One Year Celebration

I woke up crying.

Seriously, I don’t know how much more I can cry!

I woke up crying, remembering the day of my baptism.

I remember waking up that day, seeing my white skirt and shirt hanging in the doorway, the morning sunlight dancing on the fabric.

I remember realizing, that for the first time, I was no longer afraid to do this.

I remember realizing, that there was some part of me that I did not yet understand, but that was clearly and significantly “waking up” inside of me.  I remember feeling that somehow my life had gone “tesseract”.  Remember that, from “A Wrinkle in Time”?

Do you remember the picture in the book?  In the book, she explains the concept like an ant walking on a string:

And then explains the “wrinkle in time” as if the ant kept walking, but you brought the two ends of the string together:

It was as if there was some part of me, from long ago, and some part of me on that day of baptism at opposite ends of a string.    The day I got baptized, it was as if those two points were brought together, creating a new timeline and leaving the mess I made of things hanging below in the loop that was “skipped”.  Now I think it was the atonement that just snipped off the loop all together.

And so the last year has been about learning to walk straight across, and not try to go back down on the loop – which is why it is so danger to “look back”, for because the atonement snipped the loop off!  Which means I would fall, and then I would be a very squashed ant.

It took me all year to realize the loop had been snipped off, that it was done and settled and I could just “move forward”, and to start doing so without fear.

And now, this morning, I woke remembering the day of my baptism.  I remember the smell of the air, and how the sun shone so bright.  I remember how nervous I was, as if my whole body was vibrating.  I remember how every person that shook my hand shot power into me, like a one-up on old-school Mario.  I remember how their smiles and hugs melted me, strengthened me, comforted me.

I remember where I parked at TOES, and which cars were already there.

I remember having my pile of little thank you notes I wanted to deliver, but was scared I wouldn’t get the right ones to the right people because I didn’t know anyone’s names.

I remember the tender look on President Merckley’s face, and the smile his wife gave me, and how I in that moment, I was no longer nervous.  I was ready.

I remember thinking it was weird people wanted to take pictures of me and Jon in our jumpsuits, but how later I was glad they did.

I remember where we all sat in the room, and I remember being in awe that so many people would come to my baptism when they didn’t even know me.  I remember realizing that for nine months, they had been my friends, and that it was their love that had brought me to that day.  Now I cry again to look back in the last year, and the moments we have shared, and the love I feel for every person who was in the room that day.

I remember how Cassie cried when she gave her talk, and I remember the words she said.

I remember my feet being cold while I waited through the talks to go back to the bathroom to step into the font.

I remember being much relieved to feel the warm water when I walked into the font.

I remember being terrified and not knowing how to be baptized (this was before a year’s worth of a gazabillion baptisms every week at the Temple!  HA!), but how the moment I felt Jon’s hand reach up and help me down the stairs, that I knew it was like dance, and if I just “followed”, it would be okay.

I remember where everyone stood on the other side of the glass, and where each child sat.

I remember how Sherrolyn kneeled next to me, on the other side of the glass, to terp that moment to be sure I did not miss anything.

I remember them telling me at the last minute that if I didn’t go all the way under, they would have to do it again… and hoping that Jon didn’t try to drown me just to be sure.

I remember the feel of Jon’s hand on my back, and his gentle placing of my hands in position on his arm.

I remember the eternal moment just before he began, when it seemed I could not breathe.

I remember looking to Sherrolyn to see her terp Jon’s words, but only seeing the tears falling down her cheeks.

I remember something catching my eye, and for the first time standing in the baptism waters and looking up to see things I had never seen before.

I remember the moment, in slow-motion, when Jon’s hands began to move, one hand on my back, the other hand leading me like a dance to lean back and down.  I remember holding my nose, forgetting to close my eyes (there is always so much to see), and bending my knees.

I remember the moment underwater, the song I heard there, and the lights I saw as I was raised back up.

I remember the gasp of surprise and joy that came out of me, and how we all froze – even the children – for a moment that lasted longer than seconds.

I remember the power in that moment, the gift of that moment, the accomplishment of the Lord in that moment.

I remember how the tears came.

And this is how I woke this morning, with memories and tears, and full of love and progress.

I remember how we cried and laughed then, all at once, for we all felt it together, and it bonded us somehow.

I remember climbing out and freezing to death as I changed.  I remember Nedra’s testimony after I got back in there, and the songs we sang.  I remember seeing these people around the room that I had started so much to love, and how even in that morning it had filled me “beyond measure”, so that it was greater than the day before.

