Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The House of the Lord

As we were taking the sacrament to the homebound a couple Sundays ago, my brother Matthew mentioned that when he has his driver's license, he plans on attending the temple every Saturday, or as often as he can otherwise. It was one of those bag of bricks moments, where an idea suddenly hits you and you wonder why in the heck you never thought of it before. At that moment I decided that, since I'd be taking a day off from work every week in order to prepare spiritually for my mission, I could use that time to go to the temple. Yeah, obvious idea, right?! Props go to my brother for reminding me of that.

So today I made my first weekly visit to the temple. I hadn't been since August, and before that, February, and so on, so I was clearly due for a change in habit. I was excited for this, and still am. I mean, I get to chill at God's place every week! How awesome is that?! :-D

The Highams went with me this morning, only adding to the happiness of the visit. It was great to see them, and it was even better that we were meeting in order to do the Lord's work. To add even to that, we were all there because we wanted to be there, so we had the right attitude, which made it a lot easier for the Spirit to guide us.

This was one of my most powerful experiences in the temple. Each visit is extraordinary in its own right, and each time I visit the temple I feel something incredible that goes beyond description. But today was just . . . wow. I don't know if it's because I'd just spent a whole day previous in intense study, but whatever the reason, I just felt so open to the Spirit today.

The climax was right before and during the baptisms themselves. In light of my recent study of Joseph Smith's Lectures on Faith, I was reading through Hebrews 11--one of the greatest discourses on faith ever given. The Prophet's words added a lot more understanding to the passage, and because I was in the temple, that understanding not only impacted me deeper, but other things clicked, too.

That was a powerful feeling--it always is--and it was while I waited for my turn in the ordinance that that beautiful, familiar witness came to me. It permeated my entire being: a heavenly feeling of peace, love, understanding, and clarity, that whispered softly into my heart as if that were my ear, "It's true!" There was no room for any manner of doubt that this was truly the Lord's work; that this was His house; that He loved me and knew me by name. My mind had not been so clear in ages, my heart so full, nor my step so light.

I had a fairly busy day after leaving the temple, but contrary to my usual days of equal business, today's just seemed to deal with itself. Time was no longer a problem; unlike usual, I never showed up late for any of my appointments throughout the day. I could think so, so clearly, and despite all the tasks on my plate, I stayed in a constantly cheerful mood and so remain. After all this, and more, how can I ever deny the divinity of God, and the holiness of His house? Life is easier when you live the Gospel. It's as simple as that; if you don't feel in control of your life, read the scriptures . . . pray . . . go to the temple! The Lord will handle the rest if you simply obey Him. Because of these and other myriad blessings, I'm excited to start my new pattern of attending the temple every week. And in between visits, life will run a lot smoother, and I will be a lot happier. Who ever said it was easier not to try?!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"For it shall be given you . . . in the very moment, what ye shall say."

I had a neat experience with a guy at work yesterday. Rosie, JJ, and I were eating lunch together when somehow our conversation turned to my mission. Up to this point, all talk at work of my mission had been antagonistic, but this time it was met with innocent curiosity. All their questions were about the money: how much it cost to go on a mission, if I got payed while on it, if I got payed afterward, and so on. Both of them were shocked when I told them I was paying my own way, and wouldn't receive anything material for it.

"So you go just because you want to?"

"Yep," I said proudly.

Rosie went back to work a little after this, but with a few more minutes left on our lunches, JJ and I continued talking. Somehow we got to the subject of the Church itself, and JJ brought up the fact that it's been in the news a lot lately due to the Presidential campaign. He told me about a bunch of the stuff he'd heard about the Church and its history from the media, but admitted to being a bit confused about the information given by his sources. "Was it really started by space aliens?" he asked me.

I laughed at that one. "You won't believe how often I hear that," I responded. "That's not even close to what happened!"

JJ's tone changed then. For the first time I was seeing humility in him as he asked, "How did Mormonism start, then?"

As many times as I'd studied it over the years and talked about it with other members of the Church, this was the first time I'd ever gotten to teach someone in person about the First Vision. I gave JJ the condensed version, as was appropriate for our situation, and told him about how Joseph Smith--only a fourteen-year-old farm boy--was very confused about which church to join, and how wanting to know which of all the sects was right, he went into the woods and prayed for an answer to his question, which came in a visit from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who told him to join none of the churches, for they were all wrong.

