The Trek of Our Lives

From a talk given 14 Jul 2019 in the Pflugerville Ward

I had the opportunity to go on Trek this year. Bishop Arnesen and I went as a Ma and Pa for one of the families. The theme for our Trek was “Keep on the Covenant Path.” In essence, the covenant path is the path that leads us back to our Heavenly Father, and the path is marked with covenants and ordinances along the way, such as baptism, priesthood ordination, and temple ordinances. As we repent and partake of the sacrament worthily each week, we progress along the path. By keeping on the path, we are brought safely back to our heavenly home.

A member of our stake presidency mentioned several times that the real growth from Trek would happen as we reflected on the experience. I believe that is applicable in many of life’s poignant experiences, and I found it to be true in this case as well. Rather than give a report of my experiences on Trek, I’d like to mention gospel principles that I learned on Trek and in my reflection as well as relate these principles to the “Trek of Our Lives,” as we strive to keep on the covenant path. I encourage you all to listen closely to the Spirit as you read, and pay attention to any nudges He may give you. I’d like to discuss the gospel principles of preparation, work, play, prayer, ministering, endurance, and consecration.

Preparation

 First, preparation. Before I dive in, I should probably mention that my experience with preparing for Trek was different than it was for most. As a Ma and Pa, Bishop and I were given two packing lists—one for our personal gear, and one for our family gear. All of the family gear needed to be turned in the Saturday before Trek, which happened to be the same day that Bishop was flying home from a ten-day trip to China for work. Many of you know that Bishop is a very experienced scouter. As such, he knows what gear works best, things that are superfluous, and things that are vital. I, on the other hand, have only been camping a handful of times in Texas, and never during the summertime. I knew that if I tried to gather that family gear on my own while he was out of town, our family would not be nearly as prepared as we would be if he and I planned together. So, about a month before Trek we started discussing the family packing list, gathering items, buying what we needed, borrowing tents, packing everything in big containers, re-packing everything in different containers to fit better, and so on. We had everything together before Bishop left for China except for a few small things that were fairly easy for me to acquire. The day before our gear was due, we found out that we needed one more tent. I stressed out for a few minutes before the Spirit helped me remember that a family in our ward had said they had a small tent they were willing to lend out. After a quick phone call, we coordinated use of the tent, and I felt so grateful. The day that everything was due, I didn’t have to do any last minute packing or acquiring but was able to hand over our family gear with confidence. (As a side note, I am good at procrastinating packing, so this was a big deal to me.) The anxiety I had experienced for the months leading up to Trek had subsided, and I felt peace and excitement for the week to come. What a blessing that was!

Now, how does this all relate to us in the Trek of Our Lives? We all have things that we are preparing for. A wise institute instructor once told me, “There is no time to wait, only to prepare.” We are preparing for baptism, for receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, for graduation, for college, for making covenants in the temple, for marriage, for parenthood, for jobs. We prepare for partaking of the sacrament, for lessons we give in Primary, Sunday School, and so on. We prepare for dentist and doctor appointments, for work presentations, for ministering visits.

Hopefully, we are all preparing for eternal life. Alma said in the Book of Mormon that “this life is the time to prepare to meet God” and counseled us, saying “Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end” (Alma 34:32, 33). Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed with the things we need to prepare for, especially when we don’t have much (or any) experience. But, just as I had access to a masterful scout in preparing for Trek, we all have access to the Master Scout for the Trek of Our Lives, who is Jesus Christ. He has literally experienced everything that we are preparing for. He knows how to gain eternal life and how to help us gain eternal life too. He knows exactly what tools work best, what is superfluous, and what is vital. He knows what we need to pack in our spiritual containers and how big they need to be. He knows who can help us out and lend us that spiritual tent at the last minute. He has given us everything we need—He has given us Himself. We have constant access to our Heavenly Father, we have the words and experiences of the prophets in the scriptures, we have living Prophets and Apostles who speak the Lord’s word for us today, we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we have patriarchal blessings, we have Bishops and Stake Presidents, we have ministering brothers and sisters, we have the opportunity to renew our covenants during the sacrament each week, and we have so much more to help us be prepared for all that lies ahead for us on the covenant path. I know that if we will heed the Lord’s counsel for preparation and use all that He has given us, we will be able to gain eternal life too—just like Him!! As we continue to prepare, the Lord’s promise of “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” will be manifest in our lives, and we will be blessed with that peace which passeth all understanding as we journey along the covenant path.

All ready to go!

