"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
October 1, 2014
Holding Fast
by Marian Stoddard

It had not been a good night. With just enough pain to make it hard to go to sleep, I’d been awake until about two a.m. I was, finally (it felt like) deeply asleep when the alarm went off. My first conscious groggy thought was weariness.

Let’s not get up. Let’s just go back to sleep and miss church.

That’s not an option. Never an option that I can allow. My Father in Heaven will get me through, and I will plan on a nap later. I know by experience that choosing to keep my eyes open, and rising, followed by prayer, will fix this. Staying in bed will not.

There are many moments in which you simply have to choose. Unless I am sick, I will be at church. In rare instances I have gone home early when I couldn’t manage, but my choice made long ago was that I will always attend church on Sunday. I would not give up the strength and sweetness that blesses me when I do so, because I have learned that those blessings make all the difference in my life.

Have you ever felt filled with light, when you knew your prayers and searchings were answered and the Spirit was truly with you? I hope you’ve had that profound type of experience. The veil might seem very thin. You feel sure that you have no doubts at all, and perhaps it seems unlikely, in that space, that you would ever seriously have them again. Trouble is a distant thought, and struggles melt away as you are immersed in peace and joy.

Wouldn’t it be nice, when you are blessed to be deeply filled by the Spirit, to be able to float in that state forever? How could you possibly waver? How could you possibly forget how sure your witness is?

But it’s not possible to float in bliss forever; sooner or later, we have to come back to earth again, and somehow it usually seems sooner much more often than later. There are ordinary duties to take care of, the simple daily-ness of living. There are demands and irritants and challenges and fears and simple fatigue.

It might be tempting, some days, to go find a cave and set up life as a hermit, but that’s not a part of the plan. (You probably wouldn’t be happy in that cave anyway. Not really — but it’s tempting.)

So sometimes you’re raring to go, and sometimes you feel like you’re slogging through the mud. Not even mud — mud would be easier; you try to place one foot in front of the other, and it’s almost like quicksand as the earth tries to suck that foot back in and pull your whole self in with it. Why does everything seem to go wrong at once?

It might be, at times, that though you are trying to be conscientious and reliable in your attendance and in your callings, you feel like the strength of the Spirit is ebbing away.

Those light-bringing experiences are life-altering, however; they never leave you quite the same as you were before. It’s impossible to be happy anymore in a pre-Christ life. The greatest blessing might be the promise that more light and joy will come as you continue to live, serve, strive, pray, and struggle.

Struggle seems to be universal and inevitable. Neal Maxwell often talked about “soul stretching” being needful, but not painless.

There are three different places in the scriptures that discuss and delineate spiritual gifts. Each has its unique points. D&C 46:9-14 says this:

For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do;…

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God….

To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. (D&C 46)

I was in the temple one time, taking a few minutes of peace at the end of my session, and the Spirit brought this passage to mind. To some it is given to know, pure and clear, by the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer; to some it is given to believe on their words.

Truman Madsen said that he believed the second was a preparatory gift, to bring a person to the point where they can gain the greater gift to truly know for themselves. Our Father wishes for each of us to truly know his Son.

But the promise is that those who believe on the testimony of others, who feel a confirmation they can trust but haven’t yet had such a profound, deeper experience, will have eternal life if they continue faithful. If you persevere in integrity in the portion that has been given you, all the blessings will be yours also.

You don’t have to be perfect in your knowledge to gain eternal life. That’s reassuring to remember.

Then the Spirit instructed me: the principle also holds true within your own life. Sometimes it is given to receive a profound witness, or a pure answer, and experience the presence of God; sometimes it is given to keep believing on those experiences that have already been given, and continue faithful.

It’s hard when answers don’t seem to come. It’s discouraging when you seem to be trudging along through the thorny path, when you long to soar above it in divine sunlight. When you feel like you’re sputtering on fumes instead of purring along on a full spiritual tank.

A friend of mine spoke of this in bearing testimony once. It stuck with me, and I have found it true. She said, “When I do the things I know I should do, I find that the feelings follow.”

Jesus said, “If any man do my will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether I speak of God, or whether I speak of myself [i.e. the ordinary man you assume me to be].” Doing, and continuing, are the keys to receiving. Seeking, and persevering, eventually bring finding.

This song inspires me. With Michael McLean, “as certain as the rising of the sun,” I would say, “if your world is filled with darkness, doubt and fear — just hold on, hold on, the light will come.”

Your Father loves you, your Savior loves you, and the light will come.

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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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