Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Gifts

We know you are all busily taking care of the last minute details in your preparations for Christmas, but we hope you will pause for a few minutes and contemplate the wonders and joys of Christmas.  Being far from home at Christmas time has given us the freedom and time to ponder and really appreciate the greatest Christmas gift of all.  We would like to share some of these thoughts with you.

Mary wrapped the very first Christmas gift.  She didn't use flashy paper and brightly colored ribbons, only simple swaddling clothes.  This gift wasn't put under a Christmas tree, but was lovingly and gently laid in a manger.  This, the greatest and most magnificent gift of all was given by our loving Heavenly Father to all of his children for all time and has made eternity possible for all of us.  Oh how we ought to rejoice and celebrate, and fall on our knees in gratitude and praise to our Heavenly Father for giving us that gift so long ago.

Now in a day and age where that birth is often dismissed as a fable or folk lore and Santa Claus has taken the prime focus point of Christmas, we want to reaffirm to you our knowledge that it was real.  The Savior of the world really was born in a lowly cattle stall, witnessed by shepherds and heralded by angels.  The truths He taught and the price He paid give us life and hope for the future. 

Paul was asked to speak Christmas day in the Fredonia Branch and as he asked me to proof-read his talk, I knew we needed to share it with all of you, too.

Believing Christ

When President Burke asked me to speak today, he indicated his disappointment that he could not be with us today. He was planning on speaking and his intended topic was “Believing Christ”. As I accepted the assignment, my thoughts immediately went to a book that I read 15 years ago or so. We have it in our library at home, Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson. In this book brother Robinson explores the importance “believing Christ” not just “believing in Christ”. I assumed that this is the theme that President Burke was pondering. I guess it doesn't matter what theme President Burke was pondering, it is what I have pondered that I would like to discuss with you.

We live in a time when some of our fellow “Christians” question whether we are “Christian”. I sense that many of us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints become frustrated when they question our claim to the title “Christian”. I would suggest to you that we have a much more important question that we need to answer, personally, in our lives. “Do We Believe Jesus Christ?”.

Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is a time when we can focus on what that means to each of us. We celebrate his humble, yet glorious birth. The humble surroundings and conditions of his birth, and the glorious manifestations that accompanied his birth.

Who was this babe in Bethlehem? He was none other than the Son of God. The Firstborn of our Father in Heaven in our existence prior to this earth life. He was and is God, the Son. We worshiped Him there. Why? Because He was God, the Son. Because He was perfect to that point and because He was willing to implement Our Fathers Plan of Happiness on our behalf.

Our Heavenly Father wanted us each to have all the blessings that He enjoys. He knew what it would take to make that happen. We needed to come and experience a mortal life. We needed to learn the principles that bring true happiness. We needed to demonstrate obedience to those principles before He could give us all that He has. We needed to become like He was. In order to return to Him we needed to be “Perfect” for “No unclean thing can enter the presence of God”. In the New Testament, book of Matthew chapter 5 we read at the end of the sermon on the mount.

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Wait a minute! I have to be “Perfect”. I will not be able to do that. Heavenly Father knew that. But His “Perfect” plan accounted for that problem. He needed a Savior for us. One who would be not only “Perfect”, but who then would be willing to pay the price for our sins/mistakes. Jesus Christ, the Fathers firstborn, volunteered to be that Savior. He looked at all of his brothers and sisters and loved us so much that He was willing to make that promise to us and the Father. He would live a “Perfect” life. He then would suffer for all of our sins, so that we could return to the Father.

What a loving oldest brother we have. It is hard to comprehend His love. We could well ask, “What do we have to do to merit this gift, or Grace?”. The answer is there is nothing we can do to Merit it. If we could we wouldn't need it. But He has asked us to have faith in Him. He has asked us to make sacred covenants with Him that we will do “All that we can do”. He will make up the rest.

Can we comprehend the magnitude of those promises He made? What if He failed? What if He made one mistake. He could no longer be our Savior because He would not be “Perfect”. What if He was “Perfect” but could not follow through with the promise to suffer for all our sins? What if it was too much for Him to suffer that much? How could it not be too much for Him to suffer for all of the sins of the world? If He failed in any way, we were all lost. Never to return to Father. These questions, concerns, skepticisms, doubts were so real, that one third of Heavenly Fathers children did not have the Faith to accept Jesus Christ offer to be our Savior. They wanted a risk free alternative and were willing to give up their free agency to get it. In the end they gave up the opportunity to come to earth and receive their body.

We did have enough Faith in Jesus Christ and the Fathers Plan to accept it because we are here. Now back to the question I asked earlier, “Do we believe Jesus Christ?”. We must believe IN Him because we have joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We have been baptized and made covenants with Him to do “All that we can”. But do we really believe Jesus Christ?

I would suggest to you that many of us act as if we do not believe Him. How do we do that? We do not accept fully His promises to us. We believe that while He was “Perfect” and paid for ours and others sins, we do not do enough, or we are not obedient enough to merit being accepted back into the Father's presence. The truth is we can never do enough or be obedient enough to merit this reward. That is why we need the Savior!

So what am I saying? We do not need to be obedient to receive this gift. We do not need to serve others. “Works” are not needed. Only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and I will be saved. Many of our good Christian friends would say “YES, that is all you need.” But let us read Paul's words Romans 6 speaking of those who have faith in Jesus Christ and are under his “grace”

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law(NOTE the Law of Moses), but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Obviously, more is required than faith alone. Matthew 5. The sermon on the mount. The beatitudes.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Oh, so maybe he is going to judge us based on what is in our hearts. What are the desires of my heart?

In D&C 76, speaking of the degrees of glory, and specifically those who will be in celestial glory, we read:

69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.

Just men, made perfect. Not perfect men. What is a just man or woman? Perhaps one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness. Perhaps one who is doing the best they can. What is the “best we can do”? Is it being perfect? I would suggest that in some particulars we may become perfect during this life. But in general we will not. Only we and the Father can judge if we are doing the best we can. In the meantime if we are doing the best we can we are “Perfect in Christ”. He makes up the difference and we are perfect now.

Through our lives and in the eternities, as we do our best, He can change us and improve our ability to be perfectly obedient in more and more aspects of our lives,.and we will become sanctified as we do that. In the meantime we can be “Perfect in Christ” now. We can be “Justified” now. If we died today, we can have confidence in the Saviors promises. We can be judged “worthy” to enter the Fathers presence.

