Friday, November 10, 2017

Suzanne's Church Talk

A few weeks ago, I spoke in church for the first time in TEN years. 

And it probably would've been even longer had I not mentioned this fact to my best friend whose husband is the Executive Secretary in our ward. 


Since then, I have had a lot of people ask to read my talk. I sent it out in an email but have gotten asked a few more times. 

So since this is my online "journal", I thought I'd just post it here and call it a day. 

So here you go! 

"Good morning.
My name is Suzanne Maughan and I have been in this ward for almost 10 years. I moved here from a far, distant land called North Mesa.  Before that, I had lived in the same home in Gilbert my whole life. Needless to say, you can see how much I like change.

As a short timeline of my adult life, I was married at the extremely old age of 19 in the Mesa temple in 2007. My daughter, Mahayla, was born in 2008. My son, Andersen, was born in 2009. In 2011, I was diagnosed with infertility and was not able to have more children. In 2012, my husband left the church. In 2013, my husband moved out of our home. In 2014, I found myself divorced and the single mom of a 5 and 4-year-old. In the beginning of 2015, I left the church. And in the end of 2016, I received an answer to prayer that this is where I’m supposed to be and found myself back active in the church.

In other words, if you caught all of that timeline, 2010 was my favorite year because, as I mentioned, I don’t like change.

When I moved into this ward, I was pregnant with my daughter and she is now 9 ½. To brag about her a little, Hayley is a compassionate and sensitive little girl. She is a hard worker but only when she wants to be. Since the age of 3, she has been dancing and now at the age of 9, she is a competitive dancer and spends between 12 and 14 hours at her studio each week.

My son, Andersen, was just baptized yesterday and I can hardly believe he is already 8 years old. He is a busy, hilarious little dude and is always keeping me on my toes. Andersen is my buddy and has been attached to me since he was born. He knows the best way to get out of bedtime is to stare at me with his big hazel eyes and say, “Mom, can we just snuggle a little before I go to bed?” because the answer is always yes.

Although I could spend hours telling you about how amazing my kids are, I guess I’ll move on and tell you a little about me and then maybe, eventually, I’ll get to my actual talk. I just graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Human and Family Development and plan to get a certificate in elementary education. I currently work for my dad, who is a pediatrician, as a biller and in the afternoons, I teach dance at the same studio my daughter attends. I am a licensed foster parent and we just fostered our first little girl, "Yaya", from May to August this year. Some of my favorite things to do, besides giving talks in church every ten years, are singing, writing, dancing, and being a mom above everything else.

In my talk today, I was asked to speak about the importance of prophets and apostles and choose some of their words to share with you.

To start, I think I’ll skip back to some of my timeline.

Back in 2015, I chose to stop attending church. Having grown up in the church, this was an extremely difficult decision for me and one that tormented me for a long time. But staying in the church was also tormenting me during this time. I had been single for almost two years but had been taking my children to church alone for three years. During this time, I believed that God would create a bubble around us so that no other bad thing could hurt us during a time where we were greatly hurting already.

But that isn’t what happened. And after some pretty traumatic events, I allowed my negative feelings regarding our “broken family” to stir up some questions that I could not make sense of.

When I left the church, what I found was opposite of what most people that I’ve talked to have found. I found myself still very much accepted and loved and supported by my LDS family and friends. Although some of them had a harder time adjusting, I believe my circumstances helped them to take a step back and allow me to walk the path that I needed to walk. I would frequently have religious discussions with my closest friends during this time and felt that I was learning so much.

I really had no intentions of coming back. I felt like I had simplified religion for myself, focusing on the basics of Christianity. The irony was that the more I learned of Christianity, the more I compared those basics to the things found in the gospel.

And in December of 2016, I was having a conversation with my Heavenly Father and pleading with Him to fix my aching heart and the feelings of loneliness that I was battling and He spoke to me. He answered my prayer just as if He had been kneeling right next to me. And because of the things He said, I knew I could not deny the Priesthood, like I had tried to do for over a year. And if I could not deny the Priesthood, then I could not deny the Book of Mormon. And if I could not deny the Book of Mormon, then I could not deny Joseph Smith being a prophet. And if I could not deny Joseph Smith being a prophet, then I could not deny that this church is true.

And when I came to that conclusion, an entirely new wave of fear pierced my heart because I was going to have to make a lot of changes. And I was going to have to admit that I was wrong. And I was going to have to step foot inside a church full of people that I had essentially said goodbye to a year and a half prior.

And ultimately, I ended up making that decision. And that decision brought about the baptism of my daughter in January and my son yesterday.

And with that decision, I flew to Utah in April and attended every single session of conference with my best friend who had been there through every step of this rollercoaster.

Conference was amazing. And I don’t even remember very many specific things that were said. But the tangible feeling of the Spirit in that room was something I wish I could’ve brought home with me. As each speaker would begin, I was on the edge of my seat, wanting to feel more of the peace and excitement I was experiencing.

Although this October conference was not as Spiritual, between teaching dance all day on Saturday and being around some pretty noisy children on Sunday, I have since taken the time to go back and listen to some of the talks that I had missed.

When I came across Elder Bednar’s talk from Sunday morning, I felt like he was speaking straight to me and quite honestly, to so many of us. He starts his talk off by saying “One of the greatest challenges each of us face every day is to not allow the concerns of this world to so dominate our time and energy that we neglect the eternal things that matter most. We can be too easily diverted from remembering and focusing upon essential spiritual priorities because of our many responsibilities and busy schedules. Sometimes we try to run so fast that we may forget where we are going and why we are running.”

