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How Sis. Uchtdorf’s advice to Sis. Marriott before her first conference talk could help you too

Sister Neill F. Marriott, former Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, giving an address at BYU in 2022.
Photo by Matthew Norton/BYU

As I began to walk toward the long row of big red seats lined up on the Conference Center stand for the women’s session of general conference, my heart raced. Oh, Heavenly Father, I prayed, How can I do this? I’m just a regular person, and this assignment is irregular! Please bless me with the ability to give this talk for the sisters and not think about myself. My heart continued to race. At that very moment, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf walked toward me with a smile and stopped. She asked if I were speaking. I numbly nodded. She said with a lilt in her voice, “Enjoy it!” On she went, and I held onto her counsel. Enjoy it?

Sitting down stiffly in my big red chair and facing outward to the 20,000 sisters assembled, I actually had enough mental strength to turn Sister Uchtdorf’s suggestion over and over in my mind. Something about the way she said “Enjoy it” gave me permission to believe that I could, but how? Just considering the possibility opened my thoughts to something besides the fear I was swallowing down.

When my cue to move toward the podium arrived, with my heart in my throat and a prayer for help in my mind, I stood and by sheer will forced my wooden legs to start moving. Once I reached the podium I gripped the edges and turned myself toward the audience. A sentence moved into my thoughts: “These are your friends.” Looking out past the teleprompters, I felt a collective friendship flowing to me. I can do this, I thought. I can even enjoy it.

I thought back to when President Dieter F. Uchtdorf had called me to be the Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency. I was stunned. He asked me how I felt. (I think he could tell by my face that I was stunned.) I knew how I felt. I felt completely inadequate. I said, “I feel inadequate.” There was a long pause as I tried to get my emotions under control. He handed me a box of tissues. Then I had a flash of hope as I thought of Jesus Christ.

I said to President Uchtdorf, “But the Lord is not inadequate. I’ll depend on Him.” I felt more steady immediately. The Lord will not forsake us as we try to do His work. I am inadequate, on my own, in this work of salvation. We all are. But the Savior is never inadequate. With His help, I learned to find the joy even in an overwhelming task like speaking in the Church’s 22,000-seat Conference Center.

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How often do we miss the joy all around us because we have a fear, duty, or disappointment facing us and we can’t see past it? I still regret the day, thirty years ago, when I missed a wonderful moment to laugh with my five- and six-year-old children. It was the laundry’s fault. Or, honestly stated, I had let the folding pile grow until it couldn’t be contained in the family room. In a desperate move, I loaded the offending mountain onto a king-size bedsheet and hauled it out into the backyard in the bright, hot sunshine. Sitting Cannon, the six-year-old, and Kate, the five-year-old, on opposite corners of the sheet, I had them begin sorting out their own clothes, then ran inside to check on the sleeping baby. By the time I returned, Cannon and Kate had donned shorts on their heads and were laughing uproariously, throwing clothes into the air. The funny, funny moment and the darling, happy faces were lost on me. I pounced on them, barking, “Stop that!” The balloon of joy popped instantly, and the day was no longer bright. Joy all around and not a drop in me—the delicious laughter evaporated. That scene replays itself when I face similar choices: can I enjoy a purely happy moment, or will I just move past it to get a job done?

As a Relief Society leader, I worked with a teacher years ago who seemed insistent on doing things her own way. Even though I would explain what I hoped she would do at the meetings, she rarely did it and instead tried some creative and happy-hearted ideas for teaching. I, in my uptight attitude, was pondering the situation after one particularly simple, laughter-filled demonstration that all the sisters enjoyed. My irritated thoughts about her dissolved as a mental picture of her appeared in my mind. It came and went in a second, but it pierced my judgmental heart to the core. I “saw” this sister slowly ascending a flight of stairs, using crutches to step up. The awful part of the picture was my part, for I was following right behind her, frowning and handing her boxes to carry.

I took a deep breath to ease the hurt in my heart. The good sister was offering a joyful, happy lesson idea each time and lifting spirits. I was thwarting her gifts and efforts by ignoring the good she brought, thinking the lessons needed to be serious and done according to my opinion. Joy and happiness can be deep and can also be deeply needed, maybe even more than a serious lesson.

This weary world welcomes joyful people. According to Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Often laughter and enjoyment come in the retelling of a trying event. Our family’s laughter still erupts when we recall our son Daniel’s first plane trip as a two-year-old. I had to make a trip alone with our four young children, so, loaded with new books, toys, and a large bag of lollipops, I set out. I entered the plane and saw the flight attendant cast a baleful glance my way as she slammed an overhead compartment shut. This is going to be painful, I thought as I hurried past her down the aisle to our seats. I buckled in the three children and, holding the two-month-old baby, slid into my seat across the aisle from them, next to a quiet fellow who was wearing several gold chains.

An hour into the trip, all seemed settled. As I was silently congratulating myself, I saw a lollipop sail over the aisle and stick to the leg of a passenger’s pants. Horrified, I realized that Daniel had wiggled out of his seat, commandeered the bag of lollipops, and with two in his mouth was tossing other ones about the cabin. He then took off running down the aisle. In desperation I asked my seatmate if he could help me for a second, handed the baby to him, and hurried after Daniel, who was hitting passengers on both sides of the aisle with the wet suckers as he ran. By the time I reached him, an unlucky flight attendant, fending off a lollipop, had him in tow. After Daniel was firmly buckled into his seat, I turned to take the baby and saw a pained look on the man’s face. The baby’s little hand had a tight grip on my fellow traveler’s gold chains and several chest hairs as well. We became uncomfortably acquainted as I, apologizing profusely, extricated both the chains and the hairs from the baby’s grasp.

Chagrin and embarrassment rose to the surface then, but now pure hilarity reigns when that story is told and retold. We just have to surrender and enjoy some moments because life can turn messy. Perhaps a good motto for burdened adults is “Let go and laugh.”

How can we move out of a low-spirited frame of mind into a joyful outlook? How do we deal with emotional wounds, comparisons, and self-pity? I think the answer is the same for both questions: we seek help from someone we trust or, better yet, from God. …

No matter the challenges, the Savior, the Father, the scriptures, and the words of prophets all offer healing for our deepest wounds, weaknesses, fears, and inadequacies. I know because some of my hardest, most fearful times have been eased by earnest prayer and searching the scriptures. That sounds easy and like the automatic church answer, doesn’t it? But the operative words—earnest and searching—indicate hard work. When we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, it is important to know that with mental focus and earnest desire we can turn to Heavenly Father and find fresh, creative ways to handle a challenge. Perhaps we will be prompted to seek medical help or to ask for assistance from a particular person. God’s omniscience covers all our questions, and we need to ask Him for answers and direction. …

The Redeemer tells us of His appointed work to heal the suffering of Heavenly Father’s children: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; … he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, … to comfort all that mourn; … to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:1–3). …

I do not have answers for the struggles of all our various situations, but I know that our Redeemer will not leave us comfortless. He tells us, “If ye love me, keep my commandments and I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth. … I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:15–16, 18).

Jesus Christ calls to us to come from the tumult of mortal life and to let Him gather us tenderly and safely as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings (see 3 Nephi 10:4–6). He pleads for us to come unto Him because He knows that is the only place of true direction, lasting peace, and joy.

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Seek This Jesus

In Seek This Jesus, Sister Neill Marriott shares highlights of her personal story as she testifies of Jesus Christ and offers a unique and intimate invitation for readers to seek Him. With topics including searching for the Savior, bringing the influence of the Lord into our families, and feeling God's grace in difficult times, Sister Marriott encourages readers with her warm, personable style and Southern charm.

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