Tuesday, August 30, 2011

hope is a thing with feathers

A few excerpts from my talk, given last Sunday. Maybe by posting I'll actually take it to heart.

Hope really is 'a thing with feathers'* for me, flitting and flying off and hard to hold onto, the bird never perches on my shoulder for very long. Even though I know better, it would stay longer if I didn't always shoo it away. It flutters off too often, and sadly at my own urging.

This then:

Hope needs to be nourished
From my own personal experience I need to say this about hope. It can die if it isn’t nourished. Hope needs nourishment. If we don’t eat we can’t live. I used to frequently say to my children when they were small “If you don’t eat your peas, carrots, potatoes and meat, you won’t grow up to be big and strong.” We need nourishment to live and hope needs to be nourished.

There are several ways we can feed hope in our lives: through thinking positively, listening to uplifting music, prayer, doing good works, being of service. These are all good. But it’s important to know also, that hope lives on memory. Memory nourishes hope. The scriptures, reading from them regularly and frequently and consistently, give us a needed sense of history and perspective. When I think my problems are unique or overwhelming the scriptures and the examples in them quickly put them in their place.

...The scriptures furnish us with perspective because most, if not all, of human experience is contained in them. They run the gamut of human emotion and examples and they are the standard by which we measure all truth. The scriptures expose sin and provide us with examples of how to overcome and how not to live a life. The scriptures shed light on who we are as God’s children and our part in the Plan of Salvation, the scriptures teach us of the Savior and our complete need for him.

Scripture is the guide then, that teaches us what we should believe and how we are meant to live to please God. The scriptures expose sin as our basic problem, and shows us the way back home by faith in Christ. Our Heavenly Father’s laws and commandments guide us on our earthly journey and his wonderful promises encourage us to persevere along the way.

Times we live in
The scriptures also help give perspective to the times we live in. World conditions today are downright scary. As news reports get worse about the economy, wickedness and calamities filling the earth, we all could use that calming influence and hope that the scriptures and the gospel bring.

President Howard W. Hunter speaking at a BYU devotional taught:

I am here tonight to tell you that Despair, Doom, and Discouragement are not an acceptable view of life for a Latter-day Saint. However high on the charts they are on the hit parade of contemporary news, we must not walk on our lower lip every time a few difficult moments happen to confront us.

I am just a couple of years older than most of you, and in those few extra months I have seen a bit more of life than you have. I want you to know that there have always been some difficulties in mortal life and there always will be. But knowing what we know, and living as we are supposed to live, there really is no place, no excuse, for pessimism and despair.

(He went on to say):

In my lifetime I have seen two world wars plus Korea plus Vietnam and all that you are currently witnessing. I have worked my way through the depression and managed to go to law school while starting a young family at the same time. I have seen stock markets and world economics go crazy and have seen a few despots and tyrants go crazy, all of which causes quite a bit of trouble around the world in the process.

So I am frank to say tonight that I hope you won't believe all the world's difficulties have been wedged into your decade, or that things have never been worse than they are for you personally, or that they will never get better. I reassure you that things have been worse and they will always get better. They always do--especially when we live and love the gospel of Jesus Christ and give it a chance to flourish in our lives.

So reading the scriptures, brothers and sisters, and reviewing the stories and lives of those in their own time and own generation can really inspire us. Those stories comfort and encourage us and give us hope for the present and hope for the difficult days ahead.

And so the rest of my talk goes. But the part I need to breathe in today is the section I quoted.
And I know what to do. I've lived this so many times. When I feel the most hopeless it's because I feel the most helpless. So doing something, anything to help solve the problem nearly always helps. Moving our feet, the working toward, coupled with scriptural and historical perspective, can lift our mood and attitude.

*Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

--Emily Dickinson

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