This past weekend was so amazing! I always enjoy General Conference, but this year, my kids really got into it and listened, and I was able to just relax and soak it all in. For those who are not LDS, let me explain. Twice a year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds a church-wide general conference. It includes five sessions over two days, and is designed to teach and inspire its members to come unto Christ. We hear messages from our dear prophet, Thomas S. Monson, as well as from his counselors and other church leaders. We hear music from the choirs during each session. And mostly, we hear the Spirit speak to our hearts the things that we most need to know.
Last night before bed, I asked everybody in our family what talk they liked the best. And although we all listened to them all, each of us had different favorites. That is because we are all going through different life experiences, and so the Spirit spoke to each of our hearts in different ways, helping us hear, understand, and internalize the messages in conference that were especially for us. Another thing that often happens is that two different people will listen to the same talk and have two completely different ways to apply the principles taught. This is because true principles are not one-dimensional. They can be applied to numerous circumstances, and will still ring true. Over and over.
With that in mind, I want to share three talks that spoke to me, my understanding of each, and how I believe these principles can be applied to this Project (even thought the speakers never talked about loving our bodies.)
First, I absolutely LOVED President Deiter F. Uchtdorf’s talk, “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear.” He had me with his intro: “My message has two purposes today: The first is to urge us to contemplate and consider the extent to which we use fear to motivate others—including ourselves. The second is to suggest a better way.” What does this have to do with loving our bodies? Everything! This is the entire basis for this project, using love as a motivator rather than fear.
“It is true that fear can have a powerful influence over our actions and behavior. But that influence tends to be temporary and shallow. Fear rarely has the power to change our hearts…” What kinds of fear motivate us sometimes? Fear of being overweight? Fear of others’ judgments? Fear of not being lovable? Fear of not being beautiful enough? Fear of not being enough, period? I have been motivated by fear, plenty of times. And President Uchtdorf is right, the influence is “temporary and shallow.” It seems that after awhile, the fear subsides and I am left with a complete lack of willpower to follow through with my convictions. Or maybe the fear is still there, but it stops motivating me to action. I just feel defeated and ashamed at my lack of ability to follow through. Any change in my behavior or my results is temporary, and I don’t experience any real, lasting change.
So what is the “better way” he suggests? What is the great motivator? Something that can create real change–long-lasting and permanent? In Pres. Uchtdorf’s words, “I pray with all the strength of my soul that we may become liberated from this fear by the divinely appointed antidote to fear: the pure love of Christ, for ‘perfect love casteth out fear’ [1 John 4:18]. ” LOVE casteth out FEAR. LOVE is that great motivator that we need if we want to truly change, to truly create happier, healthier, more confident and empowered versions of ourselves.
One more quote from this talk that spoke to me: “The more I come to know my Heavenly Father, the more I see how He inspires and leads His children. He is not angry, vengeful, or retaliatory…” As I thought about how our Heavenly Father loves us, how he motivates us to positive change, I thought of some of his other qualities–understanding, empathetic, and forgiving. Are we practicing this kind of love with ourselves? When we falter, do we make it mean that we will never make it? Do we criticize ourselves and demean our best efforts? Or do we say, “It’s okay. I understand. Sometimes it’s hard. I forgive you. Keep going. Keep trying.You can do this. You are worth it!” I think that’s what our loving Father in Heaven would say. Doesn’t it make sense that our Creator, who knows and loves us perfectly, also knows the best way to motivate us? Let’s follow His pattern and be amazed at the difference it makes!
The second talk that really spoke to me was by Elder S. Mark Palmer, a former mission president. He shared his story of learning to see his missionaries in the way Jesus sees us. He shared four lessons that can help each of us in our efforts to love others. I believe these four lessons are also key truths to learning to love ourselves and our bodies as well since Christ’s love has no limits. Here are the words directly from Elder Palmer, followed by some of my own thoughts in parentheses.
