Latter-day Saint Life

Recognizing Stillness in Gospel Living


Sometimes as Latter-day Saints and human beings, we have so much to do that we forget to take time to be. Elder Holland has said, "As King Benjamin cautioned his people, it is not intended that we run faster than we have strength and all things should be done in order (see Mosiah 4:27).” But despite that, I know that many of you run very fast and that your energy and emotional supply sometimes registers close to empty."

In our January/February 2020 issue, we shared an article on how to recognize and invite more stillness into our daily gospel living. Here are a few additional resources, thoughts, and encouraging stories to help you find more peace and stillness this year.

LDS Living Articles and Deseret Book Excerpts

By Sheldon Lawrence

We often try to spiritually ground ourselves with daily prayer and scripture study. However, our commitment to these practices is sometimes irregular at best. During prayer, it’s natural for our minds to wander; when reading the scriptures, our attention often drifts to what we’re going to do next. Not surprisingly, it’s easy to feel spiritually empty and apathetic.

Faced with these problems, an important breakthrough for me came as I began practicing the art of meditation. Latter-day Saints often use the word “meditate” to mean something like “ponder.” But the type of meditation I discovered indicates a more intentional approach to bringing stillness and focus to our distracted minds. It is this purposeful cultivation of inner peace and quietude that, I believe, President McKay referred to when he said, “Meditation is the language of the soul. . . . [It] is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.”

Excerpted from Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller

In prayer, you can practice remembering God in one of two ways. You can practice by remembering what you were saying or you can practice by remembering to listen. The first way is important, the second way is imperative.

In the first case, you might try asking God for help with specific problems you have. This is good. Or, better, you might try asking God to help you help someone else with a specific problem. Or, also excellent, you might try expressing gratitude. For the most part, the more specific you can be and the less your prayers are about you, the better they’ll be. Prayer deepens as it moves from self-concern to service to gratitude.

But talking is just half a prayer. As a rule of thumb, take however much time you spend talking and then devote at least as much to listening. Listening, though, is harder. Without the thread of a particular concern to guide you, you’ll be especially prone to forget.

By Angela D. Baxter

Peace can sometimes seem like an elusive concept. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of our day-to-day lives and feel overwhelmed with all the demands on our time. Between work, school, church callings, and our family and friends, it can be hard to find a good balance and to keep ourselves spiritually centered. We may feel like our lives are full of everything but peace.

Many people also have challenges they deal with on a daily basis like loneliness or anxiety, chronic health problems, debt, struggling with personal weaknesses or an addiction, mourning the death of a loved one, or even facing a spiritual crisis. We all carry burdens that those around us may not even be aware of. Our souls yearn for peace, but so often we cannot find that haven from our trials we are searching for. The truth is we may not be looking in the right places, or in the most effective way.

Excerpted from Way to Peaceby Mark E. Petersen

Where is security in the world today? Where is protection from evil? Where is a guiding light that may be followed safely to a harbor of refuge in the storms now afflicting the world? . . .

But through it all, a divine light shines from heaven. In spite of almost universal turmoil there comes a proffer of divine security against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.

By Michelle Wilson 

Every day we are outwardly faced with things like natural disasters, political hostility, bitter violence, or financial troubles. Inside, we may be dealing with marital trouble, wayward children, or serious health issues.

In these times, is it possible to have peace when our lives and the world we live in feel out of control? How?

Adapted from The Power of Stillness: Mindful Living for Latter-day Saints by Jacob Z. Hess, Carrie L. Skarda, Kyle D. Anderson, and Ty R. Mansfield 

Creating still spaces on the Sabbath to savor our relationships with God and our loved ones takes intention and practice. After one especially exhausting Sunday, one of our families decided to start protecting the day more—trying to make it more of a legitimate retreat:

Alongside various smaller adjustments like stepping away from email, news, and social media, we looked for ways to block off more time for just sitting together and talking or reading—even opting out of some of the family gatherings so we could have a little more space. The result was new refreshment flowing from the Sabbath—far more than we had experienced previously.

Sometimes the way we begin the day can set the tone. In response to the common pattern of waking up too late, rushing with baths and getting kids dressed, and trying to get out the door to (hopefully!) make it to church on time, we’ve experimented with building more stillness into the morning routine as a way to set a different tone. 

