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Priesthood

15

As you probably know by now, my blog posts are usually the result of whatever has been bouncing around in my brain as of late. This week there has been a lot to choose from, but one thing seems to keep bubbling to the top. I will get to it…eventually.

A most amazing series of events transpired for us from July 4 to July 8. Much of it had to do with my daughter’s wedding that I wrote about last week, but not all of it. We also had a grand 4th of July family reunion at a “rustic” cabin in Midway on Tuesday. On Thursday we celebrated the 2nd birthday of our dazzling granddaughter with food and frolic in the mountains.

Friday night was the combined family dinner of the two halves of the marriage. It was an “anti-Montague/Capulet” experience. Our in-laws are lovely people, and they didn’t call off the wedding, so by all accounts, it was a huge success.

Saturday was THE day. A beautiful sealing service in the Payson temple, followed by a wonderful luncheon where love and good food was enjoyed. Including teary toasts and funny stories. The night culminated with a reception in Provo where hundreds of friends and family members from all over the country came to share their love and support of the newlyweds.  Other than Phoenix-like weather, it was a perfect day.

During the week, and since, I have felt so much gratitude to God, friends, and especially my family. With the exception of a missionary and a niece with a new job, the entire side of my family dropped what they were doing and came to share the moment with us. It was humbling.

The gratitude I felt both last week and this has helped force perspective on the ridiculous circus of disasters that has befallen us as of late. Stuff happens. Thankfully, the important stuff happens, too.

Yet even with so much to be grateful for, gratitude has not been my primary focus this past week, rather, I have been thinking about families:

Eternal families.

To put it in context, let me introduce you to a few people who are important to me:

Earl and LaVelta Patterson, and Horton and Marlene McBride. My EC’s parents, and my parents. Back in 1949 and 1956, respectively, these two couple both did something that would have an impact on their posterity for eternity.:Both couples were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple as husband and wife, by the authority and sealing power of the priesthood. Eternal Marriage. Temple Marriage. They created new family units: Families that have the potential to become Eternal Families. All four of them have passed on, but there are times I feel that they are privileged to witness holy events from the other side. They are mine, and Chrissie’s. They are ours. We are theirs.

In the picture at the top, you will see my goofy extended family: My big sister, and my little brother who were there for us last week, just as they are always there for us. Yes, my sister did break a hairbrush over my head, but that was years ago. They are sealed to me because we were born int the covenant that my parents made when they wed. Their children are theirs for the same reason. I intend on hanging out with them in the eternities.

Fast forward 30-40 years: Brad and Chrissie McBride followed our parents and entered the Mesa, Arizona temple. We were sealed by the same priesthood authority and sealing power to become a new family, complete with the same eternal promises.

Sure, we were a lot more attractive then, but our love has grown considerably as well. From this union there have come five kids – all of them sealed to us by virtue of their births into this Covenant Marriage. They are ours, we are theirs, and we intend on keeping them forever.

(Now we are getting to the really good part…)

In the past five years, three of our kids – now adults – have found the person they wanted to spend their eternity with, and married them. Not only did they marry them they did it in the right place, by the right authority.

I’ve heard many people describe the birth of their children as the greatest day of their lives, but my ranking skews a bit differently. I still consider July 18, 1986 to be the greatest day of my life – the day I married Chrissie. After that day, I consider the temple weddings of my children to be next in line.

Those temple weddings are not just weddings. They are not merely a tradition of men, or “’till death do us part,” the are eternal in nature. They are Godly. They are Celestial in potential. I admit that as I am privileged to sit in the temple and witness the ordinance and the covenants associated with the sealing, I am overwhelmed with emotion, but also feel a sense of peace – bordering on relief – that my precious charges have found their eternal companions. Their “EC’s” if you will.

***Important note: This is something that cannot happen ‘outside’ of the Church. Sure, you can be a spiritual person, but things such as these – eternal things – cannot happen anywhere other than in God’s temples. (More on this here.)

For some additional context, I refer you to President Eyring:

“Every priesthood effort and every priesthood ordinance is intended to help Heavenly Father’s children be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become members of perfected family units. It follows that “the great work of every man is to believe the gospel, to keep the commandments, and to create and perfect an eternal family unit,” and to help others do the same.