Work

The second principle is work. There was obviously a lot of work involved on Trek. Those handcarts were heavy. Thankfully, the only daytime rain we had on Trek was a Texas-style ten-minute drizzle when we first got there and were loading up our handcarts. That little bit of rain, however, made for a muddy trail on the first day. The wheels were caked with and weighed down by mud and grass. Mud weighed down our boots, making it harder to walk. There were muddy puddles to push through. The heat of the sun made it so that we had to stop often to drink water. There will hills to push up and to brace ourselves on when going down. The trail was sometimes very rocky. There were times we had to push extra hard to get over a big rock. On the Women’s Pull, I was pushing from the back of the cart, and I remember one particular moment where I felt like I had literally exerted all of the energy in my muscles to push up, and yet the cart stood still and then started to roll backward. You better believe that extra strength was mustered from somewhere inside that told me I would die if I didn’t keep pushing even harder. Then there were the meals. Breakfasts and dinners were cooked in Dutch ovens over hot coals, and most people had very little experience cooking in Dutch ovens. Camp had to be set up and taken down every morning and night. There was just a lot of physical work, but we made it through. In our family, everyone pitched in as much as they could, and everyone seemed to have a willing attitude to help out. At the end of the day, we were tired but fulfilled. Every day, through diligent work, we reached our goal of making it to camp.

Work is an eternal principle. I love this quote by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “When our wagon gets stuck in the mud, God is much more likely to assist the man who gets out to push than the man who merely raises his voice in prayer—no matter how eloquent the oration. President Thomas S. Monson put it this way: ‘It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort. . . . It’s in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals. If we constantly put our goals off, we will never see them fulfilled.’” (Ensign, Nov. 2009, 55). There may be times in our lives where we feel exhausted thinking about all the things we need to do to keep on the covenant path. Sometimes we make it feel like a checklist: pay your tithing, go to the temple, go to church, magnify your calling, do service, fulfill your ministering assignments, share the gospel, read your scriptures, say your prayers. When I get stuck in a muddy checklist mindset, my wagon gets stuck. It usually means that I’ve lost sight of my eternal goal. Sometimes it means that I have become too casual in my devotion to God and that I need to be more careful in my discipleship. When I remember the reason that I want to do all those things—so that I can live again with my Heavenly Father, become as He is, and live with my family eternally—then I don’t get so lost in the checklist, but those things become part of my character. In essence, when I remember my “why,” then the “what” doesn’t weigh me down. I admit that I struggle with this at times—I am a person who loves checklists, after all—but I am continually trying. As Elder Uchtdorf also said, “Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you” (“The Love of God,” General Conference, October 2009). I know that as we seek the Lord’s help in our exhausted state and keep Him as our goal, we will be able to reach it.

Play

Third, the principle of play. The youth and Trek parents found ways to enjoy pulling the handcarts. Many families sang hymns or camp songs. Several families had cheers that they repeated often. When we had a few minutes to sit after camp had been set up or before we had to take it down, families played games, sang silly songs, quoted silly movies, and so on. After the first full day of trekking, we had a few classes, dinner, and then a youth dance. I was amazed by the energy of youth! These youth, who had pulled on a difficult trail for much of the day, somehow had energy for the equivalent of an outdoor youth stake dance. The dance seemed to revitalize many of them, and they were ready for another day of trekking the next day. Playing helped us all to enjoy the experience even more.

Historically, we know that the early pioneers took time to dance and sing even while they were making their great migration to Utah. Brigham Young said, “Life is best enjoyed when time periods are evenly divided between labour, sleep and recreation. All men, women, and children should labour; all must sleep; and if mental and physical balance is to be maintained, all people should spend one-third of their time in recreation which is rebuilding, voluntary activity—never idleness. Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, and eight hours recreation” (Susa Young Gates and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Life Story of Brigham Young, p. 251). I love this principle. Yes, we want to work hard, but it is also okay to play! This is when relationships are strengthened, friendships are built, and trust is gained. Remember that “life is to be enjoyed, not just endured” (President Thomas S. Monson).

Prayer

The next principle is prayer. Several of the youth in our family mentioned that we prayed a LOT on Trek—but we also had a lot of opportunities wherein we needed extra faith and help. We prayed over meals. We prayed before we left camp. We prayed as a family before retiring for the day. We prayed when one of the girls in our family got heat exhaustion. We prayed when one of the other girls in our family had one of her real-life younger sisters struggling with heat exhaustion in an unusual moment when there were no people with walkie talkies around. The girls in our family prayed before doing the Women’s Pull. We prayed when we were struggling and when we knew others were struggling. We trusted that our Heavenly Father could and would help us.

I love in the Book of Mormon where Alma teaches us to “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good” (Alma 37:37). There is literally nothing too overwhelming or complicated that Heavenly Father can’t handle it or doesn’t want to hear about, and there is nothing too small that, if important to us, is unimportant to Him. Our Heavenly Father wants to hear it all! The entry on Prayer in the Guide to the Scriptures states, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that we must ask for in order to obtain.” What blessings are we withholding from ourselves because we are simply not asking our Omnipotent God, our deeply personal Heavenly Father, for help? Are we living beneath our privileges in this regard?

