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Today I gave a talk correct through our church congregation's leading weekly assembly. Our church has an all lay clergy, so individuals typically rotate in giving talks. Following are my arranged remarks:
From time to time, I have been asked how I have learned to are dwelling with the incontrovertible fact that I have a kind of metastatic cancer that has a five year survival rate of nearly 5%. The short reply is that dwelling with cancer is better than the alternative.
Today I desire to chat nearly the longer reply, despite the incontrovertible fact that. It centers on how we choose on to react to carrying events that we do now not manage. Each of us are brokers unto ourselves and have constant opportunities to make your mind up on to do many topics of our confidential loose will (see D&C fifty eight:27-28). Lehi explained how we are loose to make your mind up on liberty and eternal life, or to make your mind up on captivity and death (see 2 Nephi 2:27).
Owning our technology is a fundamental component of Gods Plan of Salvation. The Lord told Moses, I [have given] unto man his agency (Moses 7:32). Our Heavenly father told Adam and Eve, Thou mayest decide on for thyself(Moses 3:17). King Benjamin taught That ye may even are dwelling and circulate and do according to your confidential will(Mosiah 2:21; see Neal A Maxwells March 16, 2004 talk, Free to Choose).
When I taught the Gospel Doctrine class, I sometimes would reference a book titled, Free Agency, and How To Enforce It. Its author explains how we can make others decide on what we have faith to be applicable selections. I think the authors remaining name is Zebub, first name Bella. I see a few of you hunting it up on your smartphones. Make certain you install the authors first and remaining name.
Speaking of Beelzubub, we are told in the Book of Moses that Satan sought to destroy the agency of man (Moses 4:3). For, behold, the devil . . . rebelled against me . . . ; and additionally a 3rd part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me due to their agency (D&C 29:36; emphasis added). Lucifer was very indignant then, and he is incredibly indignant stillchoosing to aim to make all adult males [to] be miserable like unto himself (2 Nephi 2:27). Latter-day revelation tells us that It should always necessities be that the devil should always tempt the young people of adult males, or they couldn't be brokers unto themselves (D&C 29:39; emphasis added). Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should always act for himself. Wherefore, man couldn't act for himself save it is going to be that he was enticed by the sole or the opposite (2 Nephi 2:16; emphasis added). That is why there's an opposition in all topics (2 Nephi 2:11).
Among the oppositions in my mortality is the incontrovertible fact that I have terminal cancer. I do now not manage my cancer. My doctors do now not manage it, either: there's not any cure. So how do I are dwelling with a diagnosis of death? How do I order my affairs? How do I reconcile myself to the frustration that I almost clearly wont be collecting Social Security?
From one perspective, having metastatic cancer doesnt in fact change topics too a professional deal, interested in the incontrovertible fact that all of us have a terminal disease. Its called mortal life. The Apostle Paul referred to (or maybe it was Mel Gibson in Braveheart) all adult males die (see 1 Corinthians 15:22). All life, like my cancer, ends in death. We sing a hymn with the line, death unlocks the passageway into eternity (Upon the Cross of Calvary, No. 184).
During the course of my cancer, I have come to perceive that mortal death is vastly overblown. Last September, I wrote the following:
Yesterday afternoon my 25 year historic daughter, Chelsea, gave birth to her first toddler, and my first grandchild. My granddaughter is has an infinite head (needless to claim), a physically effective cry, and a piercing stare. All is well with everyone involved.
Chelsea and I had agreed that correct through the best supply, solely the surgeon, her husband, and Jennifer should always be current. I sat in the room but on the opposite facet of a curtain, and listened, for the reason that surgeon was giving commands, Jennifer was counting, Josh was reassuring his wife, and Chelsea was alternating between pushing and catching her breath. I had a quiet communication with God as this went on for nearly an hour. I realized that, in many techniques, the curtain was like a veil keeping apart me from my family. I may sense their presence, send my prayers and light-weight and love to my daughter, and experience the adventure, but I was now not physically current.
