Sacrament Meeting Today

A lot goes on in a sacrament meeting in my ward. Babies cry and parents take them out of the room to calm them down. Toddlers toddle in the aisles or between pews. People play games with their smart phone. There are always a lot of announcements and someone is always in the hospital or had a baby or received a mission call. We sustain and release people to and from callings. With everything that happens, we can certainly appreciate the quiet moments during the meeting.

Today, people used the 70-minute block to bear their testimonies of the gospel. We do this every first Sunday of each month. The same things that happen every week in the congregation also happened today. Two rows in front of us, a dad took his fussy son out. I exchanged smiles with a flirty baby while watching a little boy waddle up to the podium to join his father. I caught glimpses of few people sending texts or playing games on phones and tablets.

Everything amused me and at the same time edified me. But in a distracted way. However, I also tried to focus on the meeting. I brought my French hymnbook to church and compared French hymns to their English counterparts. In an effort to learn the names of people in the ward, I wrote down the names of people who bore their testimony. The only people whose names I didn’t know were visitors. I was grateful to be making some progress.

The testimonies themselves were quite impressive. They were heartfelt and inspired. One in particular struck me in a way the others didn’t. The bishopric reminds the congregation that you can come up and bear your testimony as long as you can do it by yourself. Because of this, not many children have born their testimony, at least as long as Reilly and I have been in the ward.

A little girl and her visiting cousin came up to the stand. The cousin bore her testimony first, then the little girl. The little girl had just gotten baptized yesterday, and she expressed her feelings with such confidence and calmness. It occurred to me how virtually sinless she was, and her simple and powerful testimony heightened the spirit in the room. A palpable sweetness swelled and touched my distracted little heart, and tears flowed instantly from my eyes.

Even though this girl wasn’t the first to bear her testimony today, I’m grateful that she set the tone for my Sunday experience. I’m grateful for her example and especially her parents who strive constantly to give happiness to their family.

I hope to have this kind of influence someday.

Aron Ralston Was Here

I never have my camera with me for these opportunities. My little flip phone does okay. The lower end of okay, but still okay.

Aron Ralston’s talk was part of the Nuskin convention at UVU this weekend. A friend of mine who works with that company had some extra tickets, so Reilly and I jumped at the chance to hear him speak last night.

Company formalities took up the first hour of the evening: votes for Nuskin’s Got Talent, a Lifetime Achievement Award, recognition of the Gold and Lapis executives. Those familiar with the company know how this business works, their whole culture. Easily, at least 2,000 people filled the seats of the UCCU Center, and one could conclude that nearly all these people matched the network marketing archetype. A giant family all with this personality came to this reunion with loud music and a bright stage almost as bright as the smiles of the crowd, almost as clear as their product-enhanced skin. I felt out of place. I didn’t get the jokes. The whole setting was surreal.

It was worth the wait, though, because Aron Ralston told an incredible story. He cut his hair and wore a suit and tie. We watched the trailer to 127 Hours, we watched a few scenes from the movie during his talk. He shouted and whispered and reenacted scenes of videotaping himself and fidgeted with his prosthetic arm that he helped design. Effective pauses and homage to his mom. Out of body experience where he met his future son. Picture of the 4-year-old son nearly 10 years later. Pictures of him with his friends climbing various mountains around the world. Pictures of him climbing solo, appearing impudent, challenging fate, seeking the same solitude he pursued when that boulder pinned him.  Pictures of him giving back to the community, participating in search and rescue parties and other non-profit organizations.

He recounted that a truly bad day is when you’ll have to drink your own urine. He spoke of turning boulders into opportunities, being grateful to leave the arm behind that held him back. He prayed in the middle of nowhere. He thanked the boulder that he used to break his arm off and ultimately set him free. He described everything well, as if he’s had to tell this story thousands of times. He talked about what matters when death is imminent. He dismissed prestige and achievement and lauded his family.

His appearance at the Nuskin convention seemed fitting. He inspires.

I’ll never go hiking alone.

I haven’t seen the movie or read his book. But hearing him tell his own story live, in person, seems a sufficient primary source.

Hosanna au grand Roi

I was flipping through the French hymnal, trying to figure out the tunes and to see if I could recognize the hymns along with the words, because sometimes the translations are a little bit different.

Given today’s holiday, maybe this hymn seemed especially appropriate. I have been humming it all day.

1. Hosanna au grand Roi! Adorez le Seigneur,
Objet de notre foi, Rendez-lui tous honneur!

2. Il règne à tout jamais Le Dieu de vérité.
Payant pour nos péchés, Sa vie il a donné.

3. Son royaume est parfait, C’est lui qui règne en tout.
Il a reçu les clés, Vainquant la mort pour nous.

Ouvrez vos coeurs, offrez vos voix, laissez éclater votre joie,
Ouvrez vos coeurs, offrez vos voix, laissez éclater votre joie.

Professor/Brother Marsh spoke to us today at a special stake conference. His message instilled hope and joy, he invited the spirit of Easter to the meeting, and it continues to abide.