This is how I woke this morning, remembering these moments.

And as I reflect on them, I see how the progress of the last year – by the Lord’s atonement and the working of the Spirit – really was very tesseract-ish.  My baptism created me anew, and the progress of the last year pushed me through time, so that I am really living such a very different lifetime than I was two years ago.  So completely different.

And as I packed the car this morning, ready to leave for my week at the Temple, I realized how this week was another example of how well Heavenly Father loves me, and how specifically He knows me: every year of my adult life, I have taken a week’s retreat in the fall.  I have stayed at monasteries all over, on silent retreats each year…. so to me, this gift of a week at the Temple is more significant and personal even than doing the Temple work for my family… but that’s another blog, which I am sure will come.

But I also realized, in my silly nerdy head, how my endowment is so very tesseract-ish as well, excepting physically.  Geometrically, I mean.

It came to me, and I had to dig out my old chemistry books to find what I was looking for, and then dig out my Physics and Calculus books, but I found it… the tesseract:

The fully drawn 3D picture of a tesseract, not of the literary sort, but same concept she simplified, is actually a square inside a square that moves forward by folding in on itself.

The movement actually makes a circle of sorts, as it folds, and reminds me of the Temple gates and the square and the circle of where the Earth and Heaven meet.  It reminds me of Jesus saying in the New Testament how we are like dough, and watching my grandmother knead the dough.  It makes me see how the Lord is kneading me, creating me to be something tasty that will feed others and bring them joy.

If I let him.

And if you want to see the circle, here is what it looks like if you just look at the path it follows in that progress, rather than seeing the 3D animation of how it moves… here you can see how it makes the circle-ish pattern, and thus is a circle inside a square:

And what is fascinating about that in this context?

What does it remind you of?

Yes!  Da Vinci’s man-drawing, excepting I used this funny jeans-commercial graphic because that way the man had pants on.  For because I get endowed tomorrow, so even if it is Da Vinci, I can’t be blogging people without pants.

But do you see?

How amazing is that?!  I mean, AMAZING!

I know that my endowment is about more than children’s stories and playtime in math and science books or classic art discussion.  I do know that, really.  Except also, it kinda is.  So I do not mean to describe this day in a way that is disrespectful or flippant.  I just mean to say, that in my silly nerdy head, the Lord did “make sense of it” for me this morning, in a way that connects premortality to getting baptized, through this entire year (the progress forward of the small box, made possible by the atonement-covering of the large box that then folds over itself and into itself, so that the divine-box becomes the Emily-box) to my endowment tomorrow night.

It was just a tiny way, in my silly Emily World, that the Lord did show me mathematically how my endowment and the progress of keeping covenants does actually, literally change me in a process that continues always, with each “moving forward” causing more of His divine nature to be folded into me – but how there is always more.

Do you see?

Anyway.  For me, it was a delightful morning of amazement.

And so the last year officially has met with the beginning of a new year.

Never again will December 31st hold the same power as does September 27 for me!

For the last year, my theme song has been this one… please, if you have time, take the time to listen:

And what has delighted me in the last few months, besides really getting to HEAR it digitally with my new matrix-machine in my head, is that it is about the Temple!  I wonder if the guy singing it knows this?  He will someday!

Praise the Mount, I’m fixed upon it; Mount of Thy redeeming Love

Hello!  Temple Reference!  How exciting is that?!

Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here by Thy great help I’ve come.

Do you know what Ebenezer is?  The song explains it in that next line, “Here by Thy great help I’ve come”.  It is a monument, a Temple of sorts, that Samuel the Prophet set up because the bad guys wouldn’t leave him alone even though he did nothing wrong. You can read about it HERE in 1 Samuel 7.

And know why I love Samuel?  Because of this (1 Samuel 3):

The Lord calls Samuel—House of Eli not purged by sacrifices and offerings—Samuel recognized as a prophet by all Israel—The Lord appears to him.

  
1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.

  2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see;

  3 And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;

  4 That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.

  5 And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.

  6 And the Lord called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again.

  7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.

  8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child.

  9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

  10 And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

  11 ¶ And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.

  12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.

  13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

  14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.

  15 ¶ And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.

  16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I.

  17 And he said, What is the thing that the Lord hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee.

  18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.

  19 ¶ And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.

  20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.

