One thing that I love about conference is the unity I feel with the Saints around the world.
The other thing I love is that, somehow, the Spirit can reach us individually; answering our questions, lifting our burdens and touching our minds and hearts so laser sharp specifically.
I hope you have a minute to read the story below by Wendy Watson – it is a GREAT message to read just before General Conference! And as you are reading it, it will be good to remember that she is currently married to Elder Nelson. You will see why this is significant.
I love this!
Things are not always the way they appear to be. I learned this, in a very personal way, when I was about your age. I was 24, doing graduate work at BYU (Provo), wildly in love and engaged to be married. The young man seemed to be my absolute dream guy: Returned missionary, well educated, employed, musical, handsome, great social skills, loved my family, and committed to keeping the Lord’s commandments.
ALL the attributes and abilities, on my “husband-to-be wish list”, were there! He had them all…or so it seemed.
And talk about a courtship! He wrote me poems, songs, and letters of love. What a guy! A man with the same desires for marriage and family-and for life-as I had. Or so I thought.
I was teaching family history in my BYU ward at the time, and with some compelling insights about the importance of the temple which I had gained through this calling, I chose to receive my endowments a few months prior to the time I was to be married in the temple.
What a blessing temple attendance was for me! As I returned to the temple week after week, my world view started to open up, to change. And my view of myself and my fiancé followed. I can clearly see in my mind’s eye the day that I walked out of the Provo temple, after having gone fasting and praying, seeking an answer to a question that had started to haunt me: “Should I marry this man?”. A friend who had accompanied me to the temple that day asked, “Well, did you get your question answered?” I replied: “I didn’t get an answer-but I know that everything is going to work out.”
Freeze frame. I’ve learned through subsequent experiences, that the Spirit of the Lord is involved whenever I find myself saying: “Everything is going to work out”.
Little did I know just HOW everything was going to work out!
It seemed that from the very minute I said those words, the Spirit whispered to my fiancé, who was working in another state: “Show her what you’re really like.”
As the days and weeks unfolded, his behavior changed. His letters changed. Our conversations changed. My experience with our relationship changed. And, as I studied it out in my mind, I became increasingly concerned.
Enter: a servant of the Lord, my Bishop.
In preparation for April general conference, which was just two weeks away, my Bishop taught me a truth I had never known before. Although I hadn’t spoken to him about my engagement or my concerns, when my Bishop offered this truth over the pulpit, he was speaking to me. He didn’t use my name-but I knew-he was talking directly to me. He even let others listen in. But clearly, he was speaking to me.
Here’s the truth my Bishop spoke: “If you have a question that you need answered, if you will prayerfully and humbly listen to general conference, you will get it answered every time. Perhaps at the time, perhaps over time, but you WILL get your question answered every time!”
Did I have a question?!! Absolutely. And I was desperate for an answer from the Lord.
I prepared myself for that general conference by fasting and praying-and by purchasing blank audiotapes. Now, I realize that audiotapes are not typically requisite for listening to general conference, however this was in the days that not all conference sessions were broadcast to Canada, and I wanted to audiotape the sessions for my Mom and Dad.
I can still picture the Saturday of that April general conference. I listened eagerly to every talk. I listened with my ears, mind and heart poised and ready to hear the answer to my question: “Should I marry this man?”
I experienced this day of general conference unlike any other. It was a highly unusual day of talks, because each and every talk was on marriage! Every single talk! Multiple speakers-but only one topic: marriage-or so it seemed. And the most amazing thing to me was that at the end of all those Saturday addresses on marriage, the clear answer I received was, “Don’t marry this man.”
I can still picture, at the conclusion of conference, turning off the TV, shutting off the cassette recorder, and walking directly and calmly to the telephone, and dialing my fiancé’s number to cancel our engagement.
I wasn’t nervous at all. I was at peace. I had asked. And I had received my answer. So, what’s a young woman to do when she has asked, and then heard and felt the voice of the Lord telling her what to do? What’s a young woman to do…but to follow through?
Fast forward several years. My ex-fiancé is married and he appears to be happily involved in family life. I have completed my Masters degree, have worked a couple of years, moved to a new city, dated some great men, and continued to be directed by the Lord to pursue further education.
Another fast forward a couple of years: It is Christmas time and among the cards and letters is something from my ex-fiancé. It is a lengthy, hand-written letter from this now- no-longer-young man, declaring that he is choosing a life-style inconsistent with Gospel teachings and Church standards, and telling me of the sorrow that has come to his wife and family since their recent divorce and his declaration.
My dear young brothers and sisters, things are not always the way they appear to be!
Years ago on that Saturday evening when I ended my engagement, it seemed to many people-many who chided me for the breakup, many who tried to convince me to change my mind-that I was terminating a relationship with a marvelous young man-a man with whom I could experience much love and joy, as we entered into the covenant of marriage, and commenced raising up a family to the Lord.
How unkind could I be?! How cruel! How unwise to turn away from this great man and his love-especially at my age (I was 24 after all!!) To many people, it seemed like I was throwing away an opportunity of a life-time.. But-things are not always the way they appear to be.
The Lord knew this young man’s heart, mind and actions. And when I asked-with as much preparation and faith as I could muster-and as I listened to the messages of general conference-I was guided (some days it still feels more like “snatched”) away from something that looked good-but wasn’t.
One last fast forward: It is now 6 months following receiving that Christmas letter of declaration. I am asked to prepare a Relief Society lesson on marriage. Of course I will-and I know just the audiotapes to review to find an excerpt from a general conference address on marriage, to supplement my lesson.
I remember finding the clearly marked tapes, and with anticipation, pushing the “play” button on the tape player. And then, I remember listening and listening for hours, as the talks played on and on.
But something was different about the talks this time. Something was missing. To my dismay, there was nothing-absolutely nothing….about marriage! Not one talk-was on marriage!
It had been the Spirit of the Lord that had taught me as I listened to general conference. The Spirit had helped me to hear exactly what I needed to hear.
General conference had been the vehicle. The Spirit had been the messenger. “Don’t marry this man” had been the message from the Lord. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.
(Wendy Watson, Things are Not Always the Way They Appear to Be, BYU Devotional, March 19. 2002)