Jesus Christ, My Anchor: Why a Private Person Chooses to Share

I have always been a quiet person, one not given to inserting my opinion into any situation, let alone one in which there may be conflict or a negative response. I'm hyper-sensitive to discord, to the possibility of giving offense, to maintaining a position which others may mock. I've been seen to leave rooms where intense discussions were taking place or hide in my bedroom to avoid a confrontation.

I remember when I was in Fourth Grade I missed the school bus which would take me home. I had no idea what to do. Our family had only one car, and my father had driven it to work. As I contemplated the miles between me and my house, one of the teachers asked if I needed help. I explained my problem and he offered to take me home. No teacher would dare make that offer now, but in 1953 it was acceptable.

He and another teacher were in the car. I sat in the back seat and listened to their conversation as we drove to Orchard Drive in Bountiful and turned south toward the big Val Verda sign at 3100 South. Unfortunately, as they became engaged in conversation I didn't dare interrupt. We passed by the Val Verda sign and continued going south. Finally the driver stopped the conversation. "You'll tell me when we get to the road where we should turn, right?"

A meek little voice was heard from the back seat. "You already passed it. We were supposed to turn at the Val Verda sign." That was now miles behind us.

There wasn't much conversation after that. I've often wondered how a person who likes to be nice to people could possibly let them drive past my road, then be forced to turn around and retrace their route to get me home, especially when they were being kind and giving me a ride. It was my first clue that being unable to speak up is not always a good thing.

I have a hard time speaking up. I couldn't participate in high school or college classes for the same reason. I often gave the excuse that I'm shy and don't like to interrupt people, but now I recognize it is more than that. I'm afraid to offer my opinion, afraid to let others know what I'm thinking, terrified of causing conflict or disagreement because I don't express myself well verbally. So I say nothing. I keep my opinion to myself so no one is offended and no one finds reason to accuse me of anything whatever.

I'm old now, and I recognize my mistake in the car that day in 1953. I don't think I've ever done that again. I also recognize my error in not bearing witness of the truth more often. I've justified myself that I don't defend my ideas well when I'm in a conversation. Later I remember all the ways I could have defended my beliefs, but not while I'm speaking. I am still terrified of causing conflict or offending someone. Yet not being willing to stand up for the truth is not acceptable.

That's why this shy person is breaking the ice and sharing her ideas. It's time I let others know about my deep love of God, and my conviction in the Church of Jesus Christ. The two go hand in hand. When one loves God without reservation, she also accepts the church He established to lead souls back to His presence. That also means I accept personal revelation, knowing He established a way to communicate with us so we will not slip away and be lost. God doesn't want us to be lost. We who are parents know how it feels to have a child slip away, and God feels the same way about His children. He went to a lot of trouble to establish an almost foolproof way to maintain a lifeline to his children. The conduit is always open at His end, but we often close it off on ours.

This lifeline is the most important blessing in my life. When I allow God to communicate with me I am filled with light and hope. When I lose contact with the spirit, I feel depressed and hopeless. Then I lose faith in myself and feel worthless. For me, hopelessness and sadness are my clue that I need to work to re-open my spiritual channels. Over the years I have learned to spend time each day to keep my spiritual balance in order to avoid depression, hopelessness, and the very real fear that I'm without real value.

That said, I also express my belief that human judgment is not enough to come to the truth. Satan's access to our minds is so subtle, we seldom know that what we're thinking actually originated in his mind. We think we know the truth—after all, I think, if it's in my own mind it must be true. Yet for most of us it is not true. As I grow older I have begun to recognize the many ways Satan has access to my deepest yearnings and fears. He knows far better than I do how to turn me from a good thought to a destructive or selfish thought. This actually came as a surprise to me a few years ago. Since then I have become much better at keeping the spirit with me so I know the difference between my godly thoughts and Satan's destructive ones. Sometimes I learned only by acting on a thought which led me to darkness of mind and spirit, and I knew it could not be of God.

Knowing my own judgment is not enough, I have willingly turned to the scriptures and to the advice of church leaders. I have learned to trust their voices rather than that voice in my head which has said at times I'm smarter than they are, or that they're old and out of touch. I know God speaks through his prophets. George Albert Smith, a prophet in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost 100 years ago, explained my belief very well:

“…I am only a man, one of the humblest among you, but I have been called to this service—and I would not be here if I did not know I had been called—by the authority of our Heavenly Father.”

He then added this request:

“I will need the help of every man and every woman and every child, not for my blessing, but for your blessing, and for the blessing of the children of men wherever they may be. That is not my responsibility; it is our responsibility.”

If we accept the responsibility to sustain our bishop, our stake president, our prophet, we must work harder than if we just believed in our own inspiration. I have done that. I have taken notes, typed them in my journal, prayed and fasted to know the truth. I have corroborated what I have heard with what has been said in scriptures. I have leaned not unto my own understanding. I have had numerous experiences with the fact that God will help us know, but only if we ask without a critical or self-righteous attitude. The gospel never leads us to be critical, judgmental or have any darkness in us at all. In fact, as I comprehend the truth of what I learn through listening to and reading gospel subjects, I am filled with light, with comprehension, with peace. I know it is true, but only after considerable spiritual and mental work.

The story of the Widow of Zaraphath has always been an inspiration to me, an illustration of what happens when we act on revelation that a prophet is saying the words of God. When the prophet Elijah asked her to give him something to eat, the young widow said, "As the lord liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die." (I Kings 17:12)

In much the same way as I am inspired to believe our modern prophets, the widow gave their food to Elijah rather than to her own child. Three thousand years later we know that following her leap of faith, her cruise of oil and her barrel of meal never again failed, but she didn't know at the time. She simply did what the prophet asked and had faith it was really God asking for her sacrifice. That kind of obedience was not a snap judgment; it was the result of years and years of prayer, listening, acting on counsel, and feeling the peace and light which are the result of listening to the right voice. She already knew that feeling well.

President Henry B. Eyring said in the last General Conference (October 2014): "The Lord will feed those who sustain and trust Him. The Lord will save His people in these hard times through His prophets." If I didn't believe that I would be so terrified in these confusing times, I would build a shell around myself, never listen to the news, and never tell another person how I feel, certainly never write for a public forum. I would turn into a hermit.

But I do believe the Lord will save His people in these hard times through His prophets—not just our bodies, but our spirits. Therefore I will make my voice heard among the many who claim there is no God and no standard of morality. Never again will I keep my opinion to myself; rather I will testify of Christ every day, in every way I can. I testify God speaks to His prophets of old and His prophets now. I testify that as I listen to their voices and act on their inspiration, light and joy and confidence replace the darkness and sorrow and fear of the world.

I testify that God cares enough about quiet, shy Janet Porter that He will never forget me and never ignore me. I have learned it from thousands of subtle experiences with the spirit, often while I'm reading scriptures. I learned it from listening, receiving answers and direction, and having the patience to hold on long enough to understand years later what something means. Maybe I'm finally growing up as far as defending the principles I know from my own experience are true.

The Val Verda sign is coming. We're almost there. "Stop. We need to turn need to turn here. This is where I live."

 

           Courtesy Deseret News     

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