Since that is true, everything we do should have celestial marriage as its focus and purpose. That means we must strive to be sealed to an eternal companion in the temple of God. We must also encourage others to make and keep the covenants that bind a husband and wife together, with their family, in this life and in the world to come.” (bold and italics added.  Link.)

“Everything we do.” Perhaps that is why I feel joy, peace and sense of relief every time someone I love makes those sacred covenants. It is a culmination of a lifetime of effort, faith and hope. It is also a commencement of sorts – the beginning of a new family, with new hopes, struggles and opportunities. A temple wedding is by no means the end of the road – it is the end of the search for a traveling companion with whom to continue the journey.

“Marriage is a principle that, when entered into, presents more challenges and blessings than any other. … Nothing will prepare mankind for exaltation in the kingdom of God as readily as faithfulness to the marriage covenant. Through this covenant, perhaps more than any other, we accomplish the perfect degree of the divine will. If properly received, this covenant can be the means by which man gains his greatest happiness. The greatest honors in this life and in the life to come—honor, dominion, and power in perfect love—are blessings that flow from it. These blessings of eternal glory are held in reserve for those who are willing to abide in this and all other covenants of the gospel.” (Joesph Fielding Smith)

I am aware and sensitive to the fact that not everyone has, will or can enjoy these promised blessings in this life. It is clear that there has been much written to help us better grapple with these exceptions. Sadly, I expect these challenges will become more prevalent as the adversary wages his relentless ‘war on the family.’ (link)

In the context of this conflict, each time a couple kneels across the altar in a temple and a new family unit is created, it is a victory. It is a “win” for God’s Plan of Happiness. It should be celebrated and cherished. President Russell M. Nelson said, “…celestial marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other relationship.” (link)

I want my kids to be happy. I want my siblings to be happy. I want Chrissie and I to be happy. A temple wedding is the safest place to begin.

Begin.

There is still a lot of road for my kids ahead. A bit less for us, but enough to keep it challenging, exciting, and wonderful. I want all of us who are sealed together to join together in the next life. All of us. They are mine, I am theirs, we are God’s. I cannot imagine it any other way.

PS: And to make it even richer, Taylor & Mallory are expecting a baby boy in December, and Alex and Madi are expecting a baby something in January.  (Yes, I am hogging all the blessings – please share my joy.)

6

Priesthood Session

Note:  These are the instant, mildly-filtered things that ran through my brain and heart as I watched this session of General Conference. If you are looking for deep, spiritual analysis, this is not the place. Drive on. Please check back later for that, after I have had some time to process.

The choir has the unique ability of taking most dynamic hymn and turning it into a lullaby.

I broke my fast with too many chips and too much salsa. Not wise.

• Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. Home teachers. (I have a similar story about missed HT opportunity.) I appreciate that he is aware of the “countless guilt trips” on this subject. (Later he acknowledged the reality of HT’ers rushing at the end of the month to give a message out of the Ensign that the family had already read.)

Preaching the ideal, while acknowledging that all locations of the church cannot implement things the same. If you can’t do the standard, scheduled monthly, use secondary means – email, phone calls, texts, etc.

““The appeal I am making tonight is for you to lift your vision of Home Teaching. Please. In newer better ways, see yourselves as emissaries of the Lord to His children.”

(Side note:  Amazed at all the people on Twitter saying that they haven’t had Home Teachers for a long, long time. #tragic.)

 

• Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. spoke about the period of time in Ghana when the Church was outlawed. Told the story of a young man who picked up a Book of Mormon and it eventually changed his life.  Told his persil story af his testimony of the Book of Mormon.

For some a testimony of the Book of Mormon comes quickly, (Parley P. Pratt style) for others it comes more slowly.

Offered great promises for those who read the Book of Mormon with their kids. (Quoted President Marion G. Romney) Here’s the quote that we need to be reminded of often:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.” (link)

 

President Dieter Uchtdorf.  (No, he didn’t bring a 44oz soda to the pulpit with him.)

Spoke of the life of Alma. (City of Ammonia? Choosing to hang onto that German accent is costing him tonight.)