News and Videos

As many as 21 million adults do yoga in the US, according to a study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 

And it seems to be popular among Latter-day Saint, with 27 percent viewing yoga as more a spiritual opportunity than exercise, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. 

But Latter-day Saint and yoga instructor Jackie Culley thinks of it as both. 

Ten years ago, Culley says she was looking for something to "kill two birds with one stone" by exercising while finding inner peace. 

Podcast Episodes

Morgan Jones: I'm interested to hear how both of you would first describe mindfulness and stillness as it pertains to this book that you've written (The Power of Stillness), and how that became a part of your lives. So you can decide who goes first. 

Ty Mansfield: Why don't you start? 

Jacob Hess: The definition that I like to share is Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, non judgmentally. Another definition is "conscious, affectionate awareness of the moment, just being able to be present in a way that's gentle and compassionate." In our book, we use words like space, stillness, silence to convey the feel of mindfulness, though sometimes just simplifying it down to say, when we let ourselves be still silent and make a little space, we experience this kind of mindfulness sometimes. Sometimes when you make space, your mind goes crazy. And it gets a little scary. And you're like, "Oh, I want to distract myself again." So, space and silence is no guarantee that you are going to experience calm, right? Mindfulness is also not the same as calm, by the way. I'm kind of getting too complicated here. 

MJ: No, you're good. So please. 

JH: Some people think mindfulness means you're just going to be calm, and you're not going to have any thoughts and you're going to feel peace. But sometimes when we stop and bring ourselves to stillness, we notice how much we're hurting. We noticed how our thoughts are really scary. And so mindfulness is about being here, whatever that means. If you're hurting, that means being able to be with the hurt and know what we're feeling and know what our body is experiencing. So what we have found in our students is that when we're able to be with whatever is here, in a mindful way, though, it hurts less, even if we're hurting. If we can unclench our fists and just say, "Okay, I'm feeling angry," or "I'm feeling really sad," or "my body's hurting," if we can be a little more gentle with the pain, it hurts less.

MJ: Interesting. Ty, anything you would add to that about what mindfulness is? 

TM: Yeah, maybe a couple things. One, I want to add on a little bit to what Jacob was saying that part of some of the language of mindfulness, it complements, I think, our worldview, our theology, really well, but it's not the way we typically talk about things. So sometimes it can feel unfamiliar. And so part of our want in this book was to bridge that, right? To make it more familiar, because it really does compliment beautifully, and I think that's really important.

Read a longer excerpt from this podcast at All In Podcast: Does Your Mind Wander While You're Praying? You're Not Alone (and Why That's Okay) 

Thomas McConkie: . . . it was at 18 years old that I just felt kind of like spiritually desiccated, kind of dry it out, and I gotta do something. And it so happened my freshman year in college, there was a big Buddhist Zen center, like two blocks away. And I would see the teachers like at the local fish market, and it was just like it was in the air and the neighborhood where I was, and something about it really made sense. And, you know, I think from the McConkie side of my family, I have like a kind of sense of discipline. So there's something about the discipline of like sitting still stationary on a little cushion every day for a long time that I'm like, Okay, let's see what happens here. And I was amazed at how much the practice of just being still changed me immediately, but also over the years. . . . if that was all that ever happened with meditation, if all it ever did for me was, like, help me sleep better and eat better and concentrate and get good grades, that would have been a grand slam for me. It would have been like well worth the relatively little time I'd put in. But it turned out that it just kind of began there. That was just like the very beginning of a whole new way of being human for me . . . before too long, after a few years, I started to connect dots, like, wait a minute, like, "Be still and know that I am God." We want to live prayerfully and invite the presence of the Spirit into our lives every moment of every day to allow it to guide us and inspire our actions. All of these profound teachings from our church, they just started to come alive in me, and the entryway for me was through stillness, and it changed my life and you know, it took me a while to like circle back to a ward family. It took me about 20 years to be exact, but . . . It was a miraculous experience for me.  

Stories in this episode: A tragedy at Columbine High School hits close to home and creates chaos for Kelli on the same day as her first trip to the temple; April receives the gift of peace while learning to accept a detour in her life plan; Jacob and his family test out different ways to make their home more peaceful and discover the power of the Sabbath day in the process.

Lead image from Shutterstock
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