SALT LAKE CITY — Last fall, I listened to messages given by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during general conference and wrote a piece giving my thoughts on what non-Latter-day Saints, like myself, could learn from, appreciate and apply to their lives.
With this past weekend's general conference, I decided to once again listen. As I mentioned in my last piece, I'm not looking to convert or expect some spiritual awakening when I hear a religious leader like President Russell M. Nelson, Pope Francis or the Dalai Lama speak.
For me and many non-Latter-day Saints, we just want to hear something we can relate to and appreciate.
Here are three things that caught my attention this past weekend:
“Blessings from heaven are neither earned by frenetically accruing ‘good deed coupons,’ nor by helplessly waiting to see if we win the blessing lottery.
“You do not earn a blessing; that notion is false, but you do have to qualify for it.” —Elder Dale G. Renlund, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
While most of us do good deeds because they come from the heart, there may be some who occasionally think a blessing or good karma will come to them because of the good deeds done.
This is not the way it works.
The way I interpreted it, Elder Renlund was telling the congregation that you shouldn’t go out and try to “earn” a blessing or good karma, because that’s not only non-realistic, it’s not the point of what helping others is about. Helping others should come from the heart, not the mind thinking about what will come in return.
When Elder Renlund mentioned “helplessly waiting to see if we win the blessing lottery,” I couldn’t help but think of the idea that some people wait until they're either blessed or good luck (or good karma) comes knocking at their door. Personally, I do believe in blessings. But I also believe you have to make your own luck, meaning you can’t wait around for the thing you want to happen to just happen. I believe you have to work hard toward whatever goal you’re trying to obtain. Yes, a blessing, good luck or good karma is always welcome, but one shouldn’t stop working toward their goal because they believe the blessing/luck/karma will eventually find them. Why? Because you could be waiting forever.
Elder Renlund mentioned that blessings are not earned, but you do have to qualify for them. While we can go deeper into the religious aspect of what he said, I’d like to simplify it a bit for everyone that’s not of the faith or any religion. I interpret Elder Renlund’s message as saying you can be blessed, but there isn’t a specific moment that determines what grants a blessing. The same can be said about good luck or good karma. There’s no magical number to hit to get luck or karma on your side. It just happens, but you have to put yourself in a position for it to happen.
Again, it helps to be working hard toward your goal, helping others, etc. Whatever it is you do from the heart, keep doing that. Maybe you will eventually be blessed or have good luck. Maybe it takes a while. But the return isn’t what should motivate you. It’s the giving that’s most important, so focus on that. After that, hopefully, something that will surprise you in a good way will present itself.
“It is hard to understand all the reasons why some people take another path. The best we can do in these circumstances is to just love and embrace them; pray for their wellbeing and seek for the Lord’s help to know what to do and say. Sincerely rejoice with them in their successes; be their friends and look for the good in them. We should never give up on them but preserve our relationships. Never reject or misjudge them. Just love them!" — Elder Ulisses Soares, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
I really liked this message from Elder Soares because it’s universal, regardless of if you're part of the faith or not: It’s tough when someone you care about has decided to go a route you may think is not the best.
We see this a lot with younger people as they’re exploring and trying to figure their lives out. It occurs with adults, as well. Seeing someone take a path you don’t agree with isn’t great, but remember that it’s their life. I’m not saying you shouldn’t warn them about potential risks and consequences in their choices. But what I am saying is that in the end, it’s their choice, and for the most part no one will stop them. That sounds tough, but there isn’t much of an option there.
One place where you do have an option is caring for that person when you may disagree with their life choice. If you believe in prayer, pray for them. If you don’t believe in prayer, wish them the best. Whether you believe in prayer or not, one thing that is universal is love. Don’t let negativity get you down or cloud your mind. Love the people you may disagree with. Praise them when merited. I know it’s easier said than done, but you have to try — for both the betterment of the person you disagree with and for your own betterment.
Lastly and most importantly, Elder Soares’ message to not give up on those we may not agree with is vital. Now more than ever, it does feel like we’re quicker to judge and to dismiss people. Don’t be hasty to give up on them. Hang on to your relationship for as long as you can. I’m not saying you’ll need to hang on forever, as there could be negative consequences with that. But you do have it in you to hold on to that relationship, especially if you accept the fact that your path isn’t their path — and for me, that’s OK.
As long as the love and caring are there, that’s all that really matters.
“We live in a world with many voices seeking our attention. With all the breaking news, tweets, blogs, podcasts, and compelling advice from Alexa, Siri, and others, we can find it difficult to know which voices to trust. Sometimes we crowdsource guidance in our lives, thinking the majority will provide the best source of truth.
“While each of these approaches can be helpful, experience teaches that they are not always reliable. What is popular is not always what is best. Halting between two opinions brings no direction." — Elder David P. Homer, Quorum of the Seventy
Elder Homer’s message to the congregation was to follow God’s voice in a world full of competing voices. Whether you believe in God or not, one thing we can all agree on is that each person hears too many competing voices on a daily basis. Of course, social media and today’s technology have made it easier — at times, more annoyingly — to hear the opinions of others. It feels like we’re bombarded with talking heads trying to tell us this or that about politics, sports, our health — you name it.
And when Elder Homer said “crowdsource guidance in our lives, thinking the majority will provide the best source of truth,” I couldn’t help but think of all of the people who post (at times) major life decisions on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see "what everyone else thinks.”
Don’t get me wrong, I think seeking advice is healthy. But you should be very selective of where and whom you get said advice from. Sorry, but relying on the comments section of your Facebook or Instagram accounts to determine something important to you doesn’t seem to be the wisest thing.
Whether you’re a Latter-day Saint or not, we can all agree that what Elder Homer said is true: What’s popular isn’t always what’s best.
For me, Elder Homer’s message was also about getting away from the talking heads, the options of others, etc., to guide us. Seek guidance from trustworthy people; that goes for all. If you believe in a higher power, then you will likely seek spiritual guidance. If you don’t believe in a higher power, then you will likely seek guidance from those you trust.
Lastly, the one person you shouldn’t forget to trust: yourself. While listening to a higher power or trustworthy advisers is important, don’t forget that in the end, it’s you who decides your next step. If your heart, mind or even gut is telling you something, be brave and listen to that — even if everyone else is telling you something else.
In life, there are and will be regrets we have to endure. But it’s up to you to not let that number be too high. Take calculated risks when needed. And you know what will make taking those calculated risks even easier to take? When you believe in yourself and have a team of thoughtful, positive people around you — regardless of faith or no faith.