I do not know the reason, but I seem to be hearing the words “disciple” and “discipleship” more often in recent months and years. The words might be spoken more often now, or I may be more prepared to hear them. At any rate, I am more aware that I must become a better disciple of Jesus Christ.
With those thoughts in my mind, I listened carefully to the words spoken by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf to the women, young women, and girls in the women’s session of the October 2017 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Uchtdorf told a story about three sisters who lived in a distant land a long time ago. The three sisters were named Sad, Mad, and Glad. As you might suppose, the oldest sister was sad about all the disappointments in her life, and the middle sister was mad about the way others treated her. He continued the story as follows.
Then there was the third sister. Unlike her sad and made sisters, she was – well, glad. And it wasn’t because she was smarter or more beautiful or more capable than her sisters. No, people sometimes avoided or ignored her too. They sometimes made fun of what she was wearing or the things she was saying. They sometimes said mean things about her. But she did not allow any of that to bother her too much.
This sister loved to sing. She didn’t have great pitch, and people laughed about it, but that didn’t stop her. She would say, “I am not going to let other people and their opinions stop me from singing!”
The very fact that she kept singing made her first sister sad and her second sister mad.
Many years passed, and eventually each sister reached the end of her time on earth.
The first sister, who discovered again and again that there was no shortage of disappointments in life, eventually died sad.
The second, who every day found something new to dislike, died mad.
And the third sister, who spent her life singing her song with all her might and a confident smile on her face, died glad.
Acknowledging that “life is never so simple, and people are never so one-dimensional” as the sisters in his story, President Uchtdorf said that “even extreme examples … can teach us something about ourselves.” He then looked closer at the examples.
The first sister was sad because she “saw herself as a victim – as someone who was acted upon.” It was the things that kept happening in her life that made her unhappy. She gave control over her feelings, actions, and happiness to other people and circumstances. Dear sisters, why should you surrender your happiness to someone, or a group of someones, who cares very little about you or your happiness?
President Uchtdorf suggested an antidote for this condition. “Remember that you are of the royal house of the kingdom of God, daughters of Heavenly Parents, who reign throughout the universe. You have the spiritual DNA of God… You are in His hands.”
The second sister, the hater, was mad or angry because “she felt that the problems in her life were all caused by someone else. She blamed her family, her friends, her boss and coworkers, the police, the neighbors, Church leaders, current fashion trends, even the intensity of solar flares, and plain bad luck. And she lashed out at all of them.
President Uchtdorf’s antidote for this condition is to learn to love our enemies. “We are responsible for our own discipleship, and it has little – if anything – to do with the way others treat us… Perhaps our effort to love our enemies will soften their hearts and influence them for good. Perhaps it will not. But that does not change our commitment to follow Jesus Christ.”
The third sister was glad. “She represents the authentic disciple of Jesus Christ. She did something that can be extremely hard to do: she trusted God even in the face of ridicule and hardship. Somehow she maintained her faith and hope, despite the scorn and cynicism around her. She lived joyfully, not because her circumstances were joyful but because she was joyful.”
President Uchtdorf reminded his listeners that the journey through life is full of opposition. None of us will escape from mortality without being challenged in some way. Sometimes, it seems that the tests and trials are too many and come too frequently.
I recently had the opportunity to visit with my older brother and his wife. Both of them are in their mid-80s, and both enjoyed fairly good health until a couple of years ago when my brother’s health started to decline and she became his caretaker. Although his mind seems to be clear and strong, his body is giving out. He seems to have suffered several mini-strokes as his left arm and leg are not very strong. He needs help to sit or stand. Walking on his own or even with a walker is in the past. His mode of transportation is now a wheelchair. He can feed himself, but he needs help to get in and out of bed and to dress and undress.
Yet, with all the above problems and the accompanying embarrassments and feelings of uselessness, my brother has a wonderful attitude. He never complains about his situation or if things are not done as he would prefer. He expresses gratitude to everyone who assists him in any way. I frequently heard him humming and singing. He has accepted his lot in life and seems to feel no need to hurt others. He is a joy to be around and to serve. He is still a great example to me of how a disciple of Jesus Christ should live.
President Uchtdorf gave the following counsel to help us through the difficulty of moving forward and upward toward salvation.
Stay on the path!
Never let go of the rod of iron – the word of God!
And when anyone tries to make you ashamed for partaking of the love of God, ignore them.
Never forget you are a child of God; rich blessings are in store; if you can learn to do His will, you’ll live with Him once more!
The promises of praise and acceptance by the world are unreliable, untrue, and unsatisfying. God’s promises are sure, true, and joyful – now and forever…
There may be many things about life that are beyond your control. But in the end, you have the power to choose both your destination and many of your experiences along the way. It is not so much your abilities but your choices that make the difference in life…
I urge you to fill your hearts with gratitude for the abundant and limitless goodness of God…
President Uchtdorf closed his remarks by leaving his “blessing as an Apostle of the Lord that you will find the strength and courage to joyfully thrive as a daughter of God while gladly walking each day on the glorious path of discipleship.”
It is not enough to simply be obedient and follow the teachings of the Savior. He wants us to find joy in our journey through life. He desires us to be joyful disciples and will reward us for having good attitudes even during difficult times.