Monday, September 28, 2009

The Desert Shall Rejoice, and Blossom as a Rose

The whole premise of this lesson is that all members of the church, from those with 16 lines connecting to pioneers and the newest convert, owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneers, for their obedience and perseverance.
So really all you need for this lesson is to think of three or four of your favorite pioneers stories and you are good. But then you need to think beyond what they did to what you are doing:
  • When Jeffrey R. Holland was president of Brigham Young University, he compared the building of our lives to the building of the Salt Lake Temple:

  • “The prestigious Scientific American referred to [the Salt Lake Temple] as a ‘monument to Mormon perseverance.’ And so it was. Blood, toil, tears, and sweat. The best things are always worth finishing. ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?’ (1 Corinthians 3:16.) Most assuredly we are. As long and laborious as the effort may seem, we must keep shaping and setting the stones that will make our accomplishments ‘a grand and imposing spectacle.’ We must take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow, dream dreams and see visions, work toward their realization, wait patiently when we have no other choice, lean on our sword and rest a while, but get up and fight again. … We are laying the foundation of a great work—our own inestimable future” (However Long and Hard the Road [1985], 127).

Everything we do is setting the scene for what comes tomorrow and even further in the future. Which is kind of depressing or inspiring, depending on how you are doing at the moment. Since my main occupation right now is child-rearing, it is nice to be reminded that worthwhile endeavors take a long time, and we often don't see the results right away.
Imagine the thoughts of the stone masons who were told to replace the entire foundation of the Salt Lake Temple with granite instead of easily worked sandstone. But the results have been worth that effort.
Since I had a terrible case of pregnant brain yesterday I don't know if anyone else in the class got something from the lesson. But a reminder of the worth of perseverance is good right now in my life. April is looking VERY far away right now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Mission of Saving

I wish I could just post a transcript of what I said during my actual lesson. It always seems to go much smoother than these recaps. Perhaps because I pray for a week before giving the lesson and I just use the time I can get on the computer for these posts.
This lesson is on the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies. If you don't know the story or need a recap, here is the lesson, it has a good summary.
This quote from President Hinckley really stuck with me:

“It is because of the sacrificial redemption wrought by the Savior of the world that the great plan of the eternal gospel is made available to us, under which those who die in the Lord shall not taste of death but shall have the opportunity of going on to a celestial and eternal glory. “In our own helplessness, He becomes our rescuer, saving us from damnation and bringing us to eternal life. “In times of despair, in seasons of loneliness and fear, He is there on the horizon to bring succor and comfort and assurance and faith. He is our King, our Savior, our Deliverer, our Lord and our God” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 78; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 54).
The handcart companies needed two different kinds of rescuers; they needed the large scale, massive effort that involved hundreds of men, wagons and the whole valley to bring supplies together, but they also needed the individual attention described in the following story:

“ ‘The handcarts moved on November 3 and reached the [Sweetwater] river, filled with floating ice. To cross would require more courage and fortitude, it seemed, than human nature could muster. Women shrank back and men wept. Some pushed through, but others were unequal to the ordeal. “ ‘Three eighteen-year-old boys belonging to the relief party came to the rescue; and to the astonishment of all who saw, carried nearly every member of that ill-fated handcart company across the snow-bound stream. The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all the boys died from the effects of it. When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act, he wept like a child, and later declared publicly, “That act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end” ’ (LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion [Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1960], pp. 132–33).
When Christ was born the Jews were expecting the type of hero we think of in the movies. Someone to rouse the people, kick out the Romans, and set a up an all powerful kingdom with them in charge. They wanted the super-mobilized effort of the type Brigham Young sent to rescue the parties as a whole. But Christ comes to rescue each of us individually. At some point every single one of us reach a point when we have no strength left and we cannot go any further. At this point He carries us, one by one, across our own rivers of despair and hopelessness.
Once we have been saved, at least for this crisis, we have a responsibility. Referring to the suffering of the Martin and Willie handcart companies, President Hinckley said:
“I am grateful that those days of pioneering are behind us. I am thankful that we do not have brethren and sisters stranded in the snow, freezing and dying, while trying to get to this, their Zion in the mountains. But there are people, not a few, whose circumstances are desperate and who cry out for help and relief. “There are so many who are hungry and destitute across this world who need help. … Ours is a great and solemn duty to reach out and help them, to lift them, to feed them if they are hungry, to nurture their spirits if they thirst for truth and righteousness. “There are so many young people who wander aimlessly and walk the tragic trail of drugs, gangs, immorality, and the whole brood of ills that accompany these things. There are widows who long for friendly voices and that spirit of anxious concern which speaks of love. There are those who were once warm in the faith, but whose faith has grown cold. Many of them wish to come back but do not know quite how to do it. They need friendly hands reaching out to them. With a little effort, many of them can be brought back to feast again at the table of the Lord. “My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray that each of us … would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 86).
That seems clear enough, if slightly overwhelming. But we don't have to help the whole world at once. Just do our visiting teaching, fulfill our calling to the best of our ability, pray and try to stay close to the Spirit so when we can help, the Lord will show us how.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Three Years and Counting

My youngest turns three tomorrow. She brings so much life and energy to our family, it seems odd that she has only been around for three short years. She even had the grace to become potty trained before her next sibling arrives, giving us the first break from diapers in over 10 years.
Happy Birthday sweetheart, I love you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Wheel of Time Re-Read

