Monday, February 22, 2010

OUR Army of Helaman!

 In Alma 27:27, there is a phrase which has intrigued me for some time.  As Mormon quotes from the records before him, he describes the Lamanites who had been converted by Ammon (of the arms) and his brothers as:Halloween 002

…perfectly honest and upright in all things…

These folk were former enemies of the Nephites and had been the cause of much misery for those who were followers of Christ.  Yet, when they saw the light themselves, their nature changed in such a way that they were completely honest and unwilling to do anything that might be regarded as sinful.  Many even went so far as to give up their lives rather than take the chance they might be guilty of murder through defense of the same (Alma 24:21-23). 

Years later, these same repentant enemies, now accepted members of Nephite society, were considering violating the covenant they had made (no warring with others) to assist in the defense of their neighbors and friends.  Helaman, a warrior Prophet to these people, encouraged them to maintain the covenant rather than risk the judgments of God (Alma 53:10-15).  Let me quote what happened next:East Canyon 081

But behold, it came to pass they had many sons, who had not entered into a covenant that they would not take their weapons of war to defend themselves against their enemies; therefore they did assemble themselves together at this time, as many as were able to take up arms, and they called themselves Nephites.  And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives…(Alma 53:16-170)

Now, listen to the description Helaman shares about these wonderful young men he comes to call his “sons”:

IMG_1596And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrustedYea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.  (Alma 53:20-21)

Notice how the goodness of these young men is described in the same way the character of their parents is shown.  The boys had become what their parents had sacrificed to be.  I doubt any of the parents were perfect (in fact I’m sure that is not the case) but they did all they could to create the proper atmosphere for growth in their families and the results were all they had hoped.

Teresa and I have been blessed with five exceptional children who have given and will continue to give us great joy.  They are not your normal children: they are truly touched by God and given abilities and desires that are righteous in nature.  And the four who have chosen mates have reached into families founded in the same principles so that the traditions of goodness will continue.

Our hope is that a small part of the goodness they have become is a reflection of the foundations we tried to build in our home.  As we watch them with their own children, we see many of the same practices and teachings that helped them find their own faith in Christ and His work on earth.  But we also see an extension of those things to a greater level than we were able to achieve.

East Canyon 053We are confident that each of these special souls was called and set apart to become great leaders in the Kingdom of God.  I don’t mean leaders like Prophets or Apostles, but leaders like Scoutmasters and YW Presidents and Primary teachers.  That is where the real leading is done in this life.  And that is where the changing of hearts takes place. 

We have our own “army of Helaman” growing right before our very eyes.  What a joy it is to see such strength coming from all the work and sacrifice given through the years.  Thank you all for who you have become and who you are yet to be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fanatics Among Us

I suppose I am one of those “fanatical” Mormons who just can’t understand why more people don’t jump on the wagon with us and enjoy the fruits of the Gospel.  There seem to be some in the world that will not see anything good that we do, no matter how honorable, right or beneficial it is to our fellowmen. 

A comment on a web-site discussing “Mormon Funerals” caught my eye just for that reason.  This person (a disaffected member) was really offended that the Bishop, who was conducting the funeral, would spend so much time teaching Doctrine concerning the Plan of Salvation .  The writer was put out because more wasn’t said about the accomplishments and life of the deceased. 

I guess my thought would be that by teaching where the deceased has gone and what life will be for him/her, we are doing a great service to those who will follow.  And for those who are unsure about the different parts of the Plan, this might be a chance to get some bearing on what to expect.  Yes, some might consider a Bishop’s funeral talk to be a form of missionary work (but then, what isn’t in the Gospel?) but it is also a message of hope and peace for those who are left behind in this world of sorrow and distress.  Maybe a little hopeful counsel is just what a person needs during their time of grief.  (And if you want to review the deceased’s life, there is usually a video montage in the foyer that gives a good accounting of the events of mortality.)

Neal A. MaxwellElder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of the relevance found in the gospel for all matters of this life:

There is no human circumstance to which the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot bring either remedy or reassurance.

There is no human challenge to which the gospel cannot respond specifically and effectively if applied.

There is no life it cannot ennoble and enrich and enlighten.

There is no mortal uncertainty that its light will not clarify ,and no darkness it cannot dispel. 

(CES Symposium, 19 Aug 1983)

My firm belief is that everything taught in the Gospel of Christ, as we have it in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is for the betterment of all men, everywhere.  Those who will listen and follow the counsel of the scriptures, the Prophets, and the Holy Spirit, will eventually find the joy that comes from being followers of Christ.  There are truths in all religions but only one has all the ordinances, truths and powers of God to help men become what God expects us to be. 

I quote C. S. Lewis and his vision of who we are and who we can be:

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, ….  It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. (From The Weight of Glory)

As a people, we desire all to come and see what we have and what we can do to help.  We condemn no one (despite what some may say about our practices) but encourage all to sup at the table of Christ.  Our meetings are open to all and our hearts reach out in love to any who will accept (and even to those who don’t, but they can’t tell). 

If all these things make me a “fanatic”, then I will gladly accept the appellation.  And I will continue to fanatically live in such a way that I can have hope in the power of the Atonement of Christ to deliver me from the effects of this mortal world.  May we all do likewise and find joy in our earth-life experience. 

(I expect some might consider this a missionary message…and you would be right!!!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Last Chick Has Flown The Coop

Wednesday we took Joel to the MTC so he could begin his 2 year adventure serving the Lord.  He was a little nervous
so we tried to let him get his wits about him.  He wasn’t due until 1:30 so we finally left about noon time and made the trek to Provo. 
We have done this twice before and were ready for the drama of the big event…..but we were surprised by the new way they do things.  O, we had heard that the family didn’t go in anymore but even that warning wasn’t quite enough prep for what we found.
As we stopped the van, we were met by a nice elder who watched as we unloaded the bags and got Joel squared away.
Then the same elder, politely asked if he could help Elder Whitmer with his bags while his mom hugged him one more time.  IMG_1808
Continuing to talk to Elder Whitmer, the nice elder began to walk away with his bags and…what choice did a young man have but to follow all his stuff.  And with a final wave, Elder Joel A. Whitmer was on his way to becoming a full-time servant of the Lord in the California Ventura Mission.
The whole process took about 5 minutes and we were on our way out of the MTC parking lot.  One of the older gents watching the whole thing said “Sort of like taking a band-aid off.  The quicker you do it, the less it hurts.”  Never truer words were spoken.  Mom sniffed a bit and asked to be taken around to the front for a picture
and then it was over.  Our last son is on his way and we aren’t in mourning or weeping or anything of the sort.  I really believe the Missionary Department was inspired in making this change in the process. 
One last thing!  Thanks to all those who helped get Joel ready to become Elder Whitmer.  It was a long process and we worried about the outcome but in the end things went just as they should.  I will try to keep you updated on his progress and experiences for the next two years.  Keep him in your prayers and write when you can.  His address in the….never mind, by the time you read and respond, he will be in California.  Just watch and we will post his address when he gets to the field.  Love you all.