Introduction of Theme: I Choose to Believe

Women's Conference Talk by Tiffany McMinn

Last November, our family was in St. George spending the Thanksgiving holiday with some extended family. The day before Thanksgiving, I went out on a morning jog on a familiar road close to my mom’s home. I had done this route many times in past visits to town.

I had hit my halfway point and was on my way back when I came to the only stoplight on my jog. The light was red, and I stopped. I pushed the crosswalk button and waited on the corner to cross. I looked over and saw a work truck in the left turn lane, waiting to turn onto the road I was getting ready to cross. He hadn’t moved out into the intersection, and the light had turned yellow.

I looked at him again (sure that he could see me as well), and made sure he wasn’t going to turn onto the road. He wasn’t moving, and the light turned red. The crosswalk sign then flashed green for me to walk, and so I began to cross the road in the painted crosswalk area.

All of a sudden, I see the front bumper of the truck slam into the side of my body, moving me up off the ground. The next thing I remember was being on the ground and trying to get up. After slowly pulling myself up, the driver (who had pulled over to the side of the road) came running over to me (I think I was in shock; I kept asking, "Are my teeth okay?").

I remember then saying to the driver, “What were you thinking? Your light was red and I had the green walk sign! Didn’t you see me? I was doing everything right.” I was just a little upset!

He admitted that he wasn’t paying attention at all to the crosswalk—he was just focused on the fast cars that come around the bend in that road. After the light had turned red, he decided to hurry and make the turn.

I became much more sympathetic when I saw how bad he felt. There were lots of bruises and body aches that followed, but I was grateful it hadn’t been worse.

Why do I tell you this experience? What does this have to do with our women’s conference theme of “choosing to believe”?

The day I got hit, I was doing what I was supposed to do—following all of the traffic and safety rules, but I still got hit. Like I told the driver of the truck, “I was doing everything right.” In our lives, we may feel (for the most part) we are doing what we are supposed to be doing as we move along the covenant path. But, then out of nowhere we get hit, knocked, or pushed over with challenges that we never anticipated. These challenges can shake us and rock our world at times.

Elder Neil Anderson said that “As we follow the Savior, without question there will be challenges that confront us.” What are these challenges? Elder Anderson continues, “People we believe in disappoint us. We have unanticipated difficulties. Our life doesn’t turn out exactly the way we were expecting. We make mistakes, feel unworthy, and worry about being forgiven. We wonder about a doctrinal issue. We learn of something spoken from a Church pulpit 150 years ago that bothers us. Our children are treated unfairly. We are ignored or underappreciated. It could be a hundred things, each very real to us at the time.”

It is in these defining moments that we have the choice—the choice to believe. In a conference talk a few years ago, Elder Whitney Clayton tells the true story of a seven-year-old girl by the name of Sailor Gutzler. With her dad as pilot, she was flying with her family from Florida to Illinois in a private airplane early one January evening when mechanical difficulties caused the plane to crash in the rolling hills of Kentucky.

Everyone but Sailor died in the crash. She had suffered a broken wrist, cuts, and scrapes, and had lost her shoes. She was in shorts and a t-shirt and had one sock on. The temperature was 38 degrees. After crying out for her parents and not getting an answer, Sailor decided she needed to get help. She set off across the countryside, wading through creeks and crossing ditches. At the top of one small hill, Sailor saw a light in the distance, about a mile away. She stumbled through the darkness and brush toward that light, where she eventually got to the home of a kind man who helped her.

In this talk, Elder Clayton says the reason that Sailor survived this tragedy is because she “saw a light in the distance and fought her way to it—notwithstanding the wild countryside and the depth of the tragedy she faced.”

Few of us will ever have to go through an experience quite like this little girl did, but as Elder Clayton states, “All of us will, at some time or another, have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own rugged emotional journeys. ...It is in these moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief.”

