Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LDS Writers Blogfest: "Desire"

Last April, I participated in a blogfest that involved several LDS writers, each blogging for a day about one element of our beliefs. (My post is HERE.)

We're doing it again, this time with a slightly different focus; we're blogging about our favorite talks from the recent general conference. With such a great conference this year, picking one favorite was pretty much impossible. I finally had to settle on one of many that made an impact on me.

(I'll be quoting Elder Oaks a lot, because he says it all so much better than I could.)

To start off, I have to admit that at times I struggle with one vital and important part of mortality and my hopes for eternal life: enduring to the end. At times I get discouraged, wondering if my devoted efforts from ten years ago really mattered. In the end, it's what I'm doing today and tomorrow that will determine my destiny.

That may sound silly, but without going into details, enduring, keeping the course, and maintaining and acting upon the right priorities and desires can be hard at times, especially when I compare my past efforts with others'. (Comparison and those issues are another post altogether . . .)

Some events have made me angry at times, wanting to drop the spiritual "ball" and let someone else be the valiant one for once. But when I let that happen, over time, I, of course, find my own spirituality suffering.

I have to accept one simple fact: God doesn't want a lukewarm disciple. I must endure.

Elder Oaks said:
The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.
I love that it's not just our desires that ultimately determine our becoming, but the desires we act upon. Big difference. It goes back to all those great intentions that never happen but instead pave a special path to you-know-where.

We have so many desires, and many are good. That's when we must set aside some of them, making others our highest priority. Then, with that list in hand, we act upon those. As Elder Oaks said in another general conference talk in 2007, sometimes we must choose between good things; we may have to set aside the good for the "better" and set aside "better" for "best."

Elder Oaks goes on to discuss the struggle of Enos from the Book of Mormon and then comments on it:
Note the three essentials that preceded the promised blessing: desire, labor, and faith.
Desire isn't enough. Here he points out that our deepest desires will actually show up in our actions (our works), and those are what we'll be judged by. In other words, God knows our deepest desires because of our actions.
. . . in modern revelation the Lord declares that He “will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:)
Let's see: I meant to go to the temple more often. I planned to have Family Home Evening regularly. I sure thought I'd get around to studying my scriptures.

The list could go on forever. But, um, nope. Not gonna cut it.
Are we prepared to have our Eternal Judge attach this enormous significance to what we really desire?
That thought could be intensely comforting or intensely disconcerting.

Elder Oaks discusses the story of Aron Ralston, the hiker who had to eventually cut off his own arm, trapped by a boulder, to survive. Referring to that event, Elder Oaks says:

Most of us will never face such an extreme crisis, but all of us face potential traps that will prevent progress toward our eternal destiny. If our righteous desires are sufficiently intense, they will motivate us to cut and carve ourselves free from addictions and other sinful pressures and priorities that prevent our eternal progress.

And here's where the endurance part comes in: true desires, and the actions from those desires, determine who we are. They, then, are part of enduring. And they are not optional.

We should remember that righteous desires cannot be superficial, impulsive, or temporary. They must be heartfelt, unwavering, and permanent.

In interpret that to mean that God doesn't give us brownie points for every commandment we keep, tallying up in the end how righteous we are and what glory we deserve. There's no bar to climb over, just squeaking by, no letter grade or percentage level, that says, "You get to enter the celestial kingdom because you reached this minimum level. But nope, that person doesn't get in because they didn't fast enough times."

He doesn't want us doing the bare minimum. That smacks too much of the lower law, which didn't have the power to save. He wants our devotion entirely.

Elder Oaks continues by listing a few of the desires and actions we should cultivate:

If this seems too difficult—and surely it is not easy for any of us—then we should begin with a desire for such qualities and call upon our loving Heavenly Father for help with our feelings.

. . . it is our actions and our desires that cause us to become something, whether a true friend, a gifted teacher, or one who has qualified for eternal life.

That's where I am right now: asking the Lord to help me develop the qualities I need to become the handmaiden He desires of me. Then to act on those things to fully qualify for those blessings.

The process will continue for the rest of my mortal existence. I hope to find some success along the way when it comes to true discipleship, forgiveness, and qualifying for the blessings I desire in the next life.

Other posts in today's LDS Writers Blogfest:
Annette Lyon: “Desire”
Annie Cechini: “The Spirit of Revelation”
Ben Spendlove: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Chantele Sedgwick: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Charity Bradford: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Jackee Alston: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Jenilyn Tolley: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Jennifer McFadden: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jessie Oliveros: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jolene Perry: “It’s Conference Once Again”
Jordan McCollum: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Kasey Tross: “Guided by the Holy Spirit”
Kayeleen Hamblin: “Become as a Little Child”
Kelly Bryson: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Krista Van Dolzer: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Melanie Stanford: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Michelle Merrill: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Myrna Foster: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Nisa Swineford: “Desire”
Sallee Mathews: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Sierra Gardner: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Tamara Hart Heiner: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”
The Writing Lair: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”


Heffalump said...

That was a great talk!
My kids remembered it when we were talking about what they learned during conference, mostly because of the story about the arm. At least something stuck in their heads!

