Sunday, September 13, 2009

Be of Good Cheer

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Be of Good Cheer, by President Thomas S. Monson

Just a few talks ago, Elder Snow taught that one of the things we need to do to overcome the difficulties of change is to be of good cheer. I'm reminded, also, of Elder Wirthlin's final general conference address where he illustrated the importance of learning to laugh (talk). I thought this was all great advice, and I pictured that I could do so when I took a wrong turn driving, or when something trivial occurred, but President Monson shared a story that puts my powers of empathy to the test.

After mentioning the faithful examples we have in church history—of remaining true in adversity—President Monson taught:

This attitude is what will pull us through whatever comes our way. It will not remove our troubles from us but rather will enable us to face our challenges, to meet them head on, and to emerge victorious.

Now the story: President Monson relayed the experiences of a young German widow (circa 1945) who "persevered and ultimately prevailed, despite overwhelmingly difficult circumstances."

Her experiences break your heart in half, and then rip it out. While walking more than a thousand miles, she lost her three children to starvation and the effects of extreme elements. The story details how this mother used a tablespoon to dig graves for three of her children; she used her bare hands for the fourth.

Her grief unimaginable, she contemplated taking her own life, but was helped to find strength on her knees instead. Her prayer included these words:

Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return—together—to Thee.

This is one of those faith-inspiring stories that you wish to never have to experience yourself. The first time I reviewed this talk, I asked myself, "Where is the good cheer?" In fact, the last time I listened to this talk while commuting to work, the tears ran down my face as I felt my empathy stretching to try to understand the full extent of the deep emotions of this young widow. In other words, I didn't feel very cheerful.

However, after I contemplated the depth of the situation, I understood that being of good cheer doesn't necessarily mean laughing and having a grand time. Instead, it can mean having faith and doing all we can to move forward.

There are times, terribly hard times, where it may be impossible to laugh and smile. Nevertheless, one can still be of good cheer by doing as this widow did: continue pressing forward in faith, with the hope for blessed reunions after the tribulation is over.

President Monson:

I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.

My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.

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