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January 20, 2016
Tune My Heart
How to Major in Russian
by Marian Stoddard

My youngest daughter called. She had talked about a major in psychology for a long time, with a minor in Russian. Her application was in, but the psychology program, which begins with the junior year, was very competitive. She had bad news; she didn’t get a spot. We had been waiting and hoping, because it was all she had wanted to do. I commiserated, but there was more.

She had finally gone in, as well, to take the university’s language placement test in Russian, which I had been encouraging (read: mildly nagging) her to do because I figured the more time elapsed, the more disadvantage for her. They placed her as belonging in first quarter Russian, despite a demanding high school program and the fact that her best university grades were in her Russian lit classes.

What?” I bristled immediately.

“That’s ridiculous! After four years of intensive Russian, and after you passed the IB test, they think you belong in beginning Russian?” I was just getting wound up, flinging out the impossibility of such a result, the need to appeal, asking how she could ask for a review—you have to understand that her high school International Baccalaureate test had required a written essay test plus an oral exam analyzing selected Russian literary works, with no English allowed in either instance. She was not a novice; but this test was aimed at a different skill set, apparently. Russian 101?

“Mom!” she cut me off. “There’s no time. Even if I did get the test reviewed nothing would be changed fast enough to fix this. I have to figure something out now.

She had determined that she could graduate on time with a Russian major, if she took intensive Russian, five quarters’ worth, over the summer. She had a friend who was doing that, and it would put her on track to begin her junior year and meet all the department requirements. So that was what she was determined to do. She was off to figure it out, and jump through all the required hoops.

Her scholarship officer said they would help cover the cost. That was the first big hurdle. Then she needed a place to live, then the registration deadline, money for books, and all the ordinary issues of an unexpected change in plans when you’re a student. We had planned on her coming home for the summer and finding a job. It would be possible but miserable for her to live at home and commute by bus; it would mean she would lose up to three hours a day, which would sharply curtail both her study time and her much-loved Institute of Religion activities.

She called a few days later, and said, "You know how it is when you are doing what you're supposed to do and everything falls into place,” (I'm mentally nodding yes)”— and then the opposition starts up?"  (Oh.) She then detailed the roadblocks that she had encountered and the steady resolution of each one as she doggedly plugged away at the issues.

How did she get to be so smart? I wondered as we hung up. After our conversation I was left musing about how often we get that first assurance of 'everything falling into place' and then give up when the execution doesn't proceed smoothly into reality.  I had a bishop's counselor's wife in college who gave the young sisters a talk that I’ve never forgotten.  She said, when you are making the wrong choice, you have to make it over and over again.  It won't stay settled.  When you are making the right decision, it clicks into place and won't be moved.  It stays calm in your mind. I have found that to be wise counsel.

Sometimes we make the assumption, though, that the right decision won't be anything but easy and painless.  I don't find that guarantee in my instruction manual.  Can you point to the page which says that in yours?  Then when we have to hang on and work through the problems that arise, we give up and say, I guess I was wrong, this isn't what I was meant to do after all.  After all, if this is what the Lord wants, this—whatever the difficulty is—wouldn't be happening.  I thought that was what he said to me, but I must have been mistaken.

Opposition doesn't mean we were mistaken.  Opposition comes with the territory of life. Our Heavenly Father is not upset if we ask for reaffirmation; he will repeat his assurances that we are on the right track, and he will show us how to overcome the obstacles.  Opposition may mean, if you could only see, that what you are trying to do matters very much.  Really active opposition, in fact, means that what you are doing matters a great deal, and Satan is worried you might actually accomplish it.

The last verse of an old standard hymn goes:

Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you,
The weight of your calling he perfectly knows.
Your path may be thorny, but Jesus is nigh you,
His grace is sufficient though demons oppose.
(“The Time is Far Spent,” hymn # 266)

His grace is sufficient. So, if you have prayed about what to do and found an answer, if you are acting on the clarity of that answer and are finding opposition, keep praying and keep going, because the Lord promises it will all work out for your good, maybe in ways you can't imagine right now.

Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another. (Doctrine & Covenants 90:24)

You know how everything falls into place and then the opposition sets in?  We probably all know those times.  If it's the right answer, keep following it.  Just do what you should.  The Lord's promises beat out any other considerations.

Oh, the daughter?  She is doing well, after graduating with a degree in Russian language and literature. She survived and thrived in a department she loved. It was the perfect place for her.


Copyright © 2019 by Marian Stoddard Printed from NauvooTimes.com