Nicole Marie Hilton Sacrament Meeting Talk (with added media)
February 9th, 2020
Thank you to JJ Brown and John Pontius for help with this talk
(Very long one minute pause)
Are you getting annoyed that I kept you waiting for a minute? Imagine how your ancestors feel who have been waiting for the blessings of the temple for decades, or even centuries!
Hi Brothers and Sisters, I am Sister Nicole Hilton, I am a missionary at the Family History Center and this is my home ward.
I’m going to start my talk by sharing with you a journal entry I recently wrote on the 25th of January. I titled it Do You Want Sushi, or Sushi?
“Today I was trying to decide what to do in the morning. Later on, I had plans to attend a YSA 25 and older get together at the bowling alley, and then dinner afterwards at 4 pm.
Suddenly, I was sidelined by a text from Sarah—an invite to come hiking in Zion National Park! So I dropped everything and ended up switching cars with my mom, taking my dogs, and driving four girls (including myself) and one guy up to Zions, where we proceeded to hike three different trails and have a lot of fun.
The whole day, Sarah had been talking about Sushi Burrito—a food place I had introduced to this same group a couple months ago in Cedar City. She said, “I swear, I want Sushi Burrito so bad, I’m going to go all the way to Cedar City after this and I’m going to get one! Or, how about we go right now?”
I thought about it, weighing the risk of burning up too much of my mom’s gasoline, spending the last of my money, and missing the bowling against the yummy goodness of Sushi Burrito. I didn’t have to think too long before I felt something in my gut firmly say NO, thus helping me decide against driving everyone up to Cedar City.
So then Sarah came up with plan B—maybe I could go bowling, but then meet up with them and go to Cedar inside of doing dinner with the YSA group. I said this was a definite option.
So we finished the hiking in time for me to get back and just barely have time to drop everyone off back at their cars in the church parking lot, race home to drop off the dogs, and then race to the bowling alley, where…I proceeded to find no one there.
Well, there were people. Just not my people. I sat on one of the swiveling chairs, thinking…what the crap? Why was there this gut feeling, that I just HAD to get to this bowling activity—against all odds? Why didn’t I just go to Sushi Burrito?
Nevertheless, I kept on sitting there. I had this feeling that I just needed to.
Then, in walks *Boston, fifteen minutes late (to the activity she organized, mind you). She looked stressed. We discussed our options, and who else might be coming, but no one came.
We figured, since the whole activity was paid for, and we were both famished, why not skip the bowling and just go out to eat?
I called Sarah and her group, and told them not to wait up for me, and to go to Cedar City and Sushi Burrito without me.
Then Boston recommended we go to Sakura, which was a rare (and expensive) treat—one of my favorite sushi places of all time. We saw a great Habachi show, I ordered my favorite thing off the menu, and I got to comfort Boston, who told me it had been one of the worst weeks of her entire life. She had broken up with her boyfriend of two and a half years on Monday, and had been really torn about it. I was able to commiserate with her, and offer her consolation.
We talked some more, and everything was paid for by the ward account, since it was an official activity. We hugged in the parking lot and she had a relieved look on her face. She said, “I really needed this.” I said that I did, too.
As I drove away, I not only marveled that God had answered my hankering for sushi—for free, and with such class—but that he had prevented the following scene, which came into my mind. I pictured Boston, at the end of the hardest week ever, walking into the bowling place, looking around, and finding no one at the activity she had planned—me having ignored the spirit and gone off in a different direction to spend money I did not have for second class sushi I didn’t know I didn’t want.
I gripped the steering wheel and prayed as I drove: “Father, I don’t know how you make use of someone as disobedient and lost as me, but despite all my stumbling through the fog of this world, somehow you still do. And I love you for it.”
So if you haven’t caught on, my talk is about service. As my experience demonstrates, the first key ingredient you’ll need in order to be of service to your fellow man is the ability to follow personal revelation. If I hadn’t learned to follow my “gut feeling”, my friend Boston would have arrived at the bowling activity to find nobody there, and her very hard week would have ended in disaster.
We need to recognize that this personal revelation that will lead us to be more effective ministers begins as a “gut feeling”, or it could be described as our conscience. If we learn to give heed to it, it will expand—especially if we’ve been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is neither reserved for the perfected, nor is reserved only in times of crisis. It is meant to be an everyday, every hour, and every minute thing.
