#beautyforashes

Did you watch the Provo City Center Temple cultural celebration yesterday? I hope you did. I got to go to the Marriott Center to watch it live, and it was fantastic. Then today I had the glorious opportunity to watch the dedication of the Provo City Center Temple, formerly the Provo Tabernacle. I want to take this time to write a little memoir of this beloved building.

2-provo-tabernacle

To begin with, I have several special memories going to stake conference in the tabernacle. It was the only time we ever drove to church, and the benches were the most uncomfortable benches I’ve ever sat on for two hours straight. I also sang the Mozart Requiem there with my high school choir and other chamber choirs from Utah, under the direction of Mack Wilberg. Pretty awesome experience. I always thought it was the prettiest building in Provo.

Then on December 17, 2010, the gem of Provo caught fire, and the entire interior was demolished to ashes.

fire

It went from this
inside

to this.
burnt inside

We all mourned its loss, and wondered how Heavenly Father could possibly allow this to happen to one of His sacred buildings. The following Conference, President Monson gave one of the greatest announcements we’ve ever heard:

I was living in Hawaii at the time of this announcement, so I was watching Conference by myself on my bed at 6:00 in the morning. Let’s just say tears were shed. Loudly. For a good 20 minutes. #joy #tendermercy #beautyforahses #Hisplan #grateful

Then the tabernacle went from this
stilts

to this.
provo-city-center-temple

Stunning. When we all asked why, we didn’t know He had a bigger, better plan for our tabernacle. I know it is the same with our lives– when tragedy strikes, and we figuratively catch fire, it’s because Heavenly Father has a bigger, better plan for us. I know that to be true. He makes beauty from ashes.

June Books: The Chronicles of Narnia

Hi! Sorry it’s been so long. After I took my last final, the hard drive cable of my computer breathed its last breath, and the Flashing Gray Globe-Icon of Death replaced my desktop photo of the LA temple. 🙁 The rest is history. I took my computer to the Apple store, and 6 weeks and $120 later it’s as good as new. Now we’re back in business.

A lot has happened since my last post, and I would’ve loved to share my thoughts on the issues at hand, but I think the main thing I want to catch up on right now is my book of the month, because I read no less than 5 books last month!! #applause.

We drove to the cabin (Idaho) in early June, and road-tripped to Washington for my cousin Haley’s farewell and to visit Anny, so I had ample reading time.

200px-ScholasticNarnia

The_Chronicles_of_Narnia

As you can see from the title and images, I had the pleasure and good fortune of re-reading (for like the 5th time) C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. #CSLewisIsTheMan. If you haven’t read all seven of these books, I strongly recommend that you make it a priority as soon as you possibly can.

I once heard a person say, “Did you know that the Chronicles of Narnia have spiritual parallels?” I wanted to respond, “Did you know that Jacob 5 isn’t actually about a farmer?”, but I’m proud to report that I resisted. The spiritual parallels are just so obvious and prevalent to me, that I can’t imagine reading these books without noticing their huge significance to the plot.

Here’s a quick summary of a few doctrines explored:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Atonement, Forgiveness, Justice, Mercy
The Magician’s Nephew: The Creation, Other Worlds, Good and Evil, Satan, the Fall
The Horse and His Boy: Foreordination, God’s Plan, God’s hand in our lives
Prince Caspian: Priesthood, Revelation, the Holy Ghost
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Kolab (yup), Sacrifice
The Silver Chair: Our divine nature, God’s nature, Faith
The Last Battle: the 2nd coming, False Christs, the Last Days, Judgment, Life after Death
And many more… Wait, C.S. Lewis wasn’t Mormon?

Here’s one quote I love that I wanted to end with:
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I can honestly say that I know Him better from reading these books. My relationship with the Savior has grown stronger over the past few weeks because of my experience with these books. I learned more about Him and His plan, and I invite you all to do the same, along with the Book of Mormon. I know that God lives and loves us, and I know that His Son Jesus Christ is the only way for us to return to live with Him. I know the Atonement is real and forgiveness is possible for all who open their hearts.

Six Months Later…

hollywood sign
One of the greatest joys of missionary life is getting mail. In my mission, all mail was sent to the mission office, and then given to the zone leaders, who passed it out in exchange for a completed car report after District Meeting every Friday. Needless to say, we all looked forward to District Meeting for that single reason.

I want to pause right here for a second, and give a big shout out and thank you to those who sent me mail on my mission. My mom definitely wins for most letters and packages. GRACIAS.

I had a throwback Friday moment yesterday, when I GOT A LETTER IN THE MAIL, addressed in my own handwriting, with a return address from the California Los Angeles Mission. #bestdadysofar #literaldejavu

It was the post-mission plan I created in the last week of my full-time service, outlining what I wanted to be able to say I’d done as a returned missionary, what I wanted to have become, and what differences I wanted others to notice in me six months after returning home.