I haven't had much patience for new books lately. I just don't feel like expending the effort to get into the characters and plot. Especially with modern fiction, in which the first third of the book introduces the characters and the plot doesn't really get going until later on. I just don't care enough to put that much effort in right now.
So I have been re-reading the Wheel of Time Books by Robert Jordan. Since there are 11 of them it has taken me a while. If you are curious there is a much better and funnier commentary of these books going on a
I have written about why I like these books so much previously, but this time I was really struck by how enjoyable it is to read these again. There is so much detail that you catch new information the second and even the third time you go through them. There aren't many books that have that kind of information packed into them. As I read the last one (so far) Knife of Dreams, I honestly was regularly surprised by plot details I had missed the first time. It felt like someone had added extra chapters while it had been sitting on the shelf.
I wasn't looking forward to reading books 9 & 10 because I remembered them as frustratingly slow, with not that much happening to move the main plot forward. This time I enjoyed them much more. I could see why each chapter was there, and each chapter had a point and an important reason for being there. I think I thought these books rambled before because I had certain ideas about what would happen in the book before I read it. Since these things did not happen I was frustrated. Reading it without those expectations, I could just look and enjoy what was there.
Now I am even more excited for the next book to come out at the end of October. Though I am sure I will need to read it several twice to pick up all the details.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

President Brigham Young Leads the Saints

A bit late, but with how my brain is functioning now, I am impressed I got it here at all. I wasn't that excited about this lesson because it was mostly a recap of what happened between the death of Joseph Smith and the start of the trip to Salt Lake. If you would like a review of what happened, here is the link.
To better help myself understand what happened I made a timeline and plotted out everything mentioned in the lesson. Church history lessons have a tendency to jump back and forth without giving you enough references to frame everything. By doing this I noticed that the Lord gave the people direction for this time ten years before everything started to fall apart. D&C 107 was given in the fall of 1935, and among all the other directions, it has these verses, 22-24:
22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.
23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
24 And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.
That might not sound like something very interesting, but those three verses are what guarantee a smooth transition whenever a prophet dies. The weddings at the temple don't stop, we keep going to church, because the authority to run God's church is spread out. The First Presidency presides, but the Twelve, and the Seventy, hold all the keys. It is a marvelous blessing to be able to have seamless transitions.
Joseph Smith was also looking at the possibility of moving to the Rocky Mountains by 1834. So by the time it was needed, there was a lot of information and planning already done. The years 1844-1847 were difficult, but without the seeds planted much earlier keeping the people together would have been impossible.
The lesson also talks about the urgency the people had regarding getting their endowments. Brigham Young wrote in his journal:
“Notwithstanding that I had announced that we would not attend to the administration of the ordinances, the House of the Lord was thronged all day, the anxiety being so great to receive, as if the brethren would have us stay here and continue the endowments until our way would be hedged up, and our enemies would intercept us. But I informed the brethren that this was not wise, and that we should build more Temples, and have further opportunities to receive the blessings of the Lord, as soon as the saints were prepared to receive them. In this Temple we have been abundantly rewarded, if we receive no more. I also informed the brethren that I was going to get my wagons started and be off. I walked some distance from the Temple supposing the crowd would disperse, but on returning I found the house filled to overflowing. “Looking upon the multitude and knowing their anxiety, as they were thirsting and hungering for the word, we continued at work diligently in the House of the Lord. Two hundred and ninety-five persons received ordinances” (History of the Church, 7:579).
I spoke with David about this. I think that we underestimate the power of the endowment in our lives. Those of us who went to the temple just as we were starting out an independent life may miss the impact having those blessings, just because we have never been without them.
That was what I tried to stress to the class, the pioneers had a terribly difficult time,. but without the blessings and preparation they received, their task would have been impossible.
I know that in my own life I have seen that. I chose to get pregnant this time. And I have not had easy pregnancies and this one is no different, but I have been given blessings to help me get through it. The difficulties of pregnancy haven't been taken away, but other circumstances and ideas and peace have blessed me with the knowledge that I can get through it. I think when we get to the other side we will be amazed at how much we were helped, without even knowing it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Eye of My Heart

I haven't been sure about blogging lately because I wasn't sure I wanted to turn this into a pregnancy blog. But trying to ignore my current physical state would be impossible and silly, so if you don't want to hear about the miracle of procreation, you will have to go away for 7 months. But once the baby is born I have LOTS of time to read while I nurse, so come back mid-April.
My reading habits change when I don't have the concentration to follow a complex plot. This type of light memoirs are just my speed. This one was especially good because it dealt with children and mothers, but in a different way than usual.
The author points out that when she became a grandmother she looked for other books about that peculiar state and found nothing. Being an author and editor, she made her own compilation. The stories were sweet and slightly compelling. Most of them were too short to do more than give a gentle brush at your heart strings, not the tug that would be possible with such a subject.
The best part was the variety. There were grandmothers raising their grandchildren, ones close and far apart, ones revelling in grandmothering and some hesitant about the whole thing. As a stereotype-busting exercise it was wonderful. The only category of grandmother that was missed is the one I am most familiar with, the so many grandchildren you have to write things down to keep up. My grandmothers both had over 30 grandchildren. My mother has 15 grandchildren, my mother-in-law has nearly 30. What is it like to have so many children to love? Maybe there could be an LDS version of the grandmother book. Send e-mails to Sherrie Dew about it.

Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother. Barbara Graham, Mary Pipher. Harper. 2009