Over the last few months I have had a great desire to improve my life, my heart, my mind and my spirit, but have been unable to do so. On my own.
Over the last few weeks I have had several faith-strengthening experiences; some have been from kind words from friends, others from lessons in church, and several directly from God. When I use the word directly, I use it quite literally. When we submit our will to our Savior Jesus Christ, we make room in our lives for amazing things to happen. The scriptures are full of miraculous events: Moses parting the Red Sea, the deliverance of Jonah from the mouth of the whale, angels closing the mouths of the lions to protect Daniel, the feeding of the 5,000 and countless others.
To contrast these large miracles of the Lord, let us study this “smaller miracle,” so we may better understand the love God has for each of His children, in a real and personal way.
In Genesis chapter 18, we read of Abraham and Sarah, who are desperate for children. The Lord speaks to Abraham after many years of waiting, disappointment and old age.
10 …Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying, after I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is anything too hard for the Lord?
[Personal note: I share the story of Sarah only for the doubt I share with Sarah that I sometimes feel towards God’s power in my life, not because I am struggling with infertility.]
To me, one of the most meaningful miracles in my life has been that my Father in Heaven hears my prayers, cares greatly about them, and will send His Spirit to strengthen me, comfort me, and help me feel His love and direction.
God does not work miracles for show. He is a father who loves His children, and worked mighty miracles to aid and save His beloved children. He loved Moses and every single Hebrew that he delivered from the Pharaoh; He loved Jonah, despite his disobedience, enough to allow him to have a change of heart and try again; He protected Daniel after he diligently kept the commandments; and Jesus Christ helped feed every single person in his congregation not just physically but spiritually.
While these may seem to be mighty miracles of large stature, our Father knows the aches and pains we each feel and can change our lives in a way that is miraculous to us. He knew the longing hearts of Sarah and of Abraham. He heard their cries, and He felt their anguish. And He blessed them. Isaac was their miracle. And just as much to them as were the tame lions to Daniel.
Have you ever laughed at what the Lord might do for you? Have you thought that maybe you aren’t important enough or righteous enough to have blessings rain upon your head? Have you forgotten that nothing is too hard for the Lord? Even the smallest desire of your heart?
I have had a few great women in my life, an understanding husband, and a few great experiences lead me to the experience I had this weekend, which I would like to share.
First, a sister gave a wonderful Relief Society lesson that touched my heart and allowed me to feel the spirit. When I paused to thank her for her message, preparation and spirit, she then proceeded to further bless me and share a talk with me that she thought I might enjoy and delve into. I did. 🙂
After feeling a little lonely and expressing a desire for visiting teachers, my husband adamantly encouraged me to reach out to them.
My visiting teachers were delighted to come by and were able talk with me very openly and allow me to do the same, which was a great comfort to connect to them. They shared an inspired spiritual thought that could not have been more perfect. They shared a book with me that I have dove right into. It has said so many things that have spoken to my heart.
A friend invited me to the movies on a Saturday afternoon. We talked about big things and little things and enjoyed a fun movie. But she said one thing that penetrated my heart and gave me the courage to do what was best for me that day: go to the temple.
My sister gifted me with a trip to California to spend the weekend together. The spirit in her home was very comforting, relaxing and allowed me time to enjoy life, to not rush or worry and to read 2 books that made more impact on my heart and my knowledge of the gospel and my life than I am able to say.
I was able to go to the temple with my sister in Oakland.
And when I came home from my trip with a mind full of epiphanies, my husband listened to them all. And has supported me in them as I have moved forward in faith.
One of those epiphanies was the great power in my life for good when I make time to worship in the temple.
(For more information about the difference between a temple and a church meetinghouse, or to find one in your area, see this website: https://www.lds.org/church/temples?lang=eng)
About once a year, our temple here in Las Vegas closes for 2 weeks for a deep cleaning. And it happened to be this week. Well, with all the momentum I have built up and the support I have felt, I wasn’t about to ruin it now. Thankfully, there is one close by, in St. George, Utah–only a 2-hour drive away.
Friday morning I awoke early, dressed in my church clothes, and began to pack my lunch and my things for the day trip up to St. George.
I had a frustrating time getting some church music onto my phone but was not discouraged; rather, I focused on the peace I would soon feel in the temple.
My drive there was easy. I talked with my sister-in-law for about an hour and enjoyed catching up. As I drove through the normally scary piece of highway that goes through Arizona before you get to Utah, my mind shifted. In years past this stretch of highway was nerve-racking, but this time I pondered on those who came before. Before the road was paved, before the path was clear, before the mountains had been chipped to make way for anyone. I felt a reverence for those who came before and paved the way (figuratively and literally!) I can always feel the spirit of Elijah stronger when I attend the temple often.