What can you learn from Alma?  It is okay to get some help. (Amulek) As leaders, we shouldn’t hesitate to invite people to help. “Find them by seeing with your heart. Reach out to them. Teach them. Inspire them. Ask them.”

“Christ’s message wasn’t ‘Stand back! I can handle this! Rather, ‘Come follow me.'”  To be successful in leadership, you need to find your Amuleks.

Spoke about turning doubts to faith in the context of a man returning to full fellowship in the church.

 

• Elder Henry B. Eyring: “The devotion, the faith, and the selfless service of this body of men and boys are a modern miracle”

“The Aaronic Priesthood prepares young men for an even more sacred trust, the Melchizedek Priesthood.” Happy that I have only one son left that needs to make that leap.

Told the story about his service as a young Aaronic priesthood holder. It sounded a bit familiar, but only because he has told it to the priesthood multiple times before.  Must be important.

One thing I really love about President Eyring is that he wears his emotions on his sleeve, yet he is SO sincere when the tears flow.

Homework: “I pray you will go home and carefully study the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood found in D&C 84”

 

• Two heavy-hitter talks about the importance of priesthood service: Holland and Eyring.

 

• President Thomas S. Monson: Word of Wisdom and its promises. Blessings of health, strength and stamina.

Brethren, may we care for our bodies and our minds by keeping the principles of the Word of Wisdom.” He went on to testify of the blessings.

There has been a lot of public bickering about “stamina” in the political world.  It is impressive to watch an 89 year old man stand up before 20K people and testify to stamina and health. It resonates a lot stronger than coming from a young man. Short, sweet, powerful.

 

• Aaaand we are done. Almost 30 minutes early again.

Thanks be to God. Feel the power, repent where needed, and let’s do it all again tomorrow! G’night!

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18

Sealing room

Whoa.  It has been an amazing week in the MMM household. As you know, we had a wedding Friday, but that is just part of the glorious flurry of events that we are in the midst of experiencing this week.

As I was trying to figure out a way to share them with you, I felt like I need to dig a little deeper. The flowers, the food, the clothes, the friends and family, the pomp and tradition is fabulous, but… we often get consumed by the worldly and material events that culture brings to the table. There is something deeper that can get lost in the whirlwind if we aren’t careful.

Ordinances

There has been a perfect storm of ordinances in our household this week that might happen only once, or twice in a lifetime. It is those ordinances that really matter. The rest is just window dressing and parties.

“As we are worthy, the ordinances of the priesthood enrich our lives on earth and prepare us for the magnificent promises of the world ahead. The Lord said, “In the ordinances … the power of godliness is manifest.” (Elder Neil L. Anderson)

The power of godliness? Have I seen it? Yes. And I have used the word “glorious,” more times this week than I ever have before in my life. Glorious.

Gilbert Holiness

On Friday evening, my new daughter-in-law entered the temple and received her endowment. As she made sacred covenants and ordinances were performed, we were there performing them on behalf of family members who have gone on before.

As I quietly sat there, I could look down the row and see three of my sons, my daughter, my two new daughters, and my sweet eternal companion. It was glorious. It was fulfilling. I sensed the power of godliness as the Holy Ghost participated with us.

“In all the ordinances, especially those of the temple, we are endowed with power from on high. This “power of godliness” comes in the person and by the influence of the Holy Ghost.”  (Elder D. Todd Christofferson)

There is a singular beauty and simplicity to a temple sealing/wedding. Yesterday, as we waited reverently in the sealing room (pictured above) I studied my wife’s face as I contemplated our almost 30 year union, and our wedding day in a similar sealing room. My heart filled with joy, for the memories, and for gratitude to both her and God. Valentine’s Day got lost in the shuffle this year, but everyday is Valentine’s Day for us. (Don’t believe me? Ask my wife.)

The ordinance of temple marriage is a radically unique concept, but the simplicity, and logic of such a union is so patently obvious that it baffles me that couples aren’t lining up outside to receive these ordinances – if they only understood.

The promises that come with the sealing ordinance are godliness manifest. As my son and his new wife knelt together and became a new family, with the glorious potential of eternity, they sparkled with the brilliance of purity and hope. They are now an “US,” in all the glory of that uniting word and concept.

