REXBURG, Idaho — Sister Neill F. Marriott discovered at an early age that if she talked a lot, blurted out ideas, inserted opinions over others’ words or made others laugh and listen, she felt temporarily good and important.
“This self-centered effort fed my ego and created my safe, reassuring comfort zone,” said Sister Marriott, who was raised in a family of seven children. “I based my value on my ability to make others listen to me and be persuaded by me.”
But that assumption of worth and way of thinking was false, explained Sister Marriott of the Young Women general presidency to a group of students during a devotional at BYU-Idaho on Feb. 27.
“What would happen if others ignored me or dismissed my comments?” she said. “I felt my value diminish.”
She would then redouble her ego-driven efforts to be noticed and acknowledged.
“As I’ve gotten older and as I’ve come to trust Jesus Christ more fully, I can look back and see my way of operating as selfish and fearful, though it may not have appeared so outwardly,” she said. “But the truth is, much of the time my heart’s desire was to promote my own self-worth. This desire developed into a subtle competition with others — all others.”
Sister Marriott realized that the people who were most important to her re-enforced her worth and answered her ego needs.
“I felt alone and I now see at least partially why: I felt a lack in me,” she recalled. “Down deep inside I thought I wasn’t enough, and I needed to keep my ego propped up.”
Recognizing that the adversary communicates through the same brain and same thought patterns as the Holy Ghost, Sister Marriott warned of the false messages convincing a person he or she isn’t good enough or accepted and loved.
“Have you felt that heaviness come into your heart?” she asked. “If I feel self-doubt come into my heart I usually stop and ask myself these words or similar ones, ‘Now wait a minute, Neill. You’re feeling irritation and heaviness in your heart. What is the source of that feeling? Is there something you can do about it with the help of the Savior? Is this fear or challenge more powerful than God?’ ”
Sister Marriott said to turn to the power of the Savior when self-doubt, hurt feelings, disappointment, irritation or fear rise up. He is the source of hope, honesty and clear thinking.
“He will lead me to do what I can and He will enlarge my abilities, raise up another to help, or give me calm ideas, or deeper understanding as I must keep on trusting Him, praying, opening scriptures with a searching heart,” she said. “He will not forsake us in our trials.”
Believing these things is the first step in turning our “weak heart” to Him, she said. “Then as trust in Christ grows, we are responsible for letting Him in and allowing Him to make our hearts as gold.”
Sharing an experience as a 12-year-old girl attending a youth camp, Sister Marriott spoke of her own personal conversion to Christ.
One evening at camp, she walked toward a little chapel built of yellow pine logs with large open windows in the woods, just as the sun was setting.
“Little did I know... I was about to learn, better than I ever had, that yes, God was real,” she said.
It was at this Young Women’s Christian Association camp, that she remembers first learning what “true hearted and whole hearted” meant.
While she sat on the bench in the church and began to sing, she remembers trying to imagine the Lord actually being there.
“Would He come to this small chapel?” she remembered thinking. “Could He? How?”
Not long after singing the first few lines of the song “Fairest Lord Jesus,” Sister Marriott began to experience a “loving warmth” that bloomed in her heart and later spread to envelop her in the “sweetest feeling [she] had ever experienced.”
“Even the chapel itself appeared to grow brighter and brighter as I felt this love flow in every direction,” she said. “I was loved! And this love was coming from a spiritual source I had never tapped. Its goodness and depth were almost more than I could contain.”
That moment of “unearthly love” had happened, and from that point on Sister Marriott had an understanding that God loved her, He knew her, and He was real.
“That certain knowledge bound my heart and soul to Him. ... For perhaps the first time, during and after this spiritual moment of love, my heart was completely turned out, trustingly, to something besides myself,” she said.
From that time on, Sister Marriott said, she determined to do two things to find heavenly assurance, “for it was much more soul satisfying than earthly assurance.”
First, she committed to Heavenly Father that she would read the Bible every night right before she went to bed. Second, in an effort to aid in her search for a spiritual connection, she decided to get on her knees to pray.
“I testify as we seek Him, we will find Him,” she said. “It was 10 years before I found the fullness of the gospel in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it was worth the search. And I am still working to have a true and honest heart — it is a daily effort — but the covenant promise that we may have His Spirit to be with us gives me hope and help.
“I invite you, no matter your circumstance, to turn and reach for Heavenly Father’s love. It is there for you and through the ordinances of the restored gospel we are bound to our Father and our Savior by solemn covenant. Such connection has the power to help us see the truth about ourselves and others. It changes our hearts.”