baptized. My scriptures have always been a treasure that was worth all my effort to gain. I have some notes in the margins that are dated from 1993. Some show my lack of experience in the gospel, but I hope these last for my lifetime in order to show my progression from milk to meat.
Today, I read all the chapters in Second Nephi that quote from the Book of Isaiah. When I told my husband this, he said something like, “Wow, that’s hard core.” And I replied, “Well, I didn’t ponder them, really, I just read them.” And he laughed. I then realized that I had internalized something and shared it with him. I noticed that Isaiah uses words that no one else uses which makes him an interesting teacher. This reminded me of how I keep and record people’s testimonies on Fast and Testimony Sundays. There are words that everyone uses… like: “I know the Church is true.” Of all the testimonies that I have written in my journal, the most unique one was from a friend who has since moved away. In her entire testimony she did not use any words that anyone uses over and over again.
I’ve been keeping track of how many times “heart” is written in the Book of Mormon and how many different ways your heart can be. It can be soft, hard, can have imaginations, can be pricked, etc. Isaiah doesn’t use these expressions.
In 2 Nephi 16:10 it says, “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes–lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.” Apparently, a heart can be made fat, too, but I think it’s just a different way of saying to enlarge or to make soft. When your heart is soft, you are open to way more things of the Spirit as opposed to being hard and you’re unwilling to heed the commandments of God.
In 2 Nephi 17:2 it says, “And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of wood are moved with the wind.” Our hearts can be like a forest of trees moving with the wind… who else says that? It’s beautiful and there has to be a reason for using this metaphor.
I plan to do a more serious study of Isaiah, including the translations by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I realize there is more to his prophesies than just the words he uses, but it appears to me that he would be the equivalent of a sought-after speaker to give talks.
I hope to continue my scripture studying, BYU-Devotional watching, and steadily increasing the amount of time I spend on my knees praying. I feel like this is what needs to be done in order to be successful in my new stake calling.
Just thought I’d share it with you. What ways do you study your scriptures that really help you?