Monday, October 25, 2010

Speaking in the Branch

Paul and I were asked to speak in the Branch yesterday and it was a great experience. I spoke first and introduced us a bit and then talked a bit about preparing our ancestors to go to the temple. Before I finished what I had prepared, I felt impressed to just bear my testimony and sit down. We then sang a hymn that beautifully summed up my talk and then Paul got up and gave one of the best talks I have ever heard on preparing to go to the temple. Here it is:

"We teach in the church the importance of doing the work for our kindred dead. The first ordinances we do in the temple for our ancestors are the same ordinances you participated in when you became members of the church.
Ordination to the priesthood
However Our Heavenly Father has much more for us and our ancestors then just becoming members of the church. In Elder David A. Bednar's talk in the April 2009 conference he said the following.
“The process of taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ that is commenced in the waters of baptism is continued and enlarged in the house of the Lord. As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. As we partake of the sacrament, we look to the temple. We pledge to always remember the Savior and to keep His commandments as preparation to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in the ordinances of the holy temple we more completely and fully take upon us the name of Jesus Christ.”

So what are these temple ordinances and how do we prepare to participate in them?
First: What are the temple ordinances? I would summarize this answer in 3 parts.
1. We perform the saving ordinances of Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination to the priesthood for our ancestors in the temple. When done for those that are in the spirit world these must be done in the temple.
2. Teaching. We often talk of the 3 questions of life
a. Where did I come from?
b..Why am I here?
c. Where am I going?
I like to summarize these three into one. Who am I? When you were taught the gospel in preparation for baptism, you learned the answer to these questions. In the temple you are taught these same things in more powerful, motivating ways. In the temple we call this an Endowment or Gift and it is truly a marvelous gift. As a part of learning these things we are also given the opportunity make covenants or promises with God. He in turn promises us marvelous eternal blessings.
3. Sealing Families. The temple work is focused on bringing Heavenly Fathers family back home from mortal life. Not just being resurrected, which all of us are promised, through the Savior's atonement. But exaltation or life with God and life with our family relationships.

Second: How do we receive these eternal blessings.
The gospel of Jesus Christ provides for all of us the opportunity to return to Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of which the 1st four are Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
In order to receive the blessing of life with our families eternally we must prepare ourselves and go to the temple to receive those ordinances which promise those blessings. We must be endowed and then sealed as families.
How do we prepare for Baptism, or becoming a member of the Church?
1. We are taught the basic principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first principles and ordinances, the restoration, the commandments.
2. We learn what we are covenanting with God. Take upon us His name, obey his commandments, remember Him.
3. We have an interview where we express our faith, repentance, and commit to live the commandments.
Do we have to be sinless, perfect, No. We need to desire to do better and to work at it.
How do we prepare for going to the temple. Very similar to preparing for baptism.
1. Be a member for at least a year.
2. Learn as much as we can about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Demonstrate to ourselves that we are keeping our baptism covenants.
4. Interview with the Bishop and Stake President. This is much like your baptismal interview only now they are going to ask if we are keeping the covenants we made at baptism, chastity, word of wisdom, tithing
When this is complete we are given a temple recommend which authorizes us to go to a temple and receive our endowment and to be sealed to our families. This recommend is good for two years. Every two years we have an opportunity to again interview with our Bishop and Stake President and affirm that we are making progress in more fully taking upon us the name of Christ and becoming more like him.

I want to now discuss a different topic and tie it in.
What is Sanctification??
I will answer that question by contrasting it with Justification. These two concepts are many times discussed together because they are both part of the process by which we receive forgiveness and become like God.
Justification is the process by which we avail ourselves of the atonement of the Savior, and receive forgiveness for our sins. It is an integral part of the repentance process and all of us must become justified so that we may be able to return to our Father in Heaven.
Sanctification is a continuation of the repentance process. It is the process by which we become a changed person. We experience a change in our hearts. We no longer desire to do evil but to bless all those around us.
Let me read two quotes on the subject of Sanctification.
Helaman 3:35
35 Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifing and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
Dallin H Oaks speaking of the many experiences we go through in this life said the following.
Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become.

