Sarah Jane Weaver: Pondering two important questions — How have we grown? What have we learned?

Headlines in recent days have caught my attention. They reflect a world focused on rising COVID-19 cases, on mask mandates, on continuing divisions in society. One headline simply read: “Overwhelmed by COVID.”

The world has been wrestling with the pandemic for more than 18 months. But the headlines seem to reflect the urgency, content and tone of the pandemic’s earliest days.

President Russell M. Nelson summarized the pandemic during April’s general conference. “Some of you have lost loved ones. Others have lost jobs, livelihood or health. Still others have lost a sense of peace or hope for the future,” he said. “My heart goes out to each one of you who has suffered these or other losses.”

Then he noted that “amid the losses we have experienced, there are also some things we have found. Some have found deeper faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Many have found a fresh perspective on life — even an eternal perspective. You may have found stronger relationships with your loved ones and with the Lord. I hope you have found an increased ability to hear Him and receive personal revelation. Difficult trials often provide opportunities to grow that would not have come in any other way.”

Then he asked two important questions that have returned to my thoughts with recent news headlines.

How have you grown?

What have you learned?

President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on April 4, 2021.
President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on April 4, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

He promised that if we look at our lives prayerfully, we will see many ways the Lord has been guiding us through hardship, helping us become more devoted and more converted children of God.

It has been one year since the Church News published a series of articles that included interviews with members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the COVID-19 outbreak. Each senior leader of the Church directed our thoughts to different topics.

Elder Ulisses Soares: During the pandemic, members have found strength and protection through Sabbath observance.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong: Even though the world is physically distancing, “it doesn’t mean we are spiritually distant.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund: During times of uncertainty, Latter-day Saints can receive guidance from the Holy Ghost “that comes with certainty.” 

Elder Gary E. Stevenson: “In the midst of affliction and disappointment, the Lord also allows us to be highly favored by Him.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband: A most important focus “is the power of the word and how we communicate it.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen: During times of trial, Latter-day Saints can humbly get on their knees and turn to the Lord and their covenants.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson: The COVID-19 pandemic has created “a great season of opportunity” for Church members to “contemplate belonging.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook: Revelation has guided the creation and implementation of new initiatives and directives that are helping us through the pandemic.

Elder David A. Bednar: Members must press forward with fortitude, courage and the expectation that miracles will follow.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “The Spirit can work wonderfully as we use new and unfamiliar ways of communicating with each other.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: The pandemic is an opportunity for soul-searching and self-examination, the kind of personal reflection that refines faith, strengthens character and “increases our humility before the Lord.” 

President M. Russell Ballard: “From the beginning of history there have been circumstances similar to this one. Somehow they got through them, and we are going to get through this one.”

President Henry B. Eyring: The crucial thing is to “connect with God” — to have the feeling that “God is walking with you. It is a feeling of trusting in the Lord, that He is watching over you.”

President Dallin H. Oaks: Some people look at COVID-19 as a punishment for the wicked. “We prefer to look on COVID-19 as an opportunity for the righteous to grow.”

President Russell M. Nelson: “I’ve learned that even through clouds of sorrow, there can be silver linings found.”

As Latter-day Saints we have had opportunities over the past 18 months to increase our focus on service, embrace home-centered worship and complete family history work. Some of us have hosted home missionary training centers or learned to utilize technology.

I hope we are all a little bit better, too.

Read more: 12 lessons from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve for facing COVID-19, other trials and turmoil

President Oaks told the Church News one year ago that the way forward is clear. His words have more meaning to me today. Quoting Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

The Lord directs His Church, said President Nelson.

“Through it all, we know that members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are sustained as prophets, seers and revelators,” he said. “They trace their family roots from four continents, so each contributes to a very diverse and powerful pool of wisdom. Each has been called to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. …

“We are not through with revelation or with the Restoration,” he said. “The Lord will accomplish many wonderful things before He comes again.”