A Perfect Brightness of Hope92903_000_004
If I asked you what your favorite word was, what would you say? Recently I asked a group of friends to share with me their favorite words. What began as a point of conversation soon became a period of testimony, for my friends said such things as commitment, family, love. Since that experience I’ve thought about my own favorite word.
Rejoice is a major contender, but I think hope wins. To me hope embodies happy feelings, anticipation of good things, the best of the gospel, and zest for life. In this church we celebrate “a perfect brightness of hope.” (2 Ne. 31:20.) What a light, ebullient phrase that is. I’ve stood on a mountaintop at sunrise and thought of that phrase. Hope—what it does to my soul when I feel it! Hope—what it does for the world when we act on it!
During this past year, I’ve met hundreds of Relief Society sisters, received sheaves of their letters, and attended meetings in many places—meetings with them and about them. I’ve learned a lot. One of the most important insights is that many of our sisters have lost hope. I see and hear evidences of this far too often. And it grieves me.
Some of them have said:
“How many dates do I have to go on to find an eternal partner?”
“I am no longer needed. My family is gone. What good am I?”
“I don’t get any support from my husband. I have to take care of everything related to the Church and the children myself.”
It makes me sad, because a life without hope is not life—not in the gospel sense. After Moroni had witnessed the destruction of his own family and all his friends and people, he wrote to the Lamanites: “And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope. And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair.” (Moro. 10:21–22.)
For me, to live in despair is not to live. I cannot imagine life without hope. Perhaps this is because I learned early that hope is a personal quality, essential for righteous living. In fact, hope is one of the personality traits of godlike men and women. Paul explained that members of the Church who wish to live “acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1) are in part characterized as those “not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” (Rom. 12:11–12.)
Recently I read an article about a Cambodian family who had endured unimaginable suffering. At the end of a particularly arduous day, the mother gathered the family together and taught, “Remember, children, hate does not end with more hate but with love. And from that we take hope. Without love and hope, our lives will be empty.” What a wise mother!
My own dear mother taught me a lot about love and hope. She was ill for many years, yet she was such a bright, hopeful person. She taught me that in any circumstance those who are “acceptable unto God” can be recognized because their belief is evident in their attitude and action. Mother knew that it is hope that helps us to rebound.
To me it is very important that “rejoicing in hope” is on the list of godlike characteristics, especially because we benefit so much from the comfort and happy expectation of hope in these tumultuous times.
Karen’s children are close in age. Since Brad, now six, nearly drowned two years ago, he has required much extra care. Karen’s father-in-law died about the time her mother entered a nursing home. Shortly after her mother died, her father remarried. And during all of this, Karen’s husband has been starting up his own business.
Karen knows, as all of us know, that daily living can be draining. The demands on women seem to multiply. Personal lives can be in such chaos. Yet hope stands as a beacon—warm, steady, and inviting. It is reassuring to me that this quality I enjoy so much is also requisite for those who would follow the light and life of the Savior of the world.
Hope matters; your hope matters. May I suggest three reasons why? First: Hope, charity, and faith are closely related. Paul, in concluding his treatise on charity in 1 Corinthians 13, said, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three.” (1 Cor. 13:13.) An early revelation received by Joseph Smith states, “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him [or her] for the work.” (D&C 4:5.) Moroni in the Book of Mormon explained, “Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.” (Moro. 10:20.) Alma exhorted, “And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.” (Alma 7:24.)
These three good friends—faith, hope, and charity—become stronger because of their association with each other. Perhaps what is most important about them is that they exist together. The charitable woman is also the hopeful, faithful woman. Hence, when a woman loses hope, she will also lose faith and charity.
This is a major connection. I have known women who have let go of hope yet claimed to maintain faith. It appears from the interlacing of these qualities that if we lack one, we will soon lack the others. Let us cling to our faith, our hope, and our charity, remembering that upon this trio hangs our well-being, now and forever.
Second: Without hope we despair. I accept Moroni’s specific explanation that “if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair.” He concludes that sentence by adding, “And despair cometh because of iniquity.” (Moro. 10:22.) It seems clear, then, that when hope leaves us, despair ensues.