Death will be like this, I have faith. My soul, and all that I am, will continue on. I will now not be physically current, but nonetheless will be in their presence, will be able to send my prayers and light-weight and love to my family, and experience their joy and sorrows. As Sullivan Ballou wrote to his wife the week ahead of he died in the First Battle of Bull Run, "I shall always be on the threshold of you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a smooth breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, for the reason that cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. [D]o now not mourn me lifeless; think I am gone and not sleep for thee, for we shall meet again."
Holding my granddaughter, I felt impressive joy and rejoicing in my posterity. The subsequent generation of my family has started. Life continues on.
Looking to return back, I now realize that I was arranged for cancer by parenthood. I dont mean to match metastatic cancer to parenthood. One is a assortment of tragic carrying events, a parade of disappointments that ends up in ongoing frustration, anger, grief, and in a way attractiveness. The other is just a disease.
Let me proportion with you the tale of techniques I learned in parenthood to let go of something I dont manage, and to trust God. It is a story choked with unexpected epiphanies, and how the moments of handiest parental pain taught me lessons that have formed the root of techniques I am dwelling with cancer. This story illustrates how unexpected lessons that come from adversity can later current a deep wellspring of water for a parched soul. And this story illustrates how the Lords techniques normally aren't my techniques (see Isaiah fifty five:8).
Some of you know snippets of this story, interested in the incontrovertible fact that it has played out on this ward over the past eight years. I not at all have subscribed to the heresy that one should always always glance like stable in church, interested in the incontrovertible fact that church is a wellbeing facility for sinners, and not at all a showcase for saints. And we all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). A ward family is, in the words of Alma, willing to bear one anothers burdens, that they're light; and are willing to mourn with those who mourn; and luxurious those who stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:8-9). Paul taught that to bear one an alternative's burdens is to fulfill the regulation of Christ (see Galatians 6:2). Today, I ask you to bear my burdens with me.
In 2005, my son Spencer was 14 years historic, and was in eighth grade in middle college. Unknown to Jennifer and me at the time, whilst over at guests' buildings to play video video games or to hang out, he started ingesting alcohol and smoking pot. His drug and alcohol abuse persisted as he started his freshman year of high college. His grades plummeted. He grew to be increasingly withdrawn from the loosen up of the family, and was verbally, emotionally, and at instances physically abusive. Between December 2005 and May 2006, our home was a spot of ongoing warfare.
Spencer would tell you now that he was self-medicating interested in the incontrovertible fact that he was deeply unhappy. He was indignant at his lack of self-confidence and felt appreciable strain and stress from his parents and the church to measure up. At the time, he did now not have the gear to recognize and articulate the causes of his anger. Jennifer and I sought the counsel of doctors, professional counselors, besides church leaders. Despite our collective efforts, Spencer persisted to abuse alcohol and medication. We felt imprisoned in our confidential home, fearing a neater explosion, eager about if our lives have been in hazard.
After we felt that we had exhausted every other option, Jennifer and I made the decision to have our 15 year historic son got rid of from our home and put in a curative wilderness treatment software. We prayed repeatedly nearly this decision but received no definitive reply. At 4 am on Wednesday, May 10, 2006, we woke up Spencer and explained that he was being put into a software, then withdrew to a hail of savage words. We had contracted with a team of professionals who escorted our son out of our area and delivered him to the software.
After Spencer left, Jennifer and I knelt in prayer. For greater than an hour we wept as we poured out our hearts to our Father in Heaven. Only then did we acquire confirmation that we had made the applicable decision. As Moroni taught, ye acquire no witness until after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:6).
After three months, Spencer thought that he was provided to return home, and we sought after him to return back home. Through the family treatment of the software, we had made pleasant progress in understanding and discussing our sons underlying considerations. Spencer wrote out a assortment of promises governing his habit at home. We enrolled him in someone college for his sophomore year, and developed scaffolding to aid him in his pleasant technology.