"What year did that happen?" JJ asked.

"1820."

"You do know that cocaine was invented by then?"

I hadn't been confronted with this before. I knew the prophet kept his body clean and never took drugs or alcohol, but not how to rebut my coworker's statement. It was then, however, that the words of D&C 100 held true, which promise, ". . . speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; for it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say."

I can't describe what it was like for the Spirit to take over what I was saying. The closest I can come in description is that it was like having my mind retreat somewhere while my mouth kept moving, and though I was aware of what was going on and what I said, when I finished telling the story of seven-year-old Joseph's leg surgery--for which he refused liquor even to dull the pain--it felt as though I'd just come back from someplace else. And, as the scriptures promised, I was not confounded; in fact, it was JJ who had nothing left to say. But even if he had, we had to end the conversation there because lunch was over.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Up, Awake, Ye Defenders of Zion

Instead of a verse of scripture, today's post is a call to action. The Church's official website published a news release this weekend of a speech given by Elder M. Russell Ballard urging Church members to use new media to join a national conversation about the Church. That appeared in the Deseret Morning News today, and my young men's president saw the article and based our Priesthood lesson on it. When Thatcher emailed me about the call to action, I knew then that it would also show up on my blog.

The Deseret News article:

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints need to join the global conversation and use new technology to stand up for what they believe in, a top church official said Saturday.

Elder M. Russell Ballard urged graduates at the church-owned Brigham Young University-Hawaii to share their beliefs with the world, instead of allowing people to base their opinions from news reports driven by controversies.

"We are living in a world saturated with all kinds of voices," Elder Ballard said in a prepared speech, which is available on the church's Web site, www.lds.org.

"Perhaps now, more than ever, we have a major responsibility as Latter-day Saints to define ourselves, instead of letting others define us," said Elder Ballard, a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Ballard's speech came at the end of a rough week for the faith, as politicians and pundits alike questioned the LDS Church and its teachings. One MSNBC political analyst criticized the church's early leaders, calling them criminals and racists.

The LDS Church has been at the center of attention since Republican Mitt Romney joined the presidential race. In his remarks, Elder Ballard said, "Perhaps there is no other time in its history when the church has received more attention from the news media and on the Internet than right now."

Elder Ballard urged the 200 graduates, who hail from 31 countries, to use this new-found attention as an opportunity to educate and clear up misconceptions.

"There are conversations going on about the church constantly," Elder Ballard said. "Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot sit on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the church teaches."

LDS faithful can change perceptions of the church "one conversation at a time," through a clear and simple message of the Restoration. Elder Ballard said the Internet is a great tool to start these conversations. In his remarks, he suggested members consider the following:

• Start a blog "and share what you know to be true."

• Download videos from official church and other appropriate sites and send them to your friends.

• Comment on news media sites that report on the church "and voice your views as to the accuracy of the reports."

To do these things, Elder Ballard said an understanding of the basic principles of the gospel is required. However, "There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs.

"Do not be afraid to share with others your story, your experiences as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ," Elder Ballard said. "We all have interesting stories that influence our identity. Sharing those stories is a non-threatening way to talk to others. Telling those stories can help demystify the church."


There is nothing more I can add to this than to declare my taking of Elder Ballard's challenge. We live in a marvelous time! Computers and the Internet have enabled our words to be heard all around the world in no time at all. And with all its recent attention, there is a national conversation going on about the Church, enabled by the wonderful technology of our day. But so far the talk has seemed a little one-sided.

As a blogger, I'm excited about Elder Ballard's challenge. There are so many places on the Internet where we can participate in talk of the Church, but rarely do. Blogs, forums, news sites . . . there are a million of them. Let's make our voices heard and show the world who Mormons really are!

In light of this call to action, I want to revive the Verse of the Week team blog. However, I have changed its title to Fireside, so that its contributors and readers don't feel like new posts should only come weekly. This should clear up all the complication we used to experience in figuring out who would post when, and of course, new posts would be easier to come by. Anyone who wants to join the team and post here, please let me know!
The Church is true.