Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome Home!

I went to the Temple tonight. My wife and I were supposed to attend a sealing session tonight. However, she came down with a severe headache, and couldn't come.

She was in no condition to cook dinner, so I ordered some Chinese take out from the Magic Wok on my way home from work.

I had a decision to make: should I go to the Temple alone, or stay home. I felt a real responsibility to be there tonight. I felt that my presence would be helpful at the temple, even if my sweetheart could not come with me. So I decided to go anyway. The Chinese food would have to wait until I got home.

As it turned out, I was the only one from our Ward to be at the session. I was a bit disappointed that we were not in full attendance. However, the Lord blesses His people, sometimes in unexpected ways.

They canceled our session, and I was put with another group that needed an extra brother to complete their needs. However a few minutes later, our regular sealer came and asked me to come back to his room.

In place of our group, a family had come to the Temple to do names for their immediate kindred dead. These were not far distant relatives extracted from a census record from the 1820's, but rather, these were family members that many of the people in attendance had personally known in their own lifetimes.

Sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways. Since the group from our ward was not in attendance, the Sealer was freed up to help this family become bound together for all eternity.

This family needed an extra brother to complete their group. For a little while, I got to be a part of their family. The sealer took extra time with them explaining what was happening and explained the doctrines behind the ordinances. He treated them with such kindness and love. I realized that in many ways, the Sealer was representing the Lord. It was inspiring to witness these eternal blessings being bestowed on this family.

I will never have the opportunity to do temple work for ancestors who I have known in my lifetime. All of my ancestors that I personally knew in my lifetime have already received their temple blessings while they were living. This is a great and treasured heritage that I have -- but I do miss out on the wonderful kind of experience that I saw this family have together tonight. I really appreciate the opportunity to help (and in a way, join) their family for a short time. What a wonderful opportunity.

After the session was over, I felt such peace in my heart, I did not want to leave. I walked around in the hallway for a minute, and then poked my head back into the doorway of the sealing room again, as the next session was starting. I was hoping to have a private word with the Sealer. He will be going to the new Draper Temple next month, and I may never see him again. I have so appreciated participating in his sealing sessions over the last few years. As I poked my head in the doorway, the sealer waved me in, and asked if I would help him with some paperwork. I ran the errand for him, and returned to the sealing room. He thanked me, and was about to say goodbye, when I asked if I might stay and help out for the next session. Of course, he let me stay.

The words of the song, "Abide With Me, 'Tis Eventide" went through my mind:
Abide with me;'tis eventide.
Thy walk today with me
Has made my heart within me burn,
As I communed with thee.
Thy earnest words have filled my soul
And kept me near they side.

O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, 'tis eventide.
(LDS Hymns, No. 165)
As it turned out, this was a family group too, although they were doing regular temple provided names instead of family file names. This group consisted of two sisters (and their husbands), and each of the sisters had one of their daughters there. One daughter was married, and the other was single (a returned missionary, I would later learn).

This family has a regular sealing session that they attend together. We have been doing it as a ward, but you can do it as a family like this -- or even just a group of friends can have a regular monthly session too. That would be nice to be in a group with family and friends.

Anyway, they had more sisters there than brethren, and I helped even out the numbers. My heart went out to the single sister there. I could tell that the deepest desire of her heart was to one day experience these ordinances for herself, with a worthy man as her eternal companion. I prayed on her behalf. I am particularly sensitive to the plight of single adults in the church. I was one myself. My wife and I were not married until we were in our mid-30's. I know the feelings of loneliness and longing. The desire to have these eternal blessings for yourself. As I prayed and pondered there, I felt assured that this Sister would receive every blessing in the Temple -- in the Lord's own due time. I have relatives who are single, and are now in their 40's, my heart and prayers went out toward them as well.

I needed some time to think and pray as well. After leaving the temple, I just sat in my car for a while, looking upon the beautiful temple, all lit up at night, and pouring out my heart in prayer.

As I did so, some burdens that I had been carrying were lifted from me. It's not that the problems have gone away, but the pain and burden of them were lifted off my heart and soul.

This is the second time in a week that I have been to the temple. Last week, I took Thursday off for our Stake Temple Day. I was able to spend a large portion of the day in the Temple, doing most of activities that are available there.

I can see the beneficial effect that going to the Temple has had on me. I need to go more often. We have been going once every couple of months, but I can seen that I need to go there more often.

A member of our stake presidency is currently serving as a temple worker once a week on Thursday mornings. He has to be there 4:00 in the morning. Maybe I should follow his example -- if not being a temple worker, at least being a temple patron once a week. I need that good influence on me. I need the sustenance that the Temple can provide, that my spirit hungers for.
The Savior said: "And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost." (3 Nephi 12:6)
My soul was an hungered, and it was filled. I stood on holy ground, and I did not want to leave -- for I was at home -- in His Holy House.

This is perhaps my favorite scripture:
27 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.
28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.
29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—
30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out. (Helaman 3:27-30)
One day we won't have to leave to go home at all. For his home will be our home, for always and forever -- to go no more out.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Angles Looking Out for Me

A little over 20 years ago, I was working as a 911 dispatcher. I would often speak to people in the most dire of situations, and then I would send to them the help they needed.

Because of the hectic nature of my work, I found that I needed to spend some time alone to get away from everything.