Susan Anderson said...

I loved this talk as well, and so many others. What a wonderful conference!


Melanie Stanford said...

Excellent post! I missed this talk but now I want to go and read it because it's definitely something I need to work on. Something I want to ask you- being a published author already, is my wanting to be published a righteous desire? It's a question I struggle with because I think while it's not bad, it's not exactly righteous. While I try to work on everything else too (good mother, good wife, good member, etc.), sometimes I wonder if I should let being an author go and focus on those more important things. Any answers?
Melanie Stanford

Kelly Bryson said...

I can't help but picture the guy cutting his arm off. Yikes.

But it really does seem just as hard as giving up some of my sins.

And Melanie- if you want my opinion, wanting to reach people with your stories isn't good or bad. I think it's more about your desire. Are you trying to lift others? Or are you trying to bring them down? By that measure, nobody should have pub'd Hemingway or Steinbeck, but I would have been okay with that;)

Jolene Perry said...

I love your take on this. It made me think of how we're told that we really need to wait for inspiration to know what we pray for. Just like we may have a lot of desires, but we need to prayerful about which ones we act upon. I can say that this is the exact reason that I didn't begin writing until a short time ago - I knew it would take over parts of my life and there really is a season for everything.
Thanks for your thoughts.

Annette Lyon said...

Writing is one of those things that's very personal as far as where it fits into your life.

For me, I've had many spiritual experiences confirming that yes, I'm supposed to be doing this--and doing it NOW. That it's part of my mission somehow. So I can't answer the question for anyone else. It's right for ME.

That said, it can absolutely take over my life (especially now that I have deadlines and promotional events and the like), so now more than ever, I have to consciously strive to find a balance between where my writing fits in and how it affects my family. I've had to scale back here and there and make a point of walking away from the computer or saying no to events because my kids come first.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Fantastic post, Annette. So analytical and organized, and yet so heartfelt. I especially liked this line: "In the end, it's what I'm doing today and tomorrow that will determine my destiny."

I hope your bishop asks you to speak about Elder Oaks's talk in sacrament meeting sometime soon. You already have it written:)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Thank you so much for sharing Annette. This talk was one that really stood out to me during Conference. It was like he was talking to me. I love it when that happens, and I took in every word. Thanks for sharing your feelings on his talk. It really was amazing. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a thought provoking post. I love how expressed your emotions.

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for posting on this talk. It was one of my favorites.

Melanie Stanford said...

Thanks for your answer. Balance is definitely key. Something I constantly remind myself of.
Hopefully it will turn out to be right for me as well but if not, I'll keep doing it as a hobby cuz I could never give it up completely.
Thanks again!

Jessie Oliveros said...

Thank you for your thoughts. It is so true that our actions are reflections of our deepest desires, and it is a good way to measure myself against what I should and should not be doing.

Sometimes I'm with Melanie. I don't know if writing is what I should be doing...it's better but is it BEST? (And is it NOW for me??) But you are right, it is an intensely personal decision for each person.

I'm glad I found your blog!

Michelle Merrill said...

Wow, I loved that. I can't wait to go back and read all the conference talks. Sometimes I get caught up in the better and forget the best. It's great to have a reminder. And yes, Enduring to the End can be hard but it's so important. Here's to doing our best and not just striving for the minimum. Thanks for the post. It's nice to meet you :)

Kasey said...

I'm so glad you chose Elder Oaks's talk. He is always a favorite of mine (so glad you mentioned the "Good, Better, Best" talk too!). I totally felt where you're coming from when you said, "Some events have made me angry at times, wanting to drop the spiritual 'ball' and let someone else be the valiant one for once." I think we all feel that way at one point or another. Whenever I do, I just imagine standing before the Lord and Him showing me a "replay" of that moment in my life and asking me to explain myself. I always know that there's nothing I can say that would be sufficient. So I give up my little rebellion and do the right thing (albeit often grudgingly- that would be yet another fault I need to work on)!

Thanks so much for your words. I'm enjoying reading all the posts from my fellow bloggers!

Stephanie said...

Love your thoughts here. And Elder Oaks' of course. What a great idea for a blog fest. As a general conference junkie, I wish I had thought of it. :)

Unknown said...

Wow! I loved your insights on this talk. This is the one that stood out most to me as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Charity Bradford said...

Great post Annette! Thank you for also sharing the link to Elder Oaks 2007 talk. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and meaning to look it up. Now you've made it easy for me to act upon that intention.

Another great benefit to the gospel. We help others move along the path even when we are unaware of it. Thank you!

Lisa Loo said...

Lovely post.

My attempt at enduring to the end has not been very pretty.

Sometimes it's just by my fingernails.

Sometimes someone comes by and scoops up me and my ball and holds on to both of us till I get a better grip.

I love the gospel!

Lara Neves said...


Thanks for sharing this Annette. I REALLY REALLY needed to read it...you said just the right things. It IS hard to endure to the end, and sometimes I feel like I can't and maybe the desire IS gone a little bit. But it's really not, and I just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep on keeping on.


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