So what is the bottom line. What is the Covenant we need to make and keep in order to return to our Heavenly Father. I refer you to the Articles of Faith.

4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This opens the gate to the celestial kingdom. You notice as a part of that covenant he gives us a most marvelous gift. The Gift of the Holy Ghost not only provides guidance, knowledge, and inspiration in many ways throughout our lives it also serves as a witness to us of the validity of the covenant. If we are feeling the effects of the Holy Ghost in our lives, we are keeping our part of the covenant. Even when we are not perfect in all we do. Each week we can repent, and covenant again that we will do our best and do better the next week.

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior today, let me read from D&C 128, a letter from the prophet Joseph to the church in 1842. He was speaking of doing baptisms for the dead, but it certainly applies to us in our lives and our baptisms.

22 Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Emmanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.
23 Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

I think I have enough time to share with you an experience Sister Sherwood and I had some 10 years ago at a family reunion with our family in Colorado. We have these every two years, although we missed the one in Montana this year because we were here on our mission. We have had 9 children, and have 28 grandchildren now. These reunions are organized mayhem, but we love them. That may be the only sacrifice we have made coming on a mission. But our family was greatly blessed by our being here instead of at the reunion so I guess that was not a sacrifice. We just missed them. At the reunion in Colorado, Susan and I made a promise to our children and grandchildren. “We are going to be in the celestial kingdom with our Father in Heaven. We want each of you to be there.” We challenged them to find out for themselves that they were going to be there.

Two years later, our youngest son, Scott, received his mission call to go to Argentina just before we were in the Hill Cumorah pageant that year. While he was in one of his cast team devotionals he made that same promise to his cast team friends. “I am going to be in the celestial kingdom with our Father in Heaven. I want each of you to be there.” We heard about this from several people who were in the meeting and we rejoiced. Two weeks after the pageant was over, Scott drowned while sharing a marvelous day with a friend in Watkins Glen. One week prior to going to the temple and going to the MTC and his mission, he was in paradise, going to that MTC so he could preach in the spirit prison. We know with assurance that he is there because of the promises of our Savior.

I testify to you that I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World, and my Savior and your Savior. This innocent babe whose birth we celebrate today, fulfilled in every way what He said He would do for us. I know and rejoice in the fact that He won the fight. He was “Perfect” in every sense of the word. He paid for Adam and Eves transgression and has broken the bands of physical death. He was resurrected and we will be resurrected because of Him. Physical death will not be the end of our lives.

He loved us so much that He was able to fulfill the promise that He would pay for our sins. Somehow in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross he took upon himself all of our sins. He felt the guilt that all of our Father's children deserve. He paid the price that all of our Father's children owe to justice. He did this because He loves us. We cannot do enough, or be obedient enough to merit this gift He has given us. But we can accept His gift by making and keeping our baptismal covenants. We can rejoice in our life. We can know with confidence that we will be with Him in our Father's celestial kingdom. We can live without the guilt of our past mistakes, as well as the frustration of our not being able to do everything perfectly now. As we hunger and thirst after righteousness and do our best we can be filled with the spirit and filled with confidence in his promises.

I know his promises are real and true, and rejoice in the knowledge that I will be with my family and you and with the Father and the Son in the resurrection.

I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekend in the Branch

CHRISTMAS BAPTISM

This was a great weekend in the branch.  With one of our investigators we have set a date for baptism on Christmas eve or Christmas day.  This will be a great way to celebrate Christmas.  We will see how that one plays out.  He wants to be baptized before a family, his home teacher, moves away on Dec 27.  This week we have to get the district leader to come up from Jamestown, and do the interview.  We then need to get the father ready to perform the baptism.  This is an hispanic family and the two parents struggle with english.  All are baptized except the oldest boy(18 years old).  They have been very faithful in attending since we have been coming to the branch.  The oldest is now ready.  Sunday afternoon, we spent an hour with him reviewing the lesson topics, commandments, etc. to make sure he was ready.

MUSIC FIRESIDE

Sunday evening we had a fireside with our college students.  All but one of them are majoring in music.  The topic was the power of music.  The brother who presented it was a professional musician in his younger years. 

He discussed the power that music has on our spirits both for good and for evil.  It was a very enlightening discussion.  We were very impressed with our young freshmen, how much they understood the issues and how committed they are to being a positive influence.  Two of our non-member college students were there and they contributed greatly to the discussion.  One of them, Becky, has now had all the lessons.  She is faced with the challange of convincing her parents that she should be baptized.  The other, Noel, has come 3 weeks in a row to church, and was at the fireside tonight.  We have given her a Book of Mormon, and hope to begin teaching her when they get back from Christmas break, at the end of January.  We gave both of them the video, "The Birth of Christ", to take home and share with their families for Christmas.  Pray for both of them, that their testimonies will grow and strengthen.  We would love to have some more baptisms before we come home.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Back to Work in the Temple

It is hard when the temple is closed for two weeks every six months for cleaning.  There is not much to do after putting in a couple of days helping with the cleaning.  You get bored sitting around the apartment all day.  It was a good time to get started on the Christmas giving.  We did make a quick trip to Detroit to celebrate Evan's and Mike's birthday.  Even though it was out of our mission, it was approved because it was within a day's drive.  So we were both delighted to get back into the temple to work last Tuesday.   We enjoyed being able to do the ordinances again.  And more especially to work with the good people who come.

Friday night was especially fun.  When we were serving in Ogdensburg last year, we got to know a young family that were new members of the church of a couple of months.  They had two children and were a delight to the branch.  They moved near to Watertown and had do move their membership to the ward there.  The branch missed them greatly.  She was Primary President and he was active in the Elders Quorum.  (Their two children were the only ones in Primary).  We all knew it was best for their family to get into a strong ward but it was hard to see them leave. 

They have now been in the church for over a year and Friday night they came to the temple to receive their endowments and to be sealed.  It was so good to see them again.  It was a delightful suprise to see them in the temple.  The missionary couple that was in Ogdesburg before us, who had taught them the gospel, came back from Richfield, UT to be with them.  Paul was assigned as a guide for the father and was with them the whole evening.  They have a 12 year old son and a 7 year old daughter who were sealed to them after their sealing.  It was inspiring to hear the trials they overcame in preparing for the sealing.  The last one was their son had just turned 12 and hadn't been ordained yet.  They didn't realize that he needed to be ordained in order to be sealed.  After a couple of phone calls to the Bishop and Stake President, he was ordained a deacon by Pres. Sherwood and was ready for the sealing.  We were pleased to see how well the ward was supporting them.  All had come the 2-1/2 hours to share in the endowment and sealing.  The Ogdensburg Branch President and his wife also came, a 3 hour trip one way.