Relating this to the Trek of Our Lives, when we are struggling along the way, do we ask Him for help, or do we just allow ourselves to keep tripping? Prayer is such a gift. It is the way that we are able to receive peace and strength, to unload all of our worries, to ask for direction and guidance, to repent(!) of all our sins, to ask for help in our weaknesses, to express our deepest desires and our most profound gratitude. It is how we learn to make decisions like our Heavenly Father does. It is one way that we strengthen our relationship with Him. As we pray, we humble ourselves before our Maker, who amazingly, deeply desires that we address Him and remember Him as our perfect, loving Father. Our Heavenly Father, whose number one goal is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39); in essence, to bring us along that covenant path, to bring us home so that we can live with Him and be like Him. That is why He sent His Son—for us.

I also hope that in our families we are establishing traditions of praying for each other. We did this so much on Trek, both for our Trek families and for our real families. While members of our Trek family mentioned that we prayed a lot, it didn’t feel unnatural to me because of the tradition of praying over everything that had been instilled in me as a youth. (President Henry B. Eyring spoke of this in the last general conference. He said, “Your praying as a family can play a crucial part in making home a sacred place. … When the prayer is clearly to God in behalf of the people kneeling and listening, faith grows in all of them. They can feel expressions of love for Heavenly Father and for the Savior. And when the person who prays mentions those who are kneeling in that circle who are in need, all can feel love for them and for each member of the family. Even when family members are not living in the home, prayer can build bonds of love. Prayer in the family can reach across the world” (“A Home Where the Spirit of the Lord Dwells,” General Conference, April 2019).) My life has been blessed countless times over by being able to send a text to any member of my family asking them to pray for me in a specific situation, as well as by opportunities to stop what I am doing and kneel and pray on behalf of someone in my family. What a beautiful gift from our Heavenly Father.

Ministering

Next, ministering. Ministering was a constantly present principle on Trek. When our family would pull off to the side for a rest, passing families would always ask, “Are you guys all doing okay?” and stop if necessary. Our masterful scout, Pa, was fully prepared to help others, which sometimes meant that he would quickly run off to help someone tie down their cart better, lend them our shovel to scrape the mud from their wheels, give them an extra tarp to cover their belongings so they wouldn’t fall out of the cart, give another family our leftover coals that were still hot so they could finish cooking their food, provide first aid to a few that were starting to get heat exhaustion, teach skills to others, and I’m probably missing more ways that he ministered! He definitely wasn’t the only one, but I provide this as an example of what was happening all over the camp and all along the trail. In contrast, in moments when Pa was needed elsewhere, I held down the fort and ministered to our family. Sometimes ministering means going forth to serve, and sometimes it means supporting others in their service.

I also had other opportunities to minister to members of our Trek family. Two of the girls in our family had never been camping or hiking before they came on Trek. (Talk about a difficult first camping trip!) One of those girls, who I will call Susie, wore shoes that were a terrible style for hiking, and she had only purchased them a week or so before Trek, so they weren’t broken in either. Needless to say, parts of the trail were completely miserable for her. Susie did her best to keep up with the others in the family, but there were times when her sore feet and her inexperience made it so that she just needed to walk slower than the rest. This often put our family toward the back of the company, but that didn’t matter. While Pa helped to lead our family in the front of the cart, I walked in the back with Susie so she didn’t get left behind, signaling to Pa when we needed to stop and let her catch up and rest. I did my best to stay with Susie, which often meant we were isolated from the rest of the family in short distances. Her sister was also in our family, so she sometimes took turns walking with Susie as well.

On the second full day of trekking, one of the other girls in our family, who I’ll call Mary, started to walk behind with me. Mary started asking me questions, and we had some great conversations. As I reflect on this experience, I realize that Mary was ministering to me just as I had been ministering to Susie. I didn’t realize that I also needed mental refreshment from the sometimes difficult service I was giving, but I did. This is an example of what we do in real life: we all take care of each other through ministering! When we are truly doing this, no one falls through the cracks or is left behind. We are progressing together along the covenant path.

There were times I wanted to let the medical truck pick up Susie and take her to the next camp site. Her feet were so sore from blisters, she was struggling with heat, and it was just a grueling first hike for her, but the Lord helped me see her through His eyes and develop greater charity for her while encouraging her to press on. Isn’t this what the Lord does for us as we minister to others? We can’t leave anyone behind! We may not always know what they need help with, but we can show them His love by just loving them.

