31 January 2009

A Lovely Little Friday

My boss from the physical therapy clinic back east called me earlier to ask if I was coming back to work for them next summer. To tell her (and myself) that I would leave this place, this wonderful campus that has become the closest thing to home that I have ever known (outside of the temple), it was excruciating to admit to myself. She caught me on my way to my English class this morning, so I thankfully didn't have time to dwell much on my sadness. Afterwards, I returned to my dorm, tried not to think much about anything specific, and fell asleep in my bed.




I woke up to my phone's loud emission of Stairway to Heaven, answered the call, and was greeted by the familiar voice of one of my high school friends. We talked for at least an hour, possibly even two. It was so good to hear how he has been adjusting to college, and his call reassured me of a lot of things in regards to going back east; that I would have friends to see, things to accomplish, and ways to survive until I could actually come back to Provo.

I told him about my experiences here, and to share with him how much closer I've drawn to Christ since I've been here was absolutely inevitable. He is also a Christian, and not of the variety that has ever judged me for being LDS, and like so many times in our past it was easy for me to talk about my faith with him--which is great, because otherwise we would have had almost nothing else to talk about. I told him about my decision to serve a mission for the Church, and he said that based on his experience with me, I would do a great job of leading people and being a source of strength to others the same way I had in high school... I was unaware that his opinion of me was so high, that I had ever had such an impact on the people there. It gave me confidence in the good that might actually come by leaving Provo, as much as it'll hurt to do so.

And then, all thoughts of myself simply vanished. I realized that I needed to do something for this dear friend of mine, to show him how much his friendship has meant to me for all this time--something selfless and eternal, if I could manage it.

"Can you do me a favor and Facebook me your address? I want to send you something."

And within moments, I had everything I needed to proceed. We exchanged heartfelt goodbyes, and I was off to the bookstore to do what I had wanted to do for so long.




I bought a copy of the Book of Mormon in his native Korean, complete with a small, green hymnal. There were other things on the small shelf, but I couldn't even begin to guess what they were. I went with what I felt were the essentials. It was the best ten dollars I spent this week.

It wasn't until tonight that I finished the card, which started out as the most awkward letter on the face of the earth until I remembered to pray. Afterwards, the words flowed poetically, fluidly, until I had filled both sides of the small card with a thank-note and a small piece of my testimony. I plan to take the small bundle to the mail room first thing tomorrow morning and get it shipped to him. I'm so excited to see what will come of this. Within a week or so, I'll have my answer.

Since one of my dear friends here in Provo just received his mission call (Anchorage, Alaska--Spanish speaking), and with the prospect of a mission of my own becoming more and more a part of my life with each passing moment, my heart swells with joy to be involved in this work--even though I don't have a call to look forward to any time soon.

I guess for now, I don't really need one to do good in this world. This is my fourth copy that I've placed, probably the easiest so far, and my first in a foreign language. I think it does get easier with practice. I'll be interested to see how the experience of giving them out to people I know compares with giving them out to total strangers. I'm of the opinion that placing copies with strangers HAS to be easier than what I've already been through. I think it'll also be a nice difference. Even if all that happens is getting a door slammed in my face, repeatedly, there has to be less turmoil in that than the anxiety of the thought that my parents and family might never actually get what I'm trying to say to them.

But for now, I find a lot of joy in the preparation. I bought the missionary reference library, Preach My Gospel, and the missionary handbook. Right now, I'm trying to implement the whole sleeping 8-hours-a-night thing. Because I enjoy napping, I fail miserably at this for the moment. I'm studying the scriptures by taking the most challenging religion courses I can find, and taking as many of them as my schedule will permit. I'm even getting a taste of the dating turmoil of a lot of the guys I've met. I want to start practicing with the discussions, but I'm not even sure where to begin with that--which is kind of stupid because I actually HAD the discussions. But I was so ready to be baptized before I even took those discussions, and had so many other questions on my mind, I hardly paid attention. I imagine it's like that for a lot of people. I should probably keep that in mind as well.

