Today I’m coming at you with a recent sacrament meeting talk I prepared. In this episode I answer the question, What prevents us from allowing Jesus Christ to be the author of our story, from Sister Camille Johnson’s October 2021 General Conference talk.
Just as a teaser, we are all like Simba. Listen in to find out how.
As usual, I include a story from my own life, and my own conviction of what I know to be true. I hope you’ll join me.
Transcript of my talk:
What do you suppose keeps us from turning our stories over to Jesus Christ?
Remember Who You Are
In the 1994 animated Disney movie The Lion King, the young lion cub Simba is beguiled by his wicked uncle into believing that he is to blame for his father’s death. So, being afraid and ashamed, he runs away from his home, his family, and his rightful place as heir to the throne. While he is away enjoying the leisurely life in the jungle, surviving off of grubs, his wicked and prideful uncle (haha, get it? prideful?) takes over the kingdom and runs it into ruins. The lionesses are forced to travel great distances to find food. And one of them finds Simba instead, now a strong adult lion who has befriended a meerkat and a hog.
Let’s take a moment to think about that. Lions are not normally friends with meerkats and hogs. They are predators to them. Simba’s fear and shame (his natural man?) have altered his inherent nature.
Simba’s pivotal decision whether to keep running from his past and his natural man, or return to his true self and help his family, happens in one poignant scene. Simba speaks with the spirit of his Father Mufasa.
Mufasa: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No, how could I?
Mufasa: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become.
You are more than what you have become. Remember that when you feel inadequate or like you aren’t enough. You are more than what you have become, just like Simba.
Mufasa: You must take your place in the circle of life.
Simba: How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be!
We all sometimes feel like this— out of place. Not living up to our potential. But confused about how to do that, and comfortable in the life and habits we have fallen into, in running from our true selves. We aren’t who we used to be, we are so much more. And our Father in Heaven, like Mufasa, urges us to remember Him, and our relationship to him.
Mufasa: Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember. Remember. Remember.
In her October 2021 General Conference talk, Sister Camille Johnson asks a question: What do you suppose keeps us from turning our stories over to Jesus Christ? We are all like Simba. Simba had a story. A story he wanted to forget— and for good reason! But in so doing, he also forgets who he is. He forgets his purpose.
Our Faith is not Sufficiently Strong
Sister Johnson suggests that sometimes, perhaps, our faith is not strong enough to do what is being asked.
After his conversation with Mufasa’s spirit, Simba comments, The winds are changing.
Rafiki, the wise baboon, says, “Change is good.”
Simba: Yeah, but it’s not easy. I know what I have to do. But going back means I have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.
At this point, Rafiki whacks Simba over the head with his staff!
Simba: Ow, jeez! What was that for?!
Rafiki: It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!
Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.
Our faith will be strong enough when we would rather face the past and learn from it, even if the lessons are difficult, than run from the past and suffer unnecessarily.
Christ suffered so that we wouldn’t have to. Pain is always necessary- it is a part of this human-natural man existence, but suffering is optional. Even for Christ, suffering was optional. He could have chosen not to suffer for us. But “for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Our faith will be strong enough when we focus more on the possible joy set before us, than we do on the possible fears. Joy will always be more powerful than fear.
I must quote President Nelson’s oft-quoted passage and use Christ as an example: “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” Christ’s focus was on the joy set before him. Is that what we are focused on too?
When we are focused on our pain, our fear, our shame, of course we will not turn to Christ and allow him to be the author of our story. But when we yield, surrender, and focus on future joy and our current love of the Savior, our family, ourselves, our humility will allow us to turn our whole souls over to him.
Sister Johnson says, “Of course, Esther’s level of courage is rarely asked of us.” Sometimes I think that is a bit dismissive of our role here in the Latter days. I would like to point out, we may not be asked to face possible physical death, like Esther or David or Joseph Smith or Jesus Christ. But the emotions we are asked to face within ourselves, sometimes feel like imminent death. Fear, shame, disappointment, loss, grief, loneliness, heartbreak, unworthiness, overwhelm, anxiety, depression… whatever it is for you, honor that! It takes just as much COURAGE as David, Esther, or Joseph Smith and it is not easy.
Surrender, the depths of humility, make us feel how Moses had never supposed: that man is nothing. (Moses 1:10) And I don’t know a better description of what it’s like to face some of our own tough emotions.
No wonder why many of us resist allowing Christ to author our story!
We Think We Know How the Story Should Go
I have had many experiences in my life to resist and later allow Christ to author my story.
After my mom died, my dad spiraled into a depression he did not cope well with. He ended up in prison, and my little sister ended up eventually in foster care. At the time, my oldest was 2 years old and we had purchased a small 2 bedroom 1 bathroom condo in the Bay Area, maxing out our budget. We were approached and asked if we would take my 14 year old sister in. We didn’t want to. There wasn’t enough space. And I was barely able to parent my toddler— how would I manage a traumatized teenager? But we took the issue to prayer and felt that we should give it a go. My sister came to live with us and at first things went ok. But slowly, it became apparent that the arrangement was not working.
I thought I knew how the story would go! My sister would come to live with us, and while it would be difficult, we would all work together to figure things out. Having a safe, consistent home would allow my sister to feel taken care of. She would certainly be reasonable and grateful.
Boy was I wrong! If anything, the opposite of all of that came true!
It was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, to face the fact that I— we— couldn’t handle my sister on our own, and we needed more support. Unfortunately, that meant getting law enforcement involved. I watched as I allowed my own sister to be handcuffed, and not without a fight, and put in a cop car and taken away. Later we would talk on the phone, and she chose to go back into foster care rather than continue to live with us. Talk about a slap in the face! Talk about woman is nothing! I felt like the worst sister and human on the face of the earth.
A few weeks later, we moved our little family to Colorado, leaving my sister in foster care in California. I remember asking in prayer, Lord, why were we inspired to bring her into our home only to have a terrible experience and for her to go back to foster care?
I still don’t know the answer to that question.
But I do know that I did EVERYTHING in my power that I knew to do. Like Nephi, I do not know all things, but I know God loves his children. I know that He is mindful of my sister. He is mindful of me.
And now, I think to become something more than what I was in the pre-mortal existence, I had to go through experiences opposite to what I experienced in the pre-mortal existence. These experiences have developed me into more of my true, eternal self, who is powerful and full of love and joy. And while I still don’t know exactly why my sister had to live with us for those painful 12 months, I do know that experience has refined me, and has helped me rely more on the Lord that if I hadn’t experienced that. I never once doubted the prompting to purchase that condo, or the prompting to have Nina when we did, or the prompting to bring my sister into our home. I chose to KNOW the Spirit operated that way, and to NOT KNOW all the reasons why. This is what it means to me to allow the Lord to author my story: to remember who I am, to have faith sufficient to what is being asked of me and to let go of my idea of how my story should go.
In closing, I want to read Hebrews 12:2. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.
One online definition of the word AUTHOR is- originator or creator of something. And the footnote on the word author in the verse points us to the topical guide entry on Jesus Christ, Authority of. Authority is the power or right to give orders or make decisions.
Christ is our creator. And therefore the creator of our stories, and of our faith or our power. It is through him that all power on earth flows. Jesus is alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. He is the author or creator in the beginning, and the power and resolution in the end of our stories and us as his creations. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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