"We gather up daily that which we don’t always understand, but that which can strengthen us. We look forward with an eye of faith. As our journey progresses, we can look back at our most challenging struggles and know that we were not left to wander alone."
ENSIGN COLLEGE DEVOTIONAL
Assembly Hall, Temple Square
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
Win the Wait
By Sister Michelle D. Craig
Young Women General Presidency
Thank you so much. That was powerful and beautiful. And when they were singing, their testimonies, some of those last words, “I’ll never no never forsake.” That is what I feel so strongly in my heart and I echo that testimony with you that, I love Jesus Christ, and the message of that beautiful song, “To Fear Not”, when we are trying our perfect best to keep the covenants that we have made and to have Jesus Christ as the focus of our lives, we do not need to be afraid. Thank you for that message.
Brothers and sisters, thank you for coming today. As I sat here and I tried to look at every one of your faces, I think, “What is your story?” We all have a story and Heavenly Father knows our stories and He loves us and I bear testimony that we are each known and loved by a loving Father in Heaven who knows our stories, who knows our names. He is working in the details of our lives so that when we turn to Him, all things can work together for our good. I know He loves you. I feel that in such a tangible way.
I loved when President Kusch had you raise your notebooks, that you are here ready to learn what the Holy Ghost has to teach you. That’s a wonderful pattern.
That’s my prayer as I have prepared and prayed over my message today, that the Holy Ghost will teach you what you need to learn. Most likely it is not going to be from anything that comes out of my mouth. The Holy Ghost can bring thoughts to your mind and I just love the practice of writing those down and keeping those in a place where you can find them again and know that when we try to act on those things that the Holy Ghost teaches us and prompts us to do that as we act on those that our capacity can increase. So it is my prayer that the Holy Ghost helps you learn something today that you need to do in your life to become a better and more engaged disciple of Jesus Christ.
I want to talk a little bit today about a principal that I have thought a lot about for a long time and I think it is one that applies to each one of us. I remember so well in April of 2021, our Young Women’s Presidency had the wonderful opportunity of meeting with Dilljeet Taylor, an incredible track coach. We also met with the incredible cross country team at BYU, the female athletes. This again was in April, 2021. We all know what happened a year earlier in the spring of 2020. When COVID-19 hit, all sports shut down and cross country at BYU was no exception. The coach and the athletes were frustrated. They had prepared for years to compete at this level and now it appeared that all of their opportunities were being lost. It seemed as if all they could do was wait. It was during this waiting time of indefinite length that Coach Taylor told her team something powerful, a phrase that when I heard it has stayed in my heart and mind ever since. She told them to “win the wait.” I love that. “Win the wait.”
So rather than just sit back and passively wait out COVID-19, they could use this time to creatively train, improve, and stretch themselves in new and different ways. When the wait was over, they would be prepared to compete and win. And that is exactly what happened. When gathering restrictions were lifted and they could once again resume competitions, they went on to win the national championship. They won the wait.
Brothers and sisters, we are all waiting for something. That is something that you have in common with the person that you pass on the street, sitting next to you on the pew, or in a classroom. We are all facing a mountain of some kind, waiting.
· We wait to get accepted into a program we want – or even to figure out what it is we want to study.
· We wait for a dream job
· We wait to get married - or even just have a boyfriend or girlfriend or a date.
· We wait for children
· We wait for better physical and mental health
· For relationships to heal
· For a friend
· For the economy to improve
· For political and social concerns to be resolved
· We wait for an answer
· We wait for loved ones to remember and return
· We wait to become the truest and best versions of ourselves – as disciples of Jesus Christ, children of the covenant.” [i]
Brothers and sisters, I bear testimony that in the waiting, Jesus Christ can be with us to sanctify and strengthen, to purify and prepare, if we trust in Him. It is in the waiting that so much growth happens.
Let me share another example of winning the wait.
Richard Elliott is the principle organist for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. In August of 2008 he had a freak accident moving a table and injured his left arm. He wondered if he would be able to perform in the upcoming Christmas concert or even resume his career at all. The surgery to repair his arm was successful but he had many weeks without being able to use his left arm.
Trying to use this time and this challenging waiting period for his good, he decided to focus on his organ pedaling footwork. He wrote an arrangement of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” where he used his left foot for the bass notes and his right foot for the melody while snaping his fingers. He gradually added notes on the keyboard, but most challenging parts were played with the right hand. The result brought everyone to their feet when it was performed in the conference center during Christmas. I don’t know if any of you saw that but I would like you to see the video.
