strength and decay

This morning, I listened to a Face to Face with President Eyring and Elder Holland. In the church to which I belong, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members or leaders of the church host events such as this as broadcast, usually with a certain demographic population in mind. This one was targeted toward the youth of the church, so generally 12-18 years of age. The goal of these events, at least as I see it, is to give members of the church an opportunity to feel the spirit and to seek and receive answers to their questions.

The first question was asked by a sister in Mexico, “What can you do if you feel your faith is decaying?” (Watch here) Elder Holland excitedly expressed loving her use of the word decay suggests that a testimony is living and that it is organic. 
It made me think a lot about where my testimony is…how are its current standards of living? Is it barely alive? Or is it thriving and flourishing?
I love gardening…truly I am my mothers daughter. I can’t begin to express how much joy it has brought me as my garden flowers have begun to emerge from the ground. I’ve worried about them all winter. Would my perennials survive? Would the flowers that struggled last year come back? Slowly, as I watched the daffodils, then the tulips and hyacinths emerge my heart was filled with hope, then with anticipation for what was to come. As I learned last year, in my first year of independent gardening…there is a visible difference between a plant that is barely surviving and one that is thriving.
As I went to church and pondered this further…I heard the word decay again (all before 9:15 am). This time in the words of a hymn (Abide with Me, Hymn 166), “change and decay in all around I see.” This time decay brought on a different thought for me. I thought of the decay of morals which seems to be so prevalent in my day. Yesterday in talking with a friend, she shared that another acquaintance of ours had left the church. I’d known that she moved and that she was dating someone…what I didn’t realize was that she moved to another state to live with him, simultaneously abandoning her previous religious beliefs. These realizations are always somewhat difficult for me. Even if I don’t know someone well, when I hear that they’re living in outright rebellion, my heart hurts for them. Subsequently, I also become extremely concerned about my faith..was it growing or decaying? 
Last but not least, decay also reminds me of teeth. You know…dental decay also known as a cavity. Having many issues with my teeth through the years, I am acutely aware of the lingering damage decay can lead to. If a dentist does not completely get rid of the decay before filling a cavity…that decay can and will continue to grow causing further deterioration of your tooth and for me…needing root canals. Any level of decay is dangerous. We must be in a strict regimen of taking care of our teeth and protecting them from decay.
And so…why decay? Well because its all around us. It’s the enemy of what I want. So what is it that I want after all? What is the opposite of decay?
Strengthening. To keep our testimonies from decaying we strengthen them by praying and reading the scriptures. To keep our flowers from decaying we water, fertilize and plant them in fertile soil. To keep our morals from decaying, we serve others, we make intentional choices about what we are doing and why. And to keep our teeth from decaying…we brush, floss, and in my case, use high fluoride toothpaste. 
Just like building muscle doesn’t come passively, strengthening anything takes work, effort and pain. There will be times where we will still struggle. Expect it. But don’t give up just because you’re experiencing it. Pain is part of the process. 
The ultimate strength comes through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He supplies our need. I am so grateful for him. I am grateful to have experienced decay so I can recognize the building of spiritual strength and spiritual muscle through spiritual work. My confidence lies in him. I pray that we may be able to have him abide with us.

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