They were so happy to be an eternal family.  They were bubbling with the excitement and joy of it.  We are also excited that we are an eternal family.  We love you all and are constantly reminded that we can be together forever.  Isn't Heavenly Father wonderful?!  What a glorious plan He prepared for us, and how great was His love that He sent his Son to make it all possible.

We love you all.  Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday.  We all have so much to be thankful for!  Maybe we ought to put 20 candycorns on each plate this year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Temple Is Closed

Temple Cleaning
The temple is closed for 2 weeks of cleaning and mainenance.  We spent 1 day last week cleaning with the Utica Stake.  We got to clean the chandelier in the Celestial room.  That was an experience.  There are 6886 crystals on the chandelier.  Each one has to be hand wiped with a special cloth.  It obviously took a few hours. ( Like about 5 hours.)  The chandelier is lowered to the floor.  One person lies on his back and does the lower crystals.  The rest of us walk around and do the upper ones, trying not to step on the person lying on the floor.  We also polished furniture and doors.  It was a good day.  We will go back next Monday and help with the finishing touches to prepare for the opening again on Tuesday.

Kirtland, OH
On Friday we went down to Kirtland, OH to help chaperone the youth from the Fredonia branch at a youth conference.  Friday night they had a dance and we could see that nothing has changed.  The young men are still awkward and the young women are still very self concious and huddle together for support.  They still do line dances and the Hokey Pokey, the Macarena and the Chicken. You still have to patrol the halls and the parking lot and you still need plenty of food.  After the dance they showed the movie, Legacy, and then went to the camp grounds where they spent the night.  It was pretty primitive.  The water had been turned off for the winter so there was no running water or toilets, just outhouses.  Since they didn't think that was proper accomodations for missionaries, we had to spend the night in a motel and join up with them again in the morning for the tours.  Shucks!
Saturday morning after breakfast, we joined them in the Kirkland Temple for a special devotional and testimony meeting.  You could really feel the spirit there especially as the speaker told about the Savior appearing to Joseph and Oliver right there behind him on the upper pulpit.  You could really picture it happening right there in front of that beautiful round window.
  It was very nice to be back there.  They have done a lot of new things like rebuilding the saw mill and the ashery as they were back then and rebuilding the road out and around the historical area so that you could walk to the different sites without having to worry about traffic.  The spirit is strong as you learn about these many places where the prophet Joseph received so many revelations. 
We got back to Fredonia Saturday evening and prepared for our teaching assignments the next day.

Teaching
On Sunday, we taught a mother and her 15 year old daughter a 1st discussion.  They came to our branch party last Saturday night with a member.  The mother also has a sister that is a member in Jamestown.  Her husband is very negative and would not allow anyone from the church to come to their home.  He has now left and they want to learn more.  We felt like the lesson went very well.  We challenged them to read 3rd Nephi about the Savior, and to pray.  They accepted the challenge.  The branch RS President, who is a neighbor, went over with us and is doing a good job of fellowshipping. She bore her testimony to them as well.  Susan found it a bit challenging to teach while a big golden retriever was licking her ear, but you do what you have to do.

We didn't get to teach Becky this week because she went home for her 18th birthday.  We will see her this coming weekend and probably teach her the 3rd lesson.  The young elders from Jamestown are going to try to meet with her during the week and teach her as well since they will need to do the interviews and prepare for her baptism.  We are hoping they will be able to set a date for the baptism.. We are excited.

We hope you all are doing well and sharing the gospel with your friends and neighbors.We sure love teaching these principles and helping people to develop a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is so important that we keep our testimonies strong by studying, praying, and serving.  It really is the only way we will all make it through this life and back to Heavenly Father.  And we so want all of you there with us.  We love you all so much!  Have a good week!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Last week we showed you a picture of this house in Palmyra that had everything for Halloween.  This week they added even more.  All of the following pictures are the same house and yard.  You might say they go "over the top".  Thought you might enjoy this and your kids can also tell you what you need to do for next Halloween.  You are welcome.  You don't have to thank us.
The obligatory goblin graveyard.

The monster and his pumpkin with the family name on it.

Halloween train with coffin.

Funeral hearse and driver

Black widow spider, web and gargoyle on the porch, with the skull and crossbones gate
 you have to go through to get your candy.

Pipe organ with the witch

Monday, October 24, 2011

Changes

Winter Is Coming
We are fully into fall here.  The colors are out and it is getting cooler.  We are afraid that winter is coming.
Who would of thunk it.
Here is a picture of Scott's memorial tree at Fairport high school.  It is a sugar maple and is doing well.  We love how the colors start at the top of the tree and work their way down.  It is a late bloomer this year.  Most of the trees are done now.

Here is a home in Palmyra.  We pass it everyday on the way to the temple.  Some people really get into Halloween here.  The house has been covered with a plastic front to make it look like a castle.  You can barely see the gargoyle on top of the porch roof.  At night his eyes light up red. 

Changes in the Branch
This past weekend has come with significant changes to our assignment.  The young girl we were teaching is moving to Michigan.  We will not be able to visit any more with them.  We feel we may have made some progress with helping her and her mom to understand some gospel principles.  We hope their new ward will be able to pick up where we left off.  Hopefully they will have activity days that she can enjoy.  We did not have those in our branch.

We have five college freshmen in the branch this fall.  One of the young women is a non-member friend of one of the young men.  She had gone to seminary with him in high school but had never attended church.  Her parents are active catholics and would not allow her to go.
 
The young people have not missed church for the past month.  It has been fun getting to know them.  Last week we rode with them from the branch to the stake conference meeting in Jamestown.  She indicated that she was ready to start taking the missionary lessons since she turns 18 in two weeks.  Then she won't need her parents permission for baptism. 

Yesterday we taught her the first discussion.  We have no young missionaries in the branch so we get to teach.  We have also been released from teaching the youth Sunday School class and are now teaching the Gospel Essentials course.  It is composed of primarily this young lady and her friend.  This Sunday we taught a lesson from the Gospel Essentials book that prepared her for the missionary lesson we taught after church.  On Sunday her friend was also set apart as a Stake Missionary.  He is planning on going on a mission next year.  We will be including him in presenting the missionary lessons. 

