"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
February 20, 2013
by Marian Stoddard

Sometimes we wish we could have all the answers to all of our questions. (Right now.) Maybe just a few of our questions, the ones that stick in our minds, that we worry at and turn over and over without feeling any more settled.

Sometimes we feel so sure that nothing can ever upend our testimony or our conviction, and then something happens that throws us into turmoil. Sometimes another person attacks our beliefs with an objection that we don’t have an answer for, except faith in a living prophet.

A brilliant and independent woman named Anne Osborn (later Poelman), a medical student who became a doctor, professor, and author of medical textbooks, was surprised to find herself gaining a testimony of the restored gospel. Some of her friends were appalled; how could she choose to become part of what they viewed possibly as a cult, certainly as a step down for a woman of such accomplishment?

She wrote of what a wise friend told her, after she had weathered some of those bumps in the road, holding fast to the witness she had acted upon in being baptized. He drew her attention to the story of Simeon in Luke, chapter 2, who had been told that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Christ. He asked her, when did this message come to him? The answer is that we don’t know, the scripture doesn’t say.

All we really know is that he had it revealed to him that he would see that day. He was directed to the temple. “Now let thy servant depart in peace,” he said, when the day came. He held the child and prophesied. The promise to him was fulfilled, and he knew by the Spirit of God that this infant was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. Two things are evident: that he could know, and that he could see in this newborn child the promise of ages. First, that the prophecy near at hand was fulfilled, his personal promise, and then that those promises which arose from it would come to pass as well. He was filled with faith and light.

Sister Osborn’s friend told her that there would be questions which would arise in her life in the Church that might not have ready answers. She might run into things which she could not understand, or with which she was inclined to disagree, based on her previous experience and assumptions. When that happened, he hoped that she would take Simeon’s example: trust, and wait on the Lord.

I found it a powerful example. It speaks to a universal experience—that of certainty and uncertainty.

Was he a younger man, bid to bide his time and be faithful? Was he already advanced in years, feeling himself failing, and praying to know God’s purposes, wondering how the prophecies would come to pass and how soon?

Did he watch those who came into the temple every day, and look, finding the answer to be “not yet’? I imagine that he did. Did he worry that he might falter at the wrong time and miss the day? Perhaps sometimes he did, but then renewed his determination to trust the assurance that had been given to him. He would see the promised Redeemer of Israel with his own eyes, and know him. He had had a long lifetime to gain his surety and smooth out his fears.

And the luminous recitation of this day in the temple where his faith was answered, and his sight was clear, gives us all a witness of the Savior’s calling. The Spirit speaks to us as well. Simeon waited with faith and trust.

There are issues which arise, prone to some contention. There are things we haven’t been given the answers to yet. Simeon didn’t live in an easy time, either. There was turmoil and contention on the very role of the promised Messiah, political or spiritual; the political turmoil overshadowed the spiritual comprehension and recognition of who Jesus was, at least to the supposed authorities and leaders. It was those who opened their hearts, who in many cases were persons without station, who knew he was the promised Son of God. They saw his light and love, and gave their hearts and faith. That’s what we are asked to do too.

There are many ways to get deflected or detoured. There is only one way to walk in the light and Spirit, and that is to be faithful to our covenants and testimonies. If we put those first, the nonessential drops away, even though we might not reach that peace immediately.

I come back to Anne Osborn Poelman now and again; I quote her counsel when I teach, and echo her example of Simeon. She says, in telling her story:

Do I know all the answers to all my questions? Certainly not! But that really doesn't concern me. I refuse to be distracted by peripheral issues and the doctrinal sidebars that some would use to weaken our testimonies of the gospel. To those I apply the Simeon Solution: I have full trust that if and when the answers come, they will be in perfect harmony with what I already know. And what I know is, quite simply, that the gospel is true. There is great peace and serenity in that very simplicity.*

Peace and serenity are the fruits of faithful obedience and trust. It actually is that simple.

(*The Simeon Solution, Anne Osborn Poelman: One Woman’s Spiritual Odyssey, Deseret Book, 1994)

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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