Elder Clayton explains that this light shines from the Savior of the world. But, recognizing the Savior’s spiritual light begins with our willingness to believe in it. We have the choice to believe or the choice to doubt.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I wish I could believe the way you do”? In response to this, Elder Uchtdorf said that “Implied in such a statement is another of Satan’s deceptions: that belief is available to some people but not to others. There is no magic to belief. But wanting to believe is the necessary first step!”

Wanting! Desiring to believe! Alma teaches us “if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.” This is the first step. Elder Uchtdorf continues that it “also takes a little humility. And it requires an open heart and an open mind. It requires seeking, in the full meaning of the word. And, perhaps hardest of all, it requires being patient and waiting upon the Lord.”

As Sailor made her way through the night towards the light, I am sure it slowly grew brighter. But as Elder Clayton suggests, there were probably times where the light went out of view, maybe when she was in a ravine or behind a tree. But she continued to press on, remembering that light and trusting that it was still there, that it would come back in sight, that she just needed to keep moving in the direction she remembered seeing it.

In our lives, there will be challenging times, where we feel we are alone and in the dark. Where we can’t see the light of the Savior in our lives. Where it is tempting to give up. I believe it is in these moments that we need to do what Sailor did, continuing to move forward, remembering, trusting, and having faith that the Savior is still there. Trusting that if we continue to believe and to press forward living His Gospel, His light will come back into view.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the baptism of a brother that had previously had his name removed from the records of the church. It was a very small service, with only immediate family and a few church leaders and friends. It was a sweet privilege for me to be there.

I had known him and his family for quite a few years. I had seen him actively serving in the church and watched him slowly begin to fade into inactivity, due to concerns and questions he faced. I didn’t, and still don’t know all the details, and all of his concerns, but I knew he had really struggled and I knew that he had asked to have his name removed. Now, at this point in time he had decided he wanted to get baptized again.

I don’t remember every detail about that night, but I remember feeling the Spirit. I remember his sweet preteen daughter sobbing as she said the most sincere heartfelt prayer at the service--thanking Heavenly Father that her dad had decided to be baptized again. And praying that he would know that he was making the right decision.

I remember watching this man’s recently returned missionary son use his priesthood and perform the baptism and confirmation. I remember his wife being very emotional as she witnessed this event. At the end of the service, I remember the bishop asking this newly baptized brother to share his thoughts. I don’t remember everything that he said, but one thing that has stayed with me was this, “I still have lots of questions, but one thing I do know is that my life is much better in the church than outside the church.”

He had made the choice to get back up. He was exercising his faith entering into the waters of baptism. And while doing this he was still waiting upon the Lord.

Choosing to believe takes action. It doesn’t just happen. From Elder Clayton—“We must give place for the hope that we will find spiritual light by embracing belief rather than choosing to doubt. Our actions are the evidence of our belief and become the substance of our faith. We are choosing to believe when we pray and when we read the scriptures. We are choosing to believe when we fast, when we keep the Sabbath day holy, and when we worship in the temple. We are choosing to believe when we are baptized and when we partake of the sacrament. We are choosing to believe when we repent and seek divine forgiveness and healing love.”

After being hit with a challenge. It may be hard (even painful) to get up. We may be slow to get back on our feet (that hurt--getting hit by a truck hurts), but we have to try. For as Moroni has said, “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6).

I love this quote from Elder Uchtdorf—“If we make no effort to believe, we are like the man who unplugs a spotlight and blames the spotlight for not giving any light.” Sisters, when challenges come, never give up!

I believe sometimes we have to go through darkness to get to the light--the light of Jesus Christ. Continue to believe in Him and in His gospel. As Elder Clayton says in his talk, “Align your actions with that belief.” When struggles come, remember and remind yourself what His light felt like. Put those concerns on the shelf while patiently waiting upon the Lord for answers. Choose to believe.

I know, as the Savior said, “All things are possible to him that believeth.” I believe His arms are always outstretched to us. And I know that He lives.

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