If those are reasonable definitions and distinctions between those two terms, let me now share an observation that Sister Sherwood and I have made in our lives. We have observed over many years of attending and serving in the Temples, that temple worship is a key part of the process that helps us become sanctified. We have seen that most of the people we knew that had the characteristics of becoming what Heavenly Father wanted them to be, were in the temple often. We first discussed this observation while coming home from the Denver temple one evening. We determined then that we wanted to be like them. This began our interest not just in going to the temple but serving in the temple. "

We truely believe that in serving others in any way we become more like the Savior and open our hearts more to becoming what Heavenly Father wants us to be. Serving in the temple as a patron or as a worker, opens our hearts even more as we participate in Heavenly Fathers's work of saving all of his children, and we become "saviors on Mount Zion" doing for others what they cannot do for themselves. It is really marvelous that Heavenly Father allows us to help him in this way and experience for ourselves the joy that is associated with this work. Our desire is that all of you will prepare yourselves to go to the temple often and learn for yourselves how much you are loved by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
To our Children: Talk about this in your families and set goals so that we can all be together in the Celestial Kingdom. We want no empty chairs! Love to you all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Susan's Folley and The Ogdensburg Branch

Hello from the North Country. In New York you have "the City", "the Lower Tier", "Upstate New York", and "The North Country". The City is obvious. Upstate is all along the throughway from Buffalo to Albany. This is also the path of the Erie Canal. The Lower Tier is the cities just north of Pennsyvania. The North Country is the area above Upstate in that portion of the state that follows the St. Lawrence Seaway from Watertown on Lake Ontaria to Vermont. This is a different world. They do not acknowlege being a part of any of the rest of New York. They are their own country. The North Country.
Our branch is an hour up the seaway from Watertown. Below you see some pictures.
Here is the branch building, a first stage chapel just a couple of years old.
Here is the missionary home. A pair of sister missionaries live here as well as a senior missionary couple. We stay here when we come up for the weekend. You can see the seaway to the left of the picture, left of the red cabin. All the rest of the pictures are taken from this house's backyard.
The following 3 pictures are a panoramic view of the seaway from left to right. Of course on the other side is Preston, Quebec, Canada. The big white building is a granery.
It is good to be going up there and working now. This weekend we went up Saturday night and met with the Sister missionaries. They told us all about the members in the Branch. We went to the services in the morning and had a brunch with them. Afterwards we divided the branch between the Guthries and ourselves and started calling the members in our area. Out of the 10 phone calls we made we were able to visit one. There was another branch couple there and we got to know them for about an hour. We feel like we know most of the people who come out to church. We are now going to work on meeting those who don't. We will drive up there on Saturday mornings and spend the afternoon and Sunday afternoon trying to visit people. If we don't have appointments for Monday morning we will drive back Sunday night.

We had an interesting experience while going to our visit. We passed a cemetary near Ogdensburg and saw a man all bundled up sitting in a folding chair by a newly dug grave. After going about 2 miles past, the spirit said we needed to go talk to him. We drove back, parked near him and walked over. He looked at our name tags and said he was grateful that we cared enough to stop and talked for about 1/2 hour. His wife had died 2 weeks prior and he found this was one place he could come and find "peace". He was familiar with our church but had found his answers in the Catholic faith. We got to know him and were grateful the spirit had sent us.

Now to Susan's folley. It was fall and Susan could not resist the urge to can. We went out and spent $20 for quart jars, $10 for a 5-gallon jug, and $30 to fill it with grape juice at a vineyard down in Naples, NY. It tastes great. It cost $3 dollars a quart for grape juice. Compare that at your grocery store. Next year it will be half that. Below is a picture of the 5-gallon jug and some of the quarts. Don't they look great! The Concord juice was not available so we bought Iona grape juice. Still a very good tasting juice and a beautiful color.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We are playing in the mud

Monday night at the missionary family home evening, a call went out for any of us who had construction tools who wanted to be involved in a service project. We found out from President Sherwood that the Mary and Ron Harris home needed to have the front steps torn out and rebuilt. This is a couple that we knew here formerly. Susan worked with Mary with Reach the Children.

Their front stairs were falling apart and the gravel and dirt was being washed away. Ron had fallen and seriously damaged his leg. All the tendons and ligaments on his left knee were torn away. He underwent surgery two weeks and will be another 6 weeks recovering.

