Getting ready . . .

10 02 2009

One of the goals of our stake this year is temporal preparedness. It seems like we’ve been hearing that a lot lately.

I gave a talk last, oh, October, was it? I entitled it “Sort of Prepared, but Not Ready.” I had the idea of posting it here and letting my blog be a kind of accountablity thing, but since no one made me accountable for that it never got done. (Following through on promises to myself isn’t, alas, a strong point.)

Anyway, last night for Family Home Evening we had a 72-hour-kit assembly line. It was confusing and not very organized (note to self: next time be more organized).

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However, I’m looking on the bright side. We may not have dinner for two of the three days, but at least everyone has their own kit now, right? At least the food isn’t from 5+ years ago when we moved, right? That’s right. Baby steps.

I looked up my talk, and read it again. And, hey, this is my blog so I’m going to post it. It had to be 15 or 20 minutes, so it’s kind of long–but worthwhile, I promise! I don’t know how to make the font any smaller. I’m also just about out of power. So goodnight. Good luck in your own search for readiness.

 

When Brother Anderson called and asked me to speak the other day, he told me the topic was the Restoration. He gave me a conference talk reference—from May 2006, a talk by President James E. Faust entitled “The Restoration of All Things”—but before I even read that the wheels in my brain started turning.

The Restoration always brings to mind the song “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning”. I have sung this song many, many times. Not just in church, either. Growing up, we always sang it at family reunions because my grandmother was a Manwaring, and the text for that hymn was written by George Manwaring. I always thought he was a great-great-uncle or something, but I found out when I got a bit older the blood connection was, well, a bit more distant. Nevertheless, we sang “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning” often because my grandmother loved that hymn.

When I got into high school, I had two girl cousins a couple of years younger than I that played the violin and the cello. My grandma talked to one of my aunts and they found an arrangement of “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning” for two violins. After they transcribed the second violin part into a cello part, I was unwittingly roped into accompanying the duo. I say unwittingly because, frankly, I wasn’t that great at playing the piano.  I’m still not. And the accompaniment was hard. Beyond my abilities, really. But I practiced it over and over, trying to get it right so as not to embarrass myself and ruin my cousins’ beautiful performance.

            After a couple of months of practicing, we took it on the road. Our great aunt was the ward music director of her ward and asked us to play there. Also, all three of us had older brothers that were about to serve missions, so we did the farewell circuit, playing in each of our wards.

            There was one time—my cousin Dan’s farewell—that every musician’s nightmare occurred to me. We’d played the piece many times by this point, and I guess I got a little careless. My music was five or six pages long, and as I went to turn from page two to page three, the music was in the wrong order. I was horrified. I fumbled, trying to remember and think what to do next, then I stopped playing all together. I tried to quickly shuffle the music into the right order, and half of it fell off the piano, scattering onto the floor. My cousins gamely kept playing, and by the time I picked up my music and figured out where we were, my hands were shaking so badly I could barely play. It was not one of my better moments. I had prepared, but not paid enough attention when we were getting ready to play.

            When I read President Faust’s talk in its entirety, he went beyond just the restoration of the Church through Joseph Smith to point out many other things that were restored when this great event occurred. He talked about the priesthood and its various offices: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists. He talked about the keys that were restored: the keys of the gathering of Israel, the keys of this dispensation, including the sealing power. He spoke of the restoration of the law of tithes and offerings, temple worship, eternal covenants, baptism for the dead, the truths found in the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of open communication between heaven and earth through visions and revelations given to us through prophets and apostles.

            I realized, looking at that list, that I could probably pick any of those things to base my talk on. But what did I want? Talking to Stan about it, he suggested, “Talk on the one you feel most passionate about.” I thought, “Oh, great—now I have to feel passionate about something?”

            With General Conference a couple of weeks ago, though, I realized right now I am very passionate about the heavens being open, about the word of God coming to us through apostles and His prophet. Where would we be without their wise counsel and advice—without the additional commandments they have given us? I almost don’t even like to think about it because the picture is rather bleak.

            So I’m passionate about what the apostles and prophets have told us. I want to share with you today three things that stood out to me as I listened to Conference: unity, preparation, and joy.

            I noticed President Eyring’s talk was on unity, and immediately connected it to our ward. I was in Primary so I didn’t get to be there, but I heard the bishop gave a great lesson about unity several weeks before General Conference. I think it’s wonderful how the Spirit prepares us to hear a message by priming the pump, by putting something into our minds once (like the bishop teaching us the importance of unity), then doing it again (like when we were fasting for unity in our ward), and, if we are prepared, gushing forth revelation when we are ready to receive it (like when President Eyring gave his talk).

            I loved the way President Eyring built unity step by step—starting in the home. He said this: “Fathers and mothers are pleading for unity in their homes, and those prayers are being answered. Families are praying together night and morning. I was invited to kneel at bedtime with a family when I was a guest in their home. The smallest child was asked to be voice. He prayed like a patriarch for every person in the family, by name. I opened my eyes for an instant to see the faces of the other children and the parents. I could tell that they were joining their faith and their hearts in that little boy’s prayer.”

            Family prayer is not exactly like that in our home, but there are those rare moments when everyone is actually kneeling and has their arms folded. It’s precious and sweet and I wish they lasted a little longer, but it gives us something to work toward. Back when my kids were even smaller than they are now, I had to figure out how to keep them together in the parking lot when walking into stores. I came up with the Jones chain: to this day, whenever someone appears to be wandering, I call out, “Jones chain!” and everyone links up—generally by holding hands, but sometimes we link arms or, if my hands are full, they’ll grab onto my back pocket. This way, we’re able to stick together and make it to the store safely.