The Savior ministered one-on-one throughout His life. We are to minister in the same way. As we have studied His life for the past six months, we have seen numerous examples of the Savior helping individuals with their personal needs, doubts, desires, and problems. I love knowing that there was no person too impure or too lowly for His love. He ministered to those who were judged by the world, and He loved them! He forgave them, healed them, and made them whole. When we minister one-on-one as He did, we are following in His footsteps on the covenant path. We are becoming His hands on this earth and fulfilling the mandate to serve that He has given us. We are bringing others closer to Christ and coming to know Him better as well. As President Russell M. Nelson said, “A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children [of] God and their families. Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness.” I love that we have this opportunity to bring others closer to Christ. Ministering provides another opportunity for us to learn to become like Him.

Endurance

Next, the principle of endurance. First, I’d like to give a nod to the Early Saints, for whom this lifestyle was the reality. This was their LIVES! Even though they were better equipped with skill sets for living outdoors that many of us are today, I can’t imagine living like this for months. That teaches me something about the depth of their conversion.

On the last day, Susie was really struggling. Everyone passed us. We were in the very back of the handcart company. We were getting close to the end, and Pa, who usually was able to look out and see that we were far behind, had joined with those pulling the handcart and didn’t notice that we had fallen very behind. There were four of us: Susie, her sister, Mary, and me.  We couldn’t see anyone else on the trail. I was grateful for a clear path that was made from the handcarts because otherwise we would have been lost. At a moment when Susie didn’t think she could go any further, Pa and a member of our Trek family came back up the hill they had just descended and found us. They had made it to the valley where the buses would come to pick us up! And better yet—it was only about five minutes away. This was the bit of encouragement Susie needed to finish Trek. We were literally the last four people into the camp site, but it didn’t matter. We still made it.

There are several lessons here. First, when you are enduring on the covenant path, it means keeping at it. Sometimes life is really challenging. Sometimes we feel utterly alone and like no one really understands, even when they’re right there with us, just like I didn’t fully understand Susie’s pain. Sometimes we feel like we won’t ever overcome a weakness or get through a trial. The Savior, however, truly understands the path we are on. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “Because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path?—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”” We are never truly alone on this path because Jesus Christ has already walked it for us.

Another lesson here is that it is worth it to keep on the covenant path. That is the only real place for safety. When the four of us were isolated from all others, if we had gotten lost and fallen off the path, we would have been on dangerous ground. There were rocks, snakes, and sharp speargrass and thorns. We had limited water and food and were walking in the Texas heat. Our best chance for safely getting to camp was staying on the path. Likewise, in the Trek of Our Lives, our best chance for gaining eternal life is staying on the covenant path. Of course, if we stray from the path, there is always the chance for course-correction, also called repentance. Repentance doesn’t always mean a painful, terrible process. It can simply mean to change the direction we are headed so that we are better aligned with Jesus Christ. We are all in need of course corrections every day, and the Holy Ghost helps us know when and how to make them.

I love this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley as it relates to endurance. “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.” Our job is to trust Him and rely on Him, and He will lead us safely along.

My last lesson here (and it relates back to ministering) is to look for those who need help. In the case of Bishop and our “daughter,” they had to come back and find us. We would not have made it as quickly without them coming back to encourage and help us! In our lives, we also need to seek for those who are separated or lost. The Savior asks us, “Will you not seek for MY lost ones off from my shelter astray?” (Hymns no. 221). This is what Christ does for us. He leaves the ninety and nine and comes back for us, walking with us when we allow Him to, and marking the way for us to best be able to return to live with Him.  He employs us in His service. Will we choose to be part of His work?

Consecration

Lastly, consecration. I loved Elder David A. Bednar’s distinction when he explained that consecration is not just giving something up but being dedicated TO something. It is the arrow that points us forward toward our goal. On Trek, we were dedicated to getting to camp every day, hopefully with everyone in good health and good spirits. That goal changed how we did things during the day. It wasn’t a race, we just knew we all wanted to get there. We took time to refresh ourselves and worked really hard at other times.

Likewise, living lives that are consecrated to God changes how we do things. We know what our goal is and that we need to stay on His covenant path to get there.  We do certain things, and we don’t do other certain things. President Ezra Taft Benson put it this way: “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.” I know that as we follow this counsel and choose to be consecrated TO God, we will make it to our eternal camp site.

Conclusion

I hope that I’ve been able to give you a fair illustration of what Trek can be like, and I hope that, as we learned about preparation, work, play, prayer, ministering, endurance, and consecration,  you’ve been able to make note of times the Spirit may have touched your heart. Remember those things (write them down if needed) and act on them.

I bear my testimony that keeping on the covenant path will help us all return to live with Heavenly Father. That path only exists because of Jesus Christ. He paved it for us and made the ordinances valid and binding for time and all eternity. As we partake of the sacrament each week, we recommit to keeping on the covenant path.

