"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
May 1, 2013
by Marian Stoddard

A sister in Relief Society said that she had a moment, laying out her Seminary materials recently, where she just suddenly felt like she missed her Heavenly Father so much.  We used to be with him, we are taught; but for this moment her heart was open and longing for that nearness, that presence, which she used to know.  She really knew, not as a precept, but as truth.

We lived in a perfect place with such complete love and light, that we can scarce imagine it now.  Our spirit selves remember, and every so often, that feeling wells up inside us that we can't put words to.  Paul speaks of "groanings that cannot be uttered" and the footnote says the Greek is "sighings" (Romans 8:26). He is describing those moments when the Spirit draws our hearts upward to God in a state where there are no words.  Language sometimes just isn't adequate.

That yearning to be with our Father again, though it may reach toward the eventual day of our return, also pulls us to be with him here, by longing to be filled with his Spirit — truly filled to the point where there is no space not alight, where we know joy without hesitation, and we know gratefully that we are not the same as we were before.

If we have experienced such moments, we look for them again.  They stretch our souls and change our perspective.  Those choices and actions that diminish the light within us make us unhappy a lot faster, because we have become more sensitive to spiritual distance, desiring to close it.

In a very real way, repentance is homesickness.  It is the yearning for healing, for peace, the yearning to change pain for relief — the faith that we can replace dullness with joy.  Sin takes many forms, but whatever form it takes — unkindness, selfishness, dishonesty, or whatever it is — it puts a barrier between us and our Father.  The homesickness within us, at a level we may not consciously understand, is the longing to have that light and love fill us again, as it surrounded and filled us before this earth life.

The hymn, "More Holiness Give Me" includes in its pleas, "more freedom from earthstains, more longing for home."  Longing for home.  Doesn't that suppose more hope than we find in pushing guilt?  It gives us a reason to reach upward to our Redeemer, as he promises us a way Home.  He is made the way, the only way given.

The old Southern hymn that begins, "My Shepherd will supply my need," ends, "no more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home."  As children, may we grow up and come home safely.

That We Might Have Joy

We came from a place of glorious light,
Permeated by such profound and perfect love
That it was the very definition of existence.
It draws us back again.
Every spirit entering this earth
Is ready to remember.
Every child responds to love and warmth and touch
From the moment of first breath.

The joy we were created for
Is memory and foretaste:
The light our souls well know is real,
The promise of return—
Mortality’s experience of heavenly belonging.

Mortal love is much less perfect.
Longing for connection, some lives will go awry—
Needing light but clutching at its shadows,
Mistaking them for safety
Against the fears of empty hearts and
Questions not yet answered.

In fear and anger we try to cast God out,
But light, like water, finds the tiniest cracks
And seeps into our souls
With any act of hope or love,
Gradually to fill or heal,
Replacing pain with joy or blessing,
If we will allow.

All our mortal imperfections, our shrunken sight,
Do not diminish our Father’s perfect love and patience.
He will force no one into His arms,
But simply hold them wide.
Some space within us always knows
And longs to be embraced
When darkness and confusion become too much to bear,
That need can drive us sobbing, searching, to his care,
That we may relearn how to live in light;
His love restores us to ourselves. 

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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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