Sunday, October 11, 2015

Highlights from Nauvoo

Following is a synopsis of our mission in Nauvoo as reported in sacrament meeting on October 11, 2015.

I’ve been asked to speak to you on inspiring and faith promoting experiences that we had while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I could go on and on with that topic but for your sake I’ve selected five examples.

As I speak, I invite you to ask yourselves, “What lack I yet?” What one thing does the Savior want you to change to help you in your life long quest of preparing to meet God? You may be inspired by something I say, or simply by random thoughts that come to you which (if they draw you closer to Christ) are the soft sweet whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

The first experience I want to share with you is evidence of just how directly we can receive revelation and guidance from the Holy Ghost.

During the pageant season in Nauvoo, there are a number of detractors who plague the community with their outward objection to something. I never really figured them out--why they want to bother us, but they are there every year, and we do our best to keep them from antagonizing the guests.

Anyway, the first summer we were in Carthage, I had an angry soul come on one of my tours. He was harmless until while in the debtor’s cell I began telling the events surrounding Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s martyrdom. When using Joseph’s name for the first time, I heard him scoff loudly. Assuming I had misspoken in some way, I looked at the man to address what was wrong. As I did, the Spirit withdrew and my mind went completely blank. All I could do was silently pray and ask for assistance and knowledge on how to respond.

I received an answer immediately with distinct instructions…"don’t look at him". The delay was only a few seconds and I obediently proceeded first talking to one side of the room, skipping over the angry guy and addressing the group on the other side of the room. 

However, with every sentence that I said after that, I heard a loud obnoxious groan. Fortunately, I was blessed to be able to completely ignore his annoying sounds. The man left before I was finished so the other guests were able to hear my final summation and testimony without his commentary.

 Through this experience, I learned that there is both good and evil in the world, and the Lord will not abandon us when we’re doing His work.

The second experience I’m going to relate stood in stark contrast to the first. Again while serving in Carthage, an older gentleman came to visit the jail. He looked down trodden even broken from the onset. In talking to him, I learned that he was born and raised in Carthage, and this was his first visit to the jail. That’s all I knew about him.

Elder Johnson and I were giving the tour together this time, and it gave me time to observe his reaction to the information. I had a feeling that I should bear testimony of Christ and the power of the atonement. As I did, I noticed him in the corner literally sobbing.

I didn’t know this man, I hadn’t served him long or even individually, but I felt deep love and abiding respect for him. I saw this man through God’s eyes and I loved him. I understood that Heavenly Father loved him too and that he needed to know that through the atonement of Christ, he could be forgiven of whatever plagued him.

I also realized how much all of us are loved even the angry mob that took Joseph’s life. The atonement is for everyone and it is the healer of all wounds.

Third, in our last interview with our mission president, President Gibbons, asked us what we learned that surprised us or that we were not expecting.  So that’s what I want to tell you about next.

When first called to Nauvoo, I was excited to learn more about Joseph Smith. In fact, many historians call Nauvoo, Joseph’s city, Joseph’s temple, Joseph and Hyrum’s final resting place. 

Our first assignment was to serve in Carthage as I mentioned earlier. This is where the old historic jail still exists and where Joseph was killed. For months, we studied everything we could get our hands on concerning the events that led to their deaths and the aftermath.

Everyday we related this information to guests. Every day we bore testimony that Joseph was a prophet of God because over and over we felt the Spirit confirm that fact.

The surprising part was that through it all, I came out feeling the love of who? ...not Joseph Smith but Christ.

The story goes on…

...After four months in Carthage we were asked to serve in Nauvoo. There are about twenty- five different sites there each with different stories to tell. As I read and studied the material to present, again I was enthralled with the opportunity to come to know these great people who were willing to sacrifice their lives and homes for the gospel’s sake.

It was inspiring to think of their faith and sacrifice and wonder if I could follow their legacy if the need arose.

Again, however as I studied and pondered the circumstances and stories of these great people, I came away feeling ….the Savior’s love… and the undeniable fact that the Savior lives and loves each of us.

In essence, I came to understand that the reason for the shift is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not Joseph’s church nor is it any other man or woman’s church regardless of the sacrifices they made for it.

It belongs to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the chief corner stone. It is His priesthood and His Church that have been restored upon the earth. He personally directs the affairs of this church through apostles and prophets starting with Joseph Smith and it continues today through President Monson.

