Sustaining: more than just raising your hand

It’s the first Saturday in October. You’re on your way to watch the afternoon session of General Conference with your family. Just like every conference, you over-estimated how much you could accomplish in the 2 hours between sessions and you’re late getting back to watch it. Luckily, this is Utah and you can choose between 3 different radio stations broadcasting it. When it comes time to sustain the church officers and leaders, you are proud to raise your hand, even though none of them can see you. You look around and are happy to see many others in their vehicles doing the same. There’s a certain comradery you feel between all those who are also “attending” the conference. The act of “sustaining” our leaders by raising our hand is a tangible, visible way we can all make an important statement: I believe these people really are the Lord’s servants and I support them.

While the scenario I just described might be more common, yesterday I actually attended the afternoon session. It was exhilarating to see 20,000 others raise their hands along with me to sustain the First Presidency and other great men and women who humbly serve us and the Lord. Then, each time we were given the opportunity to express any opposition, one man’s voice rang from the upper back of the conference center: “OPPOSED!”

My roommate and I looked at each other, both putting a hand over our heart as if to say, “that hurts a little.” Even though I know many people disagree with the beliefs, policies, and leaders of the Church, it’s still painful to see their dissent in such a visibly close and real way. I watched and listened as President Henry B. Eyring continued to announce the names of leaders to be sustained. Was it just my imagination or was he doing this part more quickly than normal? I pictured him and all the amazing talks he has given from that pulpit.

Memories of him, President Monson, Elder Holland, Sister Marriott—people I love so dearly even though we’ve never met—flashed through my mind. I thought about how pure, good, kind, loving, and hardworking they are. How could anyone be opposed to them? When the time came to raise my hand in a sustaining vote again, I thrust my hand up with more vigor. I wanted to personally tell each of them that I support them and know they are great people who strive to do what’s right. I wanted to tell the Lord that I support his servants and I know that they are doing his work.

Then I thought, what does raising my hand really do? More than anything, it reflects my inner commitment to sustain my leaders. But what can it do to fight the intense opposition the church sometimes faces? Maybe it won’t do anything. There’s got to be a way for me to fight the opposition, then. How can I do that?

“By doing what they ask,” was what popped immediately into my mind. Dressing modestly. Using clean language. Attending my church meetings and serving wholeheartedly in callings. Studying the scriptures to find truth. Being patient. If I want the world to know that I believe this is the true church and that I believe a prophet of God is guiding it, I HAVE to follow its standards and I have to follow his counsel!

I think most of us saw that blog post from a previous conference, where a girl was saying she would have liked to have been behind President Monson to hold him up when his physical strength was visibly diminished. Well, we can’t exactly do that. However, we can trust in his words and show that we believe he is inspired.

That is what I intend to do. I don’t know if any general authority will ever actually know that I personally sustain them. I don’t know if anyone who opposes the church will change their mind because of me. I’m just trying to do what’s right and that’s enough for now.

With the roomies right before the session. This view of the temple never gets old.

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