We are so looking forward to this opportunity.  We really enjoyed teaching the first lesson and are excited about preparing her for baptism.  When we challenged her to read the Book of Mormon, she showed us she has already read most of 1Nephi.  She also gave a very beautiful, personal prayer at the end of the lesson asking Heavenly Father for the courage to learn and know of the truthfulness of what we were teaching.

We trust all of you grandchildren are preparing for your missions.  You will find that nothing makes you happier then helping someone else learn about our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. 

God Bless You All

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pearl of Great Price

President Sherwood shared a thought in prayer meeting at the temple Friday evening that I think is worth considering.  He told a story that is a take-off on the parable of the pearl of great price. 

A man seeking goodly pearls found one of great price.After he found it he went and sold all that he had in order to purchase it.  The man treasured the pearl for its perfect beauty and luster and after a while decided that he should build a box to hold the pearl and to display it.  He got the best wood he could find, delicately carved a beautiful design on the top, finished it carefully and polished it to a beautiful shine.  Then he lined the box with velvet and edged it with gold.  Placing the pearl in the box, he admired his work and was very pleased with it.  Every time he looked at his pearl, he also admired the beautiful box it was in.  After a time he began admiring the box more and more and noticing the pearl less and less until finally, he saw only the box.

President Sherwood likened the box to the temple and the pearl to the sacred ordinances that are performed inside.  He warned us to not let performing the ordinances become so commonplace to us that we stopped treasuring the beauty and majesty and priceless value of those ordinances.  I was touched by the Spirit as he spoke and committed to pay more attention to the ordinances, but I didn't know how graphically the story would be illustrated for me that very evening.

My first assignment after prayer meeting was that of being a greeter at the temple entrance.  My duties were to welcome and direct our guests coming into the temple to do the sacred ordinances.  It was also my duty to help preserve the sacredness and reverence of the temple by encouraging our guests to whisper, turn off their cell phones and check cameras.

While I was there, a bus full of tourists came to the temple and casually dressed tourists roamed the grounds taking many pictures.  After a while, one of them came into the temple wanting to see the inside.  As kindly as I could, I explained to him that we were a working temple, dedicated to the Lord and not a "site" to be visited.  I told him that he would be more than welcome to come back later and do an ordinance.  He said that they didn't have time for that and walked out.  A few minutes later, two women from the tour came in dressed in capris and tennis shoes with cameras around their necks. One said that she just wanted to take a quick picture inside and then she would leave.  That, of course, is not allowed.  At the same time the other one pushed past me saying she just had to see those beautiful stained-glass windows from the inside and firmly planted herself about five feet inside the foyer facing the doors and refused to budge until her "need to see the windows from the inside" was fully satisfied.  Shortly after that, another man dressed in shorts came in holding a temple recommend and said he had a recommend and therefore he had a "right" to look around inside the temple.  I wondered if the Lord had been standing there at the door of His house, if that brother would have barged in, uninvited, and said the same thing to Him.  Finally, a group of them came to the door and two men, each opened one of the doors as wide as possible so the whole group could look inside.  One of them said, "Ok.  We won't come inside, we'll just stand out here and look.  I said I was sorry, but we have been asked to keep the doors closed.  There were no more attempts to come inside.  I felt bad and thought they had no time for or interest in the Pearl, they only wanted to see the Box.

Two hours later, another tour bus full of people arrived at the temple, had appointments and came dressed in their best, reverently, to do the ordinances.  They waited patiently and cheerfully for a turn in our small locker rooms to change into their temple clothes.  They then went quietly about doing the ordinances.  Some to sealings, some to initiatory and most to do the endowment. 

My last assignment for the night was in the locker room where I watch as they all finished their temple work.  Again they waited cheerfully for a turn at the lockers and didn't seem to mind how crowded it was.  I thanked each one for coming as they were dressed to leave and almost without exception, they expressed to me their gratitude for the privilege of coming here to do these beautiful ordinances.

I couldn't help comparing these two tour groups.  One group came to see the Box and took home many beautiful pictures of the temple.  The other group came to see and treasure the Pearl.  Each one of them took home no pictures, but took the Pearl, safely tucked away in the depths of their hearts.

Lets all seek the Pearl.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Autumn in New York

Fall has definately arrived here.  School buses are back on the roads, goldenrod and the wild purple asters are everywhere, the trees are starting to don their fall colors, and in Fredonia, the grape harvest has begun.  We could tell last week-end that the harvest was getting close as we were out visiting in the Branch.  The aroma of concord grapes filled the air and was delightful.

Our Fredonia Branch lies in the heart of the grape belt in Chautauqua county, NY which is the largest grape producing area in the United States.  (The second largest area is the Yakima Valley in Washington.)  For 3 to 5 miles inland along the eastern shore of Lake Erie there are vinewards everywhere.  Lake Erie is a shallow lake and so the water warms up in the summer and freezes over in the winter.  This makes for ideal growing conditions for grapes.  The winds blowing inland from the lake in the fall are warmed by the water and prevent any early frosts from harming the grapes. In the spring, the winds blowing inland are cooled by the icy waters and those cold winds keep the vines from budding out too early.  Most of the grapes grown here are Concords.  60% are comitted to Welches which has a large juice processing plant about 15 miles south of Fredonia in Westfield.  There is another large plant in Dunkirk owned by Cott which processes juice for store brands, the main one being Kirkland for Costco.

This last Saturday after our teaching appointment, we saw our first grape harvester.  Pretty blue thing ready to start picking.

Grape Harvester

Here you can see right down the middle of the harvester which goes over the row of grape vines.  There are rows of paddles on each side which flop back and forth through the vines knocking the bunches of grapes off.  On the bottom are two rows of horizontal rotating discs which form a "floor" and move the grapes to the back of the harvester where they go on to a conveyor belt which moves them up to the top of the harvester and shoots them into the bin traveling along side in the next row. The discs are spring-loaded so that a post moving down the center can push the discs aside and then they spring back behind the post forming the floor again.

Down The Middle
 Here the harvester is starting at the beginning of the row.  Next to it drives a 2nd tractor towing the bin that the grapes are dumped into.  Notice the bin ready to be pulled into the next row.
Harvester with bin to the side
Here the harvester and bin are part way down the row.
Picking the Grapes
When the bin gets full, it is towed to a flat bed trailer that has 16 large crates on it.  The bin is hydraulically lifted and dumped into a crate.  Each bin and crate holds several tons of grapes.  When all the crates are full, the truck is off to the processing plant.  The trucks have to meet an appointment at the plant.  The grapes have to be processed within a few hours because the fermentation process will start if they stand too long.  The processing goes 24 hours a day, so the harvesters have to keep a well planned schedule to meet their appointments.  It also means they have to work all hours of the day and night. 