After numerous months, despite the incontrovertible fact that, Spencer started off backsliding on his commitments. One of the primary topics to go was Spencers willingness to wait Seminary. What is a determine to do if his teenager changes his intellect and refuses to wait those 6 am courses? We stated with the bishop, and looked for the reply in that book nearly loose agency. Eventually we grudgingly relented. We as parents have been now not yet willing to grant to Spencer his loose agency. After all, we as his parents knew better. Why couldnt he be slightly priced and do it our way?
Do you see the conflict here? Looking to return back, I now perceive that, by denying Spencer his agency, we as parents took upon ourselves his technology. Even though my intentions have been pleasant, every time we made Spencer get out of bed for Seminary, or dragged him to church, or made him enroll in us for family prayer, or family home evening, or participate against his will in other church-comparable carrying events, we have been depriving him of his agency. And we have been the usage of church teachings as a wedge to separate us from our son. The bigger sin was upon me.
Eventually we learned to disengage our home restrictions from conventional LDS checklists, and as a substitute insisted on some fundamental aspects: Love. Trust. Decency. Respect. We learned that we couldn't manage Spencers technology, but we may enforce our home restrictions. If Spencer chose to now not abide by those home restrictions, then he was deciding on to now not are dwelling at home.
During Spencers sophomore year in high college, he persisted to vary from his prior promises and our conventional recommendations. He as quickly as again was abusing alcohol and medication. Police came to our home numerous instances. By then end of the faculty year, Spencer was dealing with a call to either input the Fairfax County juvenile detention formula, or input someone treatment software. He chose the latter, and on Saturday, June 16, 2007, the day after Spencer finished his sophomore year, he entered a treatment software that targeting instructing the 12 Steps, and the timeless truths of the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the topics I cannot change…
Courage to interchange the topics I can,
And Wisdom to know the variation.
Living in the future at a time,
Enjoying one second at a time,
Accepting hardship for the reason that pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world interested in the incontrovertible fact that it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all topics correct
if I supply up to His will.
That I may be slightly cheerful on this life,
And supremely pleased with Him for all time in a neater.
Between August 7-9, 2007, Jennifer and I spent three days with Spencer in family workshops at the realization of that software. One of the sessions was called clearing the slate. I was to sit knee to knee with Spencer, hunting straight into his eyes, and tell him of the total hurt, and pain, and sorrows, and regrets, that I had felt due to his use of medication and alcohol. He was to claim now not anything, but purely accept it. For greater than 45 minutes, I spoke of the pain he had caused to our family. I spoke to the tears and sorrow. I was raw with emotion as I unburdened myself to my son. Spencer silently accepted my firehose of sorrow.
As my grief ebbed and the torrent of my words started off to gradual, I referred to something absolutely unplanned, and unexpected. I seemed my firstborn son in the attention, and referred to, Spencer, I desire you to know of my expectancies of you in the future. From these days forward, I expect now not anything from you. I saw Spencers eyes narrow, as he tried to perceive what sounded originally like an insult. I paused, then added, I am freeing you from all expectancies that you just felt that I had imposed upon you. I desire you to are dwelling your confidential life, loose of any expectancies that you just feel I have imposed upon you.
With those words, I was finished cleaning the slate. I felt wrung out and exhausted. As Spencer and I hugged, with tears in our eyes, I felt a mighty burden being lifted from my shoulders. Until then, I had now not understood the impressive weight that I had been carrying. I had taken upon myself the result of my sons pursuits. I had saddled myself with a burden that not at all was mine to carry. In freeing my son from the weight of my expectancies, and giving him the honour of his confidential loose agency, I discovered that I had freed my confidential soul.
I learned then that I cannot change my son, nor any other person. That mighty change can solely come from within (see Alma 5:14). Each of us, including my son, is an agent to him or herself. I knew these truths have been part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but until I sat knee to knee with my son, I did now not perceive what it truly meant to just accept the topics I cannot change.
I have learned that honoring agency means letting our teenagers suffer the result of their pursuits. I to seek out an analogy in instructing our teenagers to work out how to ride a motorbike. If we not at all let go of the motorbike, then our toddler will not at all examine to balance, to ride on his or her confidential. But if we let go, our toddler may even crash, get hurt (or maybe even die!). But in a way a determine has to let go, often ahead of the determine is geared up, and most customarily for the reason that teen pedals faster than the determine can run. And then we watch our toddler with a combine of apprehension and joy.