I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He suffered for each of us. I’ve recently been struck with the realization that, as the Son of God, He had the power to end His suffering. He could have stopped it at any moment, but He didn’t. I don’t understand the amount of love it must have taken, but I do know that He did it. I have felt His power change my heart, my mind, and my life, and I’ve seen Him work the same miracles on others. I know that as we follow Him and strictly heed to words of our living prophet, we will be safe on the covenant path. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Keeping our baptismal covenants

Today I taught a lesson to the deacon’s quorum at church. The topic of the lesson was “What covenants did I make at baptism?” I had been really busy this week and sadly didn’t get to preparing my lesson until Sunday morning. I was struggling to figure out what to talk about when I had an inspiration from the Holy Ghost to share a story about my ancestor Christian Hans Monson who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Norway in the 1800’s I have always loved this story and I wanted to share it with my deacons as an example of someone who kept his baptismal covenants. I thought it would be a good story to tell but I was completely unprepared for the way that I was touched as I shared this story to these young men today. As I was sharing the story, I was overcome by gratitude for what this man had done for me in choosing to join the church. The spirit filled the room as I recounted his story of conversion and of his courage in standing up for what he knew to be true. I admire and respect this great man and hope to live in such a way as to honor his name.

Christian Hans Monson 16 June 1837 – 23 September 1896
Christian Hans Monson
16 June 1837 – 23 September 1896

I wanted to share his story here for you to enjoy. This version actually originally appeared in The Friend magazine in 1976 and you can find the original here.

Christian fingered the key in his pocket as he walked toward the jail. It had taken months of study and prayer before he had finally decided to use that key for something more important than just opening the jail door so he could carry meals to those who were held there as prisoners.

Almost all the men in the jailhouse were Mormon missionaries. Many of them had sailed into the Port of Frederikstad in a pilot boat they had fitted up and named Sions Löve (Zion’s Lion) so that they could easily travel to coastal areas of the Scandinavian Mission, then including all of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

At first Christian hadn’t paid much attention to the missionaries, for he was busy learning the catechism so he could correctly answer any questions he might be asked by the priest at the confirmation service that was soon to be held for prospective young members of the Lutheran Church. He was not concerned about the fact that almost as soon as any Mormon missionaries arrived in Frederikstad they were arrested.

Lutheranism was the national religion of Norway and missionaries who taught other doctrines were promptly jailed, some for only a few weeks, others for many months. During this time they frequently were taken to court and almost forced to renounce their religion and declare allegiance to the national church of Norway. Refusing to do so, they were then returned to their quarters.

Christian worked for the warden of the jail who instructed him to heckle and be as unpleasant as possible to the prisoners when he carried meals to them. This seemed like fun until one day a young missionary said, “Why do you talk and act as you do? Remember that so persecuted they the Christ and His followers in Bible times.”

The startled boy asked him to explain what he meant, so two of the elders began talking about the gospel and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Every night as Christian studied for his confirmation examination, he also studied the Book of Mormon, comparing it with his Bible and the Lutheran catechism. As the truthfulness of the restored gospel became more and more apparent to him, Christian prayed to know what he should do. Since no answer came before the confirmation date, he purposely failed the examination and then made application to take it again in six months.

Thinking back over his months of prayer and study, Christian knew what he must do. He finally decided to use his key to the prison to let the two missionaries out of jail long enough to go with him to a nearby fjord so he could be baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Afterward the three walked back to the jailhouse where the elders returned to their room and Christian turned the key in the lock to their cell.

Because of the persecution toward members of the Church throughout Norway, and also because he knew how angry his father would be, Christian did not tell anyone of the thrilling event that had taken place on that cold winter night of 1852. He knew he would not be able to make his stern father understand what he had done. He tried to talk with his mother but she would not listen. When the next confirmation service was held, Christian honored his application and appeared for his examination with the other prospective young Lutherans.

“Do you believe in God?” was the first question asked by the priest.

“Oh, yes,” Christian answered quickly.

“Can you describe Him?” was the next question.

“I know He is a Being with body, parts, and passions,” Christian replied. “I also know He does not sit on the top of a topless throne. I know our Heavenly Father is good and kind, that He sees, hears, and answers prayers. I know we are made in His image as was His Son Jesus Christ.”

The priest was surprised by this description but continued with the examination, becoming more and more amazed with the answers Christian gave. As the boy glanced at his father he could see that he was very upset. Finally, the priest said angrily, “You answer as if you belonged to that sect known as Mormons.”

“I do,” Christian said, “and I’m proud of it!”

At this declaration, Christian’s father arose from his seat near the front of the Church and rushed up the aisle and out the door, striking his cane hard against the floor with every step he took. Confused and embarrassed, Christian’s mother followed her husband, and their son was abruptly dismissed.