It was the 24th of July weekend, and I decided to go camping in the mountains near Ferron, Utah. I found a little, out of the way canyon – where I could find some solitude – in which to set up my camp.

After cooking my dinner, I had a little time to sit quietly by the campfire. It was during a time in my life in which I was struggling in my faith. I had suffered some setbacks and reversals and I was contemplating just giving up. I began to contemplate the direction in which my life should go. Should I stay on the gospel path, or should I go in some other direction?

The Pioneer Broadcast
I had brought a radio with me. One of the few stations that I could pick up was KSL radio. Since it was Pioneer day, there was a special broadcast in commemoration of the arrival of the Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley.

As I listened to that broadcast, I was touched by the sacrifice and effort of the Saints who came across the plains.

After the program ended, I shut off the radio. I began to consider the sacrifices and efforts of my own ancestors.

Many of them joined the church in the 1830’s and 1840’s. They went to Nauvoo. Some of them joined the Mormon Battalion and made that long march to California. Then they marched East across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to join the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. After just a few weeks in the valley, they continued their march Eastward all the way back to Winter Quarters, only to turn around once more to bring their families back to Utah.

Still others of my ancestors would join the church in England and Scotland. They sailed ships across the ocean, and walked across the plains, pushing handcarts to come to Zion.

One Ancestor, after joining the church in England, brought his family to Nauvoo. Then he came across the plains in a covered wagon. Once he got his family situated in the Salt Lake Valley, he was called on a mission – Back to England! So he retraced his steps along the Mormon Trail back to the East. He sailed back to England where he served his mission. After completing his mission, he sailed across the ocean for a 3rd time, and began making his way back to Utah -- but he would never make it back. He only made it as far as Mormon Grove, Kansas – where he died in a cholera epidemic.

What have you Done With My Name
After pondering the lives and sacrifices of my ancestors, I felt a bond and connection to my ancestors, that I had never felt before -- almost as if some of them were right there with me. Who knows, perhaps they were there with me that day. I felt their influence on me for good at a pivotal time in my life. That influence helped me to choose to stay on the gospel path. I realized more about who I am, and that I, like Jonah, have a holy calling from the Lord -- no matter how far I ran, or tried to hide. What a waste it would be if I were to abandon all that they had toiled, sacrificed, and worked for so diligently all their lives.

Then the following story came to my mind:

Once when President George Albert Smith was seriously ill, he lost consciousness and thought he had died. He found himself standing near a beautiful lake. Soon he began following a trail through the woods, and after a time he saw a man, whom he recognized as his grandfather, coming toward him.

“I remember how happy I was to see him coming,” President Smith said. “I had been given his name and had always been proud of it.

“When Grandfather came within a few feet of me, … he looked at me very earnestly and said:
“ ‘I would like to know what you have done with my name.’

“Everything I had ever done passed before me as though it were a flying picture on a screen—everything I had done. … I smiled and looked at my grandfather and said:
“ ‘I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.’

“He stepped forward and took me in his arms.” (Improvement Era, Mar. 1947, p. 139.) See Also: (S. Michael Wilcox, “The Beatitudes—Pathway to the Savior,” Ensign, Jan 1991, 19)

I knew that if I were to leave the path of the gospel, that I would not be able to stand unashamed before my own ancestors. I began to realize just how much I owed them for the blessings that I enjoy now. Their legacy to me is priceless. I would have a lot to answer for if I were to squander it away.

In Malachi 4:5-6 we read:

5 ¶ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
The hearts of my fathers were, and continue to be drawn out toward me. And my heart was, and still is, drawn out toward them.

In the most recent General Conference (October 2008), Elder Jeffery R Holland, spoke of the role of angels, he said:

“Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, [or] guidance in difficult times.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 29–31)
Elder Holland goes on to say that not all angels are from the other side of the veil – but that mortals can act as angels on the behalf of others. As we turn our hearts to our fathers, we can act as angels on their behalf – even as saviors on Mount Zion.

The hearts of fathers and children being turned to one another is a two-way street. They depend upon us to find them, and have their work performed in the temples. But they too can help us in our own lives as well. Not only by the sacrifices they already made for us when they lived in mortality, but even now when we need help, strength and comfort.

Our ancestors, whether they were members of the church or not when they lived on earth sacrificed on our behalf, so we could live here on earth in a time and place when the gospel is upon the earth in its fullness.

We live in the shadow of the greatest genealogical resources in the world. Soon we will live in the shadow of 4 temples in the Salt Lake Valley. What a waste it would be if we did not take advantage of the opportunities available to search out our kindred dead. In fact, the angel Moroni told the prophet Joseph Smith that the “the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (JS Hist 1:39) if this work does not take place.

In a way, each of us are 911 dispatchers for those on the other side of the veil. Will you take the call? Will you help those who are in need of the ordinances of the gospel? Will you get them the help they need?

I believe that as we search out our ancestors, that we will be blessed as we learn of their lives and what they have done for us. Each of us, us as members of the church – have a holy calling to assist the Lord the work of saving precious souls. Precious because they are our Father’s children. And precious also because of the blood that was shed for them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

When you engage in temple and family history work, you invite the Spirit of the Lord into your life. You may also invite the influence of Angels -- both seen and unseen to help you in accomplishing this work. These same angels may also help you in the trials and struggles you face in your own life.

I close with this scripture from D&C 84:88

“ … for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)