            Picture our ward in your mind. If some sort of disaster were to happen, would we be able to form a Game Farm Ward chain to ensure everyone reached safety? As I thought about this, I thought of the sisters I visit teach. I have their numbers posted on my refrigerator, but what if something happened while I was away from home and was unable to get there? The chain of our ward would be broken with me. One of my sisters is inactive, and she lives alone. Would anyone else think to see if she was okay? You could say I’m prepared to call her and make the link in the chain because her number is on my fridge, but I’m not truly ready if a real emergency were to occur. How hard is it to write down a few numbers and stick them in my wallet? I take that with me everywhere. That’s one way I’m going to strengthen the chain of our ward. I challenge each of you to find an extra way that you personally can strengthen the chain of our ward.

            And speaking of emergencies, it’s interesting to note how long the prophets have been counseling us to get our houses in order, to have a year’s supply of food, to get out of debt and save for a rainy day. It’s quite possible that the current crisis the financial markets are in could be called a rainy day.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve said this: The scriptures and modern prophets have made it clear that there will be lean years and plentiful years. The Lord expects us to be prepared for many of the challenges that come. He proclaims, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

            President Hinckley, on two separate occasions, cited Pharaoh’s dream of the seven full, good stalks of corn, followed by seven dry and withered stalks, and the withered stalks devoured the good. Joseph interpreted the dream as being seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. President Hinckley said this:

“Now . . . I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.”

The heavens have been speaking to us for years through our prophets. How long have we been counseled to stay out of debt? Since the beginning of the Church, when the Lord counseled Martin Harris through revelation in D&C 19:35: “Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage.” We have likewise been told to have a year supply of food, to save money for a rainy day, and to have 72-hour kits for our families. There have, of course, been many more things said to us over the years. I’m focusing on these particular things today because, despite knowing this for most of my life—I’m still not ready! Just like when I practiced for “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning” with my cousins—I was sort of prepared, but I got lax after we’d done it for awhile. I wasn’t paying close attention to the details, so I wasn’t ready.

I’d venture to say my food storage right now is comparable to that musical number. I’ve got some food—quite a bit of food, really—but I haven’t paid attention to the details. Is there enough? Will my family be getting the nutrients they need if we end up living off of our food storage? What about Zack, who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease? He can’t eat any of those barrels of wheat I’ve got stacked in the garage. What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that I’ve got to step up. Food storage isn’t a new doctrine—I’ve known about it my entire life. It’s always there, in the back of my head, the wondering if I’m where I need to be. I’m not an organized person, so the thought of figuring out food storage almost makes me a little ill. But I need to do it, and I know I need to do it. I have no excuse. I’m sort of prepared, but I’m not ready. And the scripture Elder Cook quoted—“If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” testifies to me that all the extra brain power it’s going to take to figure out what is going on with all those shelves of food in the garage will be worth it. It brings to mind the hymn “Keep the Commandments”—in this there is safety, in this there is peace. I know when I get myself together, I will have that safety and that peace. That alone is enough to put a little starch in my step to get it done.

Elder Cook also said this: “In numerous places in the Book of Mormon, the people were promised that they would prosper in the land if they would keep the commandments.  This promise is often accompanied by the warning that if they do not keep the commandments of God, they shall be cut off from His presence. Clearly, having the blessings of the Spirit—the ministration of the Holy Ghost—is an essential element to truly prosper in the land and to be prepared.”

I also thought this scripture clarified some of my sort-of preparedness wishy-washyness in my brain:

          In Matthew 24:42, we’re told “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” And then later, in verse 44, we read: “Therefore be ye also ready”. Watch and be ready! It’s my new goal.

I didn’t want this talk to end focusing on my failures as a food storager. It was a great wake-up call to me to formulate these thoughts together, and I hope you found something you can take away in your own lives.  

I want to return to how wonderful it is and how blessed we are to have a living prophet today. How grateful I am for that restoration! President Eyring said this: “President Monson is the living prophet of God. If we are united in sustaining him with all our hearts, with willing obedience to do what God would have us do, we will move together in power to go wherever God would have us go and to become what He wants us to be.”

And President Monson himself said this: Brothers and sisters, how blessed we are that the heavens are indeed open, that the restored Church of Jesus Christ is upon the earth today, and that the Church is founded upon the rock of revelation. We know that continuous revelation is the very lifeblood of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Part of that lifeblood, then, is this admonition from President Monson: “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and non-existent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.

“Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us.”

I’m so grateful for that reminder to find joy in the journey of life. I testify my personal witness that President Monson is indeed the mouthpiece of God. I’m so very grateful to live in a time when there is a prophet on the earth and to be able to benefit from his counsel and guidance. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World.





Surely not Clarisse?

10 02 2009

I love listening to Eden and Rainbow pretend things. Sometimes they’re dogs, sometimes they’re babies (this happened the other night when someone called and this person later commented to Stan, “It sounded like every one of them were crying.”), sometimes they’re mermaids, and sometimes they’re princesses. (Well, they’re always princesses.)

The names they come up with crack me up, mostly because I have no idea where they come from. For a long time the pretend game name of choice was “Shirley”. I don’t know a Shirley, and I don’t think we have any books with a Shirley in them, either. I do, however, recall some weird something-or-other in high school where “Shirley” and “Phyllis” were key words. But that was before my girls were around.

Anyway, Shirley has taken a back seat. The new name Rainbow uses (she asked me yesterday to spell it for her so she could sign into a computer game as her alter-ego) is Clarisse.

Why Clarisse? Well, why not, right?

My favorite thing is the way they say it, though. I say it very Idahoan-ish: CLARE-ees. The girls say it like this instead: CLAW-dees.

Ooh la la and all that.

It makes the dream name of my youth (Traci Smith, if you can believe it) seem very pedestrian indeed.