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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Written in Our Hearts

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This morning I spoke in church. I was once told that when I am given an assignment to speak, I should pay attention to the first thoughts that enter my mind. When I got that phone call last week, my mind went straight to some of the oldest scriptures I know--those written in my heart, taught me by my mother. I think we all have a set of those. I wonder if you might have this particular "scripture" memorized as well. It starts a little something like this: "If you don't have anything nice to say....."  In our house, this is known as Mom 1:1.

I have been asked to base my comments on a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Here it is for your viewing enjoyment:

I love and admire Elder Holland. When I talk about "putting my foot in my mouth," I have a foot-in-mouth story that relates to Elder Holland. It's a bit embarrassing; can't believe I'm sharing it here, but here goes.....

When I was in the MTC (Missionary Training Center), it happened to be the time when they were training the newly called mission presidents. Because of this, many General Authorities of the Church were visiting the MTC. It was so great to run into them in the hallways. One day, my companion and I were in the foyer and in walked Elder Holland. Like I said, I have a great amount of admiration for this man. To my 21-year-old mind, it was like just happening into a celebrity. Wow! What does one say? Here I was standing face to face with the man. I had to say something....anything.

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I picked my brain for something familiar....Quick! There had to be something I could share with him that he might appreciate. My mind went back to my sophomore year at BYU. Elder Holland was, at that time, president of BYU. In BYU Magazine that year, there was an article in which Elder Holland shared his thoughts and feelings about the university. The article was entitled, "JRH on BYU." Well, because my initials are also JRH, I had cut the title out and taped it to my wall in my apartment.

So, there I was, and that was all I had to go off of--the only thing that entered my feeble mind at the moment of meeting this great man--the one thing in common that we had. I quickly blurted out, "You and I have the same initials." UGH! What had I just said?! My face went immediately from pink to red to purple--I could feel it burning, and in my brain I'm thinking, "That's the best you could do?!" I skulked away hoping that I would never, NEVER run into this man again, or if I did that it would be a planned meeting, so I could come up with something brilliant and awe inspiring. Same initials....what the heck?!

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In regard to this "foot in mouth" disease that I have, I'm grateful that much of the time, the things I say are lame, not necessarily hurtful, but I must admit that there are times when I'm sure I do hurt people with what I say. I hope that those individuals will give me, and anyone like me, or better yet, everyone, the benefit of the doubt. I hope that we will all be quick to forgive. I figure there are two kinds of people, those who say hurtful things and don't mean to and those who say hurtful things and mean to. In either case, our responsibility is to forgive.

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Elder Holland quoted Ephesians 4:32:" And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." It really doesn't matter what others do to us. We're not going to be judged for their words and actions; it's our own that will condemn us, so forgiveness is our only responsibility in these matters. We have to somehow convince ourselves that everyone has our best interest at heart. If we can't get past it, maybe it's time to talk openly, tactfully, and humbly to the offending person and/or pray about it sincerely to either understand or come to peace with it.

Elder Holland particularly mentions "how we speak to each other and how we speak of ourselves." As a child, I underwent ten years of virtually daily verbal abuse. I believe the only thing that got me through it was the love of my parents. I was so young when it started that I really can't remember anything different, but because I was so young, it also became part of my core beliefs about myself. It's been a hard thing to kick. When the external abuse ended, when I was about 16, I would bad talk myself. It was almost like I had to have my daily knock-down, and if someone else wasn't going to provide that for me, I had to bring it upon myself. I remember my roommate at BYU chastising me for sticking my tongue out at myself when I'd look in the mirror. I didn't even know I was doing it until she said something. I wonder how long that had been my way of doing things.

I have spent years trying to overcome my low self-esteem. Now, in hindsight (and I'm not done battling this monster yet), I can see how it has made me a stronger person. I have learned that so much of life is how we talk to ourselves. If we tell ourselves we can or we can't, we're right. It's important to encourage ourselves and speak positively to ourselves about the situations we face in this life.

