Charlottesville – Some Thoughts on Discipleship

Back to School

On Sunday morning as I reviewed the material I had for Primary music time, there was more on my mind than just Nephi getting the plates and building a boat, (“Nephi’s Courage,” Children’s Songbook, 120). I didn’t doubt the message of that song, nor that it would be a worthy use of our time during the 20 minutes I have with the children. I remembered that the first day of school was literally on the horizon for the majority of them, and wondered what might be something positive I could send them back to school with.

At the same time, I remembered the news events of Charlottesville, VA just the day before. No, it’s not “news” that there is hatred, racism, and bigotry in this country. But it still feels heavy. And even though it’s no longer news – just an event that changes venues – I still desperately want to do something. I want to pull my weight, do something to make it better.

Then I pictured these good children returning to school, and tried to imagine some of the challenges they would certainly face. Different classes, teachers, new friends. What else did this new school year hold for them? Are they prepared to respond with truth and courage in moments of uncertainty? Can they be kind even in the face of unkindness? What about when they encounter someone different than them? Someone who challenges their beliefs? Or who looks different than they do?

Small and Simple Things

I saw opportunity. I saw a small pebble, something that may seem insignificant, but would certainly cause ripples if cast in the right pond, at the right angle.

Abandoning Nephi for a week (he’ll be okay I’m sure), I turned instead to “We Are Different” (Children’s Songbook, 263).

I know you and you know me.
We are as different as the sun and the sea.
I know you, and you know me,
And that’s the way that it’s supposed to be.

I help you, and you help me.
We learn from problems, and we’re starting to see.
I help you, and you help me,
And that’s the way that it’s supposed to be.

I love you, and you love me.
We reach together for the best we can be.
I love you, and you love me,
And that’s the way that it’s supposed to be.

After learning the simple words and singing it through a few times, I asked the children where they saw Jesus in the message of that song. “Jesus loves everyone,” came one answer from the front row. “Jesus was kind to everyone,” someone else volunteered. I then asked them to promise that they would remember to be courageous and look for someone who doesn’t have friends to eat lunch with. Or help someone who can’t find their class. It could be something as simple as lending a pencil to a classmate who forgot his at home. There would be many opportunities to be kind, and no matter how different someone might look, or if they don’t share the same beliefs, there is no reason to not try and be friends with everyone.

Yes, I realize it sounds simple, and perhaps even naive. But this is how great things are done – one small act of kindness at a time (see Alma 37:6).


small and simple things

“I Refuse to Be Comforted”

It’s impossible as a disciple of Jesus to not be outraged at events like what happened in Charlottesville and others. In fact, it’s easy to want to return hate for hate, or a right for a wrong. I want to retreat to Old Testament law and demand a life for a life.

When Enoch was shown the amount of sin and hatred there would be in the world in Noah’s life, “he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted” (Moses 7:44). Enoch faced the same challenge we do now – fatigue. Tired of seeing horrible headline after horrible headline, in a news cycle that seems to never end, we too know what it feels like to have a bitter soul, weep over our brothers and sisters, and beg Heaven for comfort.

Tired and angry though we may be, there is only one right solution, and it’s the one the Lord extended to Enoch as well as to us: “the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (Moses 7:44).

Look Up!

How do we lift up our hearts in times of tragedy, of sadness, or of turmoil? Look – UP! Up is where the Savior is, extending love, mercy, and healing balm.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “The doctrines and revelations can likewise lift us—even amid ‘wars and rumours of wars.’ Thus we need not grow weary in our minds. Our discipleship need not be dried out by discouragement or the heat of the day, nor should dismaying, societal symptoms ‘weigh [us] down,’ including ‘in-your-face,’ carnal confrontiveness. We may shrink from some things in the current human scene, but Jesus did not shrink in Gethsemane nor on Calvary.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Encircled in the Arms of His Love,” October 2002 General Conference.)

And because Jesus did not shrink, there is power in there for me. For you, too, and anyone who would extend a hand of help, a word of hope, a smile of encouragement.

Know. Help. Love. Just like the words from the Primary song.

We can all do better, and be better. And yes, we can even make a difference. You may not see your ripples reach the other shore, but as you look up, others will too.

Be not discouraged.

Be courageous, and kind, and a disciple of Christ.

Look up.

Laura will be the first to tell you she’s not perfect. That’s why she loves the restored gospel, and loves the atonement.

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Laura will be the first to tell you she’s not perfect. That’s why she loves the restored gospel, and loves the atonement.