Sister Oaks: How We Can Become One with Ourselves, God, and Others

The following is an excerpt from "If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine," a chapter in the book, One in Charity: Talks From the 2016 BYU Women's Conference. In the excerpt, we learn just how we can grow closer to our Savior and become one with Him, ourselves, our families, and our fellowmen.

I am so thrilled to share my thoughts on four great teachings inspired by the scripture “If ye are not one ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27) that may profit us as daughters of God.

We live in times that demand our spiritual best. Our security, strength and salvation all come through our Savior Jesus Christ. How do we draw nearer to Him? Today I share four impressions I have received from the Lord that may help us to be (1) one with Christ, (2) one with ourselves, (3) one in our families, and (4) one with our fellowmen.

As we endeavor to become one in the Lord’s way, we must go far beyond just living without contention among ourselves, avoiding road rage, or civilly compromising with others from different political parties or points of view. Let’s examine the verses following D&C 38:27 which explain our great need for oneness. “The enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives” (v. 28). In the context of “wars in far countries,” they warn that “ye know not the hearts of men in your own land” (v. 29). And they conclude by teaching, “treasure up wisdom in your bosoms” because “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (v. 30). We are to be one in the Lord and our very eternity depends on it.

What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ and what does it mean to us? As quoted in Tad Callister’s great book The Infinite Atonement, Hugh Nibley has taught that atonement “really does mean, when we write it out, at-one-ment, denoting both a state of being ‘at one’ with another and the process by which that end is achieved.”

To accomplish this eternal goal, a goal which Elder Bruce R. McConkie called “the center and core and heart of revealed religion,” there must be a plan and process for mortals to be raised from the dead and that requires a Savior. As the Savior Himself has said, “the son of Man is come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11)—to save you and me.

Sisters, the story of the Atonement and its place in the plan of salvation is our story, the story of all of us. When we learned we would receive bodies we cried out with joy—do not forget that. We were all present when Satan revealed his plan to the Father . . . a plan without choice and of total domination. None would be lost, but there would be no progression, no pain, no compas¬sion, no learning. We would have been robots without agency.

President David O. McKay spoke of the gift of agency, or the right to choose. He taught, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.”

It is Jesus Christ and His sacrifice who procured that gift for all of us. Under the plan of the Father, we would have choice and agency and could progress and learn and flourish. According to President Thomas S. Monson, it is also a plan full of risks. A part of that plan is that we embark “on a precarious, difficult journey, for we walk beside the ways of the world and sin and stumble, cutting us off from our Father. But the Firstborn in the Spirit offered Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all.”

Our story continues. We know that Adam and Eve put the Father’s plan into effect. They walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. Yet for His plan to go forward there had to be a fall to move from immortal to mortal, and with that fall came the ability to multiply and replenish the earth.

Eve became the mother of all living. You and I have a body because of her. Eve knew sorrow. Her children fought among themselves, and one son took the life of another. Eve and her husband, Adam, who had once lived in God’s presence—the most noble and glorious of all mortals to live on this earth—suffered much of the brutality and evil our world had to offer.

Their story is an example to us that no one is exempt from pain. To make things right, our Savior, Jesus Christ, offered himself as a sacrifice for every human born on the earth. He took upon himself all our suffering and emotional and physical weaknesses that He might strengthen and succor us, just as he strengthened a young mission president’s wife in Argentina far away from home and loved ones, as she lay partially paralyzed from a stroke. “Instead of fear,” she said to me, “I felt encased in a dome of comfort and peace.” Or my dear friend just diagnosed with cancer for the second time, who felt the healing power of loving arms around her as she prayed. Or each of us as we face challenges and sorrows which we could not bear alone. His great atoning sacrifice binds us to him, heals us, and shields us.

As we partake of the sacrament weekly we are asked to “always remember Him, that [we] may have his Spirit to be with [us]” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:79). Remember to keep His commandments. Remember that we have always been with Him, and He has always been with us, from the foundations of the world. We fought with him to sustain the Father’s plan, and He now fights for us as we go forward under that plan. His atonement has the capacity to carry and lift us when we have no strength to lift ourselves. Ultimately this gift, if we repent and accept it, cleanses us and allows us to enter the presence of God.

To become one in Christ and bring this plan into full fruition, the Savior implores us to become as He is. This becomes possible as we strive to be one with ourselves, one with our loved ones, and one with our fellow men.