So it is with mortal life. The scriptures teach that each person with ethical agency should always be responsible for his or her confidential choice. This precept was established even ahead of the realm was created, when a 3rd part of the hosts of heaven turned away from their Father due to their agency (D&C 29:36). In other words, one third of Gods teenagers well over 50 billion worker's – deliberately chose to now not undergo the mortal experience by deciding on to now not go on deciding on. Through their technology, Gods teenagers separated themselves from their family. And their parents watched them go.
Four years and 3 months after my son taught me the lesson of accepting topics I cannot change and 9 months after Spencer committed to sobriety I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. From what was originally a hopeful diagnosis and optimistic treatment plan, the inside track steadily worsened and my prospects grew most less promising. On April 12, 2012, a CT scan discovered that my cancer had metastasized outdoor of my bladder; three weeks later doctors discovered 12 constructive lymph nodes. Last August an alternative scan discovered the cancer had spread to my neck. Ive already handed the median point of survival for those with my kind of cancer, so now Im in bonus time.
I accept that I have no manage over my cancer. Because of the lesson my son taught me on August 8, 2007, cancer is now not a burden to me. I have learned to let go, and let God. As the proverb says, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean now not unto thine confidential understanding (Prov. 3:5). Through dwelling with cancer, I have learned to place my trust in the Lord, and are dwelling daily with gratitude.
Two weeks in the past, Jennifer and I attended an AA assembly, in which Spencer spoke in get together of the three year anniversary of his commitment to sobriety. He typically is the primary one to tell you that he has felt a mighty change due to his technology and pursuits. He is at peace with himself, and has learned to work out how to quiet the persistent whisperings that led him to alcohol and medication.
Might I supply one tournament of Spencers growth due to his adversity? When Spencer was nearly 18, and nonetheless the usage of, I had a communication with him. He referred to that he was now not cheerful, and asked me what made me cheerful. I responded that I discovered the proper joy when I was serving others. He seemed at me like I had two heads, and the communication ended. Three years later after Spencer had been sober for nearly a year, and had started to act as a sponsor to others in AA we have been having an alternative communication. He referred to, Do you remember when you told me that you just discovered happiness by serving others? Im starting up to perceive that now.
Looking to return back, I to seek out it unlikely that I would have selected my specific path through parenthood. Who would have thought that my learning to let go of the result of my sons technology would have arranged me for dwelling with cancer? Once, when I was relating this notion, Spencer smiled and referred to, Yeah, Dad, thats why I started the usage of in eighth grade, interested in the incontrovertible fact that I knew you've been going to get cancer 6 years later and vital to inspect some lessons first. Gee, thanks, teen.
At instances, I have marveled that, the second that a man and lady are sealed in the temple, they have got obtained the total saving ordinances compulsory for salvation. What is the purpose of the remainder years, I have wondered? The scriptures repeatedly tell us that we should always endure to the pinnacle (e.g., D&C 14:7). I now perceive that one the diverse post-celestial marriage lessons is to inspect that our teenagers should always examine through opposition and adversity the result of their confidential technology.
In this months Ensign, Elder David Bednar addressed the heartache that fogeys can feel when their teenagers walk on wayward paths. (See Faithful Parents and Wayward Children: Sustaining Hope While Overcoming Misunderstanding, March 2014 Ensign, at 28.) Elder Bednar advised that fogeys continue to wish for their teenagers, as did Alma for his son, to seek a heavenly pull that entices a wandering toddler in a way to return to the fold. The Apostle emphasized, despite the incontrovertible fact that, that no spiritual have an effect on or covenant can override the ethical agency of a toddler. Ultimately, a toddler should always pastime his or her confidential ethical agency and decide on to respond in faith, to repent with full goal of heart, and act in accordance with the teachings of Christ.
