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What 'Pride and Prejudice' and an Emily Dickinson poem have to do with this week's 'Come, Follow Me'

by | Dec. 08, 2020

Editor's note: “Resources to Follow Him” curates study resources, teachings, and thoughts to deepen your study of this week's Come, Follow Me.

“Every good thing” has long been a favorite phrase of mine. I grew up watching the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice, and there is a scene where Lydia and Kitty surprise Elizabeth and her companion Maria—who are journeying home following an extended stay elsewhere—in which they all eat “cold ham and pork and salads and every good thing” before continuing on their way.

There is something pleasant about being surrounded by every good thing, and I suppose I’ve gravitated to the concept. In fact, I must have taken the phrase into my subconscious because I often wish “every good thing” to friends in birthday messages, and when my family and I were dividing the sections of Come, Follow Me to teach to each other this week, I chose “Through faith in Christ, I can lay hold upon every good thing.”

The connection between Come, Follow Me and Pride and Prejudice might be a stretch. But I find it interesting that not long after the sisters’ meal and promises to have a “merry party” on the way home, much squabbling ensues in the carriage and the good humor of only moments before is already a distant memory.

Which makes me ask the question—is it really possible to hold on to “every good thing” or will the goodness of one moment feel so brief that it, too, becomes a distant memory and instead we find ourselves dwelling on the stress and challenges of our present? And when good things seem few and far between in our lives, how do we lay hold upon them and help others do likewise?

Here are a few resources that have helped me as I’ve pondered these questions, as well as other insights into the sections of Come, Follow Me as you study the scriptures throughout the week.

Being Peaceable 

In this week’s Sunday on Monday episode, host Tammy Uzelac Hall highlights Moroni 7:3–4:

Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.

And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.

Tammy points out that the word “peaceable” appears twice within these two verses. She then asks her friend and episode guest, Sharmaine Howell, how being a peaceable follower of Christ and walking peaceably with the children of men can help in the world we’re living in right now

Howell explains that her family recently moved to Minnesota, which has been a difficult transition for her and her children. While there have often been tears of frustration in their new circumstances, Howell says responding with peace and love has always been the best.

“The thing that I’ve found that worked the most was listening. And I didn’t have to resolve it, I didn’t have to bring an answer to the table. I didn’t have to solve everything. I just had to listen to them. And I think that kind of goes for all the things we’re dealing with even in the world. We all have different opinions, but we need to listen to each other,” she says.

The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original presented by LDS Living. You can access the full study group discussion through the Bookshelf app. Listen to a segment of this week's episode below or listen to the full Sunday on Monday episode here.

What else does it mean to have a “peaceable walk with the children of men?” A footnote in Moroni 7:4 leads to 1 John 2:6, which says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”

This may lead us to ask what it looks like to walk as Christ did. A poem by Emily Dickinson gives what I believe to be a clear picture of that image, simply but powerfully:

If I can stop one heart from breaking, /  I shall not live in vain. /  If I can ease one life the aching, /  Or cool one pain, /  Or help one fainting robin /  Unto his nest again, /  I shall not live in vain.

I came across this poem earlier this year, and it is one that has often provided me comfort. While it might always feel like there is more we can do, I love the thought that it is the simple acts of kindness that make life meaningful—and that while most people might never see you do them, these small acts are often the ones that matter most.

Curious to see if this poem has ever been referenced by Church leaders, I did a quick search and came across an article in Church News honoring the life of Sister Francis J. Monson. It turns out that she, too, liked this poem, and was remembered for having lived her life in the way Dickinson so eloquently described. In fact, in 1998, she and President Monson received a humanitarian award, where she agreed to deliver a speech for the occasion.

“I perhaps would have been content to perform my service in life by raising our children, participating in the Relief Society, and helping others as my time and energy permitted,” Sister Monson said. “But because of the Church callings my husband has had throughout our married life, I have, with him, witnessed more pain, more suffering, more need among God’s children than otherwise would have been the case. If I have been able in some small way to help alleviate such suffering, such need, I am most grateful.”