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I have also learned that, no matter what, I am to protect my children from others who would damage their spirits through harsh and untrue words. Along with that, if I am that person, then I need to stop and learn to control myself.

Elder Holland said, "We must be so careful in speaking to a child. [It] is so very, very important in shaping a child's faith in us and their faith in God....Never tell them, even in a whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely....They remember and may struggle for years trying to forget--and to forgive."

It is vital that we find the good in ourselves and that we speak positively about ourselves and others. Speaking negatively isn't humility, it's pride. It's taking what our Father in Heaven has given us and calling it bad. It's not bad; it's just in development.

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In speaking to and with others, our language can really go either way. Do we bless and build or condemn and tear down? Which do you want to do? This applies to EVERYONE we meet--the teller at the bank, the man that you've waited on hold, listening to awful music for fifteen minutes, to talk to. But, most importantly, your family members--your parents, your spouse, your children.

I love Doctrine & Covenants 121: 41-44 for how it teaches us how to communicate with others. It's especially been helpful as I've been learning how to interact with my children. Although it states how those who hold the priesthood should interact, it's really addressed to all of us. It states that we should use persuasion, be patient, gentle and meek and show forth genuine love. In verse 43, it uses the word "betimes." I've heard it said that that means, rarely, but when I looked it up, it was defined as "early on." In other words, we should nip things in the bud. We shouldn't let things get out of hand.

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Elder Holland shared a scripture from the book of James. It states: "For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." Our words are powerful. Just like someone might put a bridle on a horse so that he can ride it and control where it goes, if we can learn to bridle our words, we can control our lives better. According to James, we can become a bit more perfect.

I want to go back to Mom 1:1 for a moment. Although we shouldn't say anything at all if we don't have anything nice to say, I have the feeling that Mom 1:2 should say something like, "But if you have something nice to say, make sure you say it."

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We sometimes withhold praise and recognition of others. How wonderful it was to receive a thank you card a couple weeks back from a young man in our ward, a young man who is quite busy with school, sports, family, and church, but he took the time to write the Warden and me a note and put it in the mail. It said how he appreciated us driving him someplace. At the very end of the note, he made special mention of a couple things I did. They were little things. Things I hadn't even noticed that anyone else noticed, but he did, and it touched my heart that he had. It's things like these that can change the lives of people.

So, what can you do to become a little more perfect in how you use your words? Can you give the benefit of the doubt to others and forgive those who've offended you with their words? Can you be kinder to yourself--in your self talk? Can we speak more positively to and of others as well as ourselves? Can we bless and build everyone around us--even those who are working to tear us down? And can we learn on a moment by moment basis to bridle our tongues?

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More important than any of these ideas, always remember Mom 1:1! The good thing is, it's already there in your heart. You just have to open it a bit further. Then, when you do, you'll also find Mom 1:2....

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, but if you do have something nice to say, make sure you say it."


Patrick and Paige said...

Thank you thank you for posting your talk! I loved it! Wish I could hear it in person but it's just been one of those mornings. Love you Jules!

lia london, author and writing coach said...

From beginning to end, loved these thoughts. I, too, have verses that are etched in my heart and become go-to ideas that fuel me forward.... And a few words unkindly shared with me that still hurt if I let them. President Monson's comment, "Love, so often felt, so seldom expressed" has been a catalyst for me. I try to compliment things or express love as often as I can. I may seem like the weirdo, but I'd rather have people know I think well of them.

And especially you, Jules! You're amazing to me!

vaxhacker said...

I loved your talk, very nicely done. I'll be quoting Mom 1:1-2 around our house a bit in the future :)

LeAnn said...

Wow, I really enjoyed reading this post. I think I will ponder on some of your thoughts because I may need to back track a bit on a few incidences that I didn't handle well at the time. I do believe that wisdom does come with experience and age. I realize more than ever how important it is to choose our thoughts and words carefully. Thank you for the reminders today and blessings to you!

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