Does it ever feel like you have a “laundry list” of things you have to do for church?
This month’s list might look something like: fulfill your calling, read the scriptures, study Come, Follow Me, prepare for upcoming general conference, read all the accounts of the First Vision,— it never seems to end.
Sometimes it might seem like we are just worker bees trying to finish our lists as quickly and efficiently as possible. We want to follow the prophet and his counsel, but where do we focus our energy? What’s our priority? How do we know what we should be doing?
These are the questions co-author of The Power of Stillness, Carrie Skarda, encourages listeners to answer for themselves by spending meaningful time with Heavenly Father. Skarda alludes to the example of Joseph Smith staying present when asking and receiving an answer from the Divine.
“We have this image of the Sacred Grove where a young person is wrestling with a question. And they designate a time and space to bring that question to their Heavenly Father… We need to take time to commune with our Heavenly Father, and bring our questions to Him, and then stay still and present long enough for the answers to really unfold,” Skarda says.
In this week’s episode, All In host Morgan Jones talks with Skarda about finding the answers we seek when we commune with our Heavenly Father and what the story of Joseph Smith can teach us about being still.
Read an excerpt from their conversation below or click here to listen to the whole episode. You can also read a full transcript of the podcast here.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones: I want to come back to what you said about inactive versus active being the words that we use, and I was thinking about it and I was like, okay, so when we say that someone’s active, what we mean is just that they’re there. It doesn’t say anything about what they’re gaining from that experience, or how deep it’s sinking in. It just means that we’re going and so I love that idea of, you know, maybe changing that a little bit to create a place for it to all sink in a little bit more?
Carrie Skarda: Absolutely. Our tradition has incredible depth to it. We have these two images. I think Jacob and Ty talked about this too, in your interview with them, of the beehive, the analogy of the beehive that we’re busy, we are productive, we work together as a community. And then we also have this other image of the Sacred Grove where a young person is wrestling with a question. And they designate a time and space to bring that question to their Heavenly Father. And then they stay present with whatever shows up as that answer unfolds. And some of what shows up is frankly, really scary and hard. And some of what shows up is intense, intense intimacy with the divine and Joseph has to stay present with all of that, as he gets his questions answered in ways that were completely unexpected. So we have these two images that we use in our own faith too. We’re busy and part of the beehive. But we also need to take time to commune with our Heavenly Father, and bring our questions to Him, and then stay still and present long enough for the answers to really unfold.
Morgan Jones: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. You just touched on the Restoration, which I wanted to ask you something [about] in relation to all that we’ve been asked to do to prepare for conference. I think conference prep this time around, which now we know is going to be truly a conference like no other—I feel like the prep, especially for women, has at times felt a little bit overwhelming for me. I’m like there are so many things that I want to do. But how does meditation interact with some of the ways that President Nelson is asking us to kind of step up as women, rise to this occasion—a higher calling?
Carrie Skarda: As you’re saying that I feel a connection to it because we do want to follow our prophet’s counsel and prepare ourselves. And we also feel all these demands on us. What’s the priority? Where do we focus our energy and when we’re invited to engage in different activities at church, and often when we go to church, we walk out with a laundry list of things we’ve been invited to do, right? “I challenge you to do this” or “I invite you to do that.” It’s hard to know where do we focus our energy and what is the priority? There’s a story of Christ that I come back to that illustrates this principle of “How do we know what we should be doing? How do we know what we should be doing when there’s so many things we could be spending our time on?”
It’s at the height of His ministry, and He’s in the area around Capernaum. And He gets up early in the morning. And He goes, as He frequently does, to pray. He’s starting His day by connecting with His Father in Heaven. His disciples wake up. They’re like, “Where did He go? Because all these people are waiting for Him. We have people here ready to be taught, ready to be healed.” And they go and they find Him and they say, “Come on, we’ve got to go back to this crowd.” And the Savior says, “No, that’s not where we’re going. today. We’re going to go serve in this other city, in these other little villages.” And it’s interesting to me that, in the midst of really good things for the Savior could teach or heal and when there are righteous demands being put on Him, He doesn’t go that direction. He follows what His Heavenly Father has asked Him to do that day. And there’s so many good things in the Gospel that we can focus our energies on.
We need to take the time to sit with our Father in Heaven and literally ask Him, “Where would you have me focus my energy at this moment today?” And it’s interesting. I remember one time, I did that. And I was sort praying and I had my journal in front of me. And I was doing this writing in my journal and praying to receive revelation. And I kind of was irritated with God, right? Like, “These are all the things you’ve asked me to do like, and there’s no way I can do all these things today.” And I kind of made this whole long list of all the things I was supposed to be doing. And I said, “Alright, Heavenly Father, which of these do you want me to do?” And the feeling I got, as I sat there asking that was “You could do any of those things. But the most important thing to me is that you just sit here with me for a minute.”