On Self-Evaluation: Special Guest Post by Denisa

Happy Monday! (For values of “Happy” that include “still stuck in pandemic mode, and likely to remain there”) Denisa was asked to give a talk in church over the weekend, and I liked it so much, I asked her if she’d be willing to let me post it here. She was taken aback by the request (I guess she didn’t think it was as good as I did?), but she ultimately agreed. The talk touches on a lot of things I’ve been thinking as well. (When you’re stuck in social distancing mode, there’s a whole lot of time to think . . .)

Anyway–without further ado, here’s Denisa’s talk:


Good morning,

Soon after COVID-19 closed Maine down in March, I started hearing from friends about all the fun-at-home-things they were doing—making art, spring cleaning, cooking, meditating, doing jigsaw puzzles. And, I was jealous. I was jealous because when the schools closed, my life only got busier. It is true that I wasn’t driving to work and driving kids to lessons and practice and dentists and orthodontists, but I as many of you had to figure out how to do my job and my calling from home. Having never done any teaching online, this was difficult for me and certainly took some effort to get used to.

One thing I kept coming back to was what a colleague said about teaching, “figure out what the basics are, what is most important, and do that”. Of the many things I could’ve taught in my classes at UMF and in seminary I needed to find the foundation/the basics/the gist and make sure we focused on that. This, while simply said, seemed like a lot of work because it meant I had to evaluate what I was doing, instead of just keep going like I was planning on before. It’s familiar and comforting to do what you always have done, and to do it the way you’ve always done it. It takes less energy and much less time to take the traditional approach, but living in this new and socially distanced world required me to go through the change. I had to change my thinking first and then align my actions with it, and though the new way of thinking seemed unfamiliar and strange, I knew it was what needed to be done.

It seems we continue to be experiencing a time of many changes. BC—before Corona, the news of the degradation of our environment including human-caused pollution of our land, water and air and the loss of biodiversity this leads to, was constantly on my mind. I read about it, talked to those who knew more about the situation than I did, and I evaluated my life and actions and resolved to make some changes, for example, in what I choose to eat, and where and how I shop.

The ever-changing news about the spread of Corona and the recent protests have made me rethink and evaluate where I stand on equality and human rights, science, health, and even economy growth. I don’t doubt these thoughts occupy your mind as well. We may have found out that we didn’t quite understand the situation and need to put forth more time and effort to correct this, or we may have noticed we’re not as accepting of others as we thought and that in reality, we care more about some things than what we always believed.

Evaluation and introspection should always be a part of our lives. I almost always dread the time when I look at my class evaluations and read what my students thought about my class and me as their professor. I try to do a good job, but I know my teaching style doesn’t fit well with everyone. In general, I’m usually nicely surprised, but there is always that one or two students who waited the whole semester for the opportunity to say just how much work I need to do to improve. While I don’t enjoy reading those evaluations, I do learn from them and they in turn cause me to look at my teaching through their eyes and again reevaluate to find out if in fact I should change some things. Dismissing the comments of those who say there is a problem would be shortsighted and would make the evaluations a waste of everyone’s time. Just because I didn’t see the problem (as I was comfortable in my own teaching, or living), doesn’t mean there is no problem.

In the past general conference, Elder Gary Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reviewed some of the history of the construction of the Salt Lake Temple and explained upgrades that the temple is undergoing right now. The building was evaluated, and it was discovered that it has been cared for well for the 127 years since it’s dedication, but new advances in engineering (that were unimaginable at the time the temple was built) made the renovation including earthquake protection possible. It was Brigham Young’s hope to see “the temple built in a manner that it will endure through the millennium”. And so, the temple is now closed, so the needed seismic upgrades can be made, that it can endure through the millennium. Will there be more extensive upgrades in another 127 years? I would think so.

All temples have an inscription on them that reads “a house of the Lord”. In 1841 (coincidentally, the same year as our house here in Farmington was built) the Saints were instructed to build a temple in Nauvoo, so the priesthood could be restored there: We read about this in D&C 124: 27-28

27 And with iron, with copper, and with brass, and with zinc, and with all your precious things of the earth; and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein.

28 For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and arestore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.”

The original Nauvoo temple was destroyed by fire in 1848, but it was rebuilt, and it was dedicated in 2002. Great care was taken to make it a close to the original as possible.

Our house here in Farmington is just a house—we love it and have been slowly working on it, and though it has a beautiful spiral staircase, it is just a house for people. The Nauvoo and the Salt Lake Temple and all the rest of the 166 working Latter-Day Saint temples were built as houses of the Lord, so the workmanship and the furnishings are as close to perfection as was possible when they were built. On the other hand, you would likely not be surprised by the uneven floors and may other flaws of our house on Knowlton Corner.

Yet, the houses of the Lord require updates and renovations even extensive projects like the one taking place at the Salt Lake Temple right now. Perfection as we understand it in this mortal world cannot achieved all at once, it depends on information available to us and understanding of it we have at the time. And, so the Salt Lake Temple while built to perfection standards for 1893, needs work.

There is a lot we can learn from this—we should not let ourselves believe that we have a perfect understanding of things, but we should be willing to continue learning and developing ourselves, so we can be close to the perfection the Lord asked as to strive for while we’re here. This includes being willing to listen to and hear others with the goal of understanding. We know our Heavenly Father loves all of us and His love is what we know as the pure love of Christ—charity which is defined in 1 Corinthians 13 and Moroni 7:45:

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

In Moroni 7:48, understanding what charity is, we’re told what we must do:

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.

When Christ visited the Nephites on the American continent after his resurrection, he took time for His people. He didn’t ask for those who were doing just fine, were well taken care of, who did not experience any difficulties—although that would’ve no doubt taken so much less of His time. He asked for those who needed healing as we read in 3 Nephi 17:7:

Have ye any that are asick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or bleprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will cheal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

He asked for those who were in the need of physical healing but ended by asking for those who are “afflicted in any manner”. I believe this would include those of us who are feeling comfy because all is going well for us—we’re set in our traditional thinking and living, “not looking for more light and knowledge”. This kind of life in missing the point of being here on the earth and the point of learning “line upon line, precept upon precept”.

So, if we are the ones who forgot to reevaluate and needed a big jolt, it is not too late. During this Corona time, may we take time to evaluate our lives as we have to change them to keep ourselves and our families safe. May we look for what is the most important.

My mission president, President Sorenson, would often ask us what he called “the hard questions”. These were questions designed to redirect us to the basics and stop worrying about how much success we had while on our missions.

Here are 3 of his hard questions:

  1. Is there a God?
  2. Is Jesus Christ the Savior?
  3. Is the Book of Mormon true?

While the difficulties of the missionary work didn’t go away, when we acknowledged God and Jesus Christ are in charge and that the Book of Mormon is true, we knew we would find the answers to some of the tough questions missions and life bring.

May we too look for those answers as we reevaluate our thinking and our life through speaking with our Heavenly Father, reading the scriptures, and pondering what we have to do.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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