I finished Kim last night. Timothy mocked me that it took me so long to read. His exact words: "I've never seen you take so long to read a book." I've been busy!! There was a wedding! Sheesh.
Since I just finished, I'm not quite ready to write my essay about it. Instead, I wanted to solidify in my brain some of the concepts President Eyring wrote about in his book.
First, this quote: "If we stay at it long enough, perhaps for a lifetime, we will have for so long felt what the Savior feels, wanted what he wants, and done what he would have us do that we will have, through the Atonement, a new heart filled with charity. And we will have become like Him." This is the summary paragraph of an article PE wrote in response to the question: how do we live a more righteous life?. His basic argument is that when we read the scriptures we should try to feel what the Savior feels. I have nothing to say about that--I'm just a little nonplussed by the idea and thought I'd throw it out there.
The next article was about trials and I almost skipped it because I find the subject of trials fairly boring. I'm glad I did not skip it. PE had some really thought-provoking things to say on the subject.
"The real trial of your faith is anything that would divert you from doing what God would have you do." I think this is what Julia worries about--that she'll get so caught up in doing things that are good that she won't get done the things that are essential. This is a hard one because it requires you to really be in tune with the Spirit. How do you know when you missed a prompting because you weren't in tune? You don't. Exactly.
I think this is mostly about desire. If you truly desire to be an instrument in God's hands, then He'll most likely let you know when He has something He needs you to do. However, I also think that our follow through affects our usability. By follow through I mean how well we're keeping the commandments as that plays the most vital role in the state of our testimonies. The answer then--the same answer I'm getting to everything--is that the better relationship you have with your Father (due to your obedience and desire), the better you'll be able to serve Him.
"You should expect that great difficulties will come to you in the pursuit of doing what the Lord would have you do." Now, we've heard variations on this theme all our lives. My question is this: how do we know when we're improving? How do we know when we're becoming more Christ-like? How do we know, we self-critical women, when our efforts are acceptable or our response to the difficulties is growth? And don't tell me that we'll feel the Spirit more because that's bunk. Elder McConkie said that he worried about the Saints because they focused so much on testimony and feeling the Spirit, which opened them up to falling into inactivity. Instead he said we need to focus all our energies on obedience because obedience is what saves you--not your testimony. I translated that into marriage as a way to understand it. If you base your marriage on love it can so easily end in divorce. Oh, I fell out of love--nothing to be done. A marriage that lasts is one where each person is committed to the promises they made, regardless of how they feel about the other person. So again--how do you gauge progress?
PE then discussed humility. "If you'll remember that the key to not being diverted from serving God is humility then you'll understand that some of those days when you thought things were going badly were a great blessing."
"Our Father in Heaven loves us; he wants us to be guided, and he knows we can't be guided in arrogance."
"Everything I have that's good is a gift from God. How would he have me use my gifts to serve someone?"
PE talks a lot about serving others in relation to developing a closer relatioship with God. That doesn't really surprise me, but the next few quotes really hit home as I am constantly struggling with one of my darling little ones. Praying to love our children as Heavenly Father loves them is pretty critical, I'm learning. I think the following ideas are also key pieces to the puzzle as well.
"When I gave of my time in a way I thought the Savior would want me to for my wife, not only did my love for her increase--I also felt His love for her." In this case, PE was talking about making the bed for his wife when they were both in a hurry. I don't think he's making the argument that you have to do big/grand things--just give more service in the proper frame of mind and with the proper attitude.
"I promise you that if you'll use your gifts to serve someone else, you'll feel the Lord's love for that person. You'll also feel his love for you." I'm pretty sure that has significant ramifications for mothers. Especially mothers with children who are difficult to love. Maybe a sign of progress is when we can do things for our children without resentment (like clean up the broken glass in the bathroom from a child--who shall remain nameless--who wrapped a towel around a lightbulb and pulled it out of the socket. Of course, the lightbulb broke and the bottom part is stuck in the socket creating a bit of a problem. Much resentment over that one, I'm afraid).
To sum up, some of the key ways to build a stronger relationship with our Father in Heaven are: 1) be humble; 2) serve God; 3) serve others. Yes, I realize that #2 and #3 are the same thing.