Therefore, no matter where missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asked to serve, it is the Savior, Jesus Christ, who they will ultimately come away knowing and having a stronger love and testimony of as they embark in His service.

Fourth, while working as a Nauvoo Site missionary, we had to learn to collaborate. With hundreds of thousands of guests each year, it took teamwork and cooperation to help so many people have a good experience.

President Uchtdorf gave an excellent example of how to do this in conference a few years ago.  (See Lift Where You Stand) He compared cooperation to the lifting of a grand piano. The most effective way he said, is for many people to stand close together and lift. It doesn’t really matter who stands where but they need to do their part and all do it at the same time.

The adversary uses derision to block our ability to work effectively together, and we have a tendency to, among other things be clumsy in our relationships with others even gossipy, selfish, and judgmental.  So it is important that we fight those tendencies.

In  D&C 38:27 Christ says, “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”

One missionary in Nauvoo had three simple rules:

Don’t let yourself be offended –just refuse to pick it up, don’t judge others unkindly since you really don’t know all the circumstances anyway, and be forgiving--in your mind and also in your heart.

When I find myself needing an attitude adjustment, it helps me to remember another of President Uchtdorf’s talk not to judge others for sinning differently than you do. Maybe, you would never do what so and so did, but you are certainly doing other less than perfect things that so and so would never do.

When we are judgmental, we block the Holy Ghost from being able to communicate with us. When we see others through God’s eyes, we invite the Holy Ghost to be with us and guide our thoughts and actions.

I exhort you to catch yourselves when you are feeling critical of others and just…….stop it.

Have you heard of the Pygmalion Effect? The Pygmalion Effect was discovered in the 1950's when an experiment was done. Teachers of youth were told that certain children were brilliant. Truth was, these children were chosen randomly, but the result was after years of teaching the selected children outperformed the other students in response to their teacher's optimistic view of their potential.

Thus we see that if we treat others as if they are already the people they can become, we can all be more successful.

Choose to see the best in others. Treat them as they may become and not how they currently are. Find their strengths and focus on those. Love, nurture, empower and then you'll be one with them and the Savior will claim you and be at your side.

Fifth and last, I’m going to talk about some of our trials. However before I do, you have to know how much fun we had. Our mission was a great opportunity to develop our talents and skills which included giving presentations to both large and small groups, singing, performing, and playing the piano. All of our prior skills were enhanced as a missionary. A fun side of both of us came out that we didn’t even know we had. While being relaxed and serving others, we could put away the worries of the world and just enjoy the guests. I could tell from another room when Brother Johnson was giving a tour because I heard laughter. Guests told me often how they enjoyed his tours. Life was very different, not mundane but full of variety and adventure, and everything we did had purpose and felt productive. As a side benefit, we met many wonderful missionaries that will most likely be lifelong friends.

Now that you know that, I can say that It was not always easy and fun. While in Nauvoo, we had to be okay with many things that we were not used to like being told where to live, when to move, what furniture and supplies we can borrow and what we couldn’t, what sites to work at on what days and what hours, what meetings to attend, and how to assist at those meetings. Basically, our time was not our own. All responsibilities were considered mandatory. As missionaries, we joked that the only exceptions might be eating and sleeping.

Time and time again as we chose to be obedient and not let the circumstances bother us, our hearts were softened and we felt surprisingly comfortable with the demands. For example, for the evening show Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo, we were asked to take the roll of George and Agatha—the hen pecked husband and the lady with no filter on her brain—the one role I hoped I’d never have to perform. Fortunately, the Lord qualifies those who he calls and as we put our hearts into the rolls, we found a new way to make it fun and rewarding.

Some of our trials we describe as the refiner’s fire. As we were asked to do things that we’d never done before there was of course a learning curve. Sometimes we excelled and other times not so much.  It’s never fun to have your weaknesses exposed, but it was and still is a necessary part of the process.

 Whether it’s trying to develop our talents, communication skills, or interpersonal relationships, we must first see our short comings from someone else’s perspective before we can take measures for improvement.

There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon found in Ether12:27 that sums up the solution:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Even though it was painful, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn that in our extreme humility the Lord is always there to comfort and strengthen us and give us motivation to hang in there.