  21 And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
There are other reasons I love Samuel, but I have loved him always, from the beginning, for those words and what the both taught me and prepared me for since I was a child.  I needed that preparation, for I am stubborn and obstinate and maybe would not have paid attention when I needed to, and without that moment – even in the waters of baptism one year ago – I would not have had the experiences of the last year that, just like everything else, were built “line upon line, knowledge upon knowledge, revelation upon revelation”.
So I love that this Temple song talks about Samuel!  It is so special to me!
And I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home
This is what connected for me the whole doctrine about premortality and eternal families and Temples and all those pieces that were so new to me!  It was playing this song that finally made it click!  It was catching that phrase, and going “Ooooohhhhh!”, and then rewinding through all I had been taught and studying it again now that I understood.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God
How better to describe my pre-baptism world, and even all He rescued me from before I ever got to the nine months to prepare for baptism?
He to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood
The atonement! Yes!  But this was my beginning of the line-upon-line that began to teach me how it was progressive, and how it was not just for all the bad things I had done, but to protect me and to progress me, that there was more to it than just baptism day.
The last verse describes my experience of the last year, of realizing what my baptism meant, of continuing to make changes, of immersing myself in the gospel, of humbling myself, of being overwhelmed with gratitude because I know that it was not for me any other way possible to be rescued:
O to grace, how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love….
But but but!  And then! It was only about a month ago that I caught the meaning of the last phrase!

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
WHOA!  This is an example of the tiny, simple things it took me all year to learn, but how profound it was once it came.  This moment of breakthrough with the last line of this song was SO powerful to me, and a precious experience I will never forget.
And so that has been my theme song of the year, so much that I burned it on CD with only that one song, and play it over and over and over – for months now.
Until yesterday.
This fascinates me.
I assumed that when I drove to my brother’s yesterday, or to the Temple today, that it would be this song I listened to anytime I was not working my way through all the BYU talks I could find!  Except it wasn’t.
My iPod had a weird skip – it ran out of power, and I plugged it in, and it rebooted itself (bad English of how to say that, but I think you understand) – and when it came back on, it was playing a different song.
It was so weird!
Except as I moved to change it, the song slammed into my heart.
You know heart-slamming is done by the Spirit, so I knew to pay attention.
And this is what started me crying yesterday.
I don’t even fully understand why yet, but I think it is my new song.
So, if anyone is still reading, I wanted to share it with you, because it made me cry for two hours all the way to my brother’s house yesterday, and then all through the entire fasting day to prepare for my endowment and to practice loving and celebrating my family, and so I think it is important.  Vital, even.
I could not find it on YouTube, so you will have to CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (free).  Please, please do if you have time.  It is amazing.  Please, please, click to listen to it (it is free and no pop-up windows or anything).  The first song I wrote about (Come Thou Font), you probably already know.  Maybe you know this one, too, but I have just discovered it.  It is soooooo good, and it is the space to where the Lord has moved me, and what started all my crying yesterday.  So really, it would be worth it – I promise PROMISE – if you have time to listen to it.
I don’t know why it is so powerful yet, other than of course I know my life is really the Lord’s – but there are layers and layers to this song, and it is where the Lord has sent me, so I wanted to share.  It makes me WEEP.  I know there is more.  There is always more.  I see the layers starting, and I know it will unfold.
But clearly, it is the song of the week, if not my new song-of-the-year.  So.  It’s a big deal in Emily World, and I wanted to share.  So take the time to listen, and enjoy!
It is the song I will be listening to as I drive to the Oklahoma City this morning.
Here are the lyrics:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise

Take my hand and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love

Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only for my King
And take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee

Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use
Every power Thou shall choose

And I give everything to You
And I give everything to You

Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne

Take my love, my Lord I pour
At Thy feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only all for Thee

And I give everything to You
And I give everything to You
I give everything to You
Oh, I give everything to You

Take myself and I will be
Ever, only all for Thee

Fractal “Kinds”

CLICK HERE to see some amazing pictures of fractals!  These are fractals found in nature.  I love them!  Natalie sent the link to me.  Also, CLICK HERE to see some more made by math formulas.  It is amazing!

One of the reasons I love these, of course, are because they are so beautiful.

But I also love it because it shows a simple principle, that each kind of everything makes more of itself.  Each “kind” looks like others of its “kind”.  There is “mankind” and “womankind” and “dogkind” and “flowerkind” and “vegetablekind”, and then within each group the variety and diversity that make that up are amazing, yet still it follows the pattern of what it is.

