My talk presented in Tempe Stake Conference Adult Session
Some time ago, I was in the checkout line at the Fry’s grocery store waiting behind a woman who was checking out ahead of me. All of my items were on the conveyer belt, the woman ahead of me was taken a bit of time and I simply checked out. I pulled out my phone and began to mindlessly scroll through social media feeds. I was shaken out of my mental fog when the woman waiting behind me intervened. Apparently, the woman checking out was short on money and was trying to negotiate which of her items she could do without until she was able to purchase it. She was obviously stressed. The woman behind me offered to pay the difference. I still remember the expressions of relief and gratitude wash over her face as she expressed gratitude to that kind woman. I also remember the feelings of shame I felt because I was disconnected and unaware.
I was asked to center my talk today on staying spiritually anchored in our time. An anchor is a type of connection with weight and substance, so much so that it provides a force that can keep us steady even when life gets rough. I’m going to focus on connection today.
Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection describes connection as
the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from relationship.
When we interact with others with the spirit, this type of connection can happen.
In Doctrine and Covenants 93, verses 33 through the first half of 35 reads:
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy. And when separated, man cannot receive the fullness of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yeah, man is the tabernacle of God, even temple”.
One way to apply this verse is through the prism of connection. When our spirit is fully embodied in our lived experience, we have opportunities of connection required to experience moments of joy. In the grocery store that day I missed out on receiving a fullness of joy through connection.
D&C 88:13 it reads:
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon the throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst all things.D&C 88:13
The spirit of Christ, that sitteth upon the throne, that is in the bosom of eternity is also in the midst of all things. Christ cares about the details. I know sometimes we think connection happens most often when we separate ourselves from our daily routine and seek out sacred spaces, like in the temple, out in nature, or in quiet contemplation as we wait for the sacrament. Those moments are important. We should find regular moments of deep communion in sacred places. But we also have opportunities for spiritual connection in all parts of our lives.
Let us imagine for a moment now that we’re sitting in a Sunday School class and the teacher asks what we can do to have the spirit more regularly in our lives. I can imagine the answers – read our scriptures, say our prayers, attend our meetings, visit our ministering families. In short, keep the commandments. I worry though if we reduce our gospel responsibilities to a transaction we miss out on the full impact of our gospel responsibilities and potentials. We place our acts of obedience into the vending machine and out pops the spiritual blessings. I don’t want to be too dismissive about this. Covenants have a transactional nature to them, but we shouldn’t reduce our covenants to transactions.
Doctrine and Covenants 93, verse 20 provides insights:
For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.D&C 93:20
Clearly there’s something transactional in that verse. To receive of his fulness, we must keep the commandments, but the second half of that verse describes how that process happens – we shall receive grace for grace. Grace is definitionally non-transactional. Grace is receiving more than we deserve. It’s merciful, forgiving, generous. It’s abundance.
Yes, we need to read our scriptures, but we need to let Christ’s grace stir up moments of insight and inspiration as we read. Yes, we need to get down on our knees in regular prayer, but we also need to sit in meditative silence to allow the grace of Christ’s spirit to provide answers, guidance and direction. Yes, we need to show up for our meetings, but we need to be open to allow the words from our teachers and speakers to inspire us beyond even their intentions. Yes, we need to serve others in our ministering assignments, but we need to be open to allow these visits an opportunity develop into true and caring relationships. And yes, we need to go about our lives and fulfill our daily responsibilities. But we need to be more open, awake and attentive to opportunities to allow the spirit to inspire us into more loving connection to those we run into.
I started out with a kind of negative experience, I’m going to end with a more positive one.
Last weekend, I was flying up to Salt Lake City to help move my oldest daughter into her Snow College dorm. I found my aisle seat and a spot in the overhead bin and I was settling in. Soon, as the last passengers were boarding, I overheard a couple searching for a seat lamenting that they probably wouldn’t be able to sit together. There was an empty middle seat next to mine and in a moment of quiet, sponteneous inspiration and grace, I allowed them to take my seat as I found a middle seat further up the plane.
At the end of the trip as we were preparing to get off the plane, they reached out with a small thank you. It was a small moment of grace and connection and spirit, but one I was grateful for. May we all more consistently find these regular opportunities to be connected in the spirit as we navigate the distractions, temptations and difficulties of our modern life, in the name of Jesus Christ amen.