I really wanted to make sure I had documented all the talks at women’s conference this year; the messages there were poignant and tailored to our struggles today. Being a busy relief society president and finding myself short of hours in the day, I was grateful that my mother was willing to share with me her feelings and observations of President Uchtdorf’s concluding message at women’s conference. I’m grateful that she did, because I appreciated her perspective of the talk, reading as a mother.
We love the parables of Jesus, they are ancient but timeless. Each are simple, sweet and uncomplicated, their lessons were given gently but are fundamental to the gospel of Christ. Their parallels can be understood by innocent little children. We might know them inside out and back-to-front, but if we do not apply them we may be lost. The Golden Rule, The Wise Man and the Foolish, The Prodigal Son and so on are all profound teaching tools to help us understand how to live. We, fallen and sinful creatures need help to return home despite our keen departure into mortality. We left the heavens with a great desire to please our Heavenly Parents and qualify to return to Them after our probationary experience.
In General Women’s Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf tenderly tells a “story” or a parable. It is his way of teaching an important lesson to help us understand one such principle. His “story” tells of an eleven year old girl called Ava, who reluctantly stays with her Great-Aunt for the summer. Her mother has surgery and needs to recover and so selects Ava’s Great-Aunt, one whom she has never met to take care of her. At first I thought that was awkward for her to be with a “stranger,” but as I listened on I allowed myself to think of a good reason for selecting an aged family relative. This is one of those times when a parent knows what would be good for their child. Perhaps Ava was showing signs of defiance, perhaps she was being a worry to them, we don’t know if this was so. But I do know that a parent has the ability to feel what is right to help a child change their course when it’s needed. Staying with a best friend or having a little more freedom than normal could prove to be disastrous? Perhaps a place with less distractions was what Ava needed. Whatever the reason Ava was sent there. There may not have been any other reason but to have a good time with a distant relative. However, a wonderful thing happened over that summer.
Ava was put in an uncomfortable position. She was in a quiet and lonely place far from home and without any other family or friends. But what began so badly blossomed into exactly what Ava’s parents had hoped for. She learned many things about this old lady; she was vibrant, lively and cheerful and made her feel comfortable and at home. Ava soon felt happier being in her company. She learned about her Great-Aunt’s sadness’s, even heartbreaks over lost love and missing out on having a husband and raising a family. She learned how she overcame anger and discouragement over her seemingly unfulfilled life during those years. She listened and asked questions, learned how she picked herself up and worked towards a rewarding career. Ava saw for herself the respect and love others had for her Great-Aunt as she walked though her town. She was met by many who she had taught or influenced. Ava was sad to leave after the summer was over, she had gained a special friend and learned many things. President Uchtdorf’s story was bulging with lessons of patience, understanding and even love that we can all relate to. But how can we “liken” this story to ourselves?
I have often looked around me in church meetings and wondered how everyone is doing. Like most women, I have had my own share of sadness and disappointment. As I have counselled women in my church service, I have often told them that everyone, however they look on the outside, are having trials of their own, sometimes worse than we could imagine. Many people keep their heartaches to themselves and others may share. When it is comfortable and appropriate I would say “share” and help others to know that they are not alone in their struggles. The time will come when we will heal and look forward. We must remember that when we overcome our own difficulties, our experience can help others more than we will ever know. We should never “sit” on the lessons we have learned, rather we should share and nurture others through theirs. Ava’s Great-Aunt did just that, she picked herself up and dusted herself off, she learned to smile through pain and sorrow and find some great treasures. She became a genuinely happy soul! She found that there was much to be glad and grateful for. Like the Great-Aunt, if a bright flower in our hair or a colourful sun hat helps, buy one!
Here are two seriously fantastic ways feel better when times are hard… One, Push through the sorrows and difficulties with the scriptures at hand, devour them with prayer throughout, as we do with water and a favourite meal. Exclaim our pleasure and the guidance we receive from them. Tell others what we found there and how it helped our aching heart. Miracles come from searching the scriptures. Words of comfort and direction are there to be found- for us personally, and will be there for us in our hour of need. Two, Serve others. This is where we will find an abundance of happiness and personal peace. A listening ear, sharing our experiences with others, even a simple smile can save a life! Where our sadness once took priority, it will be replaced by fulfilment and true happiness. Our Saviour commanded us to love one another. By serving one another we are loving, saving and strengthening others, and indeed, ourselves. This is the remedy and lifestyle that will lift us out of misery and darkness. As we do selfless service for others and pray fervently for them (and ourselves), we will come to know God better and trust Him as we walk the avenues of mortality. One day we will see that our loving Heavenly Father had His hand in our back as we were maneuvered through this life. All will end well for us, that I am sure.
President Uchtdorf’s parable teaches us something about finding happiness when sadness once consumed our soul. Resentment and anger won’t change our circumstances but a cheerful heart will. His story also tells me that Ava’s parents were wise, they gave their daughter an experience equally as precious as her Great-Aunt Rose gave her. Did the Great Aunt’s experiences sound genuine to you? Parable or not, I have known many such women. I hope that I can be a strength to others in the same way, despite the trials that will come my way.
This women’s conference was so important to me [Hollie]. It answered some questions and calmed some fears as I work on being a better relief society president, friend, sister and person! Here’s an even more brief synopsis of conference than the things you’ve been reading here: