Talk in Church

On July 30 2017, Reilly and I spoke in Church. I’ve decided to post my talk here for posterity.  And kicks. You’ll see that I spent the first third of the talk introducing us, since we are relatively new in our ward. I was pretty lighthearted and included some jokey inflections in my voice. Then I got a little more serious and decided to share more of myself, being just vague enough about my imperfections as well as admitting (vaguely) some of my struggles. If I spoke quickly enough, this talk would have been under 10 minutes, but I applied a nice cadence and switched up tempos throughout, so it ended up being closer to 15 minutes. Enjoy. Or not. 

Good morning. I am May Ryan. My handsome, smart, selfless, and sort of muscley and strong husband is Reilly Ryan. Reilly works at Diamond Fork Jr High in Spanish Fork, teaching 8th grade English. I work at a content and publishing company in Sugarhouse, maintaining a cancer diagnosis app. We’ve been married for five years and we have a 3yr old daughter named Z. We have been in the ward for 7.5 months, and we really love it here.

As more of an introduction, Reilly and I met in a Provo singles ward in August 2011. I was walking home from dinner at a friend’s house and happened upon ward prayer in my neighborhood cul-de-sac. I was new in the ward. Earlier that day at church someone had invited me over for a potluck, but I couldn’t remember where it was, and I wanted to check it out, even though I had just eaten.

While I’m not the most social person and I usually didn’t attend ward prayer, I needed to find out where this potluck was, but not because of the food. I was single, and because I was in a new ward, I had resolved to make myself try harder at getting to know people, even though large groups are intimidating.

I stepped into the crowd and asked a random person about the potluck. She said she didn’t know anything about it, but she pointed and said I could probably ask that bald guy over there. I didn’t see where she had pointed, so I approached the first bald guy I saw. That was Reilly.

We stood in the middle of that cul-de-sac, and I tuned everybody else out to focus on our conversation. I found out that we were both English majors. He graduated from the University of Utah, and I would be graduating that following April from BYU. We chatted about books and movies and music, and I was excited to talk with someone with whom I have so much in common.

Needless to say, Reilly Ryan thwarted my Sunday plans. During our chat, going to the potluck was the furthest thing from my mind. But it couldn’t have ended better.

We got married June 1, 2012. Our daughter Z was born in April 2014, when we were both in the middle of grad school. Our life together has been a marvelous journey so far.

Part of that journey includes speaking to you in church today. Time will tell if this experience ends up being marvelous or not. I’ll try to be optimistic.

In our remarks, Reilly and I will address the question, How will faith and obedience fortify me in today’s world? We will draw upon a talk by Elder L. Whitney Clayton from this past April’s General Conference called, “Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It.” This is a wonderful talk that has helped me focus my thoughts, and I pray that the Spirit will guide my words in their meaning and message.

Elder Clayton begins his talk with the story of the wedding at Cana in John chapter 2. Verses 1-11 read:

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Elder Clayton points out that we recognize this story because it demonstrates Jesus’ power early on. It’s his first miracle. But as in most scripture stories, there can be multiple layers and lessons, and in this story, the lesson we focus on here regarding faith and obedience is in Mary’s instructions to the servants: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

Mary’s confidence reminds us of who she is and how she came to give such straightforward direction. Mary is the mother of Jesus. As many parents with their children, Mary knows her son more than anyone. She knows his quirks, his tendencies. She knows that he is sinless, he is perfect. The Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 25:3 states, “he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him.”

When Mary says to the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it,” she’s saying she knows of the Savior’s divinity, his ability to save our souls. She’s saying that He is someone, the only one, we should have faith in.

How will faith and obedience fortify me in today’s world? The fourth Article of Faith says the first principle of the gospel is faith IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Not just general faith. Faith in anything else will not sufficiently equip me to handle today’s seemingly numerous and relentless trials.

What is it about today’s world that makes life so difficult? What present challenges make faith and obedience especially crucial? We have many examples in the Bible and Book of Mormon of people struggling and exercising faith during those earlier dispensations. We have stories from early church history of saints facing different difficulties. We can gain inspiration from reading about all of these experiences. We can liken the principles taught to our lives. We know that we live in a unique time, and since the topic specifies today’s world, I have reflected on the years I have lived on the earth and some of the particular temptations that have tested my faith and obedience.

In the 80s, my dad introduced my mom to the church, and she was baptized when I was 6, and I got baptized when I was 8. I lived most of my childhood during the 80s in Florida, where I had a fascination with fire, and I remember taking books of matches from my house to the nearby playground and gathering kindling to start fires to watch them burn. These were always small fires that I extinguished pretty quickly, and this phase didn’t last very long. I’m not sure, but that was probably because I got caught and got in trouble. I conveniently don’t remember.