You might wonder how we know all this.  While we were parked by the side of the road taking pictures, the man in charge came over and invited us to come over and taste his grapes and was happy to explain it all to us.  As we were talking to him we noticed that his shirt had his company name on it with "Silver Creek, NY - Yakima, Wn" written underneath.  We asked him about it and he said that he also owned a vineyard in Prosser, Washington.  We told him that we had both been raised in the Yakima area.  He asked what brought us to NY and we told him about our mission to the Palmyra Temple and about how we spent our weekends in Fredonia.  He said that he had been to the Hill Cumorah Pageant years ago and that what impressed him the most was how good the people were.  All in all, we had a most enjoyable and informative visit with him and his grapes were sweet and delicious.

Susan filled up her 5 gal.collapsable jug with concord grape juice at a vineyard further down the road that sold the fresh pressed juice and took it home and bottled it on Monday.  We have juice to last the rest of our mission. 

Well, have a great week all of you.  Be sure and listen to all of conference.  What a blessing it is to hear from our prophets twice a year.  We just read the new Ensign.  What a great testimony of the Book of Mormon.  We love you all.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What a day!

   We were given a rare opportunity for service this Thursday.  Some of the communities in our temple district down along the Pennsylvania and New York border have been experiencing severe weather the last two week from the hurracane that hit the east coast and another severe storm right after it.  This caused the Susquahanna River to flood.  In Owego, NY, the river rose over 20 feet above its banks causing disastrous damages throughout the villiage and surrounding area.  Historically the river has flooded here about once in every 100 years.  However this is the 2nd major flood in 5 years.

   In response to the disaster, the Church is sending in the Mormon Helping Hands disaster recovery volunteers to help out.  President Sherwood offered the help of the temple missionaries and as a result all of the 20 couples who were able, were sent to Owego to help in the assessment phase.  The Church didn't want the senior missionaries doing the actual recovery work (They were afraid we might hurt ourselves) so they had us go door to door throughout the whole area talking to the people and filling out forms with requests for help.  Those forms will now be evaluated and the Helping Hands volunteers next week will be sent to the homes with the greatest needs.

  We left early Thursday morning for Owego prepared to spend Thursday and Friday doing the assessment for Helping Hands.  We arrived at the Stake Center in Owego about 9:30 am where we were trained, divided into groups of two couples each, given our assigned areas to work in and then sent out by 10:00 to begin working in our areas. 

The first area we were given was a neighborhood on the side of the valley.  They were significantly higher than the river.  While some had flooding in their basements from the heavy rains, none had any serious damage to their homes.  As we talked to them they expressed their concern for those in the other parts of the city, and we learned of their efforts to help others. 

The next area we were given was in the bottom of the valley, right next to the river.  What a disaster!  The damage to the homes, and the piles of debris were huge.  The water had not only flooded their basements, but in some areas was up to 3 or 4 feet above the main floor level.  All the furnishings had to be taken out.  All the dry wall that was wet has to be ripped out.  All the carpeting has to be torn out.  The flooring has to be ripped up.  We saw some homes where the foundations caved in and the yards were in the basements.  We saw two homes that had completely burned to the ground, probably due to electrical system failures.

No one can live in any of these homes currently.  There is no power, water and sewage.  They are just trying to get the homes emptied, repaired, and then ready for living in.  It has been a week since the last storm and some had help from family, friends and their churches already.  Many others however were just coming back to the disaster after having been evacuated.  Others had no help and were trying to do it on their own.  We were able to find some who would need the help of our Helping Hands volunteers who will be here next week.  They are expecting upwards of 300 members to be there.  This week the local stake is concentrating on helping their members. 

Here is the river that brought all the water.  It is now almost back to its normal level.
Beautiful Susquehanna River near Owego, NY

This is the neighboorhood we were canvassing.  People were just empting out their homes and putting it on the front of their property. 

Another load of someones possessions is dumped and hauled off.


This was a sign on a telephone post in our neighboorhood.  It marked the elevation of the flood in 1929.  Notice the spike just above the sign.  This flood was about the same height.
These next two pictures are of the same house.  Notice the gap under the front porch.  The foundation has caved in.  You are seeing into the basement.  In the following picture the front plantings are now in the basement.


Here is one of the homes that burned

The next two pictures are a sample of the mess in downtown Owego.  Piles of debris outside every building waiting to be scooped up by front loaders and hauled away by dump trucks..

We finished up our 2nd area about 4:00pm and went back to the stake center to turn in our assesment sheets.  We expected another assignment for the next morning, but were told that the assessing process was almost done and we wouldn't be needed on Friday.  We were to go home.  It appears that the "Temple Missionaries Team" accomplished in one day what they expected was going to take two.  It felt good to be a part of the bigger picture that will continue next week as the volunteers come in to help these people.  However, one side of me all day long wanted to quit this "assesment" and just dig in and help these people.

So what have we learned.  We were pleasantly amazed at people's concerns for each other.  Many said to us, "We have friends and family and we will have this house empty in two more days.  There are others that have no help.  Please go to them."  Many in the community are taking in those who no longer have a home.  Some have given up.  "We are getting what belongings we have and are leaving.  The bank can have the house."

Many expressed their gratitude that things weren't worse.  We are not aware of any serious injury or death.  One good man summed it up this way:  "The hardest thing I ever did was bury my daughter.  This doesn't even come close." 

As we looked at all the destruction and the possessions waiting to be hauled off, our hearts went out to these people.  And yet doesn't this put into persective our lives and what is important.  "Things" come today and are gone tomorrow.  None of that is really important.  What is important is our relationships to each other and to our Heavenly Father and his Son.  We need to strengthen those relationships.  Those relationships, especially with The Father are what will pull us through the trials/disasters that will come into our lives.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fun Day Off

Last Monday we went to the 1000 Islands with the year around temple missionaries.  This is an area where the St. Lawrence Seaway leaves Lake Ontario.  There is supposedly around 1800 islands in this area that is about 30 miles long on the the seaway.  It is a famous area for summer vacations and tourists.

Hint: To be called an island it has to be out of the water year around, be at least 3 ft square, and have at least 1 tree and 1 other form of vegetation.  Most of the islands are on the Canadian half of the seaway.  Most of the larger islands are on the USA side making the land area about equal.  Many of the islands have homes on them.  It is amazing how small an island can have a home on it.  We saw one with about a 150 sq. ft. home on about a 160 sq. ft. island. 

