Dear Elders and Sisters #11: Opposition In All Things
MTC Update: A Visit from Elder Bednar and Getting the Most from Conference
Tuesday night we had some very special visitors, Elder and Sister Bednar. They spoke to the missionaries about the blessings of General Conference. It was so awesome! Elder Bednar began his talk by reminiscing about his own time in the “Mission Home” in Salt Lake City. Before the church built the MTC, new missionaries went to the Mission Home in Salt Lake for their doctrinal training, which lasted somewhere around a week. From there, they either went straight to the field or to BYU for language training.
Much of the doctrinal training in the Mission Home was done by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Can you imagine how awesome that would be? Exactly 45 years prior to that night he was in the Mission Home being taught by apostles like Spencer W. Kimball. He remembered that for him General Conference really became a time of deep spiritual growth. He shared with the missionaries what he does today, and has done for many years, to get the most out of general conference. It was brilliant!
He begins by taking a piece of paper and making 3 columns: (1) The Doctrine, (2) The Invitation, and (3) The Promises. He explained that he found every conference talk to have this same pattern. They would teach a doctrine, invite you to do something, and then promise blessings if you did. I think most of us in the room had never noticed that. He then had us watch small clips of 4 Conference talks and practice looking for the doctrine, invitations, and promises. It was like “light bulbs” were turning on all over the place! It is so easy to listen to or read a talk and love it, but experience no real change. Using Elder Bednar’s idea you will focus your learning on a specific doctrine, you will understand how to personally apply it in your life, and you will have the motivation of promised blessings. Wow!
Opposition in All Things
I have heard people quote the scripture that, “There must be opposition in all things” as long as I can remember. I’m not sure I ever really understood why. I was trying to describe it to a class of seminary students when it came to me that weight lifting was a really good analogy for this. For our muscles to function properly they must be stretched and strengthened. Our normal activity will accomplish some of that. Basic movements help to keep our muscles functioning, however, if we want them to increase we must do something more.
One way for this to happen is to “break” our muscles down. When muscles are strained appropriately they experience some tearing. Our body reacts by working to repair the damage, but it doesn’t just return it to norm, it “rebuilds” bigger and stronger than before. We have muscle growth. For “growth” to occur, some “tearing” must happen. To speed up the rate of growth we add weights. If you were to lay on your back and push a pillow up and down with your arms it would take many, many hours to experience any muscle tearing. However, if you roll over and do a push-up, lifting the entire weight of your body 25 times would accomplish more growth in a matter of minutes. The weight we push against significantly accelerates our rate of growth. The greatest growth comes when the weight is just beyond our capacity to lift alone, and we must rely on the assistance of a “spotter.”
This same principle is true for character and spiritual growth. The opposition and adversity we face in this life greatly accelerate our spiritual growth. Since we are on this earth to experience growth, opposition is indeed a blessing. Without adversity we may never learn the important lessons we were sent here to receive. When we see opposition from our Heavenly Father’s perspective, we feel less depressed and stressed and more hopeful. Just like in weight lifting, we experience the most growth when our adversity requires the help of others, especially the Savior, to overcome.
As mortals we have a tendency to focus on the problem instead of the solutions or growth. When we should be seeking solutions or turning to the Lord for help, we are tempted to identify with the problem itself. I had a student come to my office the other day who introduced himself to me and then said, “I am/have ________.” The “blank” was a one of his personal challenges. I was immediately concerned that he allowed his challenge to become his defining characteristic. I am finding this more and more common. Opposition is important for us to grow, but we cannot let our problems, instead of our progress, become the focus of our attention.
When we are tempted to focus on our fear or anxiety, we can contemplate how struggling with anxiety helps us learn to trust in the Lord, his power, his timing, and his love. Instead of focusing on our sorrows or depression, we can be thankful that they are teaching us gratitude and patience. Whether our challenges are physical, mental, or spiritual, one thing is certain, the opposition they bring is meant to refine us. As I heard a speaker recently say, “The Lord sent an experience hand-picked for me based on what I needed to learn.” If there is one thing I know, it is that our Heavenly Father loves us, and so does His Son Jesus Christ. They never give us a challenge that we cannot overcome with their help—even if they have to do most of the lifting!
Have a great week. We are all praying for you!
Brother and Sister Eggett