Check out these amazing pictures!  It’s incredible!

It challenges the question of what “kind” do I want to become?  Who do I want to be like?

What pattern do I want repeated in my life?

I think about patterns all the time because of my work.  With my patients, it is my job to notice their patterns, to help change their patterns into new patterns, and to help them realize they become a product of the patterns (habits) they create.

Our patterns are the snapshot of our lives.

In dance, I think about patterns and actually get to move within them.  Each step teaches me about the one before it and the one after it.  How I take each step affects not only my own balance, but the balance of my partner in the dance-relationship.  It is the same in real life.

Last night I had a really hard day at work, and a last minute crisis made me late to dance, so that I missed more than half of the dance.  I was upset because the crisis was intense, leaving me emotionally spent, and another issue with another patient left me feeling hopeless because you cannot help those who refuse it.

So I was triggered and tense, upset and exhausted.  I wanted to go home and cry, but I also know that in the moments I want to collapse – that is when I most need to dance.

So I went.

My friend, my dance teacher, my spiritual father, said to me:  “Tension is contagious”, for because I was pulling on him, not being responsible for my own balance, and leaning on him for support instead of moving forward and upward with poise.  This was knocking him off balance, making our dance difficult instead of fun, and causing his muscles to tense because they were doing all the work.

Patterns are the overall snapshots that show how we got from one place to another, and how that process affects others in our lives (for the better, or not).

Going to dance instead of going home to cry was the right choice.

I was proud of me for learning that, and acting on it.

For me, it was progress.

A new kind of grown-up-ness.

But the next step would be to let all that “tension” go instead of stuffing it inside myself until I am so burdened that I learn on others instead of doing my part.   Showing up to go through the motions was not enough; I needed to dance WELL, as I know how to do, no matter what is happening around me or to me.

I know better, and I am grateful for a dance teacher that holds me accountable.

It reminds me of home teachers and visiting teachers and Institute teachers and good friends that do the same thing for me.

I am grateful, and I do love them.

Because progress is good.  Absolutely.

But there is always more.

And this is what has been set before me:  to not be afraid, and to move forward.

I learn it again and again, over and over, in deeper and deeper layers.

I learn the lesson repeatedly until fear is purged out of every pore, and until every ounce of my being is filled with faith… and when I am, then I act on it.

Because the plan of salvation is a plan of action.

That’s what I learned today in D&C 88, which was so amazing it nearly blew my brains right out of my head.

And the fascinating thing is that the chapter opens with talking about gathering to hear the Lord’s will, and that is exactly when we learn to “act”, when we learn to dance with poise, and to move forward without fear.

We “gather” ourselves to hear the Lord’s will for us specifically in 12 ways:  General Conference, Sunday Meetings, Institute (or Seminary or Scripture Study), Singles (or Married Couples Meetings/Seminars/Classes), Friendship, Temple, Personal Prayer and Study, Family Home Evening, Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching, and Personal Revelation.

Whew.

But what is amazing is that it is through these “programs” that really are “acts of faith”, that we learn how to progress, and do so through obedience – which requires the actual practice of it (not just agreeing with it) – and it is in that way that we are prepared for eternity to live in the place which we NOW – this lifetime – now decide we are willing and comfortable with living.

It’s amazing!

We are governed and preserved by law, and so also perfected and sanctified by law (by obedience to the law).  This is our agency: not just that we can choose for ourselves, but that we participate in the choosing our consequences that go with those choices.  We declare our own judgment by our actions.

In Institute last week, we talked about how “kind” means “family” in every language.  We say “kin” for family, or “kindred spirits” for people who feel like family.  We say “mankind” for those who are our family because they are part of being human.

Excepting, of course, it is deeper than that.

Our Heavenly Father is the “Man of Holiness”.

That is why in the New Testament, Jesus is called “the Son of Man”.

It means “The Son of the Man of Holiness”.

We are “mankind”.

We should be “the people of the Man of Holiness”.

We can even take it further.

The Temple says “The House of the Lord” and “Holy is the House of the Lord”

House = Kind

And on earth, only the “people of the Man of Holiness” can enter.

It’s crazy amazing.

And so this is what I was thinking about when my friend Natalie send me pictures of fractals, and we talked of being made after a kind, and how together we demonstrate the pattern by being of a “like” “kind”.

And so again, it challenges the question of what “kind” do I want to become?  Who do I want to be like?

