I adore our dear prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. Since he has become president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has brought so much inspired counsel to the members of the church and the world.
This past October, in the Women’s session of General Conference, President Nelson gave a very poignant and beautiful talk called Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel.
As I listened to his talk, I could feel his tender love for we sisters, and for womanhood and motherhood. He gave each girl and woman four challenges to accomplish. I was so grateful he gave specific challenges with deadlines as he saw fit, because it helped me to be motivated to take real action, and not just think about how to be a better and more spiritual woman.
I would love to share his invitations in his own words, and my experiences with them, in hopes that you will also wish to take the challenges:
First, I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.
President Nelson made the challenge October 6, and I faithfully began my fast from Instagram and Facebook starting the 7th. I did not browse through, comment, or post anything during that time. I did have to use social media occasionally for my store (like answering customer questions), but that was all I did.
On October 17, when I was done with my fast, I said on Facebook:
Well, I am off my social media fast. I must say the last 10 days have been great. I have loved not having the temptation to keep checking my Facebook feed constantly, burning up precious time. I have significantly cleaned up my friend list, and will keep the app off my phone. I will be using FB primarily for adding photos of my kids and for doing business. I just want to stop spending time mindlessly scrolling, as I have found that was not helping my life in any way. I may not see everything important on Facebook posts now, so if there is something you really think I need to know, please tell me in person, or via text or messenger. I don’t want to miss it. Much love!
It’s January 4, now. How have I been doing, you ask? Well, I must admit that even though for a while I did a lot better, I started to do the mindless scrolling again. I had added the app back on my phone so I could upload pictures, and then it all started going back to the way it was. I noticed that a few days ago, and yesterday, I deleted the app off my phone again. I will try to find another simple way to upload my photos, because I miss the freedom I felt when Facebook was no longer on my phone.
Second, I invite you to read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year. As impossible as that may seem with all you are trying to manage in your life, if you will accept this invitation with full purpose of heart, the Lord will help you find a way to achieve it. And, as you prayerfully study, I promise that the heavens will open for you. The Lord will bless you with increased inspiration and revelation.
As you read, I would encourage you to mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior. Then, be intentional about talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, and preaching of Christ with your families and friends. You and they will be drawn closer to the Savior through this process. And changes, even miracles, will begin to happen.
This invitation from President Nelson was my favorite. For years, I have read scriptures with my children every night, and with my husband every night, but I haven’t done regular individual study for a long time. This challenge got me to start delving into the scriptures by myself again.
I started off great, going off a reading chart a friend sent, but found myself skipping days and having to catch up frantically. I did end up finishing The Book of Mormon on December 31, and I am so grateful I was able to complete the prophet’s challenge.
As I read, I did as he suggested – underlining scriptures about Christ. I realized very quickly that The Book of Mormon is FULL of scriptures about Christ. He is interwoven into the entire book, and it increased my testimony of the truthfulness of it. I felt the Spirit so many times as I read The Book of Mormon, and by reading it quickly, I was able to get the connections between stories better, and get the full message of what a prophet was trying to teach. I felt like I underlined or starred half of the verses I read!
When I got to the war chapters in Alma, I was motivated to start working on my children’s book again. I was able to take lots of notes and start organizing my thoughts again. I hope to finish my book in the next few months.
The best part of my whole reading experience was on December 31. I hadn’t read my final reading yet, which was the book of Moroni. I was feeling really down about my store. It hadn’t been making much money since the Fall and I was about ready to just give up (I had told Jad previously that I was going to stop working on it if I wasn’t making money by the new year). I decided to give that thought a rest, since it was depressing, and start reading the book of Moroni.
I immediately felt the Spirit so strongly the minute I started reading. I loved the book, and read it with eagerness, underlining and starring so many verses. When I read the last verse, I felt so much peace and warmth. I decided to kneel down by my bed and pray so I could do Moroni’s challenge to ask if The Book of Mormon were true.
When I knelt to pray, I felt the Spirit so strongly, I didn’t even have to ask if it were true. I remember expressing gratitude for The Book of Mormon, and I felt the Spirit lead me to ask God how I can spread Christ’s gospel of love and peace to the world – messages that are so evident and clear in The Book of Mormon (I didn’t realize at the time, but that was part of President Nelson’s challenge too).