Ultimately, we loved being a tool in the Lord’s hand which happened as we got out of our comfort zone, and willing did what we were asked to do … say what we were inspired to say—and have a good attitude about it.

We sometimes reminded ourselves that anything we were asked to do was far easier than what was required of the early saints in Nauvoo. That thought became a great motivator.

In conclusion:
Being rooted in the gospel of Christ is a life long process. We can never retire from it. I will be eternally grateful for my experience as a full time missionary. I shudder to think how close we came to not going at all or cutting our mission short.

I, like most of you like to see the end from the beginning. This time, we had to trust the Lord that things would work out as we left our business and home in the hands of others not knowing for sure how it would work out. There were trials along the way, but the Lord inspired and directed us and others and the holes that opened up in Arvada were consistently filled. But, we had to trust the Lord and His time table.

What wonderful lessons to learn in 18 short months. How else could we have learned these principles so quickly and so thoroughly?

I stand before you today a different person than I was 18 months ago being filled with the knowledge that God lives. His son, Jesus Christ, is our advocate with the Father. Christ is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.

He has indeed removed the sting of death. The atonement is real and powerful enough to bring us back into Heavenly Father’s presence if we will simply choose His path for we are loved by Diety more than any of us are capable of or can imagine.

I went on a mission hoping to bring the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to others, and the greatest good I accomplished was in strengthening my own testimony.    

I invite you to think about my initial invitation to you and consider what you have been inspired to do differently and then…act on it. Allow the Spirit of God to work within you and move you to a closer relationship with Him.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Young Sister Missionaries, Happy Birthday, Farewell Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, and Home

We had the young sister missionaries and the Udalls over for one last dinner.
 It was Elder Johnson's, Elder Udall's, and Sister Schenk's Birthday.

 We also invited some of our friends to eat with us at Grandpa John's the morning we left Nauvoo for the last time.

 Our mini van was full to the brim with a car-top carrier ta-boot.

 Goodbye little house.

Motivation for leaving was a desire to reunite with family and friends.
Here's a few more pictures of our sweet grand kids in Chicago. 
Love the face, Zoey.

 Mia is so grown up. She's off to kindergarten already.

 Last week I told you a bit about Council Bluff or Kanesville as the Mormon's called it. Now I'll tell you about a place called Winter Quarters which is located west across the Missouri River from Council Bluff.
 Council Bluff was a holding area while the Mormons ferried across the Missouri River to Winter Quarters. Ferrying large rivers in the 1840's was a big deal that took valuable time. The pioneers wanted to head for the Great Salt Lake early spring and needed to have the river crossing behind them. The main problem with crossing the Missouri River was that land outside Iowa Territory was occupied by the Native Americans.

 Brigham Young plead with the Federal Government for assistance. This time, the Feds helped to negotiate with the Indians and granted the LDS pioneers use of the land named Winter Quarters for a two year period.

 A temporary but large community emerged quickly. (It grew to about 4,000 population in 1846 with 800 cabins, huts, and cabins with about 3,000 people who stayed in Kanesville east across the river.) As one group of saints left, another moved in to take their place. Many of the journals comment on the horrible conditions in Winter Quarters. Their weakened and exposed condition made many vulnerable to scurvy and many other diseases born of malnutrition. The disease infested the community giving the pioneers added incentive to move further west quickly.

By 1848 the Mormons relinquished Winter Quarters as agreed and the saints who had been asked to stay behind to help with the migration moved east to Kanesville. At that time, 350 houses and 3,000 people lived in Kanesville.  By 1852 there were 5,000 residents. It became a springboard for migrants.

For more detailed information see Winter Quarters Church Headquarters

For protection against the Indians, the wagons were pulled into large circles. Brigham Young stressed the importance of treating the Indians kindly. The Mormons had relatively few problems with them.

 Many journals also expressed the impression that angels assisted them in their travels.
Next to the Winter Quarter Visitor Center is a cemetery full of pioneers who died here. At least 1,000 died in the camps between 1846-1848. Brigham Young said, "God would have a tested people, but they would be redeemed in the fire of their wilderness afflictions."

 Below is the Winter Quarter's Temple. It was closed for cleaning on our trip home so we were unable to attend it. Isn't it beautiful?

 We're home. Sure glad we had numerous vacuum packed bags. We wouldn't have gotten everything in without them.