I'm really blessed to be where I am right now. I'm confident that this will happen, and will do everything in my power to prepare in what time I have left before I can put my papers in. I'll be able to write to my new friends as they leave on their missions, asking them questions and learning from their experiences as much as is possible for them to write to me. But most importantly--with each new experience I have counseling with the Lord to consecrate my efforts, the more affirmations I receive that what I'm doing is the right thing, and that's so beautiful to me; that He knows the desires of my heart and will give me this experience that I already crave so much.

Considering the structural travesty of that last sentence and the fact that I've already used "Facebook" as a verb, I think it's time I signed off. I certainly have a lot of work to do.

18 January 2009

Inside of a Celestial Room

Draper Temple Celestial Room
Image source: newsroom.lds.org
"Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."  Alma 26: 16
...instead, I will simply bear my testimony of the truth that is only found when one is worthy of the spirit that exists inside the temple. Everything I've been through, every sacrifice I've ever made, all the prices I've paid to get to where I am was worth it in that moment. Any price I am asked to pay to be worthy of what is in store for my future, my God can consider it paid.

17 January 2009

Desire

Guess where I'm going today!

Go ahead. Guess.

If you said to the DRAPER OPEN HOUSE , give yourself a million points.

Yes, the wonderful thing about Utah is that whenever something like this happens, you can actually go and see it. And because our bishopric is so absolutely wonderful, they went out of their way to get us tickets so our ward could go.

And in light of recent events, I couldn't be more excited. Over the past several years, I have carefully searched, pondered, prayed, re-prayed--in the temple, in all states of mind and geography alike--about serving a mission. Last night, I felt a burning in the bosom-type feeling of holy writ. It's the confirming witness for which I've been waiting, and suddenly everything I've gone through over the past 6 months makes all the sense I could possibly ask for.

A mission. I have been absolutely terrified to become too attached to the idea of serving a mission because, in the event that I should get married before I graduate, and I would not be able to serve one. I feel I know myself pretty well, and I simply didn't want to face the regret and disappointment I know I would feel if that should happen.

But last night... it was as if peace had settled upon me, and it was no longer a question. I could do this. I could share what has come to mean so much to me in my life. If I was willing to make the sacrifice, the Lord would provide. I could turn in my papers and put my life on hold for 18 months so it could actually begin. I could become a missionary, despite the fact that I haven't had the years to prepare like so many of the courageous young people that have surrounded me here at BYU. I could learn. I have the potential to be that sacred vessel of life-altering, faith-building, undeniable, beautiful truth.

I can do this. The only question that remains is "Will I?"

It's a question that members of my wards and branches, members of both of my bishoprics, many friends, and even my family have asked me. It is a question I have barely begun to ask myself because I know me. Once I say yes, there is no going back unless I am threatened, beaten, and finally dragged back into my place--wherever that may be.

But I also know that when my Book of Mormon professor explained to our class that temple open houses often have tons of investigators and non-members present, I got excited at the very thought of perhaps being given the opportunity to speak to someone about the gospel. I wanted that chance to do what I do best, even though it gets me in trouble sometimes because of the way I choose to go about it.

I wanted to tell the truth.

And who knows. Maybe this is only the beginning of things to come, of the fulfillment of that most precious desires in my heart.

07 January 2009

42

Lunkwill: Do you...
Deep Thought: Have an answer for you? Yes. But you're not going to like it.
Fook: Please tell us. We must know!
Deep Thought: Okay. The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is...
(wild cheers from audience, then silence)
Deep Thought: 42
--from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the movie

So I bring this up to tell you this. I was reading in the Book of Mormon today, and I came across a  verse in Alma 34 that I allowed me to make some pretty interesting connections. Amulek is teaching to the Zoramites, and in verse 5 of chapter 34, he makes a really interesting observation:

"And we have beheld that the great question which is in your minds is whether the word be in the Son of God, or whether there shall be no Christ."

As soon as I read that verse, I thought to myself, The GREAT question? Like, the answer to life, the universe, and everything? Well, the desire to know if this universe is good or evil, or whether it could be redeemed through something like Christ's atonement... I could see those being valid interpretations into that question.

Then I remembered a conversation I had with someone here just a day or two ago. He explained to me that from Abraham to David are 14 generations, from David to the captivity of Babylon are 14 generations, and from the captivity of Babylon to Jesus Christ are 14 generations... as I just verified with Matthew 1: 17.

Now here's the real brain buster: What is 14 x 3? (If you need help, type in "what is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?" into a Google search, and it will tell you.)




