Monday, March 29, 2010

Preparing for Enlightenment

Lots has happened this week. Monday I tried to update my website to move forward with testing essential oils as an adjunct therapy for Cystic Fibrosis; I found that, inexplicably, the website had broken completely. The homepage had been deleted, the login screen didn't work, and I had to call to get everything restored from a backup. Wow. Instant opposition. After talking with some people, I think that my first step will be to contact researchers in order to set up the test the 'right' way... so that it will be accepted by the Cystic Fibrosis community and the medical community as a whole. Still very optimistic, still moving forward, the website and sign-up is still in the works.

Life at work has become more interesting. Development hired a bunch of short-term part-time employees to augment each of the teams working on the MTC curriculum. That means that there are actually people in my department – people to talk with (at least for the next few months)! That makes me happy, since being able to take a 2-minute break for a short conversation makes my work much more meaningful (and keeps me from getting headaches from staring at a computer screen for hours on end). I love people.

General Conference is this next week. And, with the preparation for General Conference comes a story and a promise. You might already know this story, but there are only so many personal true stories I can tell. The first time I went to General Conference with a question in my heart was in the seventh grade. I was struggling with the decision of whether or not to skip grades – a decision which would simultaneously jeopardize my swimming career, destroy my peer group, and have massive social ramifications... but also could help better meet my needs at school. The school board had given me the option and expected an answer soon. I was completely lost and didn't know what to do, so I prayed for help. That weekend was General Conference. And my experience that Conference changed my life. It was there that I heard the words, (paraphrased) “Get all the education you can... do everything in your power to put yourself in the best educational environment possible.” It was an answer to my prayer – the exact words that I needed to move forward and the confirmation of my decision.

Since then, each General Conference has seemed to fall around a time of tumult in my life. I'm moving or making major decisions, choosing majors, or just struggling in mortality. And so I define one of my personal questions or struggles and take it with me to Conference. I ask the Lord my question and I attend every session of Conference with laptop in hand, fully expecting that a large number of the talks will address some aspect of my life. And, amazingly, they do. Maybe it's because everyone is struggling with the exact same things in life that I do. Maybe it's because the Lord tunes my ears to hear the words and remember them. And maybe it's because going to Conference with a question means that I am listening to the Spirit as He helps me find the answer. Sometimes it seems that every talk is written for me – that the General Authorities must have re-written their talks in the middle of the night just to answer my questions. And then I realize how amazing the foreknowledge of the Lord is – He knew what I would need before I even asked... and inspired those men and women to write into their talks the things I would need in my life.

Does it work? I guess that's a matter of how you look at the fulfillment of prayers to God on a global basis. Let's take two examples. First, I pray to remember where I lost something important, or for help in finding an answer to a hard question. Immediately my mind is enlightened and I find what I was looking for. In this case it's easy to say that the Lord heard and answered my prayer. Second, I pray for it to rain. Two days later we have a massive rainstorm. Obviously, the rain “fulfilled” my prayer, but what was the effect of my request? Did it rain because I prayed? Or did it rain because it was already planned; I just happened to ask for rain at a time when rain was going to come anyway? From a doctrinal perspective, the scriptures teach that the Lord does hear and answer our prayers – even those that have far-reaching effects. And we've all heard the stories of people who have prayed for rain and whose prayers have been heard. On a personal level, I know that the Lord hears and answers my prayers. Once in Naples I was doing an exchange with another missionary and having an especially hard day, so I prayed for rain (for me, rain is a sign of God's love). Within moments, a few dozen droplets fell from the sky on my arms and head. The pavement was dry, the smog was still there, and my companion hadn't felt anything. Inside my mind there was a voice, “It rained. Be happy. I love you. Keep working.” Countless other times, the Lord has answered my prayers – even when doing so affects others around me.

I know that God really does hear and answer our prayers. And when we attend General Conference this next week with a prayer in our hearts, He will inspire our leaders to share words that will answer our prayers, open our hearts, and help us hear the things we need to hear. It's a miracle, there for the asking. Knock, and ye shall find. Ask, and ye shall receive. We simply need to ask, listen, write down our impressions, and actively seek the things we want to know. I know He will. Will General Conference answer a question that you've struggled with for years of your life? It has for me – multiple times. Or will it give you a piece of the puzzle – not the entire answer? That has happened too. Whatever happens, the answers you find will improve your perspective and enable you to make better decisions in your life.

So that is my invitation for you. Right now, make the commitment to attend General Conference with a question in mind. Ask before you go, and listen intently to the speakers and to the Spirit. I promise you that the Lord will hear and answer your prayer. He will speak to you through the mouth of His servants and you will know they are His servants. Then go out and share that knowledge with others. Go out and be missionaries!

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