Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Spring Break and the LDS Institute of Religion

I did not clean out my linen closet or dig out my laundry room, nor did I organize my art supplies. I did go to San Luis Obispo with my husband and daughters. I love San Luis Obispo! Victorian houses, historical sites, farmers’ market with oatmeal cookies—as well as fresh produce—of course, the beach, funky shops, small theaters…happy sigh.
On our way home, they dropped me off in Santa Barbara so that I could speak at the LDS Institute of Religion. That morning was filled with nerves (me) and thunder, lightning and torrential rain (the weather). We worried that no one would come. Five minutes before we were to begin there were about ten guys and one physics major girl. And although I was there to speak on discovering our lives missions, I also hoped that maybe some of the audience would rush home and order my books. Guys and physic major gals really aren’t my target audience. But in the end we had about twenty students--more guys than gals—but even guys can appreciate a good ghost story. Here’s an abbreviated version of my talk:
Joseph Smith told us that “Three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, we must believe God the Father actually exists. Second, we must have an understanding of His divine character, perfections and attributes. Third, we need an actual knowledge that the course of life we are pursuing is according to God’s will.”
Today I want to talk about that third thing, perhaps the hardest thing--discovering and pursuing the course of life that the Lord wants us to live. But first, before we talk about ourselves as individuals, I think it’s important to discuss who we are and who we’ve always been.
Boyd K Packard told us,“God is our Father! All the love and generosity manifest in the ideal earthly father is magnified, beyond the capacity of mortal mind to comprehend, in Him who is our Father and our God. His judgments are just, his mercy without limit, his power to compensate beyond any earthly comparison. Remember that mortal life is a brief moment, for we will live eternally. There will be ample (I almost use the word time, but time does not apply here), there will be ample opportunity for all injustices, all inequities to be made right, all loneliness and deprivation compensated, and all worthiness rewarded when we keep the faith. Our life does not all end with mortal death; it just begins.”
So, accepting that God is our father, that He loves us and because He loves us he wants us to be happy—we need to ask ourselves if we’re living the lives that will bring us the most happiness. I was taught that in our pre-existence, before we came to this earth, we were given a mission to fulfill. And for each of us, that mission is unique and individualized. If you’re not fulfilling the mission you were sent to do—you won’t be happy. It doesn’t matter if your works are righteous, good and selfless—if it’s not in keeping with the promises you made before you coming to earth—you won’t be happy. If you’re not fulfilling you’re personal ministry, you’ll be frustrated and discontent.
Joseph Campbell called our ministries “Your Bliss.” Oprah Winfrey called them “Sweet Spots.” She said, “They’re the moments when we’re immersed in the things we were put on earth to do, the things that tap into our strongest strengths and deepest loves, the things that let us be the most us we can possibly be—the things we are called to do.”
Prayer, scripture study, the spirit, patriarchal blessings, priesthood blessings can help us find our bliss, our sweet spot, but even then—sometimes it’s hard.
So, please take this simple test with me.
Question 1. When you think about your work, what emotions does it bring? When you’re honoring your calling, there’s an undeniable sense of stimulation and exhilaration. It will just feel right.
2. Are you serving others? Anything that makes you feel strong, connected and aligned with your calling will bless others. Every good work you do will impact those around you.
3. Does it make you excited to start your day? There’s a song by Billy Joel with the line, “Hardly anyone can see just how good I am—Rosalinda says she knows. Crazy Latin dancing solo down in Herald Square, Oh Havana I've been searching for you everywhere. We need to search for our own Havanas. Even if hardly anyone can see just how good we are.
Still, sometimes it’s difficult. I have struggled with this.
I’d like to share an experience I had after finishing my novel Hailey’s Comments. I’d made a goal to query fifty agents and after a few weeks the rejection letters were flying in, each bringing a blow to my fragile ego. My friends own successful businesses, they teach in schools, run preschools, take in foster children- I write stories no one reads.