Two things struck me about this comment. One, Sister Monson mentioned the monumental tasks of raising her children, participating in Relief Society, and serving others as though it were nothing out of the ordinary when in reality it was quite extraordinary. And second, the fact that she not only heard about the pain and suffering of those she interacted with but was a firsthand witness to it—and then alleviated it—demonstrates in our day and age what it means to truly walk as Christ did.

 “When the Savior was here upon the earth, He taught, He blessed, He served,” she continued. “Now that He no longer walks among us as a mortal man, it is left to us to do His work, to minister to the needs of others. He has no hands but ours.” 

Every Good Thing

In this week’s episode of "Don’t Miss This," Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler shared the scripture Moroni 7:13:

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

“He just says, ‘I want you to lay hold upon every good thing that there is in this world.’ And he gives us a definition of what that is—almost as if to say, ‘This world is full of so much bad, but as the peaceable followers of Christ, I want you to cling to, cleave to, hold on to, and spread every good thing that there is,” Butler says. “Anything that you can think of to do that you feel like is going to invite, entice, persuade people to feel God’s love, anything to serve them is going to be included in this idea of what is a good thing.”

Freeman adds that at this time of year, and as we reflect on what our true purpose is in bringing others to Christ, we can collectively be a force for good.

“As we think about . . . Light the World, I love the thought that we are going to be so many people strong of just doing good. And what if we were remembering every single time we did something, every single day, that our job is to help others to persuade them to believe in Christ? What if that is behind everything we’re doing?”

Freeman and Butler also asked listeners to encourage, or “breathe hope” into others and “infuse charity” into a situation by succoring those in need, particularly as some may have been through similar trials as us and we can therefore help them in a more unique way. They then summed up their points by sharing three invitations with their listeners, asking them to do the following:

  •  Spread faith
  •  Breathe hope
  •  Infuse charity

Freeman and Butler discuss how reaching out with faith, hope, and charity can be simple, but it is in looking out for the one that there is power and strength.

Having Hope

In Moroni 9:25, Mormon instructs his son to have hope:

My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death ; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.

In this verse, Mormon tells his son to let his knowledge of Christ’s sufferings, as well as the knowledge that Christ showed himself to their fathers, rest in his mind forever. It wasn’t just for a little while or until things got better. There was no end date. These things were to forever rest in his mind.

Forever certainly seems like a long time—and perhaps it seems like an impossible task. But in a devotional address at Brigham Young University, Elder John H. Groberg pointed out the everlasting nature of Christ. He stated, “To say ‘There is no hope for me’ is to say there is no Savior, for He is hope and he does exist, so there is hope for you. He is forever, so there is always hope!”

Elder Groberg taught that to gain hope, we must ask for it and take action to acquire it.

“Well then, if there is always hope, and I, or we, or any of us don’t have much hope, how do we go about getting more hope? That is what we really want to know. You pray for it, you ask for it, you listen to your leaders, you follow them, you repent, and according to the scriptures you become meek and lowly in heart, you serve others, you read the scriptures,” he said. “You gain hope (or uncover it) a little at a time. . . . One of the best ways is to read about the life and acts of the Savior—the things He did. If He is hope, then certainly what He did should give hope to us or help us discover the hope within ourselves.”

Promises

Life is never all that straightforward. I can hardly blame those Jane Austen characters for complaining in the carriage on their journey home when the road must have been bumpy and their space confining. But there’s a difference, isn’t there, to the temporal good things—which are likewise temporary—and the good things that are eternal?

This Christmas season, as we approach the conclusion of our study of the Book of Mormon, it is my hope that we look for the good things which are eternal. It is my hope that each day, we become the peaceable followers of Christ who walk after His ways and share small kindnesses, even if it’s as simple as helping “the robin”—be it figurative or literal—into his nest again. And it is my hope that we seek faith, hope, and charity. As we do, and as we take care to “search diligently in the light of Christ” and “lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not,” we are promised that we will “be a child of Christ.”

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty good thing to me.

Danielle christensen

Danielle Christensen

Danielle is a features writer and editor for LDS Living. Previously, she served as web producer for Church News, where she managed their website and social media platforms. Danielle is a graduate of Brigham Young University in English and has been published with Deseret NewsChurch NewsBYU Magazine, and Spires Intercollegiate Arts and Literary Magazine.

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