In the ’80s also emerged of MTV, which was really enticing with the adding of often spiritually toxic videos to already bad lyrics and a good beat and catchy melody. Media of all types had started to sneak their way into my mind.

The ’90s immersed my teenage and early adulthood years with increased intensity of what I was exposed to in the 80s. More tv, more music, more movies. Peer pressure invading my mind, I learned things I would have never seen or heard about in my home or from my family.

For the most part, I was a very faithful and obedient child and teenager. My parents and church family taught and supported me well. My friends were good and decent and wholesome people. I was a good student, graduating 2nd in my high school class, and I was accepted to BYU. I went to mutual. I went to early morning seminary. I earned my YW in Excellence Award. I kept going to church when my parents went inactive for a time.

It’s so weird to look back at the ‘80s and ‘90s and say these were simpler times, but the 2000s brought the seriousness of adulthood to my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, much less as a career, so I took a detour and moved with friends to New York City. I spent almost 7 years there. The entire world in all its aspects unfolded itself to me in that one place. The accumulation and amplification of every temptation I had been exposed to growing up and more was there. Furthermore in the 2000s was the full unleashing of the internet and the myriad potential ways it could derail someone like me from living the gospel.

There were bad influences in NYC, but I remember most fondly all the goodness it offered, too. I made some of my best friends there. The church is strong there. Members there struggle and fight, probably a lot like members everywhere do. There were times I wavered in my faith, but I always knew the gospel was true, and that my life had purpose. After trying to attend a singles ward for several months, I decided my time would be better served and I would feel more comfortable in a family ward. I served in the nursery. I served as a ward missionary. I also taught early morning seminary for two years. When I was there, serving others kept me on the right path.

And so we come to this decade. We could probably discuss and make a list of ways the world has changed in the last 7-10 years. Elder Clayton, in his talk, tells a story of speaking to a young bishop that spent several hours a week counseling members of his ward. He said, “The problems that members of his ward faced … were those faced by Church members everywhere—issues such as how to establish a happy marriage; struggles with balancing work, family, and Church duties; challenges with the Word of Wisdom, with employment, or with pornography; or trouble gaining peace about a Church policy or historical question they didn’t understand.”

This bishop often advised his ward members to “get back to simple practices of faith, such as studying the Book of Mormon, paying tithing, and serving in the Church with devotion.” He said, “Frequently, however, the members’ response to their bishop was one of skepticism: They said, ‘I don’t agree with you, Bishop. We all know those are good things to do. We talk about those things all the time in the Church. But I’m not sure you’re understanding me. What does doing any of those things have to do with the issues I’m facing?’”

That could have been me a number of times in the last 10 years talking to that bishop. I have questions and issues that I wrestle with. Most of the time they are about people I love and their relationship with the Church. My spirituality ebbs and flows, and when I am in the lower moments, it can be hard to know or remember what to do.

Elder Clayton says faith and obedience go hand in hand, that obedience is an act of faith. He says that those who obey in “seemingly little ways are blessed with faith and strength that go far beyond the actual acts of obedience themselves and, in fact, may seem totally unrelated to them. It may seem hard to draw a connection between the basic daily acts of obedience and solutions to the big, complicated problems we face. But they are related.”

Obedience is an act of faith in Christ, and the more we obey, the more we are blessed with faith. The more faith we have, the stronger we are to obey, even in the face of today’s barrage of mega-challenges. Christ can do that for us. He can fortify us. He can save us.

Reflecting upon the story of the wedding of Cana, perhaps the answer to the question, How will faith and obedience fortify me in today’s world? is another question: How do I come to know Christ the way Mary does? To answer that question, I wish I had something deeper than the little things, the “primary answers,” but it’s the little things that are truly profound and lead to growth. They set the foundation for progressing toward keeping higher covenants. Being diligent in my obedience as a child prepared me for many difficulties I faced growing up. Being faithful and obedient now motivate me to keep going to church, remind me to count my blessings, and reassure me the Lord knows my concerns and will provide the answers I need in his time.

“Whatsoever he saith, do it.” To apply that bishop’s counsel of studying the Book of Mormon, paying tithing, and serving in the Church with devotion is a lot like pouring water in those stone vessels, not really understanding how that will result in the best wine. That’s where I am right now. If I do these things, I don’t understand how that will resolve my personal struggles. But I do know that these acts of obedience are an exercise of faith in my Savior. These acts will enable me to know him better.

And I believe that the better I know Jesus Christ, the stronger my desire will be to obey his teachings. This is what I was taught as a child; and because we are uncertain and nervous about the world our daughter will grow up in, this is what Reilly and I will continue to teach our family. No matter our struggles, if we can establish little habits of faith, if we can fill the pots with water to the brim, the Lord will somehow touch our lives, perform a true miracle and fortify our souls, and bring out the best in us.