What pattern do I want repeated in my life, so that little bits of me become amazing patterns that create beautiful fractal images that prompt people to know I am a Daughter of the Man of Holiness?

And if I give the Sunday-School-but-honest answer of “wanting” to be like Christ, then what am I going to *DO* about it?!  How am I going to make it real?  Who do I need to forgive?  To whom do I owe restitution?  Who do I need to love, and how am I going to show it?  What can I do to help or serve or give in some way?

My Talk from my Brother’s Baptism

The challenge with writing the talk for my brother’s baptism was that there is, so much (of course!) that I want to teach him, and our window of opportunity – while ever opening – is still so very small. 

Also, I wanted to be sure that I humbled myself before my mother, and honored her – focusing completely on what she did well as a mother, and saying nothing that would make her uncomfortable or think of hard times or difficult times or failure or anything negative.  I wanted her to only hear positive things, only hear the love Heavenly Father has for her.   I also wanted to address her specific issue of why we had “to get baptized again to be a mormon”.

Here, again, is the picture of me and my brother just before his baptism:

THE TALK:

Kirk is my little brother, who is much taller than me.  Sometimes I call him my “big little brother”.  We are 20 months apart, and he was my best friend growing up.  Our parents taught us about God, and instilled in us a love for Christ as we grew up.  They were “goodly parents”.

However, we were not goodly children.  Before we finished high school, we were scattered as much as the tribes of Israel, each of us enslaved in our own bondage.

Two years ago I found The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints through my ballroom dance teacher.  Spending time at their house for my discussions with the missionaries brought back to me memories of my own family, and it made me hungry to rediscover them.

(Alma 36: 11b-24)

I was struck with such great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed, that I fell to the earth and I did hear no more.

  12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.

  13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.

  14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

  15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.

  16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.

  17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

  18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

  19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

  20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

  21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

  22 Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.

  23 But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.

  24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Almost as Alma’s father was, my mother was there when I returned from my years away.  She was there with open arms that taught me of the kind of love our Heavenly Father has for each of us.  He loves us individually and uniquely, and will make that known to use as much as we let Him.

My brother getting baptized today is his first step in letting Him.

We were both baptized when we were little, in another church.  Kirk, always the comedian, sneezed under water… causing the preacher to drop him.

We always joked whether that baptism “took” or not, since he made such a show of it.

But what we understand now, with more pieces of the full gospel, is that any ordinance requires the proper authority and power for it to “take”.  We have an understanding that this full gospel was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.  We understand that what this restoration restored was the proper priesthood authority.

When the proper priesthood authority is performing an ordinance, such as baptism, it is called “exercising the keys” of that authorit
y, for it is by those keys – that authority – that we have a right to enter and may progress.

Let me tell you about Kirk and keys.  When he was little, he always had these shorts that had a little hook on them.  My mother says they were called “camp shorts”.  He was not happy – no one was happy – we could not do anything or go anywhere – until he had a key on his shorts.  My mother was always scrounging everywhere to collect old keys, so that he could hook them to his shorts.  And really, these jangling keys were the only way we could keep up with him.

These silly keys he had to have were a type and shadow of what was to come, of the journey that begins today.

Kirk, there are not words to express what I feel at the realization that you will be restoring priesthood keys to our family.

It takes wisdom to sort through so much tradition to find the truth for yourself, and it takes humility to submit to being baptized again – this time by those who hold the proper keys – for it to “take”, even if you sneeze.

Baptism is one half of the first step in the process of living the gospel.  It is a journey, and I will tell you that the Lord is expectantly waiting to pour His blessings over you… and He will – to the degree you seek His face.   Today is only the beginning.  You will get out of this as much as you put in.  He will transform your life for the better to the degree you obey.  While His gift is free, you must do the work to open it.

Baptism is your first covenant.  You have worked hard through the repentance process, and this will continue.  But already I see the fruit of this process, the evidence.  One of the most profound for me to see is the softening of your heart toward me, the forgiveness you have offered, and our friendship which grows again.  This is the healing of the atonement, and in no other way possible.

Since you have kept your end of the deal, through continued repentance, Heavenly Father will keep His end of the deal, which is remission of your sins.  You will come out of those waters cleansed and washed clean, shinier than the yellow skin in which you were born.

Baptism is also the first step of becoming a member of the church, but it is only a step.  We are a covenant people, always with more to learn and more to do as we progress along the way.  Remember the dream with Jacob’s ladder, and keep climbing, one thing at a time, and then another – but always there is more.  Looking for that “more” and developing it in you is work that only you can do.  No one else can do it for you.  But He will help you, and we will encourage you.