Christian went home wanting to talk with his parents, but he was afraid of what they would say. Having carried his usual armful of wood into the house that night, Christian was piling it near the fireplace when his father came into the room. At the sight of his son who he felt had disgraced him, Christian’s father struck him with his cane and then began to beat him. At last, panting for breath, his father laid the merciless cane on the table.

“Oh, Father,” Christian said quietly, “it feels good to be whipped for the gospel’s sake.”

At these words, the father became even more furious. He picked up stick after stick of firewood and hurled them at Christian. When the wood was gone, he opened the door and shouted, “Get out of my house. I never want to see you again!”

Bruised and bleeding from the beating and the wood that had been thrown at him, Christian dragged himself out to the barn where he threw himself upon the hay. Late that night after her husband was asleep, Christian’s mother noiselessly tied a little food and a few of his belongings in a handkerchief and went out to the barn. Tearfully she treated her son’s injuries as well as she could.

“Why, oh why, did you do this thing, Christian?” she pleaded heartbrokenly.

“Because I had to, Mother,” Christian replied. “I have studied and prayed and I know this is the only true Church. I tried to tell you but you would not listen to me. I cannot deny what I know, Mother. If I did, it would be to deny Jesus Christ, our Savior, and I cannot do that.”

“If, as you say, you know this is right, my boy,” his mother told him, “then you must stand firm. But oh, how my heart aches.”

When the first streaks of dawn appeared in the sky, Christian’s mother crept back into the house. Christian picked up the little bundle she had brought to him and started walking down the road. As he passed his house he breathed a good-bye to his parents, for he knew he would never see them again.

Christian Hans Monson didn’t know where he would go or what he could do. “But I have a testimony,” the fourteen-year-old boy said to himself. “Whatever happens, I can never deny that. And I know that because of my testimony, all will be well.”

The Christmas Spirit

Intentionally focusing on the true meaning of Christmas draws us to Christ

ChristmasTree2013

I must admit, I’ve been struggling with this a bit this year. I’ve had a lot on my mind these last few days and have been feeling discouraged about what I see going on in the world. I’ve been concerned with the reaction of A&E to the “Duck Dynasty” guy. I’ve been a bit upset about the actions of a federal judge in Utah declaring that same-sex marriage can occur in the state. I worry about the erosion of religious liberty that I keep seeing around the world. Many of you know how I stand on issues such as these, but I was thinking about my attitude tonight and decided that I don’t want to let these issues distract me from what is really important about this season of the year.

I got to spend the day at home with my beautiful family today. I want them to know me as a Christian that lives his beliefs, and I want them to know how important Jesus Christ is to me in my life. I don’t know everything, but I wanted to share a few things that I do know and that I want to focus on (despite the news) this Christmas season.

The whole point of this season of the year is to remember Christ’s birth. His birth is important because of how He lived, what He taught, what He showed by His example, and most importantly, what He did for all of us by performing the atonement in Gethsemane and on Golgotha. I think that the statement at the end of this video says it perfectly.

To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ. — Thomas S. Monson

At this busy season of the year may we try a little harder to feel and show the spirit of Christ. May we be more kind to those around us. May we show more love to our families. May we serve those that are in need. May we strive to better understand and apply the atonement in our lives. May we pray for the heavenly gift of Charity — perhaps the most important characteristic of Christ.

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—but charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ. — Moroni 7:44-48

I know that Christ lives. I know that He came into the world to fulfill the will of His father. I know that He loves and knows each one of us individually. I know that through His atonement I can be forgiven. I know that it’s not always easy to follow Him, but I know that when we do we are happier and live more fulfilling lives. I am grateful for this Christmas season that helps me to remember Him better. I hope and pray that I can be a better follower and a better Christian.

MerryChristmas

Wait on the Lord

Patience is an interesting quality. It has been described as “the capacity to endure delay,trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious.” Most people know that they need to learn to be patient but when it comes down to learning to be patient it is often more difficult than it seems it should be. I’ve been blessed in my life to have many experiences that have helped me to develop patience.

While I was serving my LDS mission in the Philippines, I had to learn to deal with people that I didn’t get along with well. I also learned that people have their agency and that no matter what I did, sometimes they would choose to not follow the things that I was teaching them. More recently I was taught patience when a trip home to see my family for an important even didn’t go as planned.

Patience is an especially important virtue when we desire a blessing from the Lord. Sometimes it is difficult for people that believe in the promises of God to understand why He doesn’t bless them with the righteous desires of their hearts when they want Him to. Learning to have patience with the Lord can be particularly difficult and requires faith and diligence in following the commandments of God.

In Psalms 27: 14 David says that we are to “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” When we want any blessing from God, it is important that we realize that we need to wait for His timing in receiving that blessing.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted Neil A. Maxwell saying,

“The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just His overall plans and purposes.”