He recounted the story of Elder Holland observing a family awaiting their son from his mission at an airport. He noticed the anxious and eager faces on the girlfriend and the parents. He saw how their faces lit up when the plane landed, and the father ran onto the tarmac and waited for his son to deplane. When the son stepped onto the ground, he saw his father, and the two of them walked up to each other and gave each other a big hug. It was all they could do; they couldn’t speak for several minutes because they were so happy to see each other.

Elder Holland wondered if the reunion between Christ and the Father was anything like this, when the Son was alone for those agonizing moments, and when He was able to finally ascend up to his Father. Would they have been able to speak, or would they embrace and weep and not feel like letting go?

Brother Marsh told a personal story of his best friend,  from his mission days. His friend would call him up, wanting to pay a visit, and each time the both of them would hike the Y and reminisce about old times. This last time, the friend called. He visited, but he said he didn’t want to climb the Y, but talk with Brother Marsh. In his office, the friend announced that he had cancer, and that the doctors said he only had six months to live. The friend said he didn’t though he was going to make it even that long, but he wanted his best friend to know. For the next two hours they talked and reminisced and enjoyed the closeness of their friendship. When it came time for the friend to leave, they stood up and hugged each other, and the friend told Brother Marsh that he forgave him. Knowing that there was never any contention between them in the course of their friendship, Brother Marsh understood that if there was anything that would hinder their eternal friendship, all would be forgiven.

The friend passed away just a few months later, after his birthday.

The Atonement continues to amaze me in the many ways it works in people’s lives. I’ll never fully understand it, but because it works in my life, I am grateful for it, and maybe that’s all I need.

Happy Easter.

Sometimes I Keep Comments to Myself in Church, Which I Tell People Privately, Which I Then Broadcast on a Public Blog

From a past Sunday:

Dear [Person],

Just wanted to let you know I really appreciated your lesson today. The gifts of the Spirit or so important and truly testify to God’s knowing exactly what we need to grow as individuals and help build His kingdom.

I was thinking during class about your gift of believing other people’s testimonies. It’s a crucial gift, because what good are testimonies that have been born without those who can hear them and believe them? It seems those who have this gift have an inherent ability to sustain and strengthen those especially who have been called to testify of Christ. It seems that those with your gift can sustain with even greater conviction our church leaders. Not everyone can give support with that kind of power. The kingdom cannot thrive without your belief; it seems to complete the formula of faith required in general to receive and exercise all the gifts of the Spirit. And, it shows how the Lord blesses us with each other, and that we really do need one another for strength and encouragement. It’s super cool. Therefore, you’re super cool.

That’s all.

Have a great week.

I think about the gifts of the Spirit (Moroni 10, D&C 46, 1 Corinthians 12, and those are just the ones listed) all the time. I like to see people use theirs. I’m always trying to cultivate an awareness of what mine are or what I can receive and develop. And it’s always in the context of being able to help others. And yet, it’s always about potential and faithfulness that these gifts can rest upon me. I know I have the potential to be a good teacher; I can tell when I’m in a physically or spiritually dangerous place; I have an exceptional ability to listen, to internalize and empathize. So when I hear people explain why they don’t understand something about themselves, I can usually offer a different perspective, or at the very least, a competent ear and an open heart. When I’m good at this, I’m really good at this. I’m not boasting, but merely stating an observation, which, incidentally, is very humbling.

Out of 20

So. French 321. The first quiz. We’ll see if we can keep this up. What I described as happening is actually what happened: 2 half-points off, but I got the bonus correct. J’ai fait des fautes bêtes.

Did I mention I’m in this class with returned missionaries and other people who speak fluently? I hope the osmosis is extra effective, because I sound like an idiot when I speak. We’re supposed to be beyond the sentence level and working up to the paragraph level, moving smoothly between imparfait and passé compose, using the present tense only intermittently. Anyway, if I listen enough and practice enough, … I don’t know. Being a wiz on paper is great, but I need to improve communication in other ways, be in touch with the real world.

***

In other news, the forum this morning with Condoleezza Rice was incredible. I hope to come across a copy of the transcript. What an admirable, inspiring woman. She was a captivating, charming, lively speaker. She made us laugh, and we applauded every time she said something amazing, like it was the State of the Union address, but this was much, much better.

I’m still processing a lot of what’s been going on the past couple of weeks, and right now I feel I can’t do any of it justice. I don’t know if I’ll be able to catch any sort of a break. I would love just to sit back and talk or hang out sometime.

A Couple Nifty Finds

Thomas Traherne and Cat Power have some things in common. I’ve had rather spiritual experiences with the both of them in the past couple of weeks. You’ll see their expressions and tones are quite different, but the ideas are pretty similar. Hopeful and nostalgic. Poignant and inspirational. I didn’t find these gems so much as they found me: Traherne is from a class, and Cat Power is from a friend.

This is an excerpt from Thomas Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations. He’s just uber-optimistic, but he lived right smack-dab at the beginning of the 17th Century when religion and science were about to really-really clash,  and politics and philosophy and individual thought were emerging. He’s very … light, compared to Donne and Bacon and Hobbes and Herbert.

This is a winter song, and of course it’s rather melancholy. The simple piano and the lyrics are especially powerful.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Cat Power- Colors and the kids (pics and lyrics)
, posted with vodpod

Lyrics here