During Spring Break

Reilly’s spring break was this past week, and I also didn’t have to work. So, we partied.

Ikea

Tuesday morning we wandered around the entire showroom at Ikea. We talked about improvements we could make to our living space. We recently renewed the lease on our apartment, so we decided to try to create cozy home feelings instead of being poised to move at any second. We purchased a few things and reorganized a bit. I admit that watching a lot of HGTV helps motivate with home projects. That can be bad and good at the same time.

Bridal Veil Falls

Wednesday morning we decided to “hike” Bridal Veil Falls. Utah County offers a ton of easy nearby trails, and the weather permitted us to go and explore the area. We didn’t climb the trail close to the falls, but we stayed on the low path and took pictures and had a picnic and watched people. We also noticed some foreign-sounding accents, which was cool and made me glad that world travelers can enjoy Utah.

More pictures if you click the photo below.

Yay, falling water!

Natural History Museum

Wednesday evening we met with Reilly’s sister at the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City. The museum rests on the east foothills, which provides a fantastic view of the city. We started from the fifth floor and worked our way down. The building runs on solar power and the lighting doesn’t waste energy and the exhibits display lots of information about Utah’s natural history. There were displays about climate change and evolution. Sometimes Utah participates in science, which is refreshing.

Solar panels

My shoes!

Are they always smiling?

Luther

We finished the BBC series this week. Two very intense seasons so far. We started about a month ago and then we decided to watch all the episodes. The first season has six episodes, and the second season has four. It actually didn’t take too long.

BYU Museum of Art

Thursday afternoon we visited the heroes exhibit (which has now ended) at the BYU Museum of Art. Last week my friend Bridgette presented a paper at the “We Could Be Heroes” Symposium (which I’m very sad I couldn’t attend); my friend Annie had a display at that exhibit. Thanks, cool friends, for being so cool.

One we finished at the museum, we got the heck off BYU campus.

Kidding. Mostly.

Temple

Friday morning we attended a session at the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork. The temple is a gorgeous building, and the crowded parking lot indicates that it’s constantly busy.

Basketball

Friday evening we met with some friends at the Orem Rec Center to play basketball, which means we shot around for a long time until we played a few rounds of lightning/elimination/speed and then shot around some more.

General Conference

What an uplifting way to end our week-long party. Except we also watched the season premiere of Mad Men. So there’s that.

Now

Since BYU doesn’t have a spring break, this past week felt like a vacation. I enjoyed spending it with Reilly.

Let’s Play Inferences

Facts:
I checked my grades for my religion class on Thursday
Apparently I received a 7/10 on a weekly journal assignment
I reviewed the journal assignment
I sent the professor an email contesting the score
The email may have sounded slightly annoyed, but I tried sounding as nice as possible

The professor’s response:
Ouch… sorry your journal was misgraded… It looks great to me and I have given you three more points. The reason it was marked down is my TA misunderstood what you were doing. It is fine. Press on. I continue to like your creativity…
[Professor]

Conclusions:
Ouch: I may have come across more annoyed than I intended
three more points: My overall journal score is now perfect, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be
TA misunderstood: This does not surprise me, though I’m a big fan of smart and competent TAs
I continue to like your creativity: The entry was relatively creative. Duh.

***

Now it’s your turn! What are your conclusions from these statements?

1. General Conference was great and dreadful in all the expected ways.

2. This week will be insanely busy.

3. I know I should want to get married, but most days, I just don’t feel it.

Have a great week!

It’s General Conference Weekend, and This Doesn’t “Feel” Contrary …

Life coasts along, life dazzles, life punches squarely in the stomach. What else should we really expect?

I know I keep saying I’ll post actual updates.

A lot is going on,

and I’ve found time to blog about it before, but

Yeah. No legitimate excuse.

Classes, really quick:

My religion class and I sometimes butt heads. But it’s been good for me.

History and Criticism of Rhetoric is fun. We’ve talked about Legally Blonde and My Cousin Vinny, and we’ve done homework based on Sunset Blvd and Law & Order. And this weekend we’re analyzing oratory style of any talk at General Conference, according to Saint Augustine.

Introduction to French Literary Analysis is a lot of fun. I may have to dedicate a post just to how much I love French poetry. Because, SERIOUSLY.

Early American Auto/Biography blows me away. I’m reading excellent things by fascinating people, and I wish we could read more women. But if it’s any consolation to myself, reading what I have so far — Benjamin Franklin, PT Barnum, Ralph Waldo Emerson — makes me feel pretty outstanding. I have stories about this class, too.

