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.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Book of Mormon is True!

Pressing Forward and Holding Fast

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

May I refer to a modern “last days” testimony? When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage to face what they knew would be imminent martyrdom, Hyrum read these words to comfort the heart of his brother. “Thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean…Thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I, Moroni, bid farewell…until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ.”

…As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you—would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?

Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, homeless and friendless” and that their children will leave “footprints of blood” across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of the earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that. They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

For one hundred and seventy-nine years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history---perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed, often silly theories about its origins have been born, parroted and died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for the book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great grandfather who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this, and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”

I testify that one cannot come to a full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort for our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ of whom it testifies. If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—then such persons, elect or otherwise, have been deceived and, if they leave this Church, they must do so by crawling over or around or under the Book of Mormon to make their exit.
(Taken from Sunday Afternoon session of latest General Conference)

Elder Holland is a true spiritual giant. Anyone who has listened to and seen his talks throughout the years and assuredly in recent general conferences can testify to that. Of course, this is not simply because of his eloquence in writing or proving a point of doctrine. It is not just his explanations of the need for continuous revelation, a restoration of the Gospel, and the Christianity of Mormonism. It is the fact that he has a witness etched into his soul that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He knows that. It is evident. I can say in all honesty that I have come to see that Jeffrey R. Holland is an apostle of the Lord. I look forward to catching the parts of conference I had missed while up in Sharon, VT.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oh, How Lovely Was the Weekend

The written or spoken word can not accurately describe the feelings of my heart as I have been able to visit the birthplace of the Prophet Joseph Smith and watch General Conference at the memorial site built to his name this weekend. A sweeter Spirit have I never felt as I have lodged with friends in Camp Joseph and taken in the rich, natural beauty of Sharon, Vermont.

The utterances of prophets and apostles of the Lord as I have sat surrounded by portraits and portrayals of the Prophet's life have burned a testimony deep into my soul that he was the Lord's mouthpiece set to restore the true Church of God again upon the earth.

I had a most wonderful experience as I watched the priesthood session in the building next to the visitor's center where the tours take place. I was able after hearing some truly inspired and dear to my heart messages to talk with and relate my conversion to a grandfather, father, and son from MA. The kindness of their words to me and the warm glow that seemed to beam from their faces as they gave words of encouragement even to this very moment fill my heart with feelings of joy and gratitude for such humble and genuine men of God. The grandfather was enthusiastic about my joining the church and truly came off as delighted to share how he had found the gospel as well. The father was warm and encouraging and made me feel as though I were part of his very family, a son of his own. His young son, who was most likely of deacon age, was a gentle and amiable young man who had a never-ending smile on his face as I talked with him. I later saw this same young man outside the center as he walked, right between two grandparents, hand in hand with them both as he gingerly supported them in their stroll. It was enough to melt the heart of any man.

The incredible Spirit I recieved as I gazed upon and walked around the obelisk was enough to bring me tears of gratitude and a sense of wonderful awe. I went to sleep that night with my heart filled to overflowing for all the tender mercies of the Lord I had experienced and for the two angels He sent me in the form of His duly appointed emissaries.

The only place I could relate to this wonderful heaven-like location is the holy temple of the Lord. Indeed, nature and the sweet influence of the Holy Ghost served as a temple of its own in that hallowed place. I feel like shouting Hosannas to the Lord for ever having been able to experience such a wonderful blessing. I am ever humbled and grateful for a Lord and Father who are mindful of my personal life and spiritual needs. I know They love me. I know it. I have felt it there, and feel it now. I love Them, and it is my sincere prayer that others may feel a bit of what I have felt when they have such an oppurtunity to visit that birthplace of the Lord's annointed.