I taught RS a couple of weeks ago for a friend who was out of town. I used this from Exponent http://www.the-exponent.com/relief-society-lesson-4-strengthening-and-preserving-the-family/comment-page-1/ and focused a lot on a couple of quotes from Marjorie Hinckley urging women to accept themselves and to use what works for their family and discard the rest.

I also used the quote from Orson Whitney which Elder Bednar refers to in the latest issue of the Ensign, regarding salvation for wayward children. A dear friend called me asking if I’d seen the article and I said I had, adding I felt prophetic. Then she said it. “But.” And she referred to the caveats Elder Bednar added. She’s a good and kind person who was geniunely delighted that there was something in the Ensign that I’d used. Still, I reacted badly.

“I hate that ‘but’!” I firmly stated. We proceeded to get into the biggest argument we’ve ever had about mercy, grace and justice. Truly, I get a knot in the pit of my stomach when I hear speakers say “Jesus is worthy to save”……”but!” I interpret it to say “Jesus is worthy to save, but you have to do it yourself, so you’re screwed.” My friend was crying at the end of the conversation and offended when I said something about a lot of people striving for righteousness out of fear.

We are still friends. “But.” I felt terrible about how I handled the situation because she’s one of the good ones. She’s not a phony or a judgmental holier than thou person at all. She is one of the most obedient people I’ve ever known, but she’s one of the lucky ones who can walk the tightrope of total orthodoxy and keep their humanity. So I was unfair.

Still, I hate how we give messages of hope, only to dash that hope in the same sentence. I understand why born again Christian religions think we’re not Christian. We preach Jesus and reject Him in the same sentences. “Jesus loves us, He is all powerful and through Him, you can gain exaltation. But you must do everything you can to earn it.” “After all you can do.” “Faith without works is dead.” I hate that stuff. So, I thought and thought and thought.

And this is what I’ve decided. I am turning the but around. (Think Gloria Estefan). From now on I’m going to hear what people say and transpose…..the talk, the Ensign article, the idle conversation….transpose.

I will say “We must try to be righteous people, to obey the commandments and to serve others diligently, BUT…..nobody can do it all and Jesus will take care of whatever you can’t do. Either because you’re physically unable or mentally unable or spiritually weak.” Yes, spiritually weak. At least in the world’s eyes. Because we don’t know or maybe fully understand that point where we leave off and Jesus takes over.

“We should try to our visiting teaching diligently to be God’s hand in doing good” BUT “don’t run faster than you can walk. To every thing is a season.”

Do you see what I’m getting at? Put the caveat first and the hopeful statement last. For me, it changes the whole tenor of it.

It occurred to me, too, in the last few days that I’ve always felt I was screwed because I couldn’t keep up with people like my friend. Who took loving gentle care of an aging relative while supporting a husband who is a stake president and maintaining a close relationship with all her children who married in the temple, with sons who all served missions. AND she gets 100% visiting teaching and serves in the temple once a week and teaches primary and keeps a clean house and goes to an institute class and walking 10 miles a week, all the while keeping her sense of humor and generous outlook. Makes me tired just typing it.

It dawned on me that as far as God is concerned, we’re neck and neck. Because we’re both centered on the same things. Emotionally, spiritually and physically, maybe I’m doing all I can can. (I hate to state that definitively in case I’m lazy or self serving, which is contradictory, but very well, I contradict myself). In a way it seems unfair to her, but then, really, she’s living her life in a way that she enjoys and can handle. As am I.

That’s how God rolls. And I feel a bit of hope. Guys, turn the “but” around. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hVbE8wJ-U0