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Monday, August 9, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
July started with a bang and ended on a great note - what a wonderful thing. Aside from my birthday and my awesome spiritual experience, the month was filled with some interesting events.
July 16-18, I went up with a friend to Rochester, NY to go to Palmyra, the Joseph Smith Home/Farm, the Sacred Grove and the Hill Cumorah Pageant. I have never done any of these things before. We got into Rochester late Friday night and within a few minutes realized that something was going on in town because it was packed...turns out by sheer coincidence that it was Rochester Gay Pride Weekend. What an odd contrast to my weekend's focus and plan. Inevitably, I decided to enjoy the local festivities and support my gays in Rochester. It was fun, but somewhat worthless.
I felt weird going to Palmyra afterward, but we did anyway. I remember spotting the first protester's sign when we arrived to the Book of Mormon printing press. I had never really seen any in person protest of the Church. Unfortunately, it seems being anti-Mormon defines some people and it's all they do with their time and energy. However; as we moved on to the Smith home/farm where there were no protesters I began to feel a bit better, though the vans and busloads of tourists didn't help my anxiety - that's what happens during pageant time. Frankly, I couldn't feel the spirit until I entered the Sacred Grove - everything else was just not that touching to me in person.
I can remember vividly my journey into the Sacred Grove; each step into the forest dimmed the noise of passing cars, crying babies and conversations. I enjoyed what seemed like a few hours in this very special and sacred place. I can't imagine anyone coming here and not feeling something beautiful or magical. There is a presence there that is warm, loving, gentle and soothing to the heart and soul. I know that Joseph Smith entered this place and prayed for an answer and he did indeed see God, Our Heavenly Father and our Savior and Brother Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith received an answer that led to the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wherein the real authority to act in Christ's name upon the Earth lies in His chosen servants and ordained prophets. I could not and will not deny the testimony I have of that truth. It was very difficult to leave that place, but hopefully what I felt there will remain carried in my heart.
Afterward, we headed to the Hill Cumorah and again we were met with the hissing sounds of anti-Mormon sentiments. I have never heard some the things people were saying and neither did I choose to ponder questions they were posing; their ideologies and message are founded in hate, fear and lies and one can feel the darkness they are trying spread. However; as you walk towards the hill, beautiful music pours out of the speakers and within seconds you no longer hear the vipers hissing from afar. Instead, you are met with genuine smiles, a feeling of love and a true sense of arriving home; what a stark and beautiful contrast. The cast members were so lovely and welcoming - the people in attendance were so polite and kind. It almost felt like what I imagine gathering together for the Second Coming of Christ would be like. I stared into a sea of strange, but familiar faces; I saw people embracing - long lost friends, family members, missionary companions - it was just a wonderful feeling and a sight to behold. The show was awesome and I am so glad I experienced it. It re-lit my fire and passion for The Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know the Atonement is real because of my previous scripture study and prayers. The voices I hear when I read the scriptures cry to me that it's true; it's real - the spirit testifies that I am not imagining it or that it is all a made-up concoction or dream of a man, but that it is the voice of God and Jesus Christ through their chosen prophets. It turned out to be one amazing weekend, even if I did, at first, veer off the path.
It's hard to top that, but on July 25th, I got to play a piano medley - pioneer tribute for sacrament meeting. The arrangement is named, "Leaving Nauvoo" and includes hymns/songs, Praise To The Man, Come, Come Ye Saints, Consider The Lilies and Come, Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing. It went very well and I felt it was a proper tribute to our pioneer heritage. The story unfolds right after the Prophet Joseph Smith is murdered and the Saints must leave Nauvoo. The beginning starts off as a funeral procession or requiem type mood. It moves on to a dramatic and somber march. As the Saints travel, experience hardships and are tested on every level they remember to, "consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not." (D&C 84:82-84) Knowing that God is with them and that His angels shall buoy them up through the storms, they press on. As they arrive to the Utah Valley they feel justified and seek to have their God forever engraved upon their hearts, thus, Come, Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing. Sorry to those who weren't there to experience this in person, but maybe the back-story alone helps.
Later in the week I came across an old Jewish businessman who was quite the self-proclaimed philosopher of sorts. I was there to pick up envelopes from his store, but instead received quite an earful of his ideas and philosophies. I don't think these things happen just because; in fact I think the message he gave to me is pretty powerful and intentional. He asked me if I had woken up yet. Obviously, he did not mean it in a physical sense, but rather in a spiritual/metaphysical/philosophical sense. I told him I wasn't sure to which he replied, "Then you haven't woken up." He went on and on and on about my lazy generation and the conspiracy regarding America's knowledge of the Holocaust and how the President knew everything but did nothing. I was like a deer in headlights, but this interactions left me thinking, have I woken up? I think this was a message or a hint from God and I appreciate it. I think it's time to, "Awake, my [son]; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust." (2 Nephi 1:23)
So, it's funny that after this encounter I went later that week to go see Inception, a movie about dreams, waking up and reality. I absolutely love this movie because it makes me think and dig deep into my thoughts and dreams. I went to see it for the second time last night with my friends...or was it just a dream? Afterward, my friend said to me that there is a Buddhist belief that says this life is meant for us to master our dreams because our dreams are connected to our souls. When we die and lose our current bodies, we must be able to control our soul through our dreams. If we are lost in our dreams, our soul will be lost, but if we are focused in our dreams and have complete control, we can control our soul and will not be lost. This struck me as being quite profound. Is this not truth? We are told in the scriptures to be careful with our thoughts and to master our minds and bodies. "But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not." (Mosiah 4:30)"...let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God." (D&C 121:45) Anyway, I love thinking upon such matters of the soul.
And now for the mane event...kidding. After church last week I visited PetCo because they have their pet adoptions there on Sundays and I like to look at the animals and pet them; this is actually quite dangerous because it's hard to walk away without wanting to take some of them with you. Well, this proved to be the case as now I have adopted a three year old gray and white tuxedo cat who I named Porter after Cole Porter the American composer and musician. Porter is so sweet and really is a blessing to my life. He loves to lay on my piano which is so fitting for his name. He is a real chill cat that just loves to be pet, massaged, brushed, held and fed. I haven't had a cat since 1999 or a pet since 2008, so this is real exciting for me.
Ok, well that's the update. Hope you enjoyed the stories. See you next time.
You have been caught Jey Walking!