I think that some in our society, and maybe even on this ward, seek to look after our teenagers too a professional deal. In this quarter, it seems to be great to inspire our teens to carry jobs whilst in high college or even college. We current for all of our childrens necessities and necessities as a substitute of permitting them to inspect the benefits of delayed gratification. We in an instant intervene with the faculty as a substitute of letting our toddler fail a category. We not at all let go of the motorbike. What lessons are protective parents imparting? By usurping the agency of our teenagers, are we each crippling our teenagers, and ourselves?
The paradox is finding joy in lifes topics. Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen wrote that,
"by greeting lifes topics with something other than denial, we may even to seek out something unexpected. By inviting God into our topics, we ground life even its hard moments in joy and hope. And we examine the style to a deeper love for others.
How can we examine to are dwelling this manner? Many of us are tempted to think that if we suffer, the solely serious factor is to be relieved of our pain. We desire to flee it in any respect charges. But when we examine to circulate through suffering, in choice to keep it, then we greet it differently. We become willing to let it teach us. We even start to see how God can use it for some bigger end. Suffering becomes something other than a nuisance or curse to be evaded in any respect charges it becomes a way into deeper fulfillment. Ultimately, suffering means dealing with what wounds us in the presence of the One who can heal.
In the April 2012 General Conference, Pres. Eyring recalled the awe that he felt when, some 33 years in the past, he listened as President SpencerW. Kimball asked that God would supply him mountains to climb. President Kimball referred to: There are impressive challenges just ahead of us, gigantic opportunities to be met. I welcome that interesting prospect and feel to claim to the Lord, humbly, Give me this mountain, supply me these challenges. (Mountains to Climb, May 2012 Ensign).
I am told that, when working out, one should always continually delay the volume of weight lifted, or improve some time when running, or else your progress will gradual. (I have no non-public wisdom of these topics.)
Brothers and sisters, are you attempting mountains to climb? Or do you seek the theorem less difficult way? Parents, do you seek to lay your childrens feet on mountain paths? Or do you seek to clean the style, so that they are going to now not should work as hard? And if which may be so, why are you deciding on to weaken your teenagers?
To the early life increase your heads are you taking the superior path through life? Or will you in deciding on to stand as a witness of God in any respect instances and in all topics, and all over the place that ye may be in, even until death? (Mosiah 18:9).
All of you: Are you thankful for your burdens? Do you supply thanks to God that your life is hard?
Over the last few days, Jennifer and I pruned most of the bushes in our the front yard. We cut, reshaped, and got rid of most of the branches. Its hard to have faith that pruning will lend a hand those bushes have more vitality and grow better. In John Chapter 15, Jesus told his followers that they have been as intimately comparable with him as branches are to a vine. But He added that they nonetheless vital to be pruned to bear more fruit. So it us with each of us when we are pruned.
When we are being pruned being cut, reshaped, having historic growth got rid of are we thankful? Nouwen wrote how gratitude should always be cultivated:
For gratitude is now not an simple emotion or an apparent attitude. Living gratefully requires practice. It takes sustained effort to reclaim my whole past for the reason that concrete way God has led me to this second. For in so doing I should always face now not solely todays hurts, but the pasts experiences of rejection or abandonment or failure or fear. (Nouwen, ibid.)
Do we willingly submit to Gods pruning work, are we hopeful for what can appear in us and at some stage in us? Or does it make us sad?
Grateful worker's examine to celebrate even amid lifes hard and harrowing memories interested in the incontrovertible fact that they know that pruning is no mere punishment, but preparation. When our gratitude for the past is solely partial, our hope for the future can likewise not at all be full. (Nouwen, ibid.)
Cancer has now not weakened me, it has strengthened me. Even interested in the incontrovertible fact that it shortens my mortal life, I supply thanks that the Lord has been merciful to me, and allowed me to inspect the lessons that I have.
My prayer is that each of us can embrace our adversities; that we love the lessons that are given by opposition in all topics; that we supply thanks for our agency; and that we accept the topics we cannot change, seek the courage to interchange the topics we can, and to seek out the wisdom to know the variation.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.