My poetry writing class. Oh, my heart. I’m cultivating this profound appreciation and there’s only 11 students in the class, and the instructor is adorable and instructive and encouraging. She stood briefly on a soapbox the other day about how a lot of television these days is produced at a 5th-grade level and that Americans don’t know how to think anymore. I felt so much pride then. And, then it’s crazy how we workshop each other’s poems and how I’ve just had to simply get over or ignore being scared of sharing what I know to be mostly subpar poetry with my genius classmates. I wish you could read my classmates’ poems, because WOW.

Aside from classes, there’s church and dating and work. Visiting friends and maintaining friendships because I love my friends so very much.

OH and applying to grad schools and talking to professors about all my options after graduation.

Which will be in April.

Holy crap.

But my original reason for posting right now is that I want to reblog some useful things I came across this past week. Just two things, one each from a Utah couple I’ve been following for the past five years. I’ve mentioned them before. Winter’s on its way. People get sad in conjunction with or separately from the approaching and increasing darkness. Also, although I’m decently insulated in Provo, I try to remain aware of what’s happening around me. Bad things happen all the time, regardless, and we have to deal.  While we’ll be receiving counsel and encouragement from Church leaders this weekend, I think a few other resources are okay, especially for those square punches in the stomach. Please reblog if you feel the need.

From Jon Armstrong:

Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433

LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255

Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

Sexuality Support: 1-800-246-7743

Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-847-831-3438

Rape and Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673

Grief Support: 1-650-321-5272

Runaway: 1-800-843-5200, 1-800-843-5678, 1-800-621-4000

Exhale: After Abortion Hotline/Pro-Voice: 1-866-4394253

And, Heather Armstrong (click the quote for the entire post):

What is worse? Being sad because something tragic has happened, or being sad because that is all your brain knows how to do?

Enjoy Conference, y’all.

This Weekend

Friday night, I visited a sick friend, which was nice. We caught up and shared feelings and bonded. You know, the way friends do.

Then I went to another friend’s apartment, and we watched a movie and ate Mexican food. There I continued to develop a crush that will develop no further than a crush. It was fun spending time with those friends, though.

I woke up at 6:45 Saturday morning to get ready for breakfast with a friend. I went down to Chelsea and met my friend and we ate and caught up and it was great. This friend recently got engaged, and I am worlds of happy for her.

Then I went into work for almost four hours and listened to General Conference. After that I went down to watch the New York City chapter of World Pillow Fight Day.

I headed back up to Inwood to catch the second session of Conference. I thought I was going to stay uptown, but I didn’t want to go home just yet. So I called a friend and headed to Midtown. The trip took less than 45 minutes.

Another friend was with this friend. Can I just say Becky and Alicia? Can I do that? We caught up briefly then spontaneously decided to ride the tram to and from Roosevelt Island.

Coming up on 60th Street we saw Serendipity 3, so we put our name on the waiting list and headed to the tram.

The tram is fun. Roosevelt Island is cool, if only for the quarter-fare buses and grass and watching my friends frolic along the sodded shore and singing songs from Phantom of the Opera and Sound of Music. We took pictures with Becky’s iPhone, too. 

When we returned to Serendipity, we were thrilled that we were next on the list to be called. They seated us, and we shared a frozen hot chocolate and got really full from the food we ordered. Some of us got a bit more full than others and felt a little bit sick.

Still, we laughed and talked and advised like good friends are supposed to. We shared secrets and feelings and I was getting all sorts of sentimental. Sometimes we said really funny things.

We rode the NRW to 34th, and Alicia stayed on, where she was probably getting off at 8th street. Becky and I waved to her.

It wasn’t even midnight by the time we got back to Becky’s. We talked a while and I was getting sleepy, so I slept. Then I woke up in the middle of the night with a coughing fit, and Becky got me water. It’s enough when coughing disrupts my sleep, but when other people wake up because of it, I feel bad.

I woke up at 7:45 Sunday morning and headed back up to my neighborhood. I took a shower and went to the morning session of Conference. I talked a little bit with my mom and brother before the afternoon session.

Today’s my brother’s birthday, you see.

Then, the last session of Conference was over, and when the weekend is done, it doesn’t seem like eight hours of church just happened. But it did, and it was inspiring and encouraging and my heart is full of love and hope and I pretty much want to help save the world.

Anyone with me?

Then I talked for an hour with my baby brother. We laughed and talked and reminisced and exchanged opinions on various things. We’re adults, which sometimes is the most bizarre thing to me. We still have our own language, which is English but with weird affectations, and we have our inside jokes, which we’ll always have. I cannot express how much I love that kid. Happy birthday, Boo Boo.

Then I made some dinner.

Then Becky called, and we talked about conference and followed up on some things we discussed the night before with Alicia.

And now, I’m going to eat some popcorn and then get ready for bed.

It’s definitely time for bed.