“Honest, Simple, Solid, True”

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I was in the Provo  LDS Temple in February for my temple shift. I was seated at the south side of the front door, greeting people as they came in. I noticed an older man, probably in his eighties, and realized it was Terry Warner, author of The Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships  and Coming to Ourselves.  He gave a BYU Devotional talk called Honest, Simple, Solid, True  in 1996. I  loved that talk so much at the time, that I stenciled those words on a board, and hung it up above my back door. The whole message is so compelling  because he shifts our thinking from inward to outward, from letting go of being offended by embracing  the pure love of Christ in order to  heal ourselves and our families.  Some of my favorite parts of the talk are:

“Whether it is felt in His breast or in ours, the Savior’s love can achieve what force cannot because where force calls forth counterforce, love calls forth love. In the human image of His divine sacrifice, we, too, can outlast and conquer vengeance. I received a while ago a letter from a woman whose father had been emotionally neglectful and whose husband turned out to be much the same way. When she tried to talk about why he was distant, he said it was because she was always angry. This angered her more, and she told him she was only angry because of his lack of love, which made him more inclined to withdraw. They had got themselves encircled in the bands of death and the chains of hell. She went to the mountains alone, intent upon reading one of the contemporary self-help books. She wrote later:’

“As the writer began describing the intense need we each have for love, I began to feel more and more deprived until I felt such a huge longing that I could barely breathe. I decided to write all of this down for my husband to read, and enumerate the many times I had felt emotionally deprived. I began to write furiously, to pour it all out onto the paper. The longer I wrote, the more I began to have a feeling come over me that what I was writing was false. The feeling continued growing until I could no longer squelch it, and I knew intuitively that the feeling was coming from God, that He was telling me that what I was writing was false. “How could it be false?” I asked angrily. “I lived it. I know it was there because I saw and felt it. How could it be false?” But the feeling became so powerful and overwhelming that I could no longer deny it or fight against it. So I tore up the pages I had written, threw myself down on my knees, and began to pray, saying, “If it is false, show me how it could be false.” And then a voice spoke to my mind and said, “If you had come unto Me, it all would have been different.”’

“I was astounded. I went to church. I read the scriptures often, I prayed pretty regularly, I tried to obey the commandments. “What do you mean, ‘Come unto You?’” I wondered. And then into my mind flashed pictures of me wanting to do things my own way, of holding grudges, of not forgiving, of not loving as God had loved us. I had wanted my husband to “pay” for my emotional suffering. I had not let go of the past and had not loved God with all my heart. I loved my own willful self more.’

“I was aghast. I suddenly realized that I was responsible for my own suffering, for if I had really come unto Him, as I outwardly thought I had done, it all would have been different. As that horrible truth settled over me, I realized why the pages I had written of my suffering had been false. I had allowed it to happen by not truly coming unto God. That day I repented of not loving God, of not loving my husband, of blaming, of finding fault, of thinking that others were responsible for my misery.’

“I returned home but did not mention to my husband anything of what had transpired. But I gave up blaming, knowing that I was in large part responsible for the state of our relationship. And I tried to come unto God with full purpose of heart. I prayed more earnestly and listened to His Spirit. I read my scriptures and tried to come to know Him better. Two months passed, and one morning my husband awoke and turned to me in bed and said, “You know, we find fault too much with each other. I am never going to find fault with my wife again.” I was flabbergasted, for he had never admitted he had done anything wrong in our relationship. He did stop finding fault, and he began to compliment me and show sweet kindness. It was as if an icy glass wall between us had melted away. Almost overnight our relationship became warm and sweet. Three years have passed, and still it continues warmer and happier. We care deeply about one another and share ideas and thoughts and feelings, something we had not done for the first 16 years of marriage.’

And,

“…The Savior seems to say to us: “Come unto me, and I will give you such assurance and hope and strength that you cannot be taken hostage by anyone who seems to do you harm. I will liberate you into love. And then you will no longer give anyone cause to resent or fear you. Instead, they will respond to the love that I have bestowed upon you. By abiding in me, you will do much good, bear much fruit.”’

“…How then shall we come unto Christ so that everything will be different from what it could possibly be otherwise? By sacrificing all taking of offense. By giving up criticism, impatience, and contempt, for they accuse the sisters and brothers for whom Christ died. By forswearing vulgarity and pornography, which diminish both the user and the used. By putting aside, in short, every practice that bears the image of murder, obliteration of souls, discord, and death. By giving these practices their true name, violence, and abhorring even their first appearance. By renouncing war in every form and proclaiming peace (see D&C 98:16).’

“…This requires us to look upon interruption and frustration and insubordination and disrespect and scorn and even abuse—all the treatment from others that we must renounce for ourselves—as opportunities for choosing good over evil. Do not love and do good only to those who will reciprocate, the Savior taught; it takes no particular righteousness to do that (see Luke 6:32–33). Listen attentively to the teacher whose lectures may be a little dry. Read with particular care the papers of students who struggle to write. Befriend the one who feels different, lost, or lonely. Embrace the child who seems to resist you. Take seriously the advice of parents who have trouble following that advice themselves. Invite to dinner those who lack the graciousness or the means to invite you back. Even “love your enemies, do good to them which hate you” (Luke 6:27). Like the Father, let your warming sun and nourishing rain fall on the just and unjust alike. Jesus intimated that this kind of love is who we really are—the very perfection, completeness, and fullness we came here to attain (see Matthew 5:45–48). And anything less—judging others and withholding our favor from them—capitulates to Satan. After all, it is with us as it was with the Redeemer: Satan does not need to overpower us in order to win the war. He only needs to get us to adopt his way of fighting it.”‘

Finally, 

“…Upon returning from class one day, my daughter shared this experience of one of her classmates. Chris was a young father who, not far into the semester, had become overwhelmed by the pace of the class. His attendance flagged; after a while he did not come at all. My daughter was surprised when he showed up for the midterm exam. When the test was over he told her that a few days before, the professor, one of the most internationally distinguished at this university, knocked on the door of the trailer where Chris lived with his family. Since Chris had no phone, the professor had gone to the school records, located the number of his parents in Pennsylvania, and obtained his address by calling them. At the door he said simply, “I haven’t seen you for a while and have worried about you. The midterm exam is coming up and I’d like to know what I can do to help you prepare.” Honest, simple, solid, true.”

I hope you love this talk as much as I do. It calls forth a better part of me that requires more honesty on my part. I have loved reading it over and over again this week, and  being reminded how wonderful life can be when  we let our “warming sun and nourishing rain fall on the just and unjust alike.”

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