John Taylor related this exchange with Joseph Smith:
“I well remember a remark Joseph Smith made to me upwards of forty years ago. Said he, “Elder Taylor, you have been baptized, you have had hands laid upon your head for the reception of the Holy Ghost, and you have been ordained to the holy Priesthood. Now, if you will continue to follow the leadings of that spirit, it will always lead you right. Sometimes it might be contrary to your judgment; never mind that, follow its dictates; and if you be true to its whisperings it will in time become in you a principal of revelation, so that you will know all things.” (Journal of Discourses, 19:153-54)
We see the example of someone who heeded their conscience until it grew into the principle of revelation in President Thomas S. Monson—who always seemed to be in the right place, at the right time—to minister to “the one”.
How great a burden it is to know, that those little Jimminy Cricket whisperings are personal revelation for us! And when we ignore those whisperings to do good, the heavens withdraw and are silent for a time. It is therefore essential that we first learn to recognize and obey that which we already have before we can expect to be given anything greater.
Speaking of receiving “greater”, let’s get to the heart of what Christ has asked us to do. I was given the following scripture to base my talk off of—Matthew 25:
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee asick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Why? Why did Christ use these examples of whom we should serve: The hungered, the stranger, the naked, and the imprisoned. I think it’s because these are often considered the “very least” around us…yet the service offered to them matters the most to our Savior. If we are to be considered “righteous” at the judgment day, this scripture clearly states whom we should serve.
After pondering on this scripture, I had to ask myself some tough questions, and I didn’t come away from it looking very good. In the case of Boston, I know that God put me in that position so I could be a comfort to one of his daughters in her time of need. But, Boston is a peer and a member of my singles ward…I thought to myself, in Matthew 5, Christ seems to be talking about people who aren’t in our everyday lives—people we have to leave our comfort zones—if only a little bit each day—and seek after to find.
Let me pose these questions to you:
- Do you know anyone who is hungry and doesn’t have enough food?
- Do you know anyone who doesn’t have enough clothes?
- Do you know anyone who is in prison or jail?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the next question is WHY? I asked myself, why don’t I know any fellow humans who are suffering from these afflictions?
- Is it because there is no one in St. George, Utah who could use more food?
- Is it because there is no one here who could use some good clothing?
- Is there no one in St. George who is in prison?
- Have I received any hints from my conscience that I need to be doing more for these people?
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Could it be that we subconsciously avoid interacting with these people? We may give to the shelter around Thanksgiving or Christmas, but do we do what Christ did and seek these people out?
How much effort do we put forward to seek these people out? When I walk into the nearest homeless shelter, or prison, food bank, or hospital, do the people there recognize me? Am I a familiar face in these locations?
Do I honestly believe that paying fast offerings, and giving the guy on the corner a couple dollars fulfills Christ’s admonition in Matthew 25?
Can I really learn to be like Christ by relying on government, my bishop, and others to fulfill Matthew 25?
After all these questions I posed to myself, I realized something. Maybe the most important part of Matthew 25 is what happens to our own hearts and our relationship with Jesus Christ when we personally interact with those who are in these particular circumstances.
The good Samaritan didn’t call 911, he sacrificed. He disrupted his travels, his own schedule, his own to do list, and his own money to take care of someone who probably would have been prejudiced against him. Our natural inclination is to run away from situations like that. I think Christ understands that the main point of this admonition is to personally get involved. If we are, in all actuality, Latter-day Saints who carry Christ’s name in our hearts, it seems that Christ would have us be first responders who run towards the afflicted rather than shy away from those who need help the most.
