General Conference is once again coming up in just a few days. Before that happens, I wanted to address a topic that is touched on in a talk from Sister Bonnie Oscarson’s October 2017 conference talk entitled, “The Needs Before Us.”
In this talk, Sister Oscarson talks about the service that had been given for multiple disasters and shares a story (which many of you might recall) about a RS President who drove quilts from London to Kosovo during the 1990s but received the spiritual impression afterwards of “What you have done is a very good thing. Now go home, walk across the street, and serve your neighbor.”
Using this story, Sister Oscarson goes on to ask, “what good does it do to save the world if we neglect the needs of those closest to us and those whom we love the most?”
But Wait A Minute…
Now, I’m all for taking care of our families. Yes, we need to do this. But I wanted to write about some things I’ve been thinking about lately. One, I believe the Lord made us all different and gave us different abilities, comfort levels, and missions to fulfill. Two, I don’t think that we ought to take one person’s personal spiritual impression and claim that it is a revelation or impression that we should all build or found our own lives upon.
That is fine that the British woman in the story felt as if she was being told to focus on the people around her. But please don’t tell me that I shouldn’t worry about large scale projects and that I shouldn’t try to do what I feel I can to “save” or help the world at large.
Right now, I am not up to visit teaching a long list of sisters and having a VT companion. I’m just not. I am an introvert and do not like having to coordinate schedules and sit and chat with some ladies for an hour or two. It is not my thing. Like really, it’s not my thing.
I’m sure many who have mental illnesses may also have trouble with visiting or home teaching or even other local church service. These issues and the medications we sometimes take for them can affect us and make it difficult to enjoy or even consider doing some of these more “close to home” service or social activities. So, you might relate to the fact that I actually don’t do well talking to people one on one. I can do it, but I don’t really enjoy it. It takes a lot out of me.
But yes, I can write. I can plan events, sure. I can speak to a group of people. These are things that I can do and somewhat enjoy doing and don’t get super stressed out about. Teaching, speaking, writing, yes. I can do those. I don’t know why, but that’s how I was programmed. It’s who I am.
So, to hear a talk saying, “no no, don’t worry about those large scale things that you are actually good at and enjoy, go out and make friends with all the ladies and visit teach instead…” Well, that’s hard for me, and I bet it’s hard for a lot of people living with mental illness or other personality issues too. Sure, there’s something to be said for pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and trying new things. But there is also something to doing what you feel you “need” to do on a large scale—for me, writing books, planning conferences, things like that. For you, it might be something different.
Focus on Who You Are
For me, I can do those large scale things. But doing both these things and having to worry about everyone around me as well? That is what runs me ragged. I feel like God has given me the skills and passion to do the one while the other takes so much out of me. It doesn’t leave much left for my family or my self.
So I have had to make the decision of whether I will try to do it all or ask to be relieved of some responsibilities. I’ve chosen to take a break and step back from typical visiting teaching. I feel like it is more important for me to focus on my family and these other projects at this moment. I guess I’m figuratively driving to Kosovo rather than tending to my next door neighbor. But I think that’s okay. I am still meeting needs of God’s children one way or the other. And maybe you are the same….and who are people who don’t know us, our personalities, and our skill sets to say that is the wrong way to fulfill our divine commission?