We were vacationing in the San Juan Islands with my husband’s family. I hadn’t written anything in weeks. When we visited Victoria, BC I knew I had to see Craigdarroch Castle.
My novel, Hailey’s Comments takes place on a fictional island in the Pacific Northwest. The Dunsmuir home is a stone Victorian mansion, complete with turret and a widow’s walk that overlooks the ocean. In my novel the family matriarch, Helen, is murdered by her grandson, James Dunsmuir.
In Victoria, high on a hill, stands Craigdarroch Castle, but it’s not a castle with ramparts and moat. It’s a stone Victorian mansion complete with turret and a widow’s walk overlooking the ocean. It looks exactly as I’d envisioned my fictional Dunsmuir home. I stood outside on the grounds marveling. When I went upstairs, I read that the home was built by Robert Dunsmuir and after his death became the property of his widow, Joan. Joan and her son James, who shares my villain’s name, had a stormy relationship and were estranged for many years.
Until that day, I’d never visited Victoria, to my recollection I hadn’t any prior knowledge of the city’s prominent families or of Craigdarroch Castle. I’d never heard of the Dunsmuir family. As I stood on the Castle’s widow’s walk and watched the ships moving along the water, I felt a hand resting on my shoulder, pressing me forward, urging me to continue to write my dreams.
(My apologies to the Dunsmuir family. In reality James was most likely a perfectly lovely person and if he had reasons for being estranged from his mother, I'm absolutely sure it's not because he murdered his grandmother. I have since changed the names in my novel, which, by the way, is currently beneath my bed).
George Albert Smith said, “We are living eternal lives. Eternity doesn’t begin after this life but mortality is a crucial part of eternity. I sometimes have said to my friends when they seemed to be at the crossroads, uncertain as to which way they wanted to go, ‘Today is the beginning of eternal happiness or eternal disappointment for you.’” Our comprehension of this life is that it is eternal life—that we are living in eternity today as much as we ever will live in eternity. the intelligence that God has placed within it, that which has power to reason and to think, that which has power to sing and to speak, knows no death; it simply passes from this sphere of eternal life, and awaits This life is not given to us as a pastime. There was a solemn purpose in our creation, in the life that God has given to us. Let us study what that purpose is, that we may progress and obtain eternal life.”
One last personal experience, a number of years ago I traveled to Scotland with my husband. We had a wonderful time poking through ruins of castles. We enjoyed going off the beaten path, following goat trails to 13th and 14th century ruins. The castles were generally built on hills for better visibility of the kingdom and its borders. As I stood on a castle’s ramparts—I could see for miles of beautiful countryside, my only company, aside from my husband who was exploring some other castle part, seemed to be sheep, I imagined what sort of queen I would be if I had a kingdom. I liked to think that I’d be generous, kind, giving—and it suddenly occurred to me—I did and I do have a kingdom. My life is my kingdom and I can make of it what I want.
President Spencer W. Kimball said,
“Each one of you has it within the realm of his possibility to develop a kingdom over which you will preside as its king and god. You will need to develop yourself and grow in ability and power and worthiness, to govern such a world with all of its people. You are sent to this earth not merely to have a good time or to satisfy urges or passions or desires. You are sent to this earth, not to ride merry-go-rounds, airplanes, automobiles, and have what the world calls “fun.” You are sent to school, for that matter, to begin as a human infant and grow to unbelievable proportions in wisdom, judgment, knowledge, and power. . . . That is why in our childhood and your youth and our young adulthood we must stretch and grow and remember and prepare for the later life when limitation will terminate so that we can go on and on and on.”
Does this mean that I will become a bestselling author or that you will become an American Idol superstar? Probably not, but I can write, and I can create novels in every spare second I can find and when someone  takes the time to tell me they loved my stories and characters—it’s more than enough of a reward. And you can do whatever you like, too, even make music—maybe you’ll be singing in a church, or a convalescent center, but if your music brings joy to you and especially to others, our loving Heavenly Father will give you and I all the opportunities and resources we need to fulfill the missions He has sent us here to do.

1 comment:

  1. Great talk. We don't have to be the best in the field to still develop our talents. We might not be like the guy with the 10 talents, but we can still develop and expand on our 1 little gift and magnify. If only the Beethovens are allowed to compose and play, what does that leave the rest of us? That wouldn't be good planning on Heavenly Father's part, and I know he's a great planner.