So the key to learning to patiently wait on the Lord is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. I know that as we learn to have faith in the Lord’s timing in our lives that we can live richer, fuller, happier lives. If we are constantly questioning why we aren’t getting this or that blessing that we feel we deserve, then we will never learn to be happy. If we have this negative, scarcity-based mindset we will always live lives of scarcity.  If, however, we choose to rejoice in the blessings that are ours and focus on the abundance of blessings in our lives we will be better able to wait on the Lord for blessings that he has promised will be ours.

The Business of Family

While I was exploring the University of Texas at Austin this July, I discovered a statue and a plaque that were quiet interesting to me. The plaque was at the base of a statue of a father and mother holding their young child. They are looking upward together.  They are striving for a better world and teaching their child to do the same. The plaque reads,

“The family is the foundation upon which the world of business is built, and it is a vital force in the local, state and national economy.”

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The statue is by Michigan native Charles Umlauf who worked at UT Austin as a sculpture instructor. His works can be seen across America from the Smithsonian and New York city to Central Texas.   I believe that Mr. Umlauf catches the essence of the importance of the family in this simple statement and with his statue.  The family is not simply an old tradition, it is the fundamental building block of society.  Without a family with a mother and a father to teach them, children grow up with a skewed sense of their place in society.  They struggle to understand their civic duty and they have more difficulty becoming a contributing citizen. It is important that our society preserve this fundamental unit.  If this unit crumbles or if it is forcibly replaced by a government or social activists, the very fundamental part of our free society will disappear and we will be left to stumble in the dark.

Our Story – Adam Arnesen and Sarah Huggard

So I don’t usually share personal things on my blog but I’m getting married next month and I wanted to share my story. I’m marrying the lovely Sarah Huggard on 13 May and I am so excited! She is the most wonderful girl in the world and I am so blessed that she is willing to marry me. We have so much in common and look forward to long life together.

You can read our story here and view photos and request invitation at wedding.arnesenfamily.net.

Our Story

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It all started on Valentine’s Day 2009. We were both in the BYU Concert Choir, and we had both gone of up to SLC to watch the BYU Men’s Chorus have master class with the King’s Singers. Sarah kind of had her eye on this tall, blue-eyed baritone, and although we hadn’t talked much before, we sat together during the master class. Sarah said, “I got kind of excited inside, but I tried to not let it show too much.”

The next week Adam asked Sarah out on their first official date. Sarah was surprised that Adam asked her! It was a group date to the Space Center (where they do simulated space missions that make you feel like you’re part of a Star Trek movie). For the next two months or so, we went on a few dates, hung out some, and saw each other a lot in choir.

At the end of April, Sarah mustered up all the courage she had and asked Adam on a date to the BYU Singers’ Bon Voyage concert. Thankfully Adam said yes, and we had a grand time. At the end of the date, Adam asked if he could be “blunt”, which Sarah found rather refreshing. He told Sarah that he liked her, but he just wasn’t ready to start any sort of relationship right then.

Despite this conversation, Sarah’s mind was spinning when Adam asked asked her on a date four days later. Over the course of the next six weeks, we went on seven dates and hung out on the side. Finally, in June, we decided to start dating exclusively.

“The next two months were so enjoyable,” Sarah said. “I hadn’t ever had a boyfriend, and Adam was incredible. He was kind, proactive, intelligent, talented, a hard worker, sensitive to the Spirit, living the best he could, and attractive besides! I couldn’t figure out how a guy like him ever wanted to date me.”

For whatever reason (that Adam still can’t figure out), Adam broke up with Sarah in August. We still wanted to be friends, but heaven knows how often that works out with ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. Adam was a confused mess and Sarah was heartbroken, but with time and the power of the atonement, she was able to accept what had happened and fully heal.  The hard part was that we lived in the same apartment complex, and once school started, we saw each other in choir every day again. We had to get used to seeing each other often but not interacting like we had been able to do before.

In November, Sarah started to seriously consider serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By December, she started the application papers, but she felt like she should wait until January or April of 2011 to serve, so she decided to put the application away for a year or so.
Adam started to get wind of all this mission talk through the magic of facebook (ahh, facebook).  He got a bit nervous with all the talk and decided that he’d better figure out what was going on.  He sent Sarah a message out of the blue that went something like this:

Sarah, I saw that there’s mission talk on your wall. Have you started your papers? Just curious, Adam

Sarah: “Wait, what? I was so confused. There was no way that Adam could have noticed mission talk on my wall without committing the crime of facebook stalking. Suuuuuuuuure he was ‘just curious.'” As confused as she was, she replied and told him that she had started her papers but that she was waiting for a year or so before she left. You can imagine how that made Adam start to think. He had already started considering trying to date Sarah again, and hearing this news took that feeling to a whole new level.