One With Ourselves

We are given the gift of time to make decisions of eternal consequence, decisions that matter eternally. One friend I know marks her Google calendar with the initials EC next to her daily list of things to do. EC means “eternal consequence”—it helps her sort out where to invest her time and effort.

Do the lists we make include actions of eternal consequence—listening to the Spirit, caring, and ministering? Christ, our Example, didn’t spend all his time “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). He was involved in the lives of everyone around Him. Rabbi Harold Kushner said, “The voice that commands us to volunteer our time at a homeless shelter, the voice that urges us to put the needs and feelings of our family ahead of our own, is the voice of God, because those are things we are unlikely to have thought of on our own.” These promptings may be as simple as choosing to talk with an aging mother rather than just vacuum her living room; playing with a grandchild over doing the dishes, or making time to do family history over a favorite television program.

I quote from President Henry B. Eyring, “Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give.

“You may not recognize those opportunities perfectly, as I do not. But when you put spiritual things first in your life, you will be blessed to feel directed toward certain learning, and you will be motivated to work harder. You will recognize later that your power to serve was increased, and you will be grateful.”

Woman Cut in Half

As I pondered this assignment to speak, I was impressed to “tell the women to love themselves.” Why is this so important? It is vital because our capacity to serve and love others is in direct proportion to our love of self. The fact that you are so essential, so important, so central to the success of God’s plan makes you a vulnerable target of the adversary.

Remember the verse of scripture that follows the theme, “And again, I say unto you that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives” (D&C 38:28). It is a warning that extends to securing the secret chambers of our own hearts. It is a call to be whole.

Picture a woman torn in half by the worldly demands placed on her. A woman divided against herself. We are torn between a world that teaches openly that motherhood, children, and marriage and family are not important. Many of us who most value family time must still work to insure that there is food on the table and a house over our heads. Others may need an outlet for their creativity and feel guilty leaving their children.

For single sisters, this picture produces a different reaction. They are torn between the world and a family they do not yet have. Respect your emotions, sisters; they are God-given. I testify these yearnings to be the best we can be are divine. Embrace them, learn to balance them, and thank the Lord for them. They are a gift of God to remind us of who we are: celestial beings in a telestial situation.

This is not our eternal home, we are pilgrims wandering here. In the premortal existence we lived in divine families, on earth we are born into a family, and we will return to live eternally as families. We are just practicing. We may see ourselves torn by a distorted version of womanhood produced by the media who beckon us to be more sleek, slim, and seductive and forget who we really are. We may begin to count calories instead of blessings. Facebook convinces us we are missing out on the fun everyone else is experiencing, and Satan would have us think the success of others somehow diminishes us. Time spent on shopping sprees may surpass time spent on scripture study. The result is a deflated spirit and feelings of increased inadequacy.

This world is operating under a false assumption about what makes us happy. It is not about being thin or thinner, rich or richer, smart or smarter. As President Boyd K. Packer taught: “The choice of life is not between fame and obscurity, nor is the choice between wealth and poverty. The choice is between good and evil.”

Our Savior taught, “Behold, The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). We know our identity, and as daughters of God we do not have time to be distracted, diverted, or diminished. We live in a world desperate for our goodness, our purity, and our testimonies.

Elder Lynn G. Robbins was once asked by President Boyd K. Packer: “‘Which way do you face?’ . . . Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments.” We are in a world that teaches that anything goes, it is all okay. “When people try to save face with men, they can unwittingly lose face with God. Thinking one can please God and at the same time condone the disobedience of men isn’t neutrality but duplicity, or being two-faced or trying to ‘serve two masters.’” We cannot have one face toward the temple and one toward the world.

When we face forward that does not mean we do not have absolute love. It means others know where we stand and we respect where others stand. “Courage is not just one of the cardinal virtues,” C. S. Lewis wrote. “Courage is . . . the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

In matters of chastity, honesty, and kindness, courageous daughters of God united in Christ have an enhanced ability to serve. Elder M. Russell Ballard reminds us, “Every sister in this Church who has made covenants with the Lord has a divine mandate to help save souls, to lead the women of the world, to strengthen the homes of Zion, and to build the kingdom of God.” Your examples, your friendships, your mothering, and your faith are dearly needed.

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