Living in Farmington, Utah, in the late 1870s, 43-year-old Aurelia Spencer Rogers noticed a problem—the boys were rowdy, inconsiderate, and apparently not grounded in the gospel that their elders had sacrificed security, comfort, and relationships to preserve. As Aurelia Rogers looked for solutions to this problem, God whispered to her his approval and encouragement, so she continued to develop the idea of forming a Church organization for children, which has enriched Latter-day Saint lives around the world ever since.
First, Aurelia Rogers shared her ideas with Eliza R. Snow, the General President of the Relief Society, who liked them and described them to Acting Church President John Taylor. The Apostles approved the plan, and Eliza wrote a letter to Aurelia’s bishop explaining the matter. Soon, Aurelia had a mandate to gather the children in Farmington and to figure out how an organization for them should function. Looking back, she described how she felt after accepting the calling:
“While thinking over what was to be done for the best good of the children, I seemed to be carried away in the Spirit, or at least I experienced a feeling of untold happiness which lasted three days and nights. During that time nothing could worry or irritate me; if my little ones were fretful, or the work went wrong, I had patience, could control in kindness, and manage my household affairs easily.”
But those joyous feelings were not permanent. While planning and working for the children, she began to feel unworthy and depressed, so much that she had trouble fulfilling her responsibilities. “I went to my meetings weeping by the way, being humbled to the very earth; so much so, that whatever anyone said afterward in my praise, did not make me feel exalted, or lifted up in my own mind.”
Nonetheless, she went on to found what we now call the Primary organization. Maybe you wonder, as I have, why she experienced this dark sadness while doing important work. Shouldn’t acting on revelation and being on the Lord’s errand feel endlessly blissful? Shouldn’t it keep negative feelings at bay? This would only be true if Eve and Adam had not eaten that special fruit. In real life, acting on revelation does not promise that we will feel inspired all the time. We did not come to earth for it to be easy to discern answers. The fact that we live in physical bodies and must seek God through the limitations and joys of those bodies is part of why obtaining revelation can be hard. Being embodied is not easy, and working with other people is not easy, but these are two of the major reasons we are here: to have the experience of inhabiting a mortal body and to work with and serve other people.
For Aurelia Rogers, acting on revelation did not yield uninterrupted happiness. The experience of another Church leader shows that acting on revelation does not guarantee that all the support we need will fall into place either. Ardeth Kapp was the Young Women General President during the 1980s and had experience with this. Sister Kapp was well prepared when she was called as president. She had already worked as a teacher and consultant, been part of the Church Youth Correlation Committee, and served in a Young Women general presidency. Immediately after accepting the calling of Young Women General President, she began to receive revelation. She wrote in her journal, “It seems to me the heavens are opening and thoughts, directions, spiritual promptings are coming clear and fast.” Even at that early time, she felt the organization needed a charter statement and a goal system that was based on values. But it took three years of focused effort before the Young Women theme and values were fully created and announced, and five years until the values-based Personal Progress manual came out. Collaboration, execution, and further revelation took time. So did getting approvals.
President Kapp was very good at counseling with others; she called capable people to her board, and they worked collaboratively together. Elder Bednar has taught that different members of a council can have different pieces of revelation, and you need each person’s input in order for the whole vision to come together. “The contributions of all of the council members add elements to the inspiration,” he said. Former members of President Kapp’s board have told me that she was gifted at drawing out the people on her councils. But effective collaboration takes time. The program changes President Kapp oversaw were complex, and getting the details right was slow. There were delays, repetitive extra labor, and other frustrations. For the new Personal Progress program, she called a committee of men and women, most of them married couples, and they worked together for two years. Furthermore, President Kapp was president during a time when female officers of the Church did not interact much with the First Presidency, as they previously had, and they did not serve on high church committees such as the Priesthood and Family Executive Committee, as they do now. The resulting communication gaps also required extra time and work. “The system was constantly changing,” she explained. “You just thought you knew how to do it and now you could do it clean and efficient and save time and maintain quality, and then a new form would come out and there would be a whole new dimension or level of process. Right in the middle sometimes the process would change, and you’d have to start back on item one of twenty-three approvals. So you might have gotten to approval twenty and have to start all over again.”
But the result of her perseverance was programs that effectively nurtured the young women of the Church for more than thirty years. Not only were the programs good, but all the people with whom she had counseled understood them well and could help to explain, implement, and in other ways support the new changes. President Kapp’s example motivates me because even when she was discouraged, she continued to counsel with others, exercise faith, fast, pray, and work hard. When I read about her experiences, I feel the Spirit testify that she acted on revelation and that God magnified her considerable innate talents through collaboration with other people. If we don’t continue to pursue the Lord’s guidance, particularly when we encounter difficulties or frustrations, then we might overlook inspired solutions and fail to fix problems. We and others may not learn what the Lord invites us to learn.
It requires patience and hope to adopt a view of revelation as a counterbalanced process that links our imperfect human efforts with God’s loving gift. By definition, hope is something we have despite negative past experience, despite evidence that despair may be more rational. Hope is something we choose. When you feel acutely one of the world’s problems, you can spend all your energy in anger and criticism, or you can study, pray, and choose to hope in the solutions that come through revelation. Criticism is vital to good thinking, but I believe we must balance it with hope and with positive action. We can hold that hope out in front of us to light our way and to light the way of others.
Read the full essay from Kate Holbrook in the book below.
Both Things Are True is a guided walk through six sets of tensions that disciples must navigate in their practical efforts to become like Christ. Author Kate Holbrook draws on her lifetime of expertise as a historian of Latter-day Saint women's history to examine the "contraries," the fruitful tensions that have stretched Saints present and past, including the true Church, revelation, housework, forgiveness and accountability, and legacy. While the book is richly illustrated with personal and historical examples, its ideas are expressed in the simple, gentle manner that is Kate's trademark. Both Things Are True is remarkable in its ability to reach readers of every walk of life. Available at Deseret Book and deseretbook.com.