“Go Tell It On The Mountain” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pUX8BQbNC8
Don’t you love that? I remember being in the conference center and watching that and thinking that was amazing. And then when I heard the story behind it, I loved it even more. Richard Elliott won the wait, he put into faithful practice the counsel from Elder Dale G. Renlund, “If a desired blessing from God has not been received—yet—you do not need to go crazy, wondering what more you need to do. Instead, heed Joseph Smith’s counsel to ‘cheerfully do all things that lie in [your] power; and then … stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the … arm [of God] … revealed.’ [ii] ” [iii]
I have been studying about waiting and wilderness places in the scriptures. The scriptures are full of these places – places experienced by prophets and people of God, even the Savior, Jesus Christ. The Savior was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to get closer to His Father. That is often the blessing of wilderness experiences in the scriptures: drawing closer to our Father in Heaven. In these experiences, we learn to trust in Him and in His timing. While we wait and toil in the wilderness, we can learn and grow as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ. Jeremiah 3:12 teaches this beautifully, “Thus saith the Lord, the people . . . found grace in the wilderness.”
This principle is beautifully illustrated in the vision that the prophet Lehi had. The vision began in a “dark and dreary wilderness” [iv] – a wilderness in which he remained “for the space of many hours.” [v] I’m sure that he could have been led out of that dreary wasteland quickly, but perhaps there was learning that needed to take place in the waiting, grace to be experienced. The Lord, in His mercy, did not require that Lehi walk alone in that dark place, but rather made sure that someone would be with him. As Lehi prayed for mercy, he began to clearly see things he had not seen before. He was given new sight and a broader perspective.
Forty years is a long time to wait and wander in the wilderness, but that is exactly happened to those who were led out of captivity by Moses. They were having a difficult time: they were hungry, they were thirsty, they thought a life of slavery in Egypt was surely better than what they were experiencing and facing in the wilderness.
Then the Lord provided a miracle. Every morning “upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing,” [vi] In Exodus 16:15 we read: “they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was.” If you look at the footnote for manna, it literally means “what is it?”
Sometimes in our wilderness and waiting places we are gathering what does not make sense. We feel confused and we wonder, does God still remember me? Letting God prevail in our lives means trusting Him and trusting His timing. [vii] He knows the end of our story and He knows the experiences that we need to help us become all that we can be
Even though we do not always understand what God is giving us, in reality, it might be lifesaving, this manna, this representation of the bread of life but we just don’t understand it yet. This is where faith in Jesus Christ comes in, which is a principle of action. We gather up daily that which we don’t always understand, but that which can strengthen us. We look forward with an eye of faith. As our journey progresses, we can look back at our most challenging struggles and know that we were not left to wander alone. To the wandering Israelites, and to covenant Israel, the Lord said: “For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.” [viii]
President M. Russell Ballard taught, “Waiting upon the Lord implies continued obedience and spiritual progress toward Him. Waiting upon the Lord does not imply biding ones time. You should never feel like you are in a waiting room. Waiting upon the Lord implies action. . . .
The personal growth one can achieve now while waiting upon the Lord and His promises is an invaluable, sacred element of His plan for each one of us. The contributions one can make now to help build up the Church on earth and to gather Israel are much needed.” [ix]
I have always loved a verse in Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” My understanding of this verse was deepend when I found that in Hebrew, the word for wait means “to bind together.” They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength – or they that bind themselves to the Lord shall receive the renewing blessings that Isaiah lists. Think about that and the binding role that covenants can play as we wait. I gained further understanding when I learned that the Greek translation of the word wait can mean “to expect.” As we faithfully wait upon the Lord, binding ourselves to Him, we can expect miracles for Jesus Christ is “the high priest of good things to come.” [x]
I would like to share an experience of a dear friend of mine. It’s the miracle of renewal after many years of faithful waiting. A miracle that highlights the promised blessings that we just read in Isaiah.
My dear friend
The next morning I woke up to someone singing Silent Night. I looked around and saw no one except my husband. Why wasn’t he hearing this singing? He was sound asleep. Also as deaf as I am, why was I hearing someone sing? I never sleep with my hearing aids, yet I was hearing perfectly. I laid my head back down and just listened. I had never heard this voice before. It was the most calming and beautiful voice I had ever heard. I listened to all of the verses and then it started all over again. Everything began to be “calm and bright.” This tender mercy helped me get out of bed and have hope for the future. Heavenly Father needed me to help people get through their problems so he sent an angel to buoy up my spirit. The singing continued for quite awhile throughout the day. That night the same voice sang to me again. By the next day I wanted to hear it once again but it was gone. I hope someday I will find out who sang to me and helped me face so many problems so I can thank him.