We went on a boat tour of these islands.  We saw many islands with their homes but most of the time was spent on two islands looking at two "Castles".  One was Dark Island with Singer Castle.  The other Heart Island with Boldt Castle.  Both were build around 1900.   
Singer Castle

Singer Castle

Singer Castle was built by the 5th President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  He called it a "Hunting Lodge".  It has the feel of a medeval castle and is loaded with secret passageways for servants to use. 

Singer Castle with boathouse


Singer Castle Breakfast Room
This was Susan's favorite room.  Magnificant arched windows on three sides of the room looked out over the water. 

Singer Castle Light Sweat Cabinet
This was their version of a tanning bed.  Notice the light bulbs all around the sides and bare wiring that you could touch and get burned or shocked.  This would be an OSHA nightmare.  You sat on the stool and closed the doors.  The mirrors all around reflected the light onto your body.  Your head stuck up out of the hole on the top.  This was located in the massage room.

Hidden Passageway behind bookcase
Servants were looking out from these secret passageways ready to step out and provide whatever service was needed such as refilling a glass, etc.  They would then quickly dissappear again.  The only exception was in the ladies lounge area where his wife did not want anybody to observe them.  Servants could only come when they were called for.
Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle was built by some guy named Boldt who was building it for a summer home for his wife.  He was the proprieter for the Walsorf-Astoria hotel in NYC.  His wife died before it was finished and he stopped all work on it.  It remained vacant for over 50 years, and had much vandalism.  It is now owned by the St. Lawrence Seaway authority.  They are constantly trying to finish the original design but have committed to never finish it completely.  Boldt said his wife didn't get to see it completed so no one will.  The first floor is now completed and furnished.  The families bedrooms on the 2nd floor are completed.  Nothing has been done yet on the 3rd and 4th floors.
Boldt Castle Power House
This was on one end of the island and was to contain the large generators that would provide electricity to the island.
Boldt Castle grand staircase and balcony
Boldt Castle above the grand staircase
This is a view of the ceiling 4 levels above the main floor showing the stain glass sky light. You can see there was balconies all round overlooking the grand staircase.



Boldt Castle Master Bedroom
This bedroom on the 2nd floor is a rounded room in a corner.  Even the windows and glass were curved.


Boldt Castle Children's Playhouse and Tower
 
This was the children's playhouse and tower.  They are working on it so it is blocked off.  You can see the workman on top.  Can you imagine having a playhouse like this when you were a kid?  You could really feel like a knight or a princess.
 Other Islands
These are some other islands.



Boldt Castle Boathouse on Wellesley Island
 




Three Sisters Lighthouse
 
This is actually three islands connected by stone walkways. The lighthouse was actually in use.


This is a small island with a home on it.
 We had a delightfull day with the other missionaries.  We are not going to say anything about the sunburns we had the next day.  We should have know better then to spend the day on the water without sunscreen or hats. 
Have a great week.  We love you all.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Staying Within The Lines

Remember when you were a little kid and were learning how to color, everyone told you to stay within the lines.  It made a good picture instead of a messy one.  14 years later you learned about how a car needs to stay within the lines.  It makes for good driving instead of going off the cliff on the right side or a head on collision on the left side. 

Today in our Sunday School lesson we talked about this.  The Lord also wants us to stay within the lines that he has set.  He has set these lines to bless our lives.  He wants to help us avoid disastrous consequences in our lives.  They help us to be successful in this great plan of happiness he has given us.

In the ancient church we read about the apostles and prophets and 70's guiding the church.  Paul especially sent letters to the churches telling them of the lines they were crossing, and what the results would be.  He warned them of immorality, of being unified within the church, and of following the counsel from the prophets.  They were not only ignored but were killed.  Within 100 years there were no more apostles and prophets.  The church and world fell into a long period of darkness called the dark ages.

Our testimony to you is that the Lord is again speaking through apostles and prophets because he has restored the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth.  It will not be lost again.  There are now 15 apostles and prophets, hundreds of 70's, thousands of stake presidents, ten's of thousands of bishops.  They will not be all killed off.  Within our lifetime there will be thousands of 70's, ten's of thousands of stake presidents, hundred's of thousands of bishops.  They will not be lost because the world is ready to listen to them.  The question is "Are We".

These great prophets to us in this day are warning us about lines that we must not cross over.  They are some of the same warnings given by the prophets of old but are specifically directed at the problems we face.  Immorality, seeking for the things of the world, debt, selfishness. 

There are plenty of people out there who are messing up their lives and experiencing misery because they cross the lines.  We do not need to be a part of them.  We will have enough of our own problems because we are a part of this mortal earth.  We don't need to add to our struggles because we cross the lines.  Crossing the lines never brings freedom, as some people seem to think.  Staying within the lines gives us the freedom to enjoy all of the blessings Heavenly Father has for us.  So be happy.  Be free and seek for the joys of eternity.  Stay well within the lines.

Love to you all.  Have a good week. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words

Our weekend in the branch started Saturday morning in the temple baptistry.  Our stake had a temple day and we signed up to help in the baptistry.  When we got there there were lots of people who wanted to help but few who wanted to be baptized.  They had brought a lot of family file to do but had no youth.  We decided to be "guests" or patrons and to be baptized and confirmed.  Our Branch President did almost all the baptisms.  His wife was also a "guest".  When it was finally our turn at the end, He baptized Paul and then Paul baptized him and Susan.  It was special to be able to be guests in the baptistry.  Susan hadn't been in a font in years.

We taught our young girl who has autism later in the afternoon.  On Sunday we taught our youth Sunday School class.  It was nice to be able to bear our testimonies.  We just hope that we are making a difference in their lives.

As we have been visiting with the less active members in the branch, we are beginning to notice a trend or a theme.  Many of them have quit coming over the years because they have been criticized about their dress or appearance.  Why is it that we feel a need to correct people when we see they are not applying a principle that we live in our lives? 

This is something that we have been talking about in our temple preparation meetings for our whole mission.  The presidency is trying to teach us as workers to not correct each other or the guests who come.  It is almost always a sign of pride.  We think we understand and live a principle so we want to correct those who don't.  The minute we "correct" the spirit leaves and hard feelings result.  It is so much better when we teach correct principles and let each person learn and correct themselves.  We need to just love people and set a good example.   

