I was at a Best of EFY, about to speak to about 1300 young people and their leaders. My files were in order, the scriptures and music accompaniment were ready so I could properly deliver my portion of the program.
But just before I was to get up and stand at the podium, I felt a strong impression to go in a very different direction. You know the feeling? You’re ready to share a talk, a presentation, or a lesson when you are powerfully prompted to go in a different direction?
Not wanting to offend the Holy Spirit, I slowly got up and moved to the podium. Standing there for what seemed minutes (I’m sure it was only a few seconds, but you know that sense of, “Ummmm…”), I began by sharing how grateful I was to be there. (I love speaking and sharing with anyone who will listen. To have teenagers with ears to hear is the best, ever.)
Then I said something like this:
I came here to share some information and my testimony of faith. But I’ve been prompted to do something totally different. I need to tell you that I love you. You need to know that our Father in Heaven is aware of you, that He cares about you and knows your circumstances. He loves you. So does your Savior, Jesus Christ. His job – His mission – is to shepherd you, lovingly, so that you turn toward His righteous teachings and feel His holy love.
On I went – sharing about divine love, the gift of the Holy Ghost, whose power allows us to feel that love and guidance, and what a blessing it is to love and to be loved in such a divine way.
Near the end, I was completely overwhelmed with the feelings inside myself. Through tears, and a squeaky unappealing voice I’m sure, I looked out over the large group of beautiful teenagers and their caring leaders, to say, “You are loved. Maybe that is the only reason I came here. To let you know that God in Heaven loves you and that Jesus Christ loves you.”
“Were Jesus to come into this chapel/cultural hall area today, through the side door up here, I believe that before He left us, He would start at this front row and move slowly down the aisle, then over to the middle and then to the other side. Then He would start on the next aisle, and the next, until He had stood in front of each one of us. He would look us in the eye, and tell us we are loved.”
“For some of us, it would be a delight to look into His loving eyes. Others of us may hang our head in shame, not wanting to look the Savior in the eyes. But He would lift our chins (He is in the business of lifting us, isn’t He?) and tell us He loves us. There is not a single person in this large room who would NOT feel that powerful, potent, divine love. And we would be changed. We would be better, we would do better, because of the love that radiated into our being.”
By this time, I was weeping as much as I was able to speak. But the Holy Spirit opened hearts and ears. There was listening going on. There was hearing. There was sacred understanding happening. For all of us.
At the end of the entire program, a number of young people came up to hug me and tell me that there was a change they had felt inside. The look in their eye allowed me to know that it was true.
Later, a bishop approached to say he would like to speak to me. This brother quietly shared a few personal things, and then said, “I needed those words today. You may have thought you were coming to speak to youth, but it was I who needed to hear that message.”
I tell you this because I learned some important lessons that long ago day:
1. Do what the Holy Spirit tells you to do. There are reasons – important ones – for us to follow the guidance given.
2. We may not know why we receive a particular prompting for an hour, a day, or on this side of the veil. For sure, however, we are better off when we follow through.
3. When we speak by the power of the Holy Ghost- especially, it seems, when we go in a different direction than we intended – the Lord has a desire to touch hearts and souls on a very deep and personal level.
4. Those who speak, and receive the promptings, receive the greatest blessings and insights. Never have I come away from a Spirit filled speaking assignment without feeling like I was the one who was blessed. I was the one who strengthened, taught, and uplifted most of all.
5. A pattern is set to listen to the promptings. At all times. In all places. Even when a momentary panic sets in because we feel unprepared for a change of plans. The Lord knows what He’s doing. And He’ll help us deliver. Because the Shepherd loves His sheep.
“As I have loved you, love one another.” This is a beautiful and often quoted scripture. We can love one another in multitudes of ways. One interesting, and blessed, one is to go with the Holy Ghost. Sometimes it takes courage to say the things He guides us to say. At times, we may be taken by surprise. But we are all involved in holy work, when we’re working in our callings. He will help us fulfill them with greater ability and with more loving kindness.
I only heard from one person at that conference, once it was over. That one person had a huge impact on my life and on my teaching from that point forward.
“I was planning to leave that conference, go home, and check out of mortality. I felt worthless and completely unlovable. I’m not sure what happened, but I felt the power of love.
I felt the power of your testimony. I felt loved. These past few years, I’ve made a turn-around, and find that there are joys to be had and happiness to feel. Thank you, Sister Vickey, for following the prompting. I will be forever grateful.”
I sat and wept, reading her words. The Savior is interested in the “one”. Each one is valuable to Him beyond measure. Enough to push one young speaker out of her comfort zone and plead “Tell them you love them.” There was much more He wanted me to share. It was all based on the beautiful principle of divine love.
Aren’t we the luckiest people in the world? We may be guided directly, personally, lovingly to recognize His great love for us even as we share that testimony with others.
I love you. Somehow, I feel love for you as I write this column. And for sure, He loves you. Enough that, these many years later it was brought to my mind so that I could share it with you today. We are all much loved!
Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, and grandmother who joined the LDS Church as a teenager. She is a songwriter, author, and public speaker. Her website is www.goodnessmatters.com, where she offers an online spot to share goodness, faith, and hope in simple ways. Her undergraduate study was in Musical Theater, and has a Masters degree in communications.
She has taught Church youth & family programs for more than 25 years, has written books, hundreds of columns, & created hundreds of songs all with the intent of growing goodness and pointing people to Christ. She also writes for the website www.nauvootimes.com.
Vickey loves nature, going on drives with her hubby, laughter, brownies and tootsie rolls. She teaches Gospel Doctrine in her ward. Her husband, Dean, serves in the bishopric. They are the parents of eight children and have seven grandchildren.