About this time, almost every guy Sarah knew decided to get back in contact with her and/or ask her on a date.  One day after choir, Adam followed Sarah to the library. Along the way it seemed like she talked with 100 boys and Adam got more and more nervous. He stopped Sarah in the library and asked if he could take her out on Friday, but she already had a date for that night. He settled for Saturday.

Sarah’s head was spinning, but she tried to tell herself that Adam was just asking her out because we were friends. She told herself to not make a big deal out of it. Adam, meantime, was ecstatic! He had gotten up the courage to ask her again and it felt really good that she had accepted.

The date was so enjoyable! We went to Café Rio, Opera Scenes at BYU, and to an ice cream shop. We were able to talk like old times and just enjoy each others’ company. At the end of the date, Adam asked Sarah if he could take her out the next weekend, and she, completely surprised, told him, “Suuuuuuuuuure.” When she seemed to accept so readily, he also asked if she wanted to run up to his grandparents’ house in Salt Lake with him the next day, Sunday, and she agreed to go with him. Adam just thought, “Wow things were going great!”

Sarah’s head was still spinning. It seemed like Adam was interested in starting things up again, but she didn’t like being confused. She didn’t want to risk getting her heart broken again. She said, “I knew that I needed to ask Adam what he was up to.”

On the drive home from Adam’s grandparents’ house, she mustered up her courage again and said to Adam, “I’m sorry if this is a little blunt or awkward, but I’m confused, Adam. What are your intentions?” He chuckled and replied, “Well, I have intentions.” He went on to explain that he had realized a lot of things over the past several months, and he wanted to date Sarah again. When he asked Sarah what she thought about that, she said, “Well, I’d love to date you again, but honestly, I’m scared. I don’t want to get my heart broken again.” Adam bravely said, “I don’t want to manipulate you at all, but I can’t see me wanting to break up with you again.” …in other words, he was in it for the long run.

Sarah knew she needed to ponder seriously about what she wanted to do—and about what was the right thing to do. She brought up some of her concerns with Adam about dating him again, and she decided to let him know by our date on Saturday if she would date him again. Adam thought that was fine and was overjoyed that she even would consider dating him again.  He thought that a week was really quick and would have been willing to wait much longer to let Sarah feel comfortable again.

Well . . . the whole one week thing didn’t work out so great.

Since we have choir together, we saw each other every day, and we talked every day after class. Sarah even went over to Adam’s apartment twice and talked to him. She could see that Adam was sincere in word and deed. After pondering and praying a great deal, she realized that she really wanted to date him, and she felt like it was the right thing to do, too! Adam was so excited when Sarah finally told him (on Wednesday mind you and not on Saturday), and Sarah was excited too. 🙂

That Saturday (so two weeks after our first date the second time around), we had a choir concert in SLC. We were holding hands at the concert and got some slightly confused looks from the choir who had no idea that we were dating.  After the concert, we went to Marie Callender’s for pie with his parents, and Adam surprised Sarah with a lovely bouquet of flowers. We chitchatted on the way back to Sarah’s home and marveled at how our time apart had helped us.

On this drive, Adam bravely brought up a risky topic: “So, if this were to go long-term…….have you thought about timing at all?” Sarah told him, “Yes….” (Sarah said, “I’m surprised I could even get the word out of my mouth! You see—Adam has an internship in Austin from May to August, and we both knew that we were in it for the long run…so if we wanted to get married soon, it would have to be in May, before going to Austin, or in August, after being apart all summer, after Adam’s internship, and right before school started. That was no bueno.”)

Through the course of our conversation, we realized that we wanted to get married—and in May. From that point we were “unofficially engaged” and decided to tell only our parents.

Three days later, Adam asked Sarah’s dad for his permission. Wednesday, we went ring shopping. Friday, we had a splendid date. That evening, Adam said, “I have something to show you, but it has to be in the morning…like early. Can I pick you up around 6:40?” Sarah, mostly unaware of what was going on, told him yes.

All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Adam picked Sarah up in the morning, and we drove to the Mt. Timpanogos Temple. We walked over to the east side of the temple grounds and had a lovely talk about all sorts of things, particularly about covenants, while watching a beautiful sunrise come over the mountain. After the sun rose, Adam had Sarah sit down on a bench. He knelt down, said some wonderfully romantic things, and asked her to marry him. 🙂 Sarah ecstatically replied, “Yes!!!””

I am thrilled beyond belief! It is miracle to me that everything has worked out so perfectly. Adam is the man of my dreams and more, and I’m so excited that he and I get to spend eternity together. We have been truly, abundantly blessed.” — Sarah

“I am the most blessed man in the world.  I’m so happy that Sarah would even give me the time of day let alone want to marry me.  I love her and I am excited to spend eternity with her.  She is the most gorgeous girl in the world! She has prepared herself in the right ways to be a righteous wife and mother in Zion and for that I will be eternally grateful.” — Adam