This is so true in all our relationships, especially at home.  We pray that we might all have patience and love with each other.  Let us care about each other, encourage each other, teach good principles, praise the good things that are being learned, and avoid pointing out the things that have not yet been applied.

We love you all and proud of how well you are doing in your families.  We have loved looking at the pictures from the reunion and feeling the spirit that we have heard.  Thank you Sandy and Kurt for organizing it.  It couldn't have been better.  (except if we could have been there).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Branch Service Project

What a good weekend we had in Fredonia.  We met a lady and her daughter that we can help.  Her daughter is a 19 year old with cerebral palsy.  She is taken by bus each day to a school where she can learn and work.  They are not going to be able to continue to bus her if they do not get a ramp for the wheelchair at their home.  She has become too tall and gangly for the assistants to carry down the front porch steps.  We have worked with the Branch council and are going to be able to build this ramp for her.  We also met a man who grew up in the church but has not been active for years.  He is experienced in construction and wants to help us.  He is in the middle of doing a complete remodel of his own home, but is excited to be able to help someone else.  There is a 3rd brother in the branch who is going to help us also.  He is an experienced handyman and has a pickup and tools including a gas powered posthole digger which we need for the ramp.  He just moved in to the Branch 2 months ago.  He bought an old vacant house that he is trying to make livable.  Paul spent all day today designing the ramp and now we need to get the permit and start building it in a week or two.  It was amazing that our visits this week built on each other.  In the first one we recognized the need and in the 2nd one we found a brother to help us meet the need.  The next day we met with the branch counsel and got the 3rd brother from that meeting.   We feel that working together with these two men will open the door for us to be able to help them with their homes, lives and testimonies.  The Lord has orchestrated this one beautifully.  We are excited.

We were pretty discouraged last week end.  Out of 10 families that we tried to find and visit, we only were able to get in and visit with 1.  This week end we were determined to try them again and had five good visits out of five.  When you keep trying even when you are discouraged, the Lord really blesses your efforts.  We love it here!

We hear that the family reunion was a great success and everyone had a good time.  Although we hated to miss it and missed being with all of our kids and grandkids terribly, it was a very sweet and satisfying feeling to know that great things happened without us. That prayers and devotionals were planned and attended to without our being there to prompt or remind.  We weren't needed at all!  The baton has been successfully passed and the next lap is being run strongly and winningly well. Well done!  We are so proud of you all!
Don gave us a copy of all of the testimonies that went into Mike's scriptures.  What a treasure!  Thank you all!  We love you all so very much and we are so pleased with how much love you show each other.

Have a great week!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pageant weeks are over.  We survived.  Your mom only fainted once.  We had two weeks of getting up at 5:00am every morning, except for one day, when we got up at 4:00am.  Most of the days were filled with lots if people in all the various sessions.  That part was very nice.  It was just the early mornings that got old.  It will be so great to be on our normal year around schedule starting tomorrow. 

Your mom got some kind of bug that kept her down for two days and feeling punky for a week.  She thinks she is over it now.  The first indication of anything wrong was when she fainted in initiatory.  That was embarrassing.  Luckily the bug didn't hit hard til Saturday night so she only missed Monday from the temple.  We also didn't go to the branch for the weekend.  By Monday night she was fine again.

They said this was the first year in the history of the pageant when there was no rain at all.  The days have also been fairly moderate.  It has been beautiful.  The problem is the farmers are all complaining.  The corn is all late coming because of no rain.  Thunderstorms are scheduled for this week so maybe that will get better.

We are so excited to hear from all of you at the reunion next week.  Thank you to Sandy and Kurt for planning it and to all who will help.

We love you all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Two Good Shows, Family Reunion Challenge

Two Good Shows
I know what you are thinking, missionaries aren't supposed to go see shows,  But these two were both approved for Senior missionaries.
Friday evening we took Kelly to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant.  Live outdoor production with a cast of 700 plus, spectacular presentation of scenes from the Book of Mormon, it was great, as usual.  It doesn't matter how many times you've seen it, it is still wonderful.  Little changes in how different scenes were portrayed and some new costumes made it more interesting but the spirit and the powerful testimony born of the Savior were still just as strong as ever.  It was different not being involved this time, though  You have the addional witness born to you of its truthfulness and importance when you're participating in it.  We kinda felt like outsiders this time. 
Saturday night we went to see a brand new movie that was premering at the Palmyra Inn at the beginning of its Eastern Tour of the US before its release to theaters out West.  It is by the same producer as "One Good Man" and is called  "Joseph Smith - Plates of Gold".  It is a beautiful and insightful portrayal of Joseph and Emma starting from just before he receives the plates until just after the church is organized.  We highly recommend it.  If it shows in your area, go see it and support it, it is well worth it.  We had the added bonus of meeting R. Dustin Harding, the actor who portrayed Joseph.  He introduced the film and then afterwards told us a little bit about his experience playing Joseph and answered questions.  He then bore a powerful testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel.  It was a great evening.  We had some very strong feelings about insights into the spirit of Emma and how great she was.  We look forward in a few years of seeing more.  They are planning a "trilogy".

Family Reunion Challenge
To our kids who are holding our family reunion without us this year:  Do not think you can escape our trying to have an influence in your lives this year!  We love you all dearly and our hearts will be there with you even tho we are not.  We feel strongly impressed to have you do some additional preparation as families before you go.  Parents, first of all read in this month's (July) Ensign the article on page 48 called "Faith to Answer the Call"  by Elder Holland.  Pay special attention to the fourth paragraph from the end that begins  "When you have your own faith"  There is at least one member of our family who feels that he stands alone.  You have a precious few days to show him otherwise.  Then discuss with your children in family home evening how they can help make sure that none of the cousins feel that way this year.  Me against you or us against them is not allowed.  Those feelings come from Satan and only cause contention and hurt feelings.We become much stronger when everyone is "Us" and there is no "Them" and no against. (Except maybe in Killer Rabbits).  Our desire for you this year is to wrap everyone so tightly together in the bonds of love that no one can break away from our family ties.  Pray for inspiration and help from Heavenly Father in your family prayers so that you will all know how best to do that.  Please share with us personally what you learn from and do with this challange.