I’m not writing this to brag, but I just wanted to say that I’m really happy to announce that I met my goals! I continued to have really good scripture study every day, I went to the temple every week, I did well in all my classes, and I strengthened my ward. And yesterday, I WENT OUT WITH THE MISSIONARIES!!!!!! #MemberPresent I hope I’ve become more loving, thoughtful, and aware of others, more sensitive to the Spirit, healthier, and more clam/ relaxed. And I hope others notice that I’m better at accepting other ideas and opinions.

In summary, coming home from the mission is really hard. The mission is the Garden of Eden, and going back to the lone and dreary world is rough. But by continuing to set goals and make plans that bring us closer to the Savior, we can still be in His presence. I know that to be true, because I’ve seen it over these last six months. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about my amazing time in LA or the incredible people I met, but I know the Lord needs me where I am now. He loves all of us beyond belief, and only desires our happiness. I know that.

The Cunning Plan

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Okay, I need to preface this by saying that I DETEST that expression. For one thing, it sounds totally tacky. Also, we know that it’s completely untrue, and is in fact a considerably irresponsible mindset. You do not only live once. Also, I hope this doesn’t sound preachy or self-righteous. It’s just some thoughts I’ve concocted over the last few days.

Anyway… In Sunday School last week, my teacher mentioned that some people are upset that others who party and mess around and do whatever they want may ultimately achieve the same reward as those who live righteously. She said they “kind of get the best of both worlds” because they “get to do both”.

That really puzzled me, because I can’t think of a single sin that I’d be happy I “got to” commit. The truth is, there is no such thing as a worthwhile sin, there is no such thing as an action without a consequence, and there is no such thing as forgiveness without repentance. No matter what we do, or how small the sin is, we still have to repent, which is indeed a process and must be completed by everyone, no matter who they are or under what circumstances the sin was committed. Alma has plenty to say on this.

The response of one member of our class was that when we get to the other side and are able to see our lives, we will see both the good and bad, and only wish we’d been able to do better. In short, we will never at any time be glad we were able to sin. That’s that. If YOLO, then this would all be different, and nothing would actually matter.

I just want to say that I’m very grateful that we know that YDOLO, and we have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven. 22 days until I take off to share that message!!

7 Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.

8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be bmerry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

9 Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.

2 Nephi 28:7-9

One of Those Lives

The other day on my bus ride to work, I had the unusual experience of sitting near a man without any legs. When I walked past him, I tried to smile, but he scowled back at me. At the next stop, the driver accidentally opened the wrong door twice, and in her embarrassment, said, “I guess it’s just one of those days.” and to those close to her, “Ever have one of those days?” In response, that man said, “Ever have one of those lives, where every day is one of those days?”

Awkward.

Most people don’t talk on the bus, so nobody responded to him, but what he said stuck with me all that day. One of those lives? Talk about sour attitude! I wanted to walk over to him and share words of encouragement, and discuss the Plan of Happiness or something, but my stop was next, so the opportunity was lost. In hindsight, I guess I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage anyway, because he was pretty darn grouchy.

Although I wasn’t able to talk to him and learn his story and why he’d come to feel about life the way he did, I was able to reflect on my life, and how it’s one of those lives where every day is my best day so far. Why is that? It’s because I know who I am, why I’m here, and where I’m going, and I have a clear understanding of what I need to be doing. What a blessing! Because of that, I’m just about to embark on a journey dedicated to sharing that message with as many people as I possibly can. I can’t wait.

Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God.

It’s true.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLO0DrlvLX4&feature=colike

I wrote earlier about how I’ve been studying world religions, specifically Buddhism. I just read What the Buddha Taught and Living Buddha, Living Christ, which are excellent, and it’s really got me thinking about our church. I know I already wrote about this, but these are further thoughts.

Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus. No question. It’s been really interesting to learn about when Suddharta Guatama became was visited and became enlightened, or when Guru Nanak had his vision before founding the Jain religion, or when the Holy Spirit appeared to Mahavira, but when Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, they brought him the true and living gospel that has the FULLNESS of truth that we need to return to them, and there is life after death.

Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and He really lived and died for us, and He knows each of us personally, and is the head of our church today. He loves us. He is real.

We have all this knowledge that so many don’t have! We have a prophet that speaks to us directly from Him! We don’t have dozens of break-offs of our religion because of various doctrinal discrepancies, because there is nothing missing. I’ve found many truths in these other religions I’ve studied, and it really has been very educational.

There is truth everywhere, and we can most definitely learn and benefit from those of other faiths, and by seeking truth everywhere, but we have the only complete and full truth. And we need to share it! AND I GET TO DO THAT IN 7 MONTHS!!!!!

Our church is perfect, and it is perfect because Jesus is the head of it. I’ve loved reading about the structures of other churches, and the different ideas they had for proper order and hierarchy, but everything about our church is exactly right. The people are imperfect, but the church is perfect.