1. As we learn to see others as the Lord sees them rather than with our own eyes, our love for them will grow and so will our desire to help them. We will see potential within others they likely do not see in themselves. With Christlike love we will not be afraid to speak with boldness, for “perfect love casteth out fear” [1 John 4:18]. …(Do we see our own potential? And there’s that “love casteth out fear” scripture again!)
2. No teaching or learning will ever occur when done in frustration or anger, and hearts will not change where love is not present. Whether we act in our roles as parents, teachers, or leaders, true teaching will only happen in an atmosphere of trust rather than condemnation. … (Did you get that? True teaching will happen with trust, not condemnation. Let’s trust ourselves with our health and build an atmosphere for true change.)
3. Love should never be withdrawn when a child, friend, or family member fails to live up to our expectations. We don’t know what happened to the rich young man after he went away sorrowful, but I am confident Jesus still loved him perfectly even if he chose the easier path. …(Are we sometimes weak? Do we not live up to our own expectations? Do we choose the easier path? Continuing to love ourselves IS an option, and is what Christ will do. So can we.)
4. Because He loves us, the Lord expects much of us. If we are humble, we will welcome the Lord’s invitations to repent, to sacrifice, and to serve as evidence of His perfect love for us. (When we love ourselves, we will have high expectations of ourselves, and we will know we can do whatever we set our minds to do. But always remember humility. Without God, we can do nothing. But we can do all things through Him.)
The final talk I want to highlight was the concluding talk of the conference, and was delivered by Elder Quentin L. Cook. He mentioned the 10,000 hour rule, which I have read about in books about developing talent. This rule says that for anybody to become expert at anything, it requires at least 10,000 hours of diligent practice. He then applied this idea to growth in our personal conviction and ability to follow the Savior.
He said, “Personal foundations, like many worthwhile pursuits, are usually built slowly—one layer, one experience, one challenge, one setback, and one success at a time. …
Just as repetition and consistent effort are required to gain physical or mental capacity, the same is true in spiritual matters. … I believe weekly participation in sacred sacrament meetings has spiritual implications we do not fully understand. Pondering the scriptures regularly—rather than reading them occasionally—can substitute a superficial understanding with a sublime, life-changing enhancement of our faith. …
However, initial foundations of faith, even with spiritual confirmation, do not mean that we will not face challenges. Conversion to the gospel does not mean all our problems will be solved. …”
This was the answer to the very thing I have been struggling with so much recently! Last week was a rough one for me. I kept dipping in and out of overwhelm, and was getting frustrated with my seeming inability to practice what I preach and just manage my thoughts. Logically, I knew that my circumstances (trying to study for a test, being repeatedly interrupted by my 2-year-old, having company, my messy house, and putting together a blog post) were not causing my feelings of frustration and overwhelm. It was my thoughts. But I felt as if they were running wild and I couldn’t quite gather them up, examine them, and replace them with some that would make me feel better.
How comforting and reassuring it was to realize that, although the thought work that I have been learning about and practicing is helping me build an amazing foundation of peace, joy, and health, I am still building it. I have not arrived. I am far from the 10,000 hours necessary to be an expert at managing my thoughts. Of course I will have setbacks. Of course I still need more practice. Of course I am not perfect.
So you don’t love your body every single day? Of course you don’t. “Worthwhile pursuits”–and yes, I DO believe learning to manage our thoughts and love and care for our bodies are worthwhile pursuits–“are usually built slowly—one layer, one experience, one challenge, one setback, and one success at a time.” Thank you, Elder Cook, for this beautiful reminder.
These men are inspired men of God. I have no doubt about that. And this weekend, through them, God spoke to me. He knows us. He loves us. He knows our struggles and our desires. He wants to help us, and He is always showing us how. Let’s remove fear and motivate with love. Let’s see ourselves as the Savior does. And finally, don’t let setbacks knock us down. They are part of the plan. We can keep working. We can keep trying. And with love, we will succeed.
Love your body, and your body will love you. ♥