Several years ago I watched a woman experience a brief, unhappy marriage. At age thirty-two, after many years of longing for marriage and children, she married in the temple. She discovered on her honeymoon that this man for whom she had faithfully prepared all her life had not faithfully prepared for her. He wanted the appearance of marriage, but he had no intention of living its realities. What he had said before marriage was not what he intended to do after marriage. On their honeymoon he divulged that he had chosen her only because she seemed strong and self-sufficient—able to provide for herself financially and emotionally.
She was devastated. She despaired. She wondered if her whole heart had been crushed irreparably, along with her girlhood dreams. The world was black, and everything went poorly for many months.
But a remarkable thing happened. She was still very much alive; she just didn’t know it for a time. During this period of intense difficulty, I watched the law of hope take its course. My friend desired righteousness even while she struggled with choices, questions, and personal pain. Her hopeful desire, often unexpressed during those many months, worked in her. In her fertile soul, dormant seeds of hope, which she had forgotten she’d planted, began to sprout. Then they began to grow. She felt them and, as she was able, nurtured those volunteer tendrils.
It wasn’t easy, but hope, faith, and charity are powerful. Once growing, they are not easily dissuaded if the soil is right. Those tendrils strengthened. Ever so gradually her anger, disappointment, pain, and even despair were replaced by fresh, fragrant plants of compassion, understanding, patience, faith, hope, and charity. My friend lived the Apostle Paul’s teaching that “[she] that ploweth should plow in hope; and that [she] that thresheth in hope should be partaker of [her] hope.” (1 Cor. 9:10.)
It is undeniable that life can bring each of us heartache, devastation, despair. It is undeniable that the gospel brings us hope, which, when well planted, grows into a magnificent garden.
I recently visited Ricks College during Women’s Week. There I met Aja, a beautiful and self-assured woman. She was receiving the Woman of the Year Award. I was impressed by her maturity and her positive comments about her own future. When I commented on this to one of the leaders, she explained that Aja had won those feelings out of a real struggle. Aja, her twin sister, and her mother had been abandoned many years earlier by Aja’s father. Aja’s mother had taught her daughters to be close to each other and to the Church. Tragically, her mother had died when Aja was just sixteen. The twins were not only orphaned, they were left financially destitute. They lived with friends, worked hard, scrimped and saved—and now four years later, Aja stood there on the brink of graduation and marriage. That is a story about the resilience of hope well planted and well cultivated.
Third: Hope is an anchor to the soul. Hebrews 6:18–19 tells us that “we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” [Heb. 6:18–19]
Hope is a steadying influence. To say it is an anchor is to say it can keep us from drifting aimlessly or getting caught in whirlpools or running into sandbars. Hope, the anchor, is essential in this world so full of tidal waves. Sometimes those waves slap us from behind, sometimes we see them coming but cannot stop them or get out of the way. In all cases hope ties us to safety. The waves come and go in their fury or playfulness, but hope is always there if we will but use this sure anchor.
How to Obtain Hope
How can we obtain hope? In all our circumstances, we can benefit from answering this question.
First and foremost, we look to Christ with joyous expectation. As Paul began his first epistle to Timothy, he identified himself as “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.” (1 Tim. 1:1.) Truly, the Lord Jesus Christ is our hope. And what type of hope should we have? “A lively hope.” (1 Pet. 1:3.)
I know faith and hope are not a placebo meant to placate the questions and desires of our hearts. They are realities. My hope and my joy in life are based upon the atonement of our Savior and the restoration of the gospel in these days. I base my life on it; therefore, I have reason for my hope.
Our Savior lives, and he loves us. This gospel is one of light and joy, warmth and belonging. Just consider these confirming evidences:
The angels declared at our Savior’s birth, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10.) The prophets describe our Lord as he who “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God.” (2 Ne. 26:33.) He introduced himself to the Nephites as “Jesus Christ, … the light and the life of the world.” (3 Ne. 11:10–11.)