Maryle will be bringing 'Grandma's Store' this year.  Have a wonderful time and give Kurt your support in his new role as 'acting' patriarch at this reunion.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Tabernacle Choir/Hill Cumorah Pageant

THE TABERNACLE CHOIR

Friday we had an opportunity to listen to the Tabernacle Choir at the Joseph Smith frame home.  They were passing through from Williamsburg on their way to their performance on Saturday at Chautauqua, NY.  They sang a couple of songs after they had an opportunity to walk through the Sacred Grove.  They sang "Oh How Lovely Was The Morning" and "God Be With You Til We Meet Again".  It was amazing how beautiful the sound carried, even in the open area where they were standing.

It rained almost all afternoon and then cleared up about 10 minutes before the buses arrived.  There were a couple hundred members who had come out to see them. They had to wait for over an hour as two of the buses had problems which delayed their travel.  Elder Jensen of the Seventy and his wife were traveling with the Choir.  They stopped, shook our hands and talked with us a bit while we were waiting for the Choir.

Then, two days later in church, we had several members of the stage crew who were driving the semi trailers with all their stuff.  Chautaugua is only about 30 minutes away from Fredonia.  There were also a couple of other families attending the branch who had been at the performance the night before.  One was our Area President, Elder Cook of the Seventy.  He was the concluding speaker at sacrament meeting.  It was the largest attendance we have seen at the branch.

HILL CUMORAH PAGEANT

Saturday, our branch had an assignment to provide 4 brethren at the Hill to help in unloading the buildings and setting up the cast team tents.  It was nice to be back there and helping in a small way as they were getting ready for this year's pageant.  Work crew had just arrived and they were putting up the stages.  The light towers had gone up early in the week.  Suddenly the Hill Cumorah is looking like pageant time. 

We will be on a totally different schedule in the temple during the two weeks of pageant.  We work essentially every morning of the week from 7:00am til noon.  We have the afternoons and evenings free.  The temple is closed every evening after the 5:00pm session is finished.  We will probably spend a fair amount of time at the hill.  We will be taking Kelly Schmelzer with us on both Friday nights.  We have been taking her out to lunch once a month since we have been here.

We love you all and hope you are all having a great time preparing for the family reunion.  God bless you all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

IT IS SUMMER HERE

NEW CAR
We finally got our new car this week.  But for the 1st time in 20 years we have car payments.  There is always 2 sides to a picture.
We are enjoying the over 50 mpg however.

PRETTY FLOWERS
Here are the beautiful flowers in front of our kitchen window.  They are a single peony.  I have never seen anything like them.  They are georgous.  They had to measure 6-7 inches across.


NEW CALLING
We got a new calling in the branch this week.  The youth didn't complain enough when we substitute taught in Sunday School,  So now we are the permanent youth Sunday School teachers.  We do enjoy the class.  They are good kids.  Ages range from 12 to 18.  It is a bit of a challenge keeping the oldest ones interested, but we need the challenge.  Two weeks ago we were able to be in the baptistry with them and that was nice.

We are still teaching Bethany, which means now we prepare two lessons each weekend.  One for her and one for the class.  She and her mother are still attending church regularly and we pray we will get her father coming. 

We love you all and look forward to hearing from you on your blogs, calls, and emails.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Our Branch in the Baptistry

Saturday morning our little branch came to the temple to do baptisms with the youth.  The same day there was a Priest/Laurel conference in Brockport, but we still had 6 kids and 5 adults.  It was a very good experience.  There were also 2 small families.  So we had a total of about 14 people being baptized and confirmed.  We had about 8 adults helping. 

It is always such a delight working with small groups.  Especially families.  You can get to know them and share in the experiences they are enjoying.  These two families were from the Salt Lake area. 

Things went very smoothly and our testimonies were confirmed concerning the validity and power of the work we do for our loved ones in the temple.  We also appreciated the great experiences the youth have as their testimonies are built up by performing these ordinances and feeling the spirit.

We bear testimony that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored and this great work is very real and true.  We hope our children are taking advantage of every opportunity to get our grandchildren to the temple as they become of age.  We hope also they see their parents going on a regular basis and bringing the spirit and power of the temple into each of their homes. 

God bless you all, we love you

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Elect Lady

Dorthy Kidman on a mission?  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!... No

YES!
Last Wednesday, in the temple, President Sherwood asked us how Dorthy was doing.  We responded she was doing very well and was enjoying life.  He suddenly suggested, why doesn't she come out here on a mission.  As we talked about it we and he saw the great potential of that opportunity.  He felt there was a low probability of her being accepted through the Church missionary application because of her age.  He did feel that he could call her as a local temple missionary if her records were sent out to Palmyra.  Wel left excited with the prospect.
YES!
We went home, prayed about it and called Bishop Neff the next morning.  he is ours and Dorthy's Bishop.  We asked him if he thought we were crazy or if this was a good idea.  He also became excited about the prospect of Dorthy being able to go on a mission.
YES!
Sunday he talked to her and she became very excited and accepted the call.  All of us as a family got excited about the possibilities.  She began planning how soon she could come out and how to make the details work.
NO!
Monday evening, President Sherwood recognized that a recent directive from the temple department changed the policy and a temple president could not longer call a local member to a temple mission.  All temple mission calls needed to come through the mission department.  We then needed to call home and let mom know that it couldn't work the way we thought.  That was one of the hardest calls we have made in our lives.  It felt so cruel.  We as humans had made a mistake and let her down.

Our family has gone from the highest of highs to the depths of lows in 5 days.   But we have learned something about Dorthy.  She is an Elect Lady.  She accepted the call with her whole heart and soul.  She was willing to do whatever it took to fullfill her responsibility.  Her first act after hearing from the Bishop was to find her Preach My Gospel book so she could begin studying.  What an example of being willing to do what the Lord asks.

When we called with the bad news, she graciously accepted the explanation with a great deal of disappointment but no hard feelings against anyone.  She said "At least the Lord knows I was willing".  What an example of humility, trust, and faith.
Abraham 3
25.  And we will aprove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

Was this all just a test?  If so it seemed like a very cruel test.  But as we thought that, another thought immediately came to mind.  Abraham's test was a cruel test as well.  He passed his test with flying colors and so did Mom.  Not only her willingness to serve, but her meekness in not being able to serve.  She passed them both. 


We all receive calls.  Do we accept them with our whole hearts like she did and go forth immediately to serve?  We need to.  We all receive disappointments in our lives, some of which are very hard to take.  Are we willing to accept whatevery the Lord asks of us, humbly and meekly, and continue on, trusting that it is for our good.  Knowing that the Lord loves us and is preparing us to come home to Him. 

Thank you Mom for your wonderful example.  We desire to grow up just like you.