We will be reporting on our mission next Sunday relating some of our missionary experiences. 
Check out the blog in a week, and I'll give you some of the highlights.
These early pioneers pulled together for the temporal preservation of all. The interest of the whole prevailed over the interest of the individual. I invite you to unite with your family and friends. If we are not one, we are not Christ's. (See D&C 38:27) We, if are not Christ's, have not charity. (See 2 Nephi 26:30 and 1 John 5:2 and 1 John 4:7) If we have not charity, we are nothing. (See Moroni 7:46)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Counsel Bluffs

After a short visit to Chicago and getting a "grandkid fix" we headed west following the saints in 1846.
 Remember, I told you about the muddy spring of 1846 that slowed the saints drastically? Initially, the Mormons were hopeful of getting to their far west destination by the fall of that same year. However, it took four months just to get across Iowa. (In case you were wondering, Iowa was a territory until December of 1846 so it was considered outside of the United States at that time)
 When the first Mormons arrived at Counsel Bluff in June which is about 327 miles from Nauvoo, it was obvious that they would not be able to travel the last thousand miles before winter. Lewis and Clark originally named the place since it was here that negotiations with native Americans over land acquisition were discussed on the bluff. The Mormons named the place Kanesville but would only last for a few years since they eventually left the city and migrated to the Great Salt Lake Basin.

 Crops were planted all along the trail as well as crude housing built and left for the travelers that would follow. The logistics of getting people, wagons, animals, and supplies across rivers were slow and tedious. The Mormons set up four more ferries to accommodate the travels. Originally, there were only two ferries and the owners charged outrageous prices. About four thousand pioneers spent the winter across the Missouri River from Counsel Bluffs which made the trip to the Salt Lake Valley the following April more practical.
 It was here in Council Bluffs that Brigham Young returned to in December of 1847. All of the apostles met him here and sustained him as President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brigham led the church as President of the Quorum of Twelve not as Prophet for three and a half years after June 27, 1844 when Joseph died.
 Families suffered and many died in their sacrifice.

 Originally, Counsel Bluffs was only a stopping spot for thousands of wagons. Cabins were built across the river in Winter Quarters but not here. The white spots in the background are wagons (not sheep if you were wondering).

 Later, a community emerged, but all temporary for others to use at a later time.

 In December of 1847, Brigham needed to be sustained as Prophet and President of the church as I mentioned above. There was not a building large enough to gather all the members who wanted to attend  so 200 men worked for 18 days and erected a log cabin made of Cottonwood trees. We were told that Cottonwood trees are really good for two things...burning and nothing else. The cabin held about 1,000 people for the event but obviously didn't last long after that.
 The tabernacle was reconstructed in this century. I forgot the date. It is similar to the original but not at the same location exactly. The missionaries serving here showed us where the original one was just across the street in the parking lot of a near-by church.

 Check out the expression on Brigham Young's face below who is represented by the guy in the middle. Don't you think the caption ought to be, "Brigham, why not ask for directions?"

How much are you willing to sacrifice for the gospel of Jesus Christ? Life goes so amazingly fast. It's true that the older you get, the faster it seems to go. I invite you to look at your priorities and adjust your decisions to bring you happiness in this life and eternal life in the next. That time will be here before you know it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Nauvoo after the Mormon's, Sisters take the title, Dinner with President Gibbons, and The Historic Post office

Have you ever wondered what happened to our little town after 1846 when the Mormons left Nauvoo? We took a tour given by the Nauvoo Chamber of Commerce. 
I know, I's a bit late since we're leaving soon, but we took it none-the-less. 
The reader boards below are displayed in the Nauvoo town square.

 You may have heard that Nauvoo was the wine capital for a number of years. 
In fact, in 1860, Nauvoo claimed to have 425,000 grape plants. 
Would you have wanted to be given the job of grape plant counter? Me either.

 Just so you know, the women have been beating the men at Canasta whenever the Udalls and Johnsons have a minute of diversion. You can't see the score below, and I can't remember what it was, but rest assured we beat them soundly...again.

It is traditional that when missionaries have reached their expiration date as I call it and head home, the Mission President's wife cooks a fine meal for them before they go. It was delicious. 
 It's a pretty large group leaving don't you think?