When I arrived, it was just as hot as it is here in Las Vegas. It was my first trip to this temple and I was anxious to have a new experience, in a new place, but with the same spirit that always attends the House of the Lord.
“The temple is a place of instruction where profound truths pertaining to the Kingdom of God are unfolded. It is a place of peace where minds can be centered upon things of the spirit and the worries of the world can be laid aside. In the temple we make covenants to obey the laws of God, and promises are made to us, conditioned always upon our faithfulness, which extend unto eternity.”
After I was finished with the worship portion of my temple experience, I sat in a quiet room we call the Celestial Room. This is a place of beauty, with flowers, fine chairs and couches, a large painting of the Savior and scriptures in abundance to read, if desired. This is by far my most adored part of attending the temple. It allows me time to sit and just be still. I ponder the scriptures, I pray with an earnest heart, I listen with my heart for direction and comfort.
Most times when I attend a new temple, it is with someone–Griffin, Nicole, or other family members. But this was my journey alone. The doubtful part of my heart thought maybe I wouldn’t have as meaningful of an experience in a temple that I didn’t often visit. How silly I realized this thought had been. No matter where we are, which chapel, or which temple, the spirit of the Lord is still the same. The saving grace of the Atonement is still as powerful. And our Heavenly Father’s desire to communicate with us in a real way is still the same. He does not change. We change when we attend the temple. I was changed because of the spirit in the temple. I was able to just be, and allow myself to hear, to see (in a manner), and to feel God more fully in that moment. And to feel and hear the words He wanted me to hear.
“Temple worship ensures that our lives are in harmony with the will of the Lord, and we are attuned to receive His guidance in our lives.” – Howard W. Hunter
This is not the place to share what the Lord shared with me, but I will share the weight of what I now know.
I approached my two previous visits to the temple with the same desire in my heart. I had not yet received guidance, only a push to continue to seek and pray.
These prayers were answered that day in the temple. These prayers were answered with a direct phrase that was spoken to my mind and my heart. (See Doctrine and Covenants 8:2)
I am sad to say that I had to listen once more to be sure I had heard correctly. I felt as Sarah, wondering if God really could do what He was saying, for me. Again, the most profound pillars of my testimony are when the Lord knows intimately how I am feeling. I wanted to be sure it was not my hopeful heart, but that it really was the Lord speaking to me through the Holy Ghost.
I know that it was.
I also spent time reading the scriptures, pondering a specific chapter and verse. My mind was then enlightened with what it could really mean if actually applied in my life. We often read the scriptures, and a powerful verse becomes less so because of our familiarity with it, or our lack of diligence in really studying it further. I know that when we take the time to worship God, to spend time in His house, and to study his word and pray with real sincerity, we can gain great understanding. (See Luke 8:10 and Doctrine and Covenants 11:7)
This experience was profound for me in many ways. I felt at home, I felt peace and I felt a renewed understanding of God’s love for me. For me. For Melissa. Not for someone big and important, but for me. That is life-changing. I had been praying for guidance and direction and comfort over these things for months, and even years, desiring to know the will of God concerning me. And in one miraculous afternoon, the heavens were opened to me, just for me, to deliver the message and wisdom I had been seeking. I may have not been rescued from a lion’s den, and my doubting heart may have laughed at the miracle of such a strong answer to a prayer, but I was given an answer from God at the right time, in the right place, and in the way I needed because of the diligence and faith I showed as I struggled to continue to pray for the same thing.
I am sure Sarah felt this way and may have given up praying to have children. But then the Lord blessed her with Isaac.
“And he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” — 1 Nephi 10:19
There are some that say revelation only came to those in the time of the Bible. That only those like Abraham and Moses and the apostles in Jesus’ time could hear the voice of the Lord.
The Lord has said “And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today and forever; that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.” –2 Nephi 29:9
The Lord does not change. Just as He spoke to Moses and Abraham, He can speak to us. He loves all of his children and asks us, no matter our situation, to come to Him.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” –James 1:5
The feeling that surrounded me that day in the temple was familial, familiar, pure, kind, loving and it pierced my heart and soul. The Lord knows our hearts. Our aches, our pains, and our longest desires. And he knows how to calms our fears, ease our pains, and guide us forward, that we may do His will and find peace in His gospel.
I testify that without a doubt, the Lord of this world spoke to me in the quiet of my heart in a way that I could feel and understand. Great mysteries pertaining to the gospel and my life were revealed.
The Heavens are open! To all of us! To all of us who seek Him with a pure heart and real intent! To all of us who need refuge from the storm! The Heavens are open!
Is anything too hard for the Lord?