As I’ve tried to honestly answer these questions, I’ve had to admit that my natural inclination is to avoid society’s most needy, because I feel uncomfortable around them, and I’m unsure I can even lift their burden—or I think they’ll take advantage of me. However, there is one time in my life where God put me in a position where I got to experience actually ministering to those who needed it most, and all my fears turned out to be unfounded. I actually grew closer to my Savior than I ever thought possible…
This time was in the beginning of 2018 when I moved home, and I had to go work at the DI. I admit that, at first, I thought the work was beneath me. I was pretty prideful, and I complained a lot. But after a couple months, and after I got over myself, I started really noticing the people around me. Every single one of them was hurting in some way. One of the people, her name was Anessa, and she was very quiet—she didn’t say much. And as I started to get to know her and ask her more and more questions, I learned more about her situation. First, I learned that she was always hungry, and not for the reasons that I thought she would be. Her parents were her adoptive parents—they had adopted her when she was twelve because she came from another family that was extremely abusive. But these new parents were also extremely abusive. They would force her to eat the things that they like to eat. If she ever came home with any healthy food, they would throw it away and they would force her to eat pizza and chips and candy—which is completely crazy! So, I started to bring healthy fruit and vegetables to work, and she would throw away her pizza and whatever she had brought, and she would share lunch with me. So that’s the first thing I learned about her.
Then I learned that she didn’t have that much clothing, so I shared some of my clothing with her. And then I learned that her adopted parents actually locked her in her room, and only let her out so she could go to work. Then, they would lock her back in her room, and then they would spend her paycheck. And so she was, quite literally, a slave. She was older than 18, but she actually didn’t know any different because her former situation had been so much worse than her current situation.
So over the months, I worked with her and helped her see that life could actually be different. And after she started showing more of her personality and getting up her courage, one day she came into work and she was covered in bruises. I got out of her that her adoptive father had beaten her. And so, she got up her courage, and I took her to the police station. I held her as she had a huge panic attack, and she said she just wanted to go back to her old life. But we got her a counselor and got her into the Dove center, and her life underwent this miraculous transformation, and she became free from her prison.
I can say after that experience, that Anessa helped me just as much as I helped her. There are moments too sweet to put into words where I felt the presence of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Parents in my life. Because I accepted that opportunity to serve, because I followed my gut feeling and the spirit, I received more than I gave.
There was a moment after I had moved with Anessa up to Provo and gotten her settled with a job and an apartment, that I taught her how to ride a bike for the first time in a big grassy field. The look of excitement on her face when she felt that freedom and accomplishment made my heart swell with joy. I felt the presence of angels around us, watching two whooping and hollering girls hugging in a field, as though Heaven was celebrating with us. These are the moments I know Christ cares about. Because He suffered for all of us, and bought us with His blood, whenever we lift the ones who truly and desperately need our help, it is a direct service and a relief to Him.
I know that everyone in this audience has real trials in their lives, as well. But from the perspective of Elder Bednar, that’s an opportunity. In his talk at BYU Idaho, called the Character of Christ, he said,
“Perhaps the greatest indicator of character is the capacity to recognize and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. Character is revealed, for example, in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress.”
“I find myself repeatedly asking the following questions as I ponder this and other events that took place so close to the Savior’s suffering in the garden and His betrayal: How could He pray for the well-being and unity of others immediately before His own anguish? What enabled Him to seek comfort and peace for those whose need was so much less than His? As the fallen nature of the world He created pressed in upon Him, how could He focus so totally and so exclusively upon the conditions and concerns of others? How was the Master able to reach outward when a lesser being would have turned inward?”
Elder Bednar goes on to say:
“We can in mortality seek to be blessed with and develop essential elements of a Christlike character. Indeed, it is possible for us as mortals to strive in righteousness to receive the spiritual gifts associated with the capacity to reach outward and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. We cannot obtain such a capacity through sheer willpower or personal determination. Rather, we are dependent upon and in need of “the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah”…
1. We must earn the right to have personal revelation, and follow it
2. We are invited to Serve those around us, and go out of our way to serve the hungry, the naked, and the imprisoned in order to grow the closest to Christ—for it is then we are directly serving Him, and it is then we will be called Righteous at the last day
3. And to have our characters resemble Christ’s, we must also reach out and comfort those who are experiencing the same adversity we are going through. We can do this by relying upon the merits, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ.
I testify Brothers and Sisters that my heart has been healed the most when I have been on the Lord’s errand. Nothing has been more exciting, yet at the same time grounding and peaceful, and a balm to my soul. I know that if you yearn to feel Jesus Christ standing beside you, and His hand in yours, you only need reach out and minister as the Spirit dictates. I love you all and I hope we can follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I say these things in His name, Jesus the Christ, Amen.”