A Bacon-y Balm in Gilead
When our family first moved to the Pacific Northwest, we were transplants. My wife and I had grown up in different parts of California, I’d served a mission in Hawaii, and we’d gone to school in Utah. That left us with almost zero connections when we finally arrived in Washington.
Luckily, a few of our friends from BYU also got jobs in the Seattle area, and we arrived in Washington not too far apart from each other.
We were having dinner with one of these couples, a BBQ in the glorious northwest summer weather that all the rest of the world should be jealous of, when the husband brought out something glorious.
As vegetables go, asparagus is far from the worst (looking at you, kale), but let’s be honest – what dish can’t be helped by the addition of a little bacon?
It was fantastic. I’ve probably dreamed about it at least once a week since then.
(Okay, that’s hyperbole, but it was quite good.)
I thought about that bacon-wrapped asparagus as I listened to President Uchtdorf’s address from the General Women’s Meeting a little over a week ago, when he helped kick off General Conference (that’s right, General Conference – it’s on the same webpage, which is good enough for me, so all you naysayers just hush).
He began by reviewing the incredible blessings promised to the faithful and reminding us of how we qualify for such blessings. After quoting Doctrine and Covenants 132, he offered,
“For this reason, we speak of walking the path of discipleship.
“We speak of obedience to God’s commandments.
“We speak of living the gospel joyfully, with all our heart, might, mind, and soul.”
But living the commandments joyfully isn’t something that’s always easy, and President Uchtdorf acknowledges this. He continues,
“And yet for some of us, obedience to God’s commandments doesn’t always feel very joyful. Let’s face it: there may be some that seem harder or less appealing—commandments that we approach with the enthusiasm of a child sitting before a plate of healthy but hated vegetables. We grit our teeth and force ourselves to comply so that we can move on to more desirable activities.”
But he doesn’t stop here. Throughout the next few minutes of his address, President Uchtdorf teaches us about the nature of God and the purpose behind His commandments. He does this because
“once you understand the true nature of God and His commandments… your motivation for following the commandments changes, and it becomes your heart’s desire to live the gospel joyfully.”
I feel like that’s at least part of President Uchtdorf’s objective with this talk. He wants to give us the tools to face the commandments and then to choose, of our own volition, to live them happily. He wants us to want to eat vegetables, and to like it.
Later on, President Uchtdorf says that our Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings on us, but that our “fear, doubt, and sin” block these blessings from reaching us.
In terms of his earlier vegetable analogy, perhaps we fear the unpleasantness of eating poor-tasting vegetables. Perhaps we doubt the nutritional benefits, so eating icky vegetables isn’t really worth it. Perhaps we’ve just filled up on desserts, leaving no room for healthy greens.
Whatever the reason, as we pass on our vegetables we ultimately open our umbrella to block the blessings God is raining down on us.
It doesn’t have to be like that! That’s where bacon comes in.
We’re admonished to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (see Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28). Doing this – being anxiously engaged – as we walk the path of discipleship adds so much flavor to keeping the commandments. President Uchtdorf even gives a few examples.
“For example, those who see attendance at Church meetings as a personal way to increase their love of God, find peace, uplift others, seek the Spirit, and renew their commitment to follow Jesus Christ will find a far richer experience than those who simply put in their time sitting in a pew.”
Going to church to keep the bishop off your case? Bleh. Going to church while looking for opportunities to reach out to others? Mmmmm, tasty.
He also tells the story of some valiant visiting teachers. Dropping off a plate of cookies and checking the box? Bleh. Helping a chicken-poxed family catch up on household tasks, thereby cultivating what could very well be a lifelong friendship? Mmmmm, tasty.
Is It I?
What do I take away from this?
I can think of a number of basics that I need to be better at. Maybe I pick one or two of these basics, and instead of trying to be better at ‘checking the box,’ I think about how to add some flavor.
It could be something simple! In my house growing up, the last person to say the family prayer got to pick the next person to say the family prayer. It’s become a fun little game as we use it to “get back” at each other and settle scores.
Family prayers now? Mmmmm, tasty.
You, like me, will likely have come out of conference with a number of things to do a little better at. Instead of making yourself a chart (bleh), be creative, listen to the whisperings of the spirit, and find a rhythm that works for you.