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Sunday, November 23, 2008
It was only two weeks ago that I heard that Elder Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve was visiting the New York New York Stake for a special conference. Apparently this is a new type of conference that the Twelve are trying out - I know Elder L. Tom Perry recently visited West Georgia and Elder Dallin H. Oaks was in Seoul, Korea today.
It's all really exciting to have a real, live prophet in the same room as me. I have been been in the same room as President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder David B. Haight and actually shook hands with Elder Richard G. Scott and now Elder Holland. I didn't even try to shake his hand, but he did mention my name in his talk - ok that doesn't count because we have the same name and he was actually referring to himself. I know many people who know have met the prophets, shaken their hands, had them as Mission Presidents or talked with them at length. I dare not compare our experiences. I only bring it up to tell you how many times I have been humbled in the presence of the Lord's called servants. They are not perfect men - but I feel they're some of God's best and more refined.
I was struggling to feel the spirit today for several reasons that included 20% of the audience screaming, crying and running around, not to mention there were also children present. I was also distracted by my own unworthiness. I kept thinking, what if, for some reason, he meets me and shakes my hand - as a prophet he will know what a sinner I am. He will look into my tear-filled eyes of shame and feel my shaking hand and look at me with that "look" - funny enough - Elder Holland spoke of this as his fear in meeting the Savior (this is where he mentions himself by our name) He described the look as saying, without words, "Don't you get it - after all the testimonies, the lessons, the miracles, the blessings - don't you understand?" I think we have all had that look from our parents at one point or from a concerned Bishop, Stake President or spouse. It's a look of sadness, disappointment, but hope for the other - faith they will one day get it and understand - a look of compassion.
This fear Elder Holland spoke of was in reference to the story of Christ and His disciples being caught in a storm crossing the Sea of Galilee while the Savior slept in Mark 4: 35-41. The disciples asked, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" and then Christ stood up and looked upon His disciples - that look that compels someone like me to become broken and humbled. He compassionately rebuked them saying, "Why are ye so fearful, how is it that ye have no faith?" The response after the storms were calmed was, "What manner of man is this..." I know the answer is that He is the Son of Man - the Only Begotten Son Of God and my Savior. Though the "look" is hard to receive - the refinement it offers is not only needed but a catalyst for change - we see how it helped His disciples.
Elder Holland went on to instruct us through the Spirit - he said any man can steer a boat upon the calm sea - even a child can do it - but when the storms of life come - we need to turn to the Savior (even experienced seamen like the disciples were frightened and called upon the Savior). There will always be challenges - but the gospel makes living here in mortality alright because we have a better existence to look forward to, though we must try to live that quality of life here as much as we can now. He warned that often we are tempted to jump off the boat in the middle of the storms (give up on relationships or the lack of, quit school or jobs,etc). He cautioned us to hunker down in the boat, grab on and don't let go. Now, more than ever, we need to hold onto the boat that is the gospel of Jesus Christ that will guide us safely to the lighthouse that is Celestial glory. We need the gospel in our lives more than we've ever need it before, we need the scriptures in our lives more than we've ever needed them, we need faith more than we've ever needed it, we need prayers more than we've ever needed them. This is when the Spirit finally broke through to me - though I fought it off while the children's choir sang "If the Savior Stood Before Me" and "I Am a Child of God" - but now I really knew God was talking to me directly.
Elder Holland also made a point about when Christ told His disciples that the kingdom of God is within you. He noted that the emphasis needs to be on "YOU" - meaning that we individually and collectively through our obedience and faith carry the kingdom of God within us. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a pyramid where the prophet and leaders sit at the top - it's inverted where - somehow - each of us individually and collectively sit at the top and matter most. Our leaders do their (the Lord's) work for us not necessarily for themselves - not because they're concerned with their salvation as much as they're concerned with ours.
The messages of the day were beautiful and exactly what I needed to hear today, now, this exact point in my life.
I am also excited to find out that the music and prints from the "Reflections of Christ" project ( www.reflectionsofchrist.org ) are now available. I remembered my awesome friend Ashley gave me an iTunes gift card I haven't used yet. I was able to buy the album of beautiful and spiritual music. Today has not been perfect but how many days do I get to be in the presence of a living prophet, enjoy the generous gift from a dear friend and listen to angelic music.
I still fear the time will come when, like Elder Holland, the Savior will greet me and will look into my tear-filled eyes trying to hide my shame and sins. As I write this I am overcome by the Spirit comforting me to know that despite the enormity of my sins and shame - Christ will wipe my tears away - give me that look - rebuke me as He did His disciples and say, "Why are ye so fearful, how is it that ye have no faith?" I hope He will continue and say, "You are cleansed, healed, made whole through my atoning sacrifice - you are made worthy in me - enter in and rest. He will embrace me as the hen gathereth her chicks, keeping me safe and protected and guide me home.
I have failed at many things and I know it is true that I am not clean - but I hope the Savior will help to clean me. I love Him - Jesus Christ is my Savior. He is my friend when it has seemed I had none - when I have often walked alone in this life - He has been there - maybe like He was with those on the Road to Emmaus - in my presence while I was unaware. I know He has also sent me certain angels in the form of friends and loved ones who have, maybe unknowingly, guided me back to Him.
If I had one message to leave to the world, my family and friends - it is this, what I learned today that burned inside of me:
When the storms of life come - turn to Him that is the steady compass, He who knows the course - He who will lead to safety. In these times, more than ever before - we need our Savior Jesus Christ.
"Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" 2 Kings 6:16
You have been caught Jey Walking!