There is no doubt in my mind that ours is the true church. I know it with all my heart. I have a lot to learn, and I’ve learned a lot from these other religions, and gained respect for each of them, but I would love to be able to add to their beliefs in the same way they’ve added to mine. Eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom with our Heavenly Father is a lot more exciting that Nirvana, which is essentially a state of simple existence/ nothingness. I’m down with Celestial glory. And we know how to get there!

I’m starting my papers as soon as I get home, which is in 2 weeks. Oh yes. Here I come. I hope I get to interact with some Buddhists, because I owe them a lot. I’d like to talk to some Jains and Sikhs as well. They are really wonderful people.

If I didn’t have a testimony…

I’m in a Mormonism and World Religions class right now, and so far we’ve studied Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Each religion has interesting doctrines and philosophies, each has important values to teach and ideas to consider, and each has been enlightening to learn about. (hahaha that was a pun. Enlightening, get it?)

At first I found it fairly easy to judge them, because I’m very confident in my own beliefs (yes, I do have a very firm testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of JESUS CHRIST),
and could easily spot the doctrinal differences and maybe compare them in the wrong ways. But that only lasted like a week. The way my class is structured invites us to discuss the doctrines of the different religions, and then put a Latter-Day Saint light on them to further our understanding. Interestingly enough, the early history of Jainism started in a way very similar to our’s, not unlike Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

I’ve especially enjoyed learning about Buddhism, because the Buddhist teachings just really resonate with me. One thing that the original/ Supreme Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama, said after he first became enlightened, was, “I am neither an angel or a saint. I am awake.” Interesting, eh? The goal of the well-known Buddhist meditation exercises, which I’ve been doing on the beach early in the morning for my class, is to become awake. I love that! I love the idea of coming to your most natural and self-controlled state (this means literally only thinking about your breathing. Nothing else. This is harder than you might think.) and seeking knowledge in order to gain enlightenment. It feels so good.

HOWEVER. Although I’m intrigued by this and all the other religions I’ve studied so far, they all have something missing. It occurred to me just a few days ago. They don’t have a living prophet who continues to give them revelation and guidance! They also, of course don’t have the same scriptures we do, that just happen to contain the fulness of the living gospel. The Hindu scriptures that I’ve studied so far are actually very interesting. But I’m just observing the huge difference that came to me.

In the end, if I didn’t have a testimony, I would love to practice Buddhism. But I do have a testimony! And that’s that. I can still meditate, and work on ahimsa, and, more than anything else, develop understanding and compassion that will help me understand others, so I can share my gospel with them, and they can share their’s with me. I think we’d both benefit immensely.

Have You Received His Image in Your Countenances?

And now behold I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received His image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? -Alma 5:14

I am currently on the beautiful island of Kauai with the steel band and brass ensemble (more of that to come later), and this has been my best week so far. Well, my best Thursday to Sunday so far. (I had a huge music history exam on Tuesday and a major sight singing test that same day, so that was pretty rough.) Nonetheless, this trip has been completely wonderful.

Oh, did you hear that Oahu flooded? And we were off island, so it didn’t affect us at all. How convenient.

Anyway, one of the fun things about this trip has been staying with host families. My family on the East Shore had a little 6 year-old girl, and after we had been there for like 10 minutes, she came up to me, and she’s like, “Auntie, will you show me everything you have?” So I took her down to the amazing room we were staying in and got out my back pack. I showed her my music anthology and my huge binder of other music and all that, and then I got out my computer. We listened to some Disney princess music, and then I saw a picture on my desktop of President and Sister Hinckley.

I decided to see if she recognized him, forgetting that he passed away in 2008, so she wouldn’t even have known him. (I feel like he just barely died! It’s so crazy to me that kids don’t know him anymore.) I pulled the picture up, and asked her who it was, and she said, “That’s Jesus!”

Wait, what? I must say that President Hinckley and Jesus have close to no physical similarity whatsoever. But then I realized that she was able to recognize the spiritual power that they both shared, and saw that before the hair and clothes and everything else.

I really love that line in Alma: “Have ye received his image in your countenances?” President Hinckley has. I’m obviously not a man, so I don’t think I could ever be mistaken for the Savior, but I have the light of Christ in me, and because of that, I can still radiate it and bring people closer to Him by being an example of the believers. Isn’t that the best thought ever? We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, and that very idea makes me so excited! I can think of nothing greater than helping bring others unto Him. So that’s my goal.

I know He lives!

I had the opportunity to do the Primary singing time today. Dream calling? Possibly. Apparently they write a new Primary song each year for the primary program, so now they have several totally amazing songs that we never got to sing. One of them is “I Know That My Savior Loves Me”, and I feel the Spirit each time I hear it, so of course I had them all warm up with it. The chorus shouts my personal testimony in such a beautifully perfect way. I know that my Savior loves me!