See, whether Douglas Adams believed in God or not is absolutely irrelevant. Writers have the frightening ability to manifest truths they don't even realize they're telling because all things testify of Christ--even the people who don't believe in Him.

Example: It's my interpretation that Darwinism and evolution are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 30, verse 17 read as follows:
And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.

I love how the moral relativism is tacked onto the end there. And you would think that this is a description of modern-day times, it certainly fits well enough. However, this was a description of the teachings of Korihor, the anti-Christ who became a pain in the pan-dimensional rear in about 74 B.C. Considering Darwin and evolution did not come along, become completely misinterpreted, and the need for guidance on how to interpret them again would not manifest for almost two dozen centuries, the fact that Korihor was preserved in the Book of Mormon testifies to me that Heavenly Father is real, and he will communicate answers to His children that they need, by any means necessary.

Even if it's through people like Korihor and Douglas Adams.

02 January 2009

Work in Progress

Friday Morning, January 1, 1836-- This being the beginning of a new year, my heart is filled with gratitude to God that He has preserved my life, and the lives of my family, while another year has passed away. We have been sustained and upheld in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, although exposed to all the afflictions, temptations, and misery that are incident to human life; for this I feel to humble myself in dust and ashes, as it were, before the Lord. But notwithstanding the gratitude that fills my heart on retrospecting the past year, and the multiplied blessings that have crowned our hearts, my heart is pained within me, because of the difficulty that exists in my father's family. The devil has made a violent attack on my brother William and Calvin Stoddard, and the powers of darkness seem to lower over their minds, and not only over theirs, but they also cast a gloomy shade over the minds of my brethren and sisters, which prevents them from seeing things as they really are; and the powers of earth and hell seem combined to overthrow us and the Church, by causing a division in the family... But I am determined that nothing on my part shall be lacking to adjust and amicably dispose of and settle all family difficulties on this day, that the ensuing year and years, be they few or many, may be spent in righteousness before God. And I know that the cloud will burst, and Satan's kingdom be laid in ruins, with all his black designs; and that the Saints will come forth like gold seven times tried in the fire, being made perfect through sufferings and temptations, and that the blessings of heaven and earth will be multiplied upon their heads; which may God grant for Christ's sake. Amen.

--A Prophet's Journal, compiled by Lee Nelson

As I was compiling my list of New Year's resolutions, I got the distinct impression that I needed to add to my list the intention to become more familiar with the Prophet Joseph Smith. I have long understood that his life and mine bear striking similarities, and it brings me great comfort to see that. I bought a copy of his personal journals a couple of months ago that I have yet to look at, and a brief perusal brought me to this entry.

My situation feels like an echo of this entry, and yet missing from my circumstances is that unshakable confidence, that peace that comes with the realization that God's way is perfect and that He is always in control of all things. It's a peace that I crave, and have felt in rare and brilliant moments since I've been in Utah, but I need more constancy. So often I find myself praying for a security that I just don't feel most of them time, and simply asking for it doesn't seem to be enough. I used to think it used to be a reflection of my worthiness, but now I think it's a just a reflection of my ignorance--a completely different issue. I need to do more to pursue that confidence, and I should have realized a long time ago that confidence comes from repeated exposure to the knowledge of one's worth. That's something I learned a long time ago in my martial arts training, and conveniently forgot it because I learned it in a different setting and never applied it to my religious education--where the lesson is much more crucial.




So I have a lot of work ahead of me. I knew that at the onset of the journey, but I never realized that the work wouldn't end once I became worthy of the blessings I was seeking. Worthiness, it seems, is only the beginning. The pursuit of truth afterwards is where the real work, the most important work, is. Much of the time, it doesn't come from reading a book either--as marvelous and crucial as the scriptures have been, don't get me wrong.

But service, real life application of the lessons we all spend years cramming into our head and hearts--service to others is how you take it to the next level and gain more truth.

That's something that the Prophet Joseph Smith knew to his very core, and it was something I used to know from experience. I have to get that back somehow. The reason I never struggled with my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith is because my circumstances allowed me to live a life so deeply rooted in many of the same trials and desires. There is so much more I could be doing to deepen that understanding, and that's exactly what I intend to do.

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