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The seasons of life

Published: Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011

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Autumn is often regarded with an equal measure of melancholy and wonder.

In the northern hemisphere, the ongoing fall season seems to be making that reluctant transition between summer and winter. Days that were once long and lazy have become short and chilly. T-shirts and flip flops are being stowed away to make closet space for sweaters, practical shoes and wool socks. Students are back in school and sun-kissed retreats to the beach or the amusement park have become the stuff of postcards and "what-I-did-last summer" reports.

Many in some areas of the northern hemisphere see the morning frost that tinges front lawns in October or November as a foreboding primer for layers of deep December and January snow.

But others find pleasure in the new season. They can relish the crisp air and colors of fall even as they sometimes miss the warmth of summer. Yes, the trees will soon be bare — but pleasures are to be found in autumn hues, pumpkin patches and high school football games.

Even the inevitable arrival of winter need not be dreaded. With the ice and cold come carrot-nosed snowmen in the northern climes and Christmas cookies and holiday moments treasured with family and friends.

Truly the seasons represent one's time on earth. Our past is gone forever and sometimes missed. There is good reason why many fill scrapbooks with cherished photos, ticket stubs and personal mementos of yesterday. But tomorrow can hold hopeful promises of opportunity, growth and even adventure.

The ancient words of the Old Testament remind us of the reality of such passages: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

"A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. … A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).

President Thomas S. Monson knows well the value of recognizing and making the most of each season in our lives. He has counseled us to "provide time for family, time for work, time for study, time for service, time for recreation, time for self — but above all, time for Christ" (April 1984 general conference).

The season of life we may find ourselves in might, in autumn-like fashion, seem chilly and occasionally dark. Days might come and go with little sunshine. But joy can still be found even in seasons of struggle.

To illustrate this truth, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of the challenging season facing many young mothers throughout the Church.

"The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work," he said. "The young years are often those when either husband or wife — or both — may still be in school or in those earliest and leanest stages of developing the husband's bread-winning capacities. Finances fluctuate daily between low and nonexistent. The apartment is usually decorated in one of two smart designs — Deseret Industries provincial or early Mother Hubbard. The car, if there is one, runs on smooth tires and an empty tank. But with night feedings and night teethings, often the greatest challenge of all for a young mother is simply fatigue. Through these years, mothers go longer on less sleep and give more to others with less personal renewal for themselves than any other group I know at any other time in life. It is not surprising when the shadows under their eyes sometimes vaguely resemble the state of Rhode Island. …

"Even so, young mothers will still find magnificent ways to serve faithfully in the Church, even as others serve and strengthen them and their families in like manner."

Then Elder Holland offers this timeless counsel regarding this "seasonal" maternal circumstance: "Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones" (April 1997 general conference).

The writer of Ecclesiastes was largely correct when he observed that to everything "there is a season." But even as we meet, endure and hopefully enjoy each season of mortality, we can remember that some things need not ever change. Those most important matters of our lives know no season. Through Jesus Christ, we can enjoy eternal blessings without end.

In an address during the October 1997 general conference, then-Church President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. Then he said, "The time has now come to turn about and face the future. This is a season of a thousand opportunities. It is ours to grasp and move forward. What a wonderful time it is for each of us to do his or her small part in moving the work of the Lord on to its magnificent destiny" (Ensign, November 1997, p. 67).

Presiding Bishop H. David Burton said in his October 1998 general conference address, "All of us face challenges in our daily lives. Yet in challenges lie some of our greatest opportunities. As we recognize and act on our opportunities, progress, happiness and spiritual growth follow. We need to be involved in moving the Lord's work forward."

In his April 1992 general conference address, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve testified of Christ and His divine role in allowing all who are faithful to realize "eternal life" — that season-free existence without end that our Heavenly Father lives. His celestial realm has been compared to the glory of the sun and is available to all who keep His commandments with hope and faith.

"With that assurance, brothers and sisters, love life," he encouraged. "Cherish each moment as a blessing from God. Live it well — even to your loftiest potential. Then the anticipation of death shall not hold you hostage. With the help of the Lord, your deeds and desires will qualify you to receive everlasting joy, glory, immortality and eternal lives."