This last Tuesday, my singles ward had a Valentine’s day activity for the Relief Society. My housemate, Katie, organized the whole thing, and we ended up with three pans of brownies, three gallons of ice cream, and loads of homemade hot fudge. Not a lot of people showed up, but it was a wonderful evening and an opportunity to listen to the bishopric’s wives speak on the topic of love. As Katie kept telling people, “not the kind of mushy love for Valentines day!” The evening was so lovely and edifying, and the Spirit so strong. I love the sisters in our Relief Society, and love the sisters who took the time out of their busy schedules with their children and families to come and spend time with us.
Sister Foxley, wife of our first counselor, spoke first. I have admired her for the nearly two years I’ve been in the first Buena Vista YSA ward, and appreciated every time she spoke in a meeting, be it Sunday School or a Testimony meeting. She is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met, and is definitely someone I look to as an inspiration. She spoke about having a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father, and how as we deepen our relationship with Him, we have the opportunity to deepen and strengthen our relationships with others. She shared with us a little bit of her story about coming to know and love God, and noted that love – all sorts of love – is a process, wherein we need to be patient and open-hearted. I think the thing that she said that has stuck out to me the most is that we as sisters and women ought to take the time to have “daddy-daughter dates with God.” I realized about half way through, that our activity was exactly that – a bunch of sisters on a daddy-daughter date with God because we were taking the time to get to know him better, and to get to know one another better. This really set the theme for the evening.
Sister Briggs, who is actually my age, didn’t say much, but her words were powerful. She talked about how the blessings that Heavenly Father gives us are personalized especially for us at a given time or in a given circumstance. What she shared got me to thinking about how many of the little blessings we miss on a day-to-day basis that Heavenly Father has personalized just for us and for our families. Her thoughts were a wonderful reminder to be thankful for not only the big things, but also the little things that bless our lives.
Sister Moss’ words touched my heart the most that evening. Let me preface the summation of her remarks with a few things. Sister Moss is one of the loveliest, sweetest, and most charitable women I have ever met. She is one of those people who instantly make you feel comfortable and loved, as she gives your her full attention and always speaks from the heart. As the wife of a Bishop called to lead a singles ward where most of the students are far from home, she has taken it upon herself to care for us and make sure us sisters are doing well. A few Sundays ago, she stood in Relief Society and expressed her love for the sisters in the ward. She really is our mom away from home, and she is just so dear to me. All week I had looked forward to hearing what she had to offer, knowing it would be so valuable and filled with love.
Her over all message to us as young sisters was that of the power of communication with the Lord, and also our calling as women. She began with a reference to The Family: A Proclamation to the World, and that although the role of men is outlined clearly in the world as protectors and providers, the role of women is a little less defined. Ultimately, the role is to act as nurturers, not only within the home, but outside the home as well. As she spoke, I realized that you couldn’t have asked a better person to speak on the topic, given the fact that Sister Moss nurtures everyone she comes in contact with in some way or another. She advised us to “nurture this world as you walk through it” and to allow Heavenly Father to work through you to show His love for others.
I had heard statements like this previously, especially about being an instrument in the hands of the Lord, but none seemed so clear as the testimony Sister Moss bore of being worthy and prepared for the Lord to work through you to touch the lives of His children. She referenced Him as the Great Nurturer, and I loved that idea. He is so involved in our lives that he knows what we need, no matter how small or how insignificant we view it as.
While I loved her thoughts on the role of women, what really has stayed with me is what she said about communicating with the Lord. I don’t know that she realized how simply beautiful she said it, multiple times, but it really touched me: “and God said to me…” That was it, before she would continue on to tell another story, or make another observation. This simple phrase stuck with me, and thinking about it the past few days, I realized (more powerfully than ever before) that we have this amazing opportunity not only to speak to God, but to speak with God. I think we often see prayer as rather one-sided in our daily prayers, and don’t take full advantage of the opportunity we have to have a talk with our Heavenly Father. I know I don’t seek silence enough in my daily life, or on a regular basis, to really have the strongest relationship I could have with Heavenly Father.
As an illustration of both of her points as well as the power of love that is strengthened by the Lord, Sister Moss shared a letter written by a Civil War officer serving as a Judge Advocate, Major Sullivan Ballou of the Second Rhode Island Infantry, to his wife Sarah. This letter is perhaps one of the best known written in the war, given the beauty of the letter itself, and the circumstances surrounding Sullivan and Sarah.
Leading his men to battle at The First Battle of Bull Run (known also as First Manassas), Sullivan was severely wounded and carried from the field; he died a week after the Union defeat, and was buried in Virginia. He had written several letters home to Sarah and his two young sons, William and Edgar, and they had been received, though dated after the now-famous letter. This letter, dated 14 July, 1861 and marked from Washington, DC, was found among his belongings and carried home to Sarah by Rhode Island Governor William Sprague, who had traveled to Virginia to bring home the remains of the Rhode Island men who had fallen in battle.
An excerpt from the letter:
…Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me – perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar — that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night — amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours – always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
As Sister Moss read this, I couldn’t help but tear up. It is so beautifully written, and sums up what love really ought to be, and how the Lord is in every relationship that is truly loving. It also reminded me that love – and God’s love – extends beyond what we can imagine in this mortal existence, moving in multiple directions simultaneously. The letter was also a reminder of the fact that God knows exactly what we need – I imagine that Sarah needed this letter more than anything else the day she found out out that her dear husband had been killed, and that his body had been exhumed and desecrated by Confederate soldiers. A small token in the eyes of others, but a priceless gift to Sarah.
Our Relief Society “Daddy-Daughter Date with God” taught me so many wonderful things that, although appearing to be very simple, are such gifts and blessings: that communication with God is real and not just one sided, that we are called to nurture, and that Heavenly Father blesses us with gifts that are so personal and are just for us.
I could not have imagined a more perfect Valentine’s week than focusing on the love that our Heavenly Father has for us, and how that love is able to strengthen our relationships with others.