I felt the Spirit tell me I need to spread His message through my store. I didn’t know how at that moment, but I knew that it was something I needed to do, and that I shouldn’t give up on it.
I have since added links to mormon.org and The Book of Mormon to my store. I have started a Christian Collection that I am still adding to. I started an advertisement for a Christian t-shirt, and added a scripture verse from the Bible and Book of Mormon to the product description so I can share the gospel in a small and simple way. I significantly lowered the price for my inspirational jewelry, and all that is just the beginning. I am going to continue to ponder ways to spread the gospel through my store, as I know that this is what the Lord wants me to do.
These are not the only blessings that have come into my life from reading The Book of Mormon with this challenge. I also believe with all of my heart that because my mother, my nana, and I did this challenge faithfully, that it helped my sister-in-law open her heart to investigating the gospel of Christ. The past few weeks of meeting with the missionaries with her and answering her questions has brought so much joy into my life and into the life of my family. We are so overjoyed that she has chosen to be baptized on January 26!
I want everyone reading to know that I know The Book of Mormon is true. I have always known it, but by doing this challenge, I have grown to love it even more than I ever have. This book is holy scripture, and will bring you to Christ. That is its purpose – to bring souls to Christ and to testify that He lives, and that through Him we can be saved. I hope you will read it and cherish it as I, and millions around the world, already do.
Third, establish a pattern of regular temple attendance. This may require a little more sacrifice in your life. More regular time in the temple will allow the Lord to teach you how to draw upon His priesthood power with which you have been endowed in His temple. For those of you who don’t live near a temple, I invite you to study prayerfully about temples in the scriptures and in the words of living prophets. Seek to know more, to understand more, to feel more about temples than you ever have before.
Our temple is closed for renovation, so the closest temple to us right now is three hours away in South Carolina. However, I have had two beautiful experiences in the temple since President Nelson’s challenge. First was in October, when we went down with another family and took turns attending the temple. Jad and I did a sealing session, and there were so many names submitted, that the sealer kept going an extra half hour over the time. It was a wonderful occasion.
The second time I went was in November when I went with sisters from our Relief Society. I was able to be there with my mom and nana, as well as other lovely women from my ward (congregation). We had a wonderful time. It was so peaceful to be able to take a day to devote to spiritual nourishment and relationship-building.
Our schedules are very crazy the next few months, but I greatly hope to be able to go back to the temple soon, as it is the place I feel the most peace. I also want to help my sister-in-law with her family history after she is baptized so she can start doing temple work for her family.
My fourth invitation, for you who are of age, is to participate fully in Relief Society. I urge you to study the current Relief Society purpose statement. It is inspiring. It may guide you in developing your own purpose statement for your own life. I also entreat you to savor the truths in the Relief Society declaration published almost 20 years ago.
I read the Relief Society purpose and the declaration as the prophet challenged. By reading it, I know who I am, what my purpose is, and how I can best fulfill my potential as a daughter of God. Life isn’t all about me and my desires – there is so much more to it, including unity with, and love for, my fellow sisters in Christ. What a privilege it is to be a part of this wonderful organization of women, and how important it is to participate in it fully!
There was a recent time when it was very difficult for me to attend Relief Society. I felt judged and that nobody liked me. I have since decided to move on from that, recognizing that God wants me there. I do my best to share my experiences and testimony, and to listen to other women and their experiences so I can learn from them. I try to go to Relief Society activities, volunteer to help others as asked by the Relief Society president, be a friend to the women I come in contact with, and minister to my sisters the best way I can. I know I can do more still, but being a devoted member of the Relief Society is very important to me.
As you can see, doing President Nelson’s challenges meant a great deal to me, and helped me a lot spiritually, and in other ways. My testimony has been so strengthened that he is a true prophet of God, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s church, that The Book of Mormon is true, that the work done in the temple is crucial for our exaltation, and that I am so blessed to be a part of the largest women’s organization in the world – the Relief Society. Most importantly, I have an increased testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am so grateful that because of Christ, our lives are full of merciful beginnings. I can keep getting better. I can pick myself up when I fall. I can get myself back on the path when I stray. We all can, and I invite you to come unto Him. He will help you be the person you know you can be. Take these challenges and see for yourself!