Life can be tricky to navigate sometimes and it is so easy to get busy with our daily routines and leave out our Spiritual tasks because so many other things take precedence. When I first came back to church, I was taking time every day to read conference talks and scriptures and pray multiple times a day. I felt like I couldn’t get enough of diving back in and reading all of the things I had missed while I had been away. But after a while, the excitement wore off and I found myself in the same place I’d been in years prior.

And it didn’t happen in a day. It was a little here, a little there. Some days, I’d study the scriptures and make my Heavenly Father a priority and other days, I’d lay in bed at the end of the day, easily justifying why I wasn’t reading or praying. I’d tell myself how busy I am being a single mom, working two jobs and going to school. God would understand if I just went to bed, just this one time.

But as you can imagine, the longer we let those things go, the easier they are to justify. And then they are no longer a priority.

With this slippery slope, we can also take a look at our relationship with the Holy Ghost and why this relationship is so important. Elder Bednar reminds us that “God promises us, according to our faithfulness, the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost.”. In 1st Nephi, chapter 4, verse 6, we are reminded of why the Holy Ghost can be such a vital relationship in our lives. It reads “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do”.

That simple scripture reminds us why the Holy Ghost is important and why we should keep Him as a constant companion. The Holy Ghost guides us and helps us to make decisions that will keep us on the path to Eternal life.

And as simple as it sounds, maintaining a close relationship with the Spirit takes work on our part. It takes everything that Elder Bednar described regarding our spiritual priorities and why it is important to not get so busy that we are neglecting our testimonies.

In the April 2017 conference, President Monson spoke about the importance of reading the Book of Mormon. He says that “the importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.” He reminds us that this world is full of sin and wickedness and discusses the importance of having a strong testimony.

And maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I would’ve nodded in agreement but not taken those words to heart. Because 6 or 7 years ago, I never imagined I would find myself in a place of such confusion and Spiritual turmoil. I knew scripture study and prayer and church attendance were important but I did not know how necessary they were in keeping a testimony. That sounds silly to me now because we are told over and over that it takes work to maintain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ but it wasn’t until I lost it for a period of time that I began to realize how important studying the gospel is.

This world is surely full of wickedness and sin. I have seen for myself how choices have consequences that not only hurt the person making those choices but also causes pain to others. I did not expect to be a 30-year-old single mother, coming to church some weeks with my children and some weeks completely alone. I have learned to live with this fact but that does not mean it isn’t still a very real and painful part of my life, a part that sometimes hinders how I feel about attending church.

And as we are talking about the importance of our prophets and apostles, I wanted to touch on yet another significant General Conference talk, given in April of 2014 by President Uchtdorf entitled Grateful In Any Circumstances. This talk has been on my list of talks that I repeatedly read when I feel like I cannot wake up another day with a smile on my face.

As President Uchtdorf was giving this talk, I can remember exactly where I was sitting and exactly how I felt. I can remember tears streaming down my face and feeling like he completely understood the particular place I was in life at that time.

The first part of President Uchtdorf’s talk states: 
"Over the years, I have had the sacred opportunity to meet with many people whose sorrows seem to reach the very depths of their soul. In these moments, I have listened to my beloved brothers and sisters and grieved with them over their burdens. I have pondered what to say to them, and I have struggled to know how to comfort and support them in their trials.

Often their grief is caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true. 
Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift. It can happen to anyone. No one is immune."

He goes on to talk about how our situations can be so different but that we all have one thing in common and that is the choice in how we handle the hard things in our lives. We can choose to become bitter or we can find things in our lives to be grateful for.

In August of 2013, I was driving to my parents’ house on a normal Friday afternoon to attend my sister’s baby gender reveal party. As I was turning onto my parents’ street, a voice stopped me in my tracks and stated, “Just remember that you have a good life.” I found this to be an incredibly odd thing and thought maybe I had made it up in my head. Because sure, I could remember the good things in my life. I was married and was a stay-at-home mother. I had just started attending college a week prior and was already loving my classes. I had great friends and a very close-knit family. My life was really good. And so I shrugged it off and went about the rest of my day.

The next day, as I was spending time with my kids, another clear prompting came to me that had to do with my marriage. I, again, found this to be a little odd but follow through with the prompting and a short while later, I learned from my husband that our marriage would be ending. This came as a huge shock to me and was not something I had prepared for, not that anyone really prepares for their marriage to end. But as I sat in my car that afternoon, that voice came back to me, as distinctly as it had the day prior. “Just remember that you have a good life.” 
And I started to think about how amazing my kids are and how my family and friends would surely pull me through all of this. I realized that there were still so many things to be grateful for because out of the many things I had listed the day before, only one thing had changed. Everything else from that list still existed.

In one of my darkest times of need, my Heavenly Father had reminded me of an important lesson. Gratitude in any circumstances.

As Elder Uchtdorf reminds us, “We can choose to be like Job, who seemed to have everything but then lost it all. Yet Job responded by saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job lost everything and in his darkest times, he kept his sight on God’s plan for all of us. He had a grateful disposition because he recognized that Heavenly Father had given him life and had promised him much more than anything we can obtain in our earthly life.

My hope is that we can all learn from Job’s example. That we can all take the time each day to plant our testimonies deep into the ground and watch them bloom and that we never forget to water them.

I know this church is true. I know our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us individually. I believe in the power of the Priesthood. I know that Heavenly Father gave us prophets and apostles to help guide us through the ups and downs in our lives."

No comments:

Post a Comment