For Lent this year, I am listening to/reading one talk each day from President Nelson. So far I’ve read his talks “Self Mastery,” “With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible,” and “Living By Scriptural Guidance.” Here are some of my insights so far.
We tend to acknowledge the way that actions follow our convictions, but I think we sometimes under-estimate how convictions come from action. Fasting is an example of the latter. Then-Elder Nelson says that “Fasting fortifies discipline over appetite and helps to protect against later uncontrolled cravings and gnawing habits” and “faithful payment of tithing…defends you against dishonesty or shabby temptations.”
I have often felt it was important for me to fast, even when for health reasons (such as during pregnancy) I have not been able to do a traditional fast from all food and drink. I believe there is something very important to God about mastering our appetites, some of which are brain appetites (like craving our phones). During the times I have been unable to fast from food and water, I try and choose something that a typically use or crave a lot, such as sweets or digital media. Sometimes I will even extend the fast since it’s not something I need to live. It has been remarkable how much power these items have over me and how much more peace and control I feel when I loosen their grip on my life.
“With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible”
What stood out to me in the talk is that President Nelson talks repeatedly about having faith. Obviously that’s a common theme in General Conference, but it stood out to me because he never explicitly mentions “faith in Christ.” I realized that this talk was given in the 1980’s and it occurred to me that the reason he probably never explicitly directs our faith to Christ was that, at the time, there weren’t a lot of conflicting cultural slogans about it. In our own day, people frequently meme-ify having faith in everything from fairy tale magic to your one true love or an impersonal universal intelligence. It struck me that prophetic language changes as our times change because the prophets must find ways of communicating eternal truths within our own cultural moment. God’s truths are eternal, but he sometimes changes the way he communicates them so that we can understand them.
“Living By Scriptural Guidance”
President Nelson here teaches that “because truth given by revelation can only be understood by revelation, our studies need to be prayerful.” He later adds “you cultivate such revelatory experiences by living according to the light already given you and by searching the scriptures with pure motives—with real intent to “come unto Christ.”
I’ve realized recently how often different social media influencers seem to find scriptural and prophetic support for their particular thing while others can use the same scriptures to mean something opposite. It struck me that the scriptures are only authoritative in our lives when we study them with the intent to learn God’s will, rather than searching out passages we can use to support our own will. President Nelson here teaches that we need the Holy Ghost to interpret the scriptures correctly in our lives. And that will only happen as we humbly set aside our own objectives and try to adopt the Lord’s. I think the Lord calls it having “an eye single to the glory of God.”