Speak from the Heart

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A Story Shared by Kathleen Barnes

I feel like Alma when he said, "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea," he said, "I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth" (Alma 29:1–2).

I, too, have wished that I could tell those around me in a way that they could hear, that life for them could be more wonderful if they knew what I knew and had what I had. But Alma's insightful message continues: "But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me" (Alma 29:3).

And so we ask, "What has the Lord allotted me and what am I to do with it? I feel so much and yet there seems to be so little I can effectively do."

"Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?

"I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me: yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy" (Alma 29:6, 9).

To do, as Alma says, the work that we have been called to perform and to be an instrument in the hands of God is our task and our joy. To allow our light to shine by virtue of righteousness is our privilege.

On one occasion, while standing on the street in Salt Lake City, a woman approached me, asked a couple of questions, and then launched a verbal attack. She began by categorizing Mormon women as brainwashed and subservient. She accused us of coercing our children and striping them of their abilities to make independent decisions. (She obviously didn't know some of our children.) She claimed we forced others to our way of thinking. She implied that Mormon women were illiterate and mindless. Her anger and misguided information could not be argued.

She had clearly formed a judgment against us that was so comprehensive I knew I could not turn it around. Frankly, I didn't dare try because she was much bigger than I am, and I was certain that one blow from her hefty arm would find me a blob on the sidewalk.

I could do nothing but listen and let her unload. After what seemed endless minutes of painful verbal abuse, she appeared satisfied that she had sufficiently impacted me with her message. When we speak of fear, I can tell you that I knew fear at that moment. I felt physically threatened as well as painfully wounded by her words. When she had exhausted her attack she fell silent.

And then in that moment, I began to respond, saying the only thing I could think of to say. "Someday," I said, "you may open your door to some young Latter-day Saint missionaries. Before you slam it, please remember that somewhere they have a mother just like you and just like me, who is praying for them and for those they meet. Then you might want to say, 'I met a Mormon woman once, and she told me that she was the happiest person alive. She said her happiness did not come from riches or fame. Her happiness was rooted deeply in her heart and came from a rich understanding of life and her connection to her Savior. She said she lived with a kind of joy and peace that comes from God. She said she wished that I, too, could know that kind of joy.' And then at that point, if you want to, you can tell those young missionaries, 'Thank you, but I am not interested in your message!' "The woman hung her head for a moment, quietly muttered, "thanks" then turned and walked away.

Sisters, I learned that when all else fails, just speak from your heart. We need not be timid nor do we need to defend ourselves. A simple expression of feelings can often diffuse an attack.

Kathleen Barnes - BYU Women's Conference April 27, 2000