In her long waiting and in her wilderness place she experienced in a beautiful and tangible way the strengthening and enabling power that Jesus Christ, through His mercy and grace, provides.
These are two different bodies of water – one is stagnant, the other is moving, growing, and living. I must admit, there are times I feel more like the murky still water but I want to be like the other! Each of us chooses every day if we want to be intentional about growing, learning, and living as better disciples of Jesus Christ, like you are trying to do at this wonderful college. We can choose to progress or not.
Sometimes the becoming process is slow and may not be easy to recognize, especially in ourselves. But brothers and sisters, if you are trying, you are not stagnant! Many live quiet ordinary lives, going about doing good [xi] not realizing their goodness, their service, their dedication is growing them. They are like the Lamanites who were baptized with fire and “knew it not.” [xii]
I don’t know that there are many of us who feel like we have become all we are capable of becoming. We wait, and we work. We repent, and we keep trying. With consistent effort, with the power that comes from covenant making and covenant keeping, binding ourselves to the Lord, we can progress along the covenant path – remaining ever faithful like the beautiful choir sang about before I started.
I don’t know when all of my prayers will be answered. There are things I have been praying about for many many years. But this I do know that our loving Heavenly Father fulfills all of His promises, they are sure. I do know that I have more peace and I have more joy in my life when I am doing all in my power to keep my covenants and follow the direction I receive from the Holy Ghost from the words of ancient and living prophets of God.
President Russell M. Nelson, our dear prophet, has said, “I plead with you to take charge of your testimony of Jesus Christ. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Then watch for miracles to happen in your life.” [xiii]
That is a promise from a prophet. Discipleship is not easy but oh, it is worth it. Take charge of your testimonies, do the work required to become who the Lord knows you can be. He saved each of you for these last days, these winding up days in the history of the earth. You waited and you prepared to be here now. You are here on purpose and with a purpose. So be patient in the waiting in those wilderness places. We may not receive every blessing we seek in mortality but when all is said and done, we will receive what matters most. I have found great comfort in the following from Elder Richard G. Scott, “[Heavenly Father] will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. …”
“President David O. McKay testified, ‘It is true that the answers to our prayers may not always come as direct and at the time, nor in the manner, we anticipate; but they do come, and at a time and in a manner best for the interests of Him who offers the supplication’ [xiv] . Be thankful that God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. Your character will grow; your faith will increase.” [xv]
It is a beautiful and powerful act of faith to ask and then consciously, quietly “wait upon the Lord,” trusting Him, surrendering to Him. His timing, His way, His love, His plan, and His work.
I bear testimony that the words in Lamantations 3:25 are true, “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him.”
Brother and sisters, I bear testimony Jesus Christ is indeed working in the waiting, that he is working to make us become the disciples that he needs in the latter days. I know that He lives. I know we have a prophet on the earth today. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and I say these things in His name, Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] Russell M. Nelson, “Choices for Eternity” (worldwide devotional for young adults, May 15, 2022), broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 123:17.
[iii] Dale G. Renlund, “Abound with Blessings,” Liahona, May 2019.
[iv] 1 Nephi 8:4.
[v] 1 Nephi 8:8.
[vi] Exodus 16:14.
[vii] Nelson, Russell M. “Let God Prevail” Ensign October 2020 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/46nelson?lang=eng
[viii] Deueronomy 2:7
[ix] M. Russell Ballard, “Hope in Christ,” Liahona, May 2021.
[x] Heberews 9:11; see also Jeffrey R. Holland “An High Priest of Good Things to Come” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 1999.
[xi] See Acts 10:38.
[xii] 3 Nephi 9:20
[xiii] Russell M. Nelson, “Choices for Eternity” (worldwide devotional for young adults, May 15, 2022), broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org; see also “President Nelson posts on social media: ‘Take charge of your testimony of Jesus Christ,’” by Chrstine Rappleye, Church News, m 1 Aug 2022.
[xiv] David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 153.
[xv] Scott, Richard G. “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer” Engisn or Liahona, May 2007.