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Reflecting on time in solitude

Recently I hiked a trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway with my son. It was early on a cool morning, with few people around — perfect hiking conditions.

After a few hours, we were treated at the summit with a panoramic view of nearby mountain peaks, as well as farms and towns spread out below, partially obscured by thick clouds. Standing above the clouds, we had a sense of stepping closer to Heaven.

In the quiet of that morning on the mountaintop, high above the traffic and busyness of daily life, I was reminded of the Psalm: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke with 40 faith leaders earlier this month on the coronavirus pandemic. He focused on the power of meditation and quiet, pointing out how Jesus Christ often sought strength and communion with Heaven in solitude.

Jesus always took time to commune with His Father in Heaven through personal prayer. In the midst of teaching and healing the multitudes, He “went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23).

Elder Holland reflected on his own opportunities for self-examination and introspection while under quarantine, and how such meditation can lead to greater Christ-like service:

“This retreat for me, this solitude…has affected me, and it has been with a determination to return to public, collective, congregational service, not hide from it, but to be a better person in doing it and maybe have a little more sympathy, empathy and insight for those out in that congregation. I’m just a little more conscious of people’s hopes and dreams and some of their disappointments.”

May we each, like Elder Holland, take time to reflect with greater sympathy, empathy and insight on the needs of those around us so that we can answer affirmatively the questions raised in the beloved hymn:

“Has anyone’s burden been lighter today

Because I was willing to share?

Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?

When they needed my help was I there?”

The hymn concludes with a call to action for all of us:

“Then wake up and do something more

Than dream of your mansion above.

Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,

A blessing of duty and love.”

DR. BRENT ROBERTS is the Elders Quorum President in the Sandy River Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also Dean of Greenwood Library at Longwood University. He can be reached at brentsroberts@hotmail.com.