From my vantage point, I could see my son’s face as it radiated excitement and goodness. Purity is attractive, He also struggled in vain to fight back the tears of joy that welled in his eyes as he stared across the altar into the eyes of his very own EC.

(The Sealer spoke to ordinances and covenants, and if I can get his permission, I’ll share some of his thoughts in a future post.)

Now, at this very moment, I am sitting in the hallway outside the bishop’s office as my youngest interviews with the Bishop. If all goes well…in a few hours I will have the opportunity to lay my hands on his head, joined by his brothers, and ordain him to the office of Teacher in the Aaronic priesthood. That ordinance will provide him with opportunities for service and growth as he learns to understand and increase his priesthood power.

And he is 14. And I get to ordain him. I sense godliness in the father/son pattern as authority is shared. I sense mercy and kindness that the Lord would allow an imperfect father to perform such a sacred ordinance.

But before that ordinance takes place, my immediate family, much of my extended family, and my brothers and sisters in the gospel will gather and collectively participate in the wonderfully individual ordinance of the sacrament.

Sacrament

“We are commanded to repent of our sins and to come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and partake of the sacrament in compliance with its covenants. When we renew our baptismal covenants in this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. In this way we are made clean and can always have His Spirit to be with us. The importance of this is evident in the Lord’s commandment that we partake of the sacrament each week.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks)

What a gift it is to essentially be re-baptized every week! To regain our purity and standing before God! The godliness found in the ordinance of the sacrament is also God’s mercy brought about through the atonement of Christ. And for us, the result is a continued striving for potential godliness in ourselves.

After we participate in the ordinance of the sacrament, my third son will be speaking, as he is due to depart to serve a mission in Mexico. While being set apart as a missionary does not constitute an “ordinance,” it does harken back to the ordinance he received last year when he was ordained to the office of Elder in the Melchizedek priesthood. He will spend two years of his life bringing the ordinances of salvation to others.

Missionaries

As you can see, this month is all about the ordinances. Sure, there have been events both huge and intimate, wonderful reunions, great food, lovely decor, and lots of love and laughter. And photographs,  DId I mention those? (And a smidgin of work, worry, stress, expense and fatigue.)

But the overall importance of these days are those quiet moments when an ordinance has been, and will be performed by the authority of God’s priesthood, in the name of Jesus Christ.

The ordinances, and the covenants that attend them are not just “check-list” items. These ordinances define what we are about, what we are striving for, and how we spend our very lives. They are not ever “finished.” They are part of who we are. Most of the key elements in my life revolve around ordinances.

I feel God’s love in the ordinances of the gospel that he allows me and my loved ones to receive. Ordinances that help us grow, help us serve, help us thrive, help us repent, and help us draw closer to Him – all with the ever-present promise of an eternity together.

That is what matters. Now, and forever.

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14

Construction site

Back in 2011, the Church announced that the Aaronic priesthood restoration site was going to receive a makeover. (link) It is the area where Joseph lived that we refer to as Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph did much of the translation of the Book of Mormon there, but the most historic events that happened in that area were the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.

I have a fondness for that site, and was glad to hear the announcement on September 30 that the construction was going to proceed. Coincidentally, I was scheduled to be there the following week.

I took some pictures to help you get an idea of what is going on – they project is already well under way, and looks like, well, a construction site. I was surprised to see how much has already been done before they made any formal announcements. I also noticed that it is now referred to as the “Priesthood Restoration Site,” and they dropped “Aaronic.” Correctly so, because the Melchizedek priesthood was restored near that area as well.

Here is a picture I took years ago of the site of Joseph and Emma’s home, where much of the Book of Mormon was translated – the original foundation stone is still visible.

Harmony original foundation

 

Now the cabin is being rebuilt, but the original foundation stone was preserved and will be used in some form. Here’s what it looks like right now:

New Foundation

Across a very busy road you would find the site of the Isaac & Elizabeth Hale home (Emma’s parents). The site looked like this before construction began:

Hale home

As I mentioned their is a road between the two homesites, with little area to walk. To avoid the need to cross “Frogger Style, they are moving the road, and putting a pedestrian tunnel under it. Good choice.

tunnel

There is also a chapel under construction that will also house a visitors center. It is well underway.

chapel

It will be a base for people to visit the sites, complete with a new movie about these important events of the Restoration. Currently, visitors are asked to check in at a small office on the east end of the property. Elder and Sister Kerby, from Mapleton, Utah are the sweet missionary couple there to greet you and answer your questions.

