Saturday, January 11, 2014

Of Temples and Trials

So it's been a long time since I've posted here. Almost three years, in fact! And as you might have imagined, a lot has happened in those few years. And I mean a lot, so much that I don't think I could remember all of it and put it all in one entry! So to sum up what's happened to me:
  • I served as a missionary in the Utah Ogden Mission from January 2011 to January 2013 (yes, there are missions in Utah!)
  • I then worked pretty much the whole year of 2013 to pay off loan debts and save up for school (and that year was one of the greatest growing experiences in my life to date)  
  •  On New Years Day of this year, I flew back out to the place and the land I loved, Utah!
  • I took the Front Runner (for the first time, it was fun!) from Orem to Ogden on the 3rd and drove up to Rexburg with a missionary friend
And now I am back here at BYUI! It's been a little over a week of being here and I have been able to settle in rather nicely. There has been much growth and change on campus and yet many things that have stayed the same (and both are good!). One of the many things I have been grateful for here at BYU-Idaho has been the fact that there is a temple so close to the campus. I remember not too long ago talking about my experiences in the Rexburg Temple and my feelings towards this particular temple are still strong, even more so now that I have been through the temple for my own endowment and have grown in my appreciation for its hallowed walls and the sacred ordinances that are performed therein. Now there is a reason for me bringing this all up.

Transitioning back from mission life to home life, and then from home life to school, always has its challenges, challenges which I will likely get into in later blog posts. I have been working really hard to stay on top of my studies this semester, to stay one step ahead so to speak and to do even better than I had done in my previous stay here at BYU-Idaho. I would like to think that overall I have been able to do just that in this first week, but with that effort can come a certain amount of stress as well, coupled with the fact that I am away from home again after having been with my family for a whole year. Now it isn't the first time I've been away from them, but it is never easy to be away from the ones you love, though it is a sacrifice I know I need to make for not only my well-being but theirs as well. Anyways, all the stress and burdens of this week were just seeming to catch up with me yesterday. I had just recently been called to serve as the second counselor in our ward's elder's quorum presidency and so that only compounded my worry and feelings of inadequacy. I felt lonely, burdened, tired, and even aggravated because I didn't feel like I was getting everything done in the way and time that I wanted to. I was burnt out.

I knew then that I needed to find rest. I needed to go to the temple.

And so I woke up this morning, deciding that I would do just that. After grabbing a bite to eat, getting dressed and studying the scriptures for a bit, I started my walk up to the temple. There are things that happened during and at the end of that walk that I feel have great lessons to teach me and perhaps another who may be reading this. One thing I noticed is that after just a little time had elapsed during my walk, the wind began to blow rather forcefully towards me, going the opposite direction of where I was headed. Now Rexburg being the windy city that it is, it shouldn't seem surprising. But it seemed as though it was all focused on blowing opposite to the direction that I was facing. How true is that in our own lives, when we are trying to get to the temple, or do anything good for that matter? How often does it seem that the winds and trials of life, even the wiles of the devil himself, are just throwing themselves against us, seemingly never letting up the whole journey there? Sure, there may be times when it ebbs and flows, but overall isn't that the case? And yet it is not completely unbearable.  In fact, it can be as simple as just continuing to walk on through, to keep moving, all the while keeping our focus on our end goal that is in sight. Indeed, just being able to view what the end has in store for us can make all of the hardship and effort worthwhile.

Another thing I found interesting was that when I first started heading to the temple, there was barely any wind resistance and it wasn't until I started the literally upward climb towards the temple that the winds started blowing. So often when we are starting out on a path to something good, everything can seem all well and honky-dory. And then when seemingly out of nowhere the trials start coming, and coming hard, it can be incredibly tempting to go with the flow of the wind and turn back towards the way we came. And yet that doesn't ever lead us to progress, and instead can fill us with feelings of failure and even guilt. We give up on ourselves and on the world and retreat back to what we knew before, never knowing the blessings and glory that we could have if we would just press on.

After pushing through, I finally got to the main entrance to the temple. And guess what? It was closed for maintenance. You can imagine my initial feelings of disappointment at not being able to enter. And yet was my spirit crushed? Was it not worth it? The answer is a resounding NO! Far from being defeated, I was able to sit and relax, to rest and enjoy the peace of the temple that one can feel even sitting in its outer courts. And what did I learn from this particular experience? That whether we are inside or outside, doing the work within its walls or keeping our covenants from day to day, the fact that the temple is a place of peace and rest never changes! Simply being able to sit on the grounds and walk around this holy house was able to give me a spiritual boost and reminder of God's love that I needed for this week. And perhaps even more important was the lesson that God must have known I needed to learn from walking to the temple.