Our joy and our hope begins and ends in our Savior. A sister expressed to me: “Not long ago I was feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been struggling to pay bills. Upon retiring to bed one night feeling the worse for the daily battle, I lay in my bed moaning to myself. It was then that I looked up to the picture I have of the Savior on my wall. His eyes seemed to look into my very soul, and at the same time these words came to my mind: ‘I am here. I’ve always been by your side, taking the pain you feel as well. I drank the bitter cup for you and I gladly did so. I love you. I always will and I’ll always be here with you every step of the way.’
“As tears streamed down my face, I felt like the Savior’s arms had circled my body and were hugging me. I felt so secure, so loved and wanted—a feeling I can still feel as I write this on paper. The feeling of loneliness left me immediately.”
As I read this letter, I thought, “How blessed she is to have a personal testimony of the Savior.” What is more joyous?
Don’t defer hope. Don’t put it off, postpone it, or delay it. Proverbs 13:12 states, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” [Prov. 13:12] How true. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, hope deferred sickens our hearts. To prevent illness, grab onto and hold onto your hope.
I love the 128th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. I ask you, as Joseph Smith asked the members of the Church in 1842, the year Relief Society was founded:
“And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets. … A voice of the Lord in the wilderness … , the voice of God … through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints … giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!” (D&C 128:20–21.)
Daily confirm your hope. Some of you may be troubled by the injustices of the world. You may wonder why so many undeserving people live in abundance while so many innocents suffer. Some of you are the innocents. You bear emotional scars because of the abuse of others. For some, perhaps the source of your concern is your perception of how the Church is run. Still others of you carry a personal problem that weighs on your soul even as you sleep. May I gently speak to your hearts—don’t defer hope even when you feel most hopeless. Confirm your hope every way you can.
My friend who found herself so unhappily married told me that it was the smallest things that kept her going during those first weeks when all her world looked black. A bunch of crocuses burst through the snow, then announced their victory with purple blooms. The robins whistled from their nest in her front yard tree. The sun broke over the horizon every morning. People in her office lived their quiet routines. A person spoke kindly to her at the grocery store. Her little niece hugged her around the legs. Each small, loving, daily detail confirmed her hope. Little details and small events showed that life still was good. She didn’t feel it, but she did not defer her hope. She focused instead on every confirmation that God lives. And if God lives, life could still be sweet, and she could feel hope again.
What to Hope For
Let us hope for a better world. To hope for a better world means that we invest in it now. Our investment is measured in the sum of small things. My neighbor Amy planted a spring garden every year of her adult life. Her own failing health did not dampen her need to plant the flowers she knew she might not live to see.
I admire people who read to the blind or take a neighbor to the store, those who plant trees in the park or organize a neighborhood crime watch or local recycling program. I admire people who hug each family member daily or remember their aunts’ birthdays, those who take neighbors’ children with them on trips, and those who can be silly with their friends. All our efforts in the home, the workplace, and the community are investments in a better world. The prophet Ether taught, “Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men [and women], which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:4.)
Just think of all the small ways you live with hope for your world. Each day you take a vitamin tablet, you’re planning for the future. Every time you clean your house, you probably say, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over. I won’t have to do it again for awhile.” You study the atlas, planning the roads you’ll drive on your next family vacation. Whether you recognize it or not, your days are full of a hundred acts born from your personal “perfect brightness of hope.”
More than ever, I find that my home is the source of my fondest dreams and best hopes—and also some of my finest adventures. What better place to find the people I love best in the world? What’s glorious about my stage in life is realizing how meaningful my investment in associations with others has become. I am grateful for the Lord’s love for me. I’m glad for every moment I’ve spent in prayer, in study, in service. I’m grateful for every friend I’ve found, for my husband, for every child I’ve borne, for every person with whom I’ve shared a Church experience. And I am happy to know those relationships can get even better.
Nothing has ever been as satisfying to me as my associations with others. Note: I did not say easy, I said satisfying. It’s not perfect out there, I know. And it’s not perfect through the archway into my home. Still, it’s mostly good, and my relationships always give me hope.
I think of hope as a basketful of glorious spring flowers, each blossom representing one part of what my family, friends, and I hope for. Together these hopes are a radiant, abundant, fragrant bouquet. Whatever our metaphor for it, hope remains an effervescent, expectant, happy part of life.
Remember—hope matters. May we “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.” (2 Ne. 31:20.)