Kerbys

 

Here is a map of the site, and how it will end up.

dnews 05.studio.1014.chn

No changes are being made at the river, and there is still a railroad in-between the homesites and the river. Because of that, you need to drive down and around to get there. (Personal tip: Don’t climb the fences if you are there with your sons, they will just laugh at you.)

Everytime I have taken my sons to Harmony, we have been alone, and enjoyed the peaceful serenity. It was a little off-putting to see it all torn up, trees removed and construction work going on. I prefer the sound of birds to jackhammers. So if you visit during the construction phase, you have been warned. The river is still peaceful and worth the visit.

I do appreciate what is being done, and eventually it should be lovely. These sites are hugely important in the history of the Restoration, and more people need to see them. Having the buildings re-created, and a movie explaining what went on there will help people better understand the significance.

And what was the significance? The Priesthood of God was restored to the earth by heavenly messengers to a modern prophet, and the first baptisms of this final dispensation took place there. Simply put – Harmony, PA is where the Apostacy ended. Think about it. Take your family there to see it.

Or you could go to Disneyland again.

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11

Susquehanna7

As most of you know, I am father to four sons. This year, the youngest FOMLs celebrated his 12th birthday. For those of you not familiar with the LDS priesthood, young men may be ordained to a preparatory (Aaronic) priesthood at the age of twelve. This is an important beginning of what should become a lifetime of church service.

When my eldest turned 12, a dozen years ago, I knew I wanted to do something special to recognize the birthday, and its accompanying responsibility. I decided to take him on a trip – just the two of us. I can’t claim full credit, as I had heard of this idea from Robert D. Hales years earlier in a Conference talk. (link)

We went, and it was wonderful. I followed suit with my other sons. Each twelve-year-old trip consisted of something fun, (like an amusement park) something historical, (like Gettysburg) and finally, the most important part, a visit to the Aaronic Priesthood Commemoration site in what was once Harmony, Pennsylvania.

Yesterday marked the fourth, and final twelve-year-old trip with my boys. My youngest and I got up early, leaving the others asleep in the hotel, and made our way down the winding road to the banks of the Susquehanna river.

I was prepared for it to be different, because I had read about the changes and construction* underway to improve the site, or I would have been sorely disappointed. Thankfully, the river was still beautiful, and peaceful – and we were alone.

We had some time together. Time to discuss one of a few of events that can actually be described as one of the most important things that has ever happened in the history of this world. I was able to share my testimony with him about the reality of what happened near that spot some 185 years ago. I was able to talk to him about what that priesthood means to me.

We talked about how the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood was the beginning of the end of the apostasy of authority that had covered the earth for nearly 1800 years. That is a big deal. I was able to talk to him about what that priesthood means to me.

Together, we enjoyed the quiet, the solitude, and some time to just think, and feel. It is a sacred place, and you can feel it, if you try.

It was a good day – an important day.

Susq pano

If you aren’t clear what happened on that important day in 1829, here are the words of Oliver Cowdery regarding what he felt and saw: Restoration of the Priesthood: A Second Witness.

For more detail, I’ll let Elder L. Tom Perry describe it. (Link to the full talk)

“As they proceeded, Joseph and Oliver were thrilled with the doctrines contained in this book. They were particularly impressed with the doctrine of baptism as taught by the resurrected Savior during His visit to the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. The importance of the doctrine of baptism was clearly unfolded to their minds. They determined that they must seek the Lord in mighty prayer that they might learn how they could obtain the blessing of being baptized themselves.

On May 15, 1829, they went to the woods near the Susquehanna River and knelt in prayer. Oliver describes what happened next: “On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the vail was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the gospel of repentance!—What joy! what wonder! what amazement! While the world was racked and distracted—while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld—our ears heard” (Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 15; see also Joseph Smith—History 1:71, note).

The angel introduced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. He laid his hands upon the heads of Joseph and Oliver and said:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

“He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.

“Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded” (Joseph Smith—History 1:69–71).

*I will post some pics and descriptions of the changes later.

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