Now I'm not saying that we shouldn't enter the temple when we can, or that merely sitting outside of it is enough to qualify for the blessings to be had in the house of God. But we can always rest assured in our testimonies that God's presence is there, that His love is real and is with us whenever we need it and as long as we are willing to ask for it and live our covenants so as to be able to feel that love more constantly and fully. God be thanked for the temples. God be thanked for the precious gift of His Divine Son, Jesus the Christ. I know He lives. How I love Him. How I need His help and grace every day of my life. I so testify and share this with all of you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Loving Reminders

I was able to teach a lesson to my Elders Quorum for the first time yesterday, and it was quite an experience. Though on a bit of short notice, I was able to adequately read the text and seek the Spirit's guidance in formulating what I would say and questions that could be asked. I am delighted to say that it went rather well, with great participation and discussion and a sweet Spirit that accompanied me as I taught. Truly, we can't be edified unless we all get together and share what the Spirit gives us. What a rich experience it was to feel the blessings of being in this calling.

We also were able to have a wonderful temple prep. class taught by Bro. Risenmay in our ward. The talk of saving ordinances, the covenants accompanying them, and the symbolism ingrained in all of them was a truly uplifting and inspiring occurrence. I realized how badly I needed to start regularly attending the Rexburg temple and of the peace and power that would come to me as I did so. Thanks to the Standard Works, the help and insights of others, books, and resources such as , I am able to prepare myself in some way for the day that I receive my own endowment in the Boston Temple.

Finally, the day ended off with the CES broadcast talk given by Elder Rasband. As he talked about the influence of righteous friends and of those who will truly stand by you in all aspects of life, I couldn't help but think of all of the true friends I have in my life to look up to, some of them even younger than I am. Truly, such friendships are a tender mercy of the Lord, and Joseph was right when he stated that
“Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism.’ … It unites the human family with its happy influence.”

What a glorious Sunday it has been.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

As I Have Loved You

Let me just start by saying that the Rexburg Idaho temple is a true jem, a towering beauty of the Lord's majesty. It was a pleasure to be able to walk on the grounds in the first week or so. The incredible Spirit that resides there and the wonderful symbolism of staffs of wheat only added to its grandeur. There was one day that I finally got to enter into that sacred edifice to do work for those who passed on, and it was a day unlike any other.

I could feel the warmth of the door handle in contrast to the brisk weather outside as I walked into the waiting room. Within minutes I was in a beautiful chapel that had no more than a glass partition between it and the baptismal font, allowing people to see first-hand the ordinance of vicarious baptism as they waited and contemplated.

It was while I was waiting there and immersed in the scriptures that someone caught my eye. Perhaps he stuck out since the majority of those who were sitting in the chapel were students at BYU-Idaho. This blonde-haired, deacon-age boy, fully clothed in his white jumpsuit, sat in front of me between his two sisters as they got comfortable. What happened next would be very tender to me and would end up affecting me for the rest of that day, as it still does now.

For some reason I felt drawn to watch him as he reminded me of some people I knew back home. It was then that I saw him lovingly massage the back of one of his sisters as he calmly rested his head on the shoulder of the other.

Something that might seem so insignificant to the average person struck me so deeply. It was then that I understood what the temple was all about. It was about uniting our families in the bonds of love, and not just through the sealing ordinances, though such is surely of importance. It was even more. It was becoming one, Zion, through service, through simple acts of kindness and generosity, through becoming like our Savior, Jesus Christ. This young, truly loving brother to his older sisters truly understood what it was to have the pure love of Christ. All it took was something so seemingly simple to convey that to me. I could not help but feel love for him and his family, people I barely even knew, as tears of quiet gratitude welled up in my eyes.

Moroni 7:45-48
"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."

Amen, indeed.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

It wasn't until after Church today that I realized it would be my last fast and testimony meeting in the Georgetown ward before leaving for BYU Idaho.

The spiritual significance of the day, however, was quite clear to me. Especially when a certain boy named Jakob, no more than 11 years of age perhaps, happened to suddenly appear at the podium. I was immediately drawn to where he was standing. Oh, you could see it in his eyes.

It wasn't one of those deals where a parent prods his or her little child to get up and bear their testimony so that they can get used to doing so in Church. No, he had gotten out of his seat next to Bro. Tew and walked right up.

And what he said struck me to the very core. He was just so genuine, you could feel it in the way he talked, the look in his eyes, his animated movements. He simply bore a short testimony of his gratitude for his eternal family and for those in the ward. That's it. No fan-fare.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and they do even now as I think about it. If there's one thing I'm going to remember when I'm away from my home, it's that.

Thank you, Little Tew. Thank you, and God Bless you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What the Movies Have Taught Me About The Gospel

I recently had the pleasure of viewing the movies 2012 and A Christmas Carol(3D).

I was rather surprised as I found there were things that really stuck out to me in both movies and even a common theme found in both of them. This may not come as a shock to others who may have sensed elements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ while viewing certain films but I just wouldn't expect to have such things revealed to me through an outlet like Hollywood.

Regarding 2012, I was amazed at just how realistic (and frightening!) the destructions that came upon the inhabitants of the earth were. I was surely thankful for our knowledge that the end will not come in 2012 as some have assumed the Mayan calendar indicates, but more thankful for the reminder of the need to prepare now, to be repenting and be righteous now, in the days that will surely lead up to the Second Coming.
I was rather impressed when I saw the bond between the main protagonist in the film, portrayed by John Cusack, and his children. In such a time of tragedy, the father, his daughter, and especially his disaffected son and ex-wife were able to truly come together and understand and express their love for each other. They came to see what really mattered most. In the words of Cusack in the film, "wherever we are together, that is home."

