One of two men, in a room full of women, he stands in front of the dozen or so of us who are here and gently asked, “What is on your minds?”
He explains, “I have notes prepared of things I would like to discuss, but before I do that, I want to answer any questions or concerns that might be weighing on you right now.”
We are caught a little bit off guard. The meeting had opened with an inspired message from our Relief Society President who just shared a tearful testimony acknowledging the turmoil that so many of the sisters in the branch are currently experiencing. A good half of these sisters are facing immediate uncertainty about employment and where on the globe they might be as current jobs are set to expire in the next three months. Most of them know they will be moving, but have no idea where they are going or if they (and/or their husbands) will have a job when they do. For those of us who don’t have the heavy strain and stress of our own lives being tossed and turned, we still feel the impact of these sisters leaving. Half of our branch will be missing. And ultimately, our hearts ache as the sisters we know and love are facing such big and overwhelming trials.
And so, after an uncertain pause, one sister replies that what was on her mind is moving. We are certain that it isn’t really what President Youngberg is looking for nor is it what he is expecting to hear. But it is what is on ALL of our minds. He dutifully writes “moving” on the board and turns back to the women for more input. Someone half jokingly asks, “Can we put a check after that?” He immediately answers affirmatively and moves towards the board to add the mark. As he does, a third sister calls out, “I think you need to add about five checks.” Five more checks go on the board.
We all breath a bit easier. Just putting that out there – seeing it in print on the whiteboard – somehow acknowledges our turmoil – helps us move forward and more questions begin to fill the board.
“How do I know it is the spirit and not just my own thoughts?”
“How can we make big decisions if my husband and I don’t agree?”
“How do we forgive someone who has betrayed us?” etc.
There are questions about gospel doctrine and there are questions about gospel application. The list begin to look longer than what we have time for.
Our inspired priesthood leader thoughtfully writes the questions on the board. They stop rolling in and so he steps back and looks at the list. I feel certain he won’t be able to address them all. I expect him to jump in and give quick answers – the kind of self-assured “textbook” answers that popped into my mind with several of those questions – the kind of answers that would show us how “wise” and “knowledgeable” he was in the gospel. The kind of answers that would allow him to check them off the list and move to the next one. But he pauses; I can see him reaching for revelation.
Instead of giving his own answers, he listens to the promptings and gives us the answers that are coming from Heavenly Father. He isn’t worried about getting the “right” answer to his “interpretation” of the question. He is focused on helping us connect to the windows of heaven. He is making himself invisible as he allows us to be taught by the spirit.
He is here as our leader, but rather than making any attempts at grandstanding or exertion of authority, he takes himself out of the equation, disappearing into the background as he serves us and genuinely becomes, “a window to His love.”
It’s been a few weeks, now, since we’ve had this experience, but I, like several others who were there that day, reflect on that meeting with awe, gratitude and reverence. Going forward, I hope that I can remember President Youngberg and try to become a true servant of the Lord the way he was for us that day.