Historic Post Office
I was in the historic post office on Friday. I haven't served there much obviously because the morning was filled with a comedy of errors. First, while dusting the chandeliers, my duster melted to one of the chandelier light bulbs. When do bulbs the size of Christmas tree lights give off enough heat to melt the duster?
 Sisters Anderson and Wood came to my rescue. But the problems didn't end there...

The sisters went back to the John Taylor home. Sister Brinley, my companion for the day, and I were outside socializing. I shut the door to keep the air conditioner from coming on too much. That sounds innocent enough don't you think? Well, the post office has one of those weird door knobs that has to be unlocked while the door is open. If one neglects to force the dead bolt open before shutting the door, then you are stuck inside.
 You either need the key which is outside as shown in the picture above. Or you need a special gold key that is inside every building...somewhere. I had to wait for Sister Brinley to return to her post (no pun intended...well maybe it was) and instruct me where the gold key was located.

Sister Brinley and I talked up a storm as we were at this site from 9-5 with only a few tours to give.
 I don't think I've reported on the post office before. See below for the cost of postage. Keep in mind that a skilled man's wage those days was about a dollar a day. Ouch, if you have many letters to send.
 Since the cost was so high, it was common to use cross writing when sending a letter. Cross writing is show below. First, the page was filled with writing on one side of the paper from top to bottom. Then the page was turned sideways and filled again on top of the original writing. Sometimes, the page was turned diagonal and filled a third time. A blank sheet of paper held under the words to be read was helpful but not a cure-all. For this and many more reasons, I feel happy to live in my generation. Yea for the internet!
 Note the folded letter to the side of the cross writing above. 
In the 1840's they still used wax and a stamp to seal the letters.
The picture below shows a mail bag used for transporting the Federally owned property.
 A typical post office was often located in a corner of a home or business with cub-be holes like you see below. If mail wasn't picked up (and because mail could be sent COD, this was a regular occurrence) unclaimed mail would be sent to Washington DC and eventually destroyed. Is it just me or does that make you twitch to know all those stories and real life events were destroyed?

In reading through the notes I've taken the past 18 months, I came across a few quotes  that stood out. Some of them are paraphrased below. I invite you to scan through for something that might be of benefit to you, and then of course act on it. Gems of advice aren't much good if you don't do something about it.
  • We lose out on opportunities for growth because we do not listen to the Holy Ghost. We need to relinquish our will in favor of the Lord's will. In 2 Nephi 28:30 it says we learn line upon line until we have learned great wisdom. After we accept revelation, we are given more. When we receive revelation we should thank God for His trust in us.
  • President Hinckley said, "Life is to be enjoyed not just endured. Things aren't as bad as you think. It will all work out." 
  • Concerning the fads in the world--some of them are harmless. Some of them can start us on a path to destruction. To know the difference, listen to and obey the prophets.
  • Never let a problem to be solved be more important than a person to be loved.
  • We will all suffer pain but it is our choice whether we continue to suffer or not.
  • There's no sense in saying that you trust Christ if you don't take His advice.
  • There is no agency(choice), without some risk.
  • Brigham Young said that we can build a kingdom faster than the adversary can tear it down because the foundation has been laid.
  • Sweet feelings of love in our heart are often companions to adversity.
  • No one can be lying, stealing, or involved in sexual sin and feel the Holy Ghost.
  • Salvation is not a cheap experience. We must all step into Gethsemane a little and experience sin and opposition to be saved.
  • As we come to know Christ as opposed to knowing about Christ, we feel and have confidence and trust in His love.
  • Be of good cheer both in good times and bad.
  • Why would Joseph Smith lie about seeing a vision when all he received for it was persecution and eventually death?
  • Many churches help men be better. Many teach love, peace, patience, service and forgiveness. No other church except the LDS teaches principles and temple covenants that save men in a celestial state with husbands and wives together linked to their family.
  • No sacrifice is too great for the blessings of an eternal marriage.
  • Be humble, faithful, and good then you can have the Holy Ghost with you. Learn what the Holy Ghost feels like to you--it varies between individuals. 
  • You can't teach others what you don't know yourself.

All in fun:

  • Should a woman have a baby after 35? No, 35 children is enough.
  • Having a memory is really overrated. You don't have to have a memory to become one.
  • Not to spoil the ending, but everything is going to be okay.
  • There has not been one case in the history of mankind when a husband has been shot while doing the dishes.