The following are some thoughts that I've been having in association with the talk that I was asked to give in church tomorrow. I was asked to discuss one of the talks from the recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I felt drawn to study and talk about "The Infinite Power of Hope" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
While studying about hope, I have sort of organized my thoughts in answer to a set of questions. I give each question, with a brief response.
1. What is hope?
As taught by President Uchtdorf, hope is a powerful force. For example, he told the story about when he and his mother and siblings were fleeing from Czechoslovakia to Germany during World War II. At a certain train station, his mother left the train to get food for them, and when she returned the train was gone. With the possibility that she might never see her children again, his mother searched through the train station, "hoping against hope", and finally found the train after it had been moved.
Hope is a part of the great triad of faith, hope, and charity. Faith leads to hope, and hope leads to faith.
Hope in particular drives us to salvation. Our great hope is in Jesus Christ, that through his death and resurrection, we can be saved and enjoy eternal life. This hope can keep us going through difficult times and sad circumstances of life.
2. How can we have greater hope?
I studied a number of references that talked about how to feed our hope, but one idea that I noticed in particular is that we can gain hope by study of the scriptures. (I encourage you to read the references included with President Uchtdorf's talk to see this idea come up repeatedly in the scriptures themselves, as well as some other ways to increase hope.) How can the scriptures give us hope? Scripture is the word of God, and in the scriptures it's taught that Jesus Christ is the Savior, and that through His great Atonement we can resurrected and receive eternal life. As we read the holy word of God, the Holy Ghost confirms that these ideas are true. So reading the scriptures increases our knowledge of the great plan of our Father in Heaven, and also invites the Holy Ghost to be a bolstering force in our lives.
3. How can we help others to have hope?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the topic of hope lately, and analyzing events around me in light of the topic. I have recently learned that a friend of mine, a smart, good person, and someone I like very much, has decided to pursue a gay lifestyle. While I never claim to say what causes some people to be attracted to those of the same sex, I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and that it is not appropriate to engage in sexual relations under any other circumstances but between a husband and wife. For those who cannot envision themselves becoming involved in a serious relationship with someone of the opposite sex, like my friend, the future can seem long and lonely in light of that truth. It is easy to see how some people like my friend can be tempted to give up their principles in the face of that kind of loneliness.
It's not as if those who are attracted to people of the same sex are the only ones who struggle. There are people everywhere who deal with loneliness, despair, unemployment, divorce, frustration, abuse, poverty, and all of life's other negative feelings and situations. But unfortunately sometimes we add to others' problems by judging them, not understanding them, and treating them like they are bad people. This is not the Christian thing to do; it is well-known that our Savior spent time during His mortal ministry with "publicans and sinners" and that He continually ministers to people who are shunned by society. We should follow His example. People would never consider criticizing someone who had cancer or diabetes, for example. But what about people who struggle with less-fashionable circumstances, such as same-sex attraction, addiction, divorce, or a host of other things that people look down on? It seems to me that it certainly doesn't help people who are struggling for others to judge them and run away from them. Therefore, I urge us all (myself included) to encourage hope in others by treating them in more Christlike ways, by overlooking their circumstances and loving them.
I believe that the love of others helps us to have hope and security in a world that is otherwise often depressing and insecure. I can attest to the palpable feeling of security and confidence that I have in the love of my good friends. And the love of good people hopefully serves as a guide to the love and salvation that we can find in Christ. Our capacities for loving are inadequate in comparison to His, to be sure, but maybe we will learn to be more like Him as we continue to practice this love. Our hope in Christ will encourage others to hope in Him as well. And He is able and mighty to save and be the Fulfillment of our hope.
And so the message I would like to send is two-fold: (1) to those who struggle, there is hope in Christ, the powerful Redeemer of the world, and (2) to those who know them, we should love people and treat them well regardless of their circumstances. And it seems to me that basically everyone in the congregation is part of both groups.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
If you have any comments on these thoughts, or even stories that I could incorporate into this talk, I would be happy to learn them.