Women's Conference Talk by Miriam Franson
I sat at a lunch recently with some dear friends who shared their discouragement with their college-age daughters’ struggles to find men to date who do not or have not had issues with pornography. They just don't want their daughters to have to deal with that! I am sure we all can relate to deep feelings of concern for how battles with addiction today affect not only now, but the marriages and families of our children and grandchildren.
As I sat at that lunch and in other circumstances where the question, “Can people really change? Truly overcome and begin new?” is wrestled with, I’ve wished I knew how to share my own depth of belief in the power of the Savior’s Atonement to do just that. I’ve felt His power help me move past things in my own life, and have seen it transform the lives of people I dearly love.
I have come to believe that there are many more hopeful stories than we realize sitting all around us, but out of loyalty, self-preservation, and a desire not to have it be the headline of life moving forward, we don’t hear them.
When a single friend of mine moved here from out of state, I asked her if there was anything tough for her about the move to Utah. She said, “I don’t know if people here really believe that the Atonement works. They talk about it, but do they really believe that it can change lives?”
While I don’t necessarily think this is a specific-to-Utah concern. I think it’s a great question to ask ourselves!
I’m so grateful for her belief in the Atonement that was a piece of inspiring her future husband to take the difficult road of recovery from substance abuse and pornography, and over time and with sincere effort become worthy to be sealed to his beautiful bride in the temple this last year.
Almost ten years ago while living out of state, one of my best friends found out about her husband’s addiction issues when a police officer showed up at her door. With the encouragement of her husband, she came to stay with us that first weekend as she began to process what turned into years of heartache as her husband not only dealt with his addictive demons, but the legal repercussions, court proceedings, etc. I say this to acknowledge I am not naive to the devastation that can be left in the wake. But, I have also watched (and experienced myself) the beautiful overcoming. The way that the Savior can bring beauty from ashes.
I want to read to you a few of my favorite things my friend has said to me in emails through the years since (now that we no longer live in the same area). But, before I do, I want to clarify that in no way are these shared thoughts trying to convey there is one right response. I am so grateful for President Nelson and his encouragement for us to learn to receive and use personal revelation in our individual lives. I believe that is truly where the answers tailored to our lives will best come.
Early on in this challenge, my friend said: “Every day I try to empty myself of what I think my life should be and accept what my life really is and understand what God wants me to do.”
When I asked her for advice before I gave a Relief Society lesson on eternal marriage she said:
“Eternal marriage is such a tricky topic these days, with so many partners breaking their covenants. I wonder if that is the lesson I will be listening to today? Today I am fasting and praying to know the Lord’s will regarding my eternal partnership. I hope I have the strength to sit through the lesson. But of course I do! Truth is absolute. And eternal marriage is a true principle of God. Learning about true principles, God’s eternal principles always brings strength to do what is right, no matter what that might be.”
Quite a while after I heard:
“Life has been really good. I won’t say it’s been easy. [We] are going through a huge learning curve as we try to create an entire new relationship together. ... I feel love and admiration for all that [my husband] has been through, and how far he has come. He is the strongest, most diligent and dedicated person.”
“So things are drastically different from the last time I emailed you. [We] are happy. We have felt a miracle happen in our marriage and have come to know and understand the power of the atonement in our individual lives and in our marriage.”
Isn’t it remarkable to think that beyond her bishop, I’m not sure that anyone in my friend’s home ward was aware of what they were going through?
I am convinced there is more suffering around us than we are aware of.
I am afraid we hear enough of heartbreak to make it very difficult at times to feel hope for ourselves and those we love who may struggle. But I know there are more stories of hope around us than we know because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Real change, healing, overcoming, the Atonement applied and miracles resulting.
President Boyd K. Packer said:
“The Savior’s Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed and what it heals stays healed.”
(Boyd K. Packer, General Conference training meeting, Apr. 7, 2015.
Quoted by Elder Allen D. Haynie in November 2015 Ensign.)
While there may not be tracks or traces left, often what is left in its place may include increased vigilance against sin, wisdom, empathy, and a love and gratitude for the Savior.
I know it’s real. Of that I am a witness.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.