“But One Thing Is Truly Needful”

By Patricia T. Holland

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    The words of the Savior’s counsel to Martha, became as personal revelation to me that comforted my troubled soul.

    Often it seems that daily problems take precedence over the development of faith, so I would like to ask the sisters of the Church a question: In a life in which we are so actively engaged in daily concerns and responsibilities, how do we develop an inner peace which nurtures increased faith?

    I have served as Relief Society president in four different wards. Two of these were for single women and two were traditional wards with many young mothers. As I sat in counsel with my single sisters my heart often ached as they described to me their feelings of loneliness and disappointment. They were anxiously seeking for peace and purpose, something of real value to which they could give their lives.

    Yet it seemed to me that the young mothers surely had just as many problems. For they described to me the challenges of trying to raise children in an increasingly difficult world, of never having enough time or means or freedom to feel like a person of value. And they were always tired! The one thing I remember so vividly with these young mothers was that they were always so tired.

    Then there were those women who through no fault of their own found themselves the sole provider for their homes financially, spiritually, emotionally, and in every other way. I could not even comprehend the challenges they faced. Obviously, in some ways theirs was the most demanding circumstance of all.

    Everyone Has Their Share of Challenges

    The perspective I have gained over these many years of listening to the worries and troubles of women—single, married, divorced, widowed, homemakers, professionals—is that everyone seems to have their full share of challenges.

    Surely, there has not been another time in history in which women have questioned their self-worth as harshly and critically as in the second half of the twentieth century. Many women are searching, almost frantically, as never before, for a sense of personal purpose and meaning to life—and many Latter-day Saint women are searching, too, for eternal insight and meaning.

    If I were Satan and I wanted to destroy a society, I think I would stage a massive attack on its women. I would keep them so upset and distracted that they would never find the calming strength and serenity for which their sex has always been known.

    Satan has effectively done that, often making us feel that we have to be superhuman, instead of realistically striving to reach our individual purpose and unique God-given potential.

    In my own life I reached a point where I was totally worn out, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For two years I served as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency. They were difficult and demanding years. They were years in which I tried to be a full-time mother to my children, and a full-time wife to an extremely busy husband. And I tried to be as much of a full-time counselor to the Young Women general president as I could.

    Toward the end of the two-year period, my health was poor. I was losing weight steadily and couldn’t seem to do anything to stop the loss, and I wasn’t sleeping well. And yet, I kept wondering what I might do to manage all my affairs better. The General Authorities, always compassionate, were watching over me and as my second year in the presidency came to an end they extended a loving release from the calling.

    Two weeks later my husband had a Church assignment to go to Jerusalem. I was asked to go with him.

    “Troubled About Many Things”

    On a beautifully clear and bright day, I sat overlooking the sea of Galilee. I opened my Bible and turned to the account in Luke of Martha, a woman like me “troubled about many things.” But instead of the words printed on the page before me, I thought I saw with my mind and heard with my heart these words: “Pat, Pat, thou are careful and troubled about many things.” Then the power of pure and personal revelation took hold of me as I read, “But one thing, [only one thing] is truly needful.” (See Luke 10:38–42.)

    In Israel in May the sun is so bright you feel as though you are sitting on top of the world. I had just visited the valley of Ajalon where the “sun stood still” for Joshua, and indeed on that day it seemed to do so for me as well. As I sat pondering my problems I felt the same sun’s healing rays like warm liquid pouring into my heart—relaxing, calming, and comforting my troubled soul. I found myself lifted into a higher view of my life.

    Spirit to spirit, our loving Father in heaven seemed to be whispering to me, “You don’t have to worry over so many things. The one thing that is needful—the only thing that is truly needful—is to keep your eyes toward my Son.”

    “Learn of me,” he seemed to say, “and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” (D&C 19:23.) Suddenly I did feel peace, and I knew that my life had always been in his hands—from the very beginning. And so are the lives of all of you, of every woman who wants to do right and to grow in faith, giving all she can.

    To the question, “How do we develop an inner peace?” I can now answer, “Seek that which is truly needful, place your hand in His hand, walk in the meekness of His spirit, and you shall have peace.”

    “Christ with Mary and Martha,” painting by Del Parson

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    • Sister Holland, former first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, serves as a Relief Society teacher in the Oakhills Fourth Ward, Oakhills Stake, Provo, Utah. She is married to Jeffrey R. Holland, president of Brigham Young University.