When my priesthood leader asked if I would be up for giving a talk today, he did not ask me through the time-honored ways of walking up to me at church or in the neighborhood or even by calling me on the phone. He sent me an e-mail, and after I replied in the affirmative he followed up with another email with an attachment of the speaking assignment which I then uploaded to my Google drive via my phone, which was handy for downloading later on my laptop when I couldn’t find my phone. My point is, life seems to becoming more and more complex. I consider this to be a good thing in countless ways. We live in an amazing world where we are blessed with all sorts of technology and advancements that can so often be used for our good. We have the ability to communicate with others around the world, to stay in touch others, to share ideas with the world. I really don’t want my talk to be about all the downfalls of this complex world because I do believe these advancements are intended to be a blessing if we use them correctly.
What I do wish to speak of is what we might forget about in this complex world. With our ability to do more see, see more, accomplish more, we have the potential to wind up with a lot of mores. While many of these are good, there are those who have lost sight of the basics of our gospel and our world. Some of us find our relationship with our Father in Heaven being placed on the backburner. In some ways this can be almost laughable. Our Heavenly Father who is the source of all blessings give us what we need, opens doors of opportunity, all the amazing complexities I mentioned, all things that can be used to grow spiritually and even just get through our day-to-day lives, ways to build up His kingdom, and yet sometimes He is the one who is forgotten.
I imagine all of us have been in dark places in our lives. Perhaps we have found ourselves crying out to our Father in Heaven. Perhaps we have been at the other end of the spectrum, feeling completely abandoned and alone. I am not in a position to speak for how others have felt and what they have experienced in such times, but I do deeply believe that our Father in Heaven does want us in the camp of the former, seeking Him.
In this talk “Of Things that Matter Most”, Elder Uchtdorf advises us to slow down and focus on the basics. He tells a story of turbulence in an airplane: Have you ever been in an airplane and experienced turbulence? The most common cause of turbulence is a sudden change in air movement causing the aircraft to pitch, yaw, and roll. While planes are built to withstand far greater turbulence than anything you would encounter on a regular flight, it still may be disconcerting to passengers.
What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.
Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.
On my kitchen wall I have this little wallhanging that says “In the Happy Moments Praise God. In the Difficult Moments Seek God. In the quiet moments Trust God.” I probably don’t look at this enough or ponder it enough, but it does serve as a reminder that Heavenly Father truly is mindful of us and our lives. I feel this goes beyond both just the hard times, or just the good times. If we are giving up when things get hard, or instead only looing to Heavenly Father when things are hard, is our relationship with Him where it truly could be? Are we do wrapped up in the rush of modern life we only have time for God at certain times and certain events?
So, how can we build our relationship with Heavenly Father?
One that occurred to me was to simply slow down, whatever that might mean for each of us. In the same talk, Elder Uchtdorf says the following One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.
Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.
It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Overscheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.
I imagine everyone’s mileage may vary on what it means to be too busy, but I would daresay that one could tell if they were too busy if they were unable to focus on the most important parts of the gospel, the very things that would allow us to build up that relationship with Heavenly Father. In our mortal world of finite time, are we making the time we need?
After we make the time, what exactly do we do with this time? I imagine this is where the classic Primary answers come into play. We have been told what we need to do… are we getting it done?
In 1 John 17 we read 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
Think of the words of Jesus Christ “Come follow me.” Three words and so simple and direct an instruction. We need to do what He would have us do. Are we living as Christ exemplified? Are we treating others as we have been taught? Are we being honest in our lives?
These things are great basics that work always in our busy lives. No matter what we are doing, we can still be honest, kind, and Christ-like.
As wonderful as these things are and as important as they are for us to do to grow closer to our Heavenly Father, we also ought to go one step further. We need to have personal time to build our relationship. This might come in the form of personal prayer, in the form of scripture study, and in the form of simply considering the blessings and commandments we have been given. We ought to take the time for consideration and reflection, a time to pray to our Heavenly Father and to actively listen and think. James E. Faust said What is the quality of our secret prayers when only He listens? As we study and pray, we should do with the intent of truly speaking to our Heavenly Father.
Part of this time of prayer and study is truly believing in the divinity and truth of our Father in Heaven. Do we believe He is truly there and loves us? Do we take the time to be in awe of that fact?
President Kimball has said: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”
I think this is one of the big reasons we are reminded to pray and to study the scriptures. These are ways of growing close to our Father, ways of speaking to him and reading directly the gospel He has given us. These are proof He exists and cares for us.
Next, we should consider how worthy we are of our Heavenly Father. In no way do I want to negate the love and grace He has shown us in our imperfect mortal state, but His love is one of encouraging us to return to Him one day. Are we working on our imperfections? Are we striving to be worthy of a temple recommend? Are we making use of the Atonement in our lives?
I do believe these things works for each other. If we are doing all that we can to become closer to Heavenly Father, they will become easier. It may be impossible to do these things and not finding our hearts and minds turning toward Him. I know He wants a relationship with us.
We really do live in an amazing time. We have so many blessings in this world, and as fast-paced as they make it be I think the importance of maintaining a relationship with our Father even more important. We need to pray regularly, study the scriptures, and take the time to think about our Heavenly Father and our Savior. They need to become every so real to us. We need to live as the gospel has taught us, to serve others and be examples of that gospel. We need to do these things with the intent of growing closer to our Heavenly Father.
If we do this, we will be blessed. Perhaps our trials won’t disappear. Perhaps our good times won’t be exponentially expanded. But we will be blessed. We will have the support we need. We will be given strength through our hard times. We will better appreciate and rejoice in our blessings. We will have the Spirit with us and that incomprehensible comfort that comes with being close to our Heavenly Father.
I pray and hope that we can take the time to remember just how infinitely important God is to us and to take the time to grow closer to Him.