The stairs were simply risers holding back the dirt with slate layed on each step. The slate had all broken and the risers were coming apart. President Sherwood and I went there Wednesday, reviewed the problem and designed a new stair system. We need to remove all the slate and the dirt to below where the individual steps will be. We then will build a stair structure for each step and attatch them to the sides of the stair well. Susan and I went back Friday and reviewed the plan with the Ron and Mary. They were delighted and gave us the go ahead.

The first step needed to have a small concrete slab under it so that it was not sitting on the dirt. They had 3 bags of concrete sitting in the garage. Since the slab needed to be placed before the rest of the work could start we decided to do that while we were there. Susan and I dug out the 1st two stairs and poured the slab Friday. That was a lot of work moving that dirt for the two of us and it was only 2 of the 11 steps. When the slab is cured we will begin work on the rest. We need to get some younger helpers to move the rest of the dirt.

Below are some pictures of the stairwell, the dirt we removed and the slab we poured.

Part of missionary work is giving service and this is our first opportunity. It should be fun to see the project completed. There is great joy in being able to help someone who has a real need. When it is someone you know and love it is even sweeter.

Associated with this project we have a decision to make. Mom thinks it would be worth it to buy a sawsall and a power screwdriver to use on this project and to have available for other projects that may arise. We already have 2 power screwdrivers in Provo, and I have always wanted a sawsall. The question is, is this a good enough excuse to buy tools? We are looking for input to sway the decision one way or the other. What do you guys think?

The Fairport and Pittsford wards are doing an interesting service project in Rochester. They along with a few other congregations from other denominations in the area are sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity home. They are ahead of the fund raising schedule and start work on the construction this week. With this program a family is selected to receive a new home. The organization then raises the funds, then builds the entire home. This home is being built for a single mom with several children.

We hope you are all doing well and look forward to hearing from you. Are you all reading your scriptures and preparing for missions? They sure are fun.

Monday, October 4, 2010

For Time and all Eternity

I had the most beautiful experience last Thursday morning. A couple came to the temple to recieve their own endowments and to be sealed together for time and all eternity. My assignment was to accompany the sister and help her all throughout her temple experience, taking care of all the little things for her so that she wouldn't have to worry and could relax and feel the spirit of the temple and listen to all the wonderful blessings that she was recieving from her Heavenly Father in the temple. A couple of the brother temple workers were doing the same for her husband, which was more of a challenge because he was quadraplegic and was in a wheelchair. He has Lou Gehrig's disease and doesn't have long to live.

It was so touching to see Gail fuss over Frank, wanting everything to go perfect for him and it didn't start out very well because they arrived in a pouring rain and they were both soaked by the time they reached the temple doors but a couple of towels and a blow dryer soon had Frank comfortably dry again and Gail, seeing how Frank was being fussed over soon relaxed and was ready to begin her temple experience.

Everything went well from then on and after they finished the Endowment and were together in the Celestial room with all of their friends and family they seem so happy and excited . In the sealing room as she knelt across the alter from him and were being sealed together for eternity there were tears running down both of their faces as well as on the faces of most of their family members. After the ceremony, Gail jumped up from the alter and went around to Frank and started planting kisses all over his face and he just beamed. Afterward I heard his brother say to him, "Well Frank, now you've done it. It looks like you're going to be stuck with her forever!" Frank, struggling to speak, said, "Good. I'm glad!"

We marvel at how magnificent Heavenly Father's plan is for all of his children and how wonderful it is to be a part of helping to extend these precious ordinances to others of His children. To feel the joy of this couple who know that their time together on this earth may not be very long, now have the comfort of knowing that they now will have eternity to be together is indiscribable to me and strengthens our testimony even more that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows and loves dearly all of his children. The Gospel is true ! We know that with all our hearts!

We hope you all enjoyed General Conference over the last two days. We felt the spirit greatly from our leaders and are so grateful for them. Chris, did you see and hear the MTC choir in the Priesthood session? That could be you in a year or two. I guess that applies to all you grandchildren, but Chris is so close. My heart swelled as I watched and listened to them.

We are grateful to be here on a mission and love serving in the temple. We are grateful for all of you and for the things we see you do that bring the spirit into your lives. The Lord has blessed us all so greatly. We hope you all follow President Monson's and Elder Holland's counsel and thank Him profusely.