«Kathy D. Pullins is assistant dean of the BYU Law School. She is the chair of the 1998 Women's Conference planning committee. She is a convert to the ...»
Meditating and Mediating:
Finding and Offering the Savior's Peace
Kathy D. Pullins
Kathy D. Pullins is assistant dean of the BYU Law School. She is the chair of the 1998
Women's Conference planning committee. She is a convert to the Church and an avid
© 1998 Kathy D. Pullins. All rights reserved.
Late last summer I learned that I would be one of the plenary speakers for this
conference. May I just say, I'll never again be bothered by receiving short—even impromptu—notice to give a talk. Knowing nine months in advance—literally enough time to bring a baby to term—about a responsibility such as this is an exercise I don't think my soul could survive again!
As I was deciding on a topic, my thoughts turned quickly to mediation, a subject I've studied and I currently teach. Then I quickly attached meditation as part of the discussion, hoping that in my desire to present this message well, I'd have to have some real-life experience with this soulful reflection in order to talk with you about it. Well, I haven't traveled to Tibet or even Tooele for a meditative retreat, but I have been taught a few things I hope I can share with you in a meaningful way today.
The most important thing I've learned—or relearned—is that when we yearn for understanding and inspiration, when our minds and hearts race and our souls reach out, our Heavenly Father, as our opening hymn affirms, "reaches [our] reaching" (Hymns [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985], no. 129). With that in mind, I can face this awesome task; for I know that however small my contribution will be to this effort today, he will reach to fill in the rest.
Meditation and mediation, two words distinguished only by a T. As I began thinking about the two of them, I immediately felt there was a strong connection between them. Then my thinking and research led me to spend quite a bit of time exploring them as separate concepts and exercises. On the other side of that effort, I looked for linkage between the two, only to discover that the connection is almost as close as their spelling. Quite simply, we meditate to draw closer to our Heavenly Father; we are able to do so because of the mediation of our Redeemer between us and the Father. Then, when we have gathered the peace and inspiration from this process, we commit ourselves to follow the Savior's example. This can lead us, when we observe conflict, to offer to mediate and thus offer peace to others.
So, how do we become such a conduit for peace? How do we effectively meditate and what skills do we need to develop in order to then mediate when given the opportunity?
First, let's consider the quest for meditation that taps these divine resources.
Obviously, the turbulence and discontent of mortality does not offer peace. In recent years, the two days of this conference I've shared with many of you have come to represent to me a refuge from the distraction and distortion of the world. I leave here with a more peaceful soul. This year, we are exploring the conference theme found in Moroni 9:25. I'd like to focus for a moment on the last five words of that verse: "rest in your mind forever." I think that the verb rest is used to convey more than a mere "settling in" or "finding of place." It speaks of peace and acceptance of Christ's mission. Mormon writes his precious son, Moroni, a heartfelt letter in which he acknowledges the sin-laden, "past-feeling" world they live in. Yet, even against this tortured backdrop, Mormon admonishes his son to be faithful, believing, and strong. He wishes for Moroni (and for each of us as we read his words and are taught) meaningful understanding of the Savior's atoning sacrifice. This understanding allows peace to rest within us despite external turmoil. It's the type of rest mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants 43:34—"Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds"—that Mormon wishes for each of us. And, at times, we must rest and not be anxious as the Lord's timing unfolds; for in Psalm 37:7, David urges us to "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
In today's self-help literature, the soul is a popular topic. Best-sellers instruct us in how to care for it, how to discover peace and the sacred in our everyday lives. Meditation can be defined as such an exercise of the soul. But in the context of the gospel, the definition is expanded and deepened: 2 Nephi 4:15 instructs us that one of the things that delights our souls is the study of the scriptures. In addition, President Brigham Young stressed that our "first and foremost duty [is] seeking unto the Lord our God until we open the path of communication from heaven to earth—from God to our own souls" (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954], 41).
For our purposes today, then, I speak of meditation as that communication that accesses peace. It is that soul-searching, reflecting, pondering contemplation that President James E. Faust encouraged at the general Young Women's meeting this past March  when he urged those beautiful young daughters of God to "hold your soul very still, and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Follow the noble, intuitive feelings planted deep within your souls by Deity in the previous world" (Ensign, May 1998, 97).
Are you concerned with the comparison of your lives of perpetual motion to stillness? I am. What do I need to learn about stillness and its relationship to establishing a loving, replenishing relationship with our Father in Heaven? The scriptures hold the answers as they also urge us to practice stillness. Psalm 46:10 and Doctrine and Covenants 101:16 command us to "be still, and know that I am God." The kind of stillness that invites the Spirit to instruct us is one of quiet repose and focus.
President David O. McKay has defined meditation as "the language of the soul." He points to our weekly recommitment to our baptismal covenants as we partake of the sacrament and speak our daily private prayers as times of meditation when we feel the "yearnings of the soul to reach out to feel the presence of God" (Conference Report, April 1946, 113, 115). Similarly, Elder Franklin D. Richards concluded that meditation includes thinking, planning, analyzing, praying and fasting (Conference Report, October 1964, 76).
I am comforted by these definitions, because, like many other things I've learned in the gospel, I had supposed that meditation was a finished state; but the yearnings President McKay and Elder Richards describe sound more like a process, an ongoing effort. Like you, I imagine, when I seek to feel the presence of God, I'm not often able to leave my responsibilities behind to climb to a mountaintop and breathe in the quiet of wooded silence or spend a day at a deserted beach on an outcropping of rock, meditating and communing with God. I know this is not yet my season for stillness and aloneness; indeed, I may never have or even require one of those in order to progress. So, in my need now, I must search for soulful peace and discover it en route; I must order my meditation "to go."