In Disney's modern adaption of Dicken's A Christmas Carol, I was struck by how powerfully they were able to get moral messages across through the use of intense visuals and special effects. Again, I was struck with the need to reach out to others not just during this Christmas season but always, and again the importance of families and the need for all to know of the sealing ordinances of the temple that allow families to endure for eternity.

You never know where you may find inspiration. In this instance, it was smacking me in the face. Figuratively, of course. The 3D was good but not that good.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On This Day Of Pentecost

I honestly don't even know where to start.
There have been special happenings and incredible blessings on this most sacred of Sabbaths.

It's not every Sunday that you learn that the man you have known as the bishop of your ward for all of the time you have been in the gopsel is being released. Surely not on what seems like just another groggy day where you try your best to not appear half-asleep as you hustle into sacrament meeting.

It's not every Sunday that you get to, as a priest, serve in the priesthood by passing the sacrament to the row where the bishop and his counselors reside.

It's not every Sunday that you learn that the man who has been a father to you in the Church is being called to what may undoubtedly be one of the most blessed and challenging offices in the priesthood.

After all, you've been going over Brother Capener's house almost since the time you joined and that family first let you into their wonderful home. You've gone to his son's horse show, you've helped his wife out while his other son has a piano recital, you've gone there just to spend time with the family that makes you wish you were sealed eternally to your own family. You've felt that every minute, every day spent in their presence was an answer to prayer.

To find out that that man is to be called as the Bishop of the Georgetown MA Ward of the Exeter NH Stake of Zion, and this while you're still trying to get the dust from out of your sleepy eyes, is sure to wake you up.

I think my feelings may have reflected that of many people today when I say that I was shocked, elated, and sad all at once. I honestly can't find words to express the feelings, the promptings of the Spirit to my soul on this incredible occasion. The world is reeling and spinning and people all around are continuously caught in the storms of life, but yet you and a few other people are witnessing an event that no one of much worldy prestige would ever witness in their lifetime.

First, let me express my incredible gratitude and love for Bishop Fitzgerald and all of his years of service in our ward. Here is a man who took me under his wing, who showed his love to the youth and I in so many ways. Never overbearing or condescending, he gently guided me along the way and sincerely discussed the doctrines of the Gospel with me. I think it is an incredible understatement when I say I will miss that man of God. With all my heart, I love him and support him in whatever the Lord sees fit for him and his wonderful family.

Brother Capener. Bishop Capener. It is still surreal to even call him by such a title. The man who ordained me to the Aaronic priesthood, whose family invited me into their home. The man who would give me great big bear hugs each time I would see him at church. The man whom I saw openly express love for his children and treat them with gentleness no matter what they might be doing. This man was and is a father to me in this Church. He reminds me of my own father, whom I love more than the world and all things in it. He reminds me of the father I want, I strive to be.
I got one of those bear hugs today. I hope you know, Bishop, that I love you, your family, and support you 100%. I realize I need to let my own family know more that I love them, and support them 100%.

Thank you to you both. These are just a few of the men that have so incredibly and powerfully affected my life.

And oh, how could I forget Brother Tew. The greatest missionary I've ever met. The one who had no problem declaring his love for the young men he taught and with whom served. I wish all of the young men could have been there in class today to hear what you said. Know that you are not the only one shedding tears. The young men of the Georgetown ward will eternally appreicate your dedication and selfless love, and will look back and know of the impact you had in their life. You have helped me to want to become a better priesthood holder, and someday a worthy husband. You're not just cool, or hip. You are my friend. You were a friend and ever will be to all of us. We love you Brother Tew.

I had the privelige of meeting with Stake President Watson for my final interview for the Melchezidek Priesthood. The words spoken, I may not always remember, but the Spirit borne and embedded into my soul will ever stand as a testament to the reality of the Priesthood and the love of God.

I can say with all clarity that God loves us. He inspires and calls men to His holy work in these days as in days of old. I know, I know, that my Redeemer lives. I haven't felt mercy more tender than today. How can I even express my love for Him. My Elder Brother, my Savior, my Friend. I love Him. It pains me when I sin after knowing what He did for me, and yet I know He loves me enough to allow me to overcome my imperfections. He is the reason I am in this Church, the reason I do the things I do. I love Him. I miss Him. I hope I can be with Him again, along with my family in the presence of my Heavenly Father. And I mean ALL my family.

What did I ever do to deserve this? Nothing. And some might say that's the beauty of it. I am so, so, grateful. Thank you, Father. May such blesings be upon all those who humbly seek Him, I pray, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We Love Him Because He First Loved Us

President Uchtdorf's talks have always been a source of comfort, hope, and faith for me. I firmly hold that his most recent talk in General Conference on the love of God demonstrates this. An excerpt, from "The Love Of God":

Why Does Heavenly Father Love Us?

Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.

God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.

He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.

What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.

What words of truth from a humble yet powerful witness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.