With that said, let me add that I hope you and I do have those occasional times when we have the setting and the time to shut out the world's interference and renew and refresh.
In the meantime, how can we be still—at least momentarily—and gather peace? What allows you—if only for an instant—to meditate, to recharge your soul?
I have two pictures I see nearly every day on my "beaten path" that inspire such meditation in me. One is a photograph that I took some years ago on my first trip back East.
It was a beautiful summer day, and as I followed the path down from Thomas Jefferson's beloved Monticello, I came around a bend and was suddenly overcome by the beauty of the scene just in front of me. Standing amid the lush greenness, dappled by summer sunlight, I was struck by beauty and a Sacred Grove kind of reverence. My soul was captivated by the scene, and I knew I needed to "be still" as the scriptures direct; I could almost hear the Lakota tribal saying admonish me: "The trail is beautiful. Be still." I wanted to capture those feelings, to carry them with me from that place and access them when my heart and mind were unfocused and in need of peace. When I remembered that I had my camera with me, I decided to take a couple of pictures. I admittedly am not an expert photographer—I'm known in our family for being spatially inept: when I point the camera at a scene, somehow I manage to get the focal point, usually a group of people, off-center while I preserve for posterity the blank wall above their heads! As a result, I had little confidence that, once developed, the pictures would communicate any part of what the actual experience had meant to me. Surprisingly and blessedly, the picture did turn out, and every time I look at it, it speaks peace and replenishment to my soul.
Another literal reminder of the source of true peace in this life is a picture of the Savior by Gary Kapp that hangs above the stairs in our home. If I lift my eyes as I race down from my bedroom towards the front door, I see this portrayal of my Redeemer, the bearer of truth and light to a darkening world. In an instant, this picture can remind me of his intercession for me with my Father. It also instructs me as to why I seek peace: not merely to achieve some "inner level of being" but that I might be a better servant, that I might offer peace as my Savior did and does.
What triggers your meditation, your process of gathering peace as you move quickly through your day? In preparation for this time with you, I conducted a nonscientific survey and received the following answers to that question. A friend answered by describing the replenishment he feels while he is sculpting. When his hands are productively engaged in this familiar activity, his mind is left to meditate, to reflect and recommit to true principles.
Another dear friend of mine who has children who range from early elementary school to mission age responded, "The closest thing I practice to meditation happens when I'm in the car alone, usually on the way to pick someone up to deliver them somewhere else. I can invoke relative quiet and must sit still in my seat. Often, I utter a prayer as I drive, and I can feel a real connection to my Heavenly Father." Because this friend has, on many occasions, brought calmness and perspective to my troubled soul, I know she finds peace in her Suburban or she wouldn't have it to offer to me.
Which brings me to the reason that we meditate to seek peace: so we can be instruments in the Lord's hands in giving peace to our sisters and brothers. Thomas a Kempis, a German author of religious texts who lived in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, taught that we cannot offer what we do not have; thus, we must keep peace within ourselves before we can give it to others. The first two verses of our opening hymn today ask, "Where Can I Turn for Peace?" When our hearts are aching and wounded by anger, where do we find solace and wholeness for our souls? The third verse answers that privately, lovingly, the peace comes from our "Savior and Friend."
Similarly, in John 14:27, the Savior offers peace that will soothe our troubled, fearful hearts; and two chapters later, in 16:33, he speaks of his peace in contrast to the tribulation of the world: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
The Savior knows our times, and he knows our hearts. He also understands the effect that such unrest can have upon our souls, and he offers perspective that allows us to find joy even amidst the tribulation. As we meditate, we seek inspiration; and the Holy Ghost seeks to convey the Savior's empathy and love. In our world filled with noise and motion, the Spirit will not shout to get our attention; we must allow its whisperings to get through to us.
And what will the Spirit instruct us to do? To love and serve one another.
Thus, the reason the Lord urges us to draw near unto him through prayer and meditation is so we can speak and act in his name. He encourages us to strive for unity of purpose with Heavenly Father through him, to be "one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one" (D&C 35:2). What we must seek to do, then, is to take the peace, the connection with the divine, the understanding that we have of Heavenly Father's love for us because of our Savior's atoning and mediating acts; and, in an unbroken line, extend that love and accompanying peace to others.
As I was meeting with President Merrill J. Bateman a couple of weeks ago, he asked how my talk was coming and made the following observation about meditation and mediation: "They are one and the same to the Lord." As I reflected upon his comment, I was reminded of Doctrine and Covenants 59:23: "But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." Our service, if offered in righteousness, with "love unfeigned" (2 Corinthians 6:6), becomes a kind of meditation in that it draws us closer to God and replenishes the peace within our souls.
Let's focus now on that type of service that offers a way to bring peaceful resolution to the inevitable conflicts in our lives and the lives of others. The Beatitudes affirm that "blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9).
In a general conference session in 1930, Elder Hyrum G. Smith urged all members of the Church to increase their efforts toward peacemaking. "We should all be peacemakers, every one of us, first with ourselves, in our homes, and then with our neighbors. I bespeak for you, my brethren and sisters, a further degree of energy and diligence in the preparation for peace in our own homes and in our own hearts" (Conference Report, October 1930, 111).
What is mediation and what are the skills of a mediator, a peacemaker, who is seeking to follow the Savior's example? How do we acquire and hone these skills and then effectively apply them in our spheres of influence?