Mark 16:16 says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…”, and both Matthew 3 and 2 Nephi 31 talk about how even Jesus, who knew no sin, was baptized – not just as an example to us, but so that His mortal body could be reunited with His spirit at resurrection, so that He could begin that journey home to His Father’s presence, that journey which you begin today.

I want to read from 1 Nephi 8 (v. 4-12):

4 But behold, Laman and Lemuel, I fear exceedingly because of you; for behold, methought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness.

  5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.

  6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.

  7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.

  8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.

  9 And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.

  10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

  11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

  12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

This is the joy that fills me this day.

For a year since I was baptized, I have gone to the Temple each week – not because I am good or noble, but in repentance and in some tiny way to make restitution for the destruction I caused our family while I was away.  (Hold up stack of Temple cards)  These are the names – only some of them – who now can partake of that fruit.  Doing their work has been some very special experiences, which I hope to share with you someday.

But –

This day, this day is a joy far greater, for you are here, humble and sincere, ready also to begin the journey yourself.

I want to read to you again the verses I shared in my testimony at your missionary discussion.  It is 2 Nephi 4, starting in verse 16 (through 30):

16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.

  17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

  18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

  19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

  20 My God hath been m
y support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

  21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

  22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

  23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

  24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

  25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

  26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

  27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

  28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

  29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

  30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

I share this with you not just because it is also my testimony, but to give you a taste of how complete and precise is the atonement of Christ.  The call from our Heavenly Father is always one of love, one of urging us toward repentance through the atonement so that we might become more like Him.  This process never ends, and while still in this mortal life, that process applies to our everyday life – but also takes us through the Temple.

So while I celebrate with you this day, and while soon I will honor you as the priesthood leader in our family, always – always – the Holy Spirit will remind you of the Temple, prompting you forward in your progression.

Today is only the beginning – yet still, like our freshly united family, and even as you begin a new family, our Heavenly Father says, “Welcome Home.”

An Introduction: Year Two

Samuel, Samuel.

I have not slept in the last night.  Not yet. I will now, soon.

Samuel, Samuel.

I had writing to do.  But now it is done and tucked away in my journal.

Samuel, Samuel.

You might notice that there are a few tiny changes on my blog!

That’s because I have been writing in this blog for a year now, and so it was time to transition.

I took down all the posts from the last year, excepting for Temple pictures only (no blogs written about Temples are left – pictures only, and only of those Temples which I myself have visited).  I love the Temple pictures so much I wanted to keep them, and that seems fair, but I wanted a fresh start for all my writing.

I am changing, and my perspective is changing, and the blog must change with me.

It is all good changes, the same kinds of changes as in my garden: deepening, growing, ripening, blossoming.  It is a pruning, a refining, a necessary editing.  It is good and right, and appropriate in its timing.

My blog can no longer be focused on learning about the church, though there will always be more to learn.

It must now focus on LIVING, which is an entirely different process.

I am becoming, present progressive-ly.  I am in the process of continuing to be becoming.

And with that comes a baptism of reverence.  It has washed over me, and I could not sleep until even my blog reflected that change within me.   This is better now; it is as it should be.

It is time to “step-up” and more carefully choose my words as I gather my thoughts, and more precisely record them here in ways that are useful and helpful.  It is time to hold close that which is sacred, and learn to remain silent on those things which are greater than words.  It is time to write with a wise purpose.

My first year, the time leading up to my baptism, and all through last year, was focused on what seemed to be my heart-verse, my soul-scripture, my spirit-breath from 2 Nephi 4:16-21. 

Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh: my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

~ 2 Nephi 4:16-21

I still believe this to be my life-verses that I need to continue to ponder.

So I am leaving it up.

However, the second verses were about being grafted in, being transplanted from poor ground to being nourished by the Lord himself (Jacob 5:21-22).

21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.

22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.

These are beautiful and precious scriptures, and I love them well.

But now being grafted in, and soon to be endowed with the covenant of my obedience in exchange for the sealing promise of spiritual adoption, I am ready to change to a new motto for this second verse.

So, as you can see on the right, I have taken the quote we often see at Institute as my new motto for my second year in the church.

If 2 Nephi 4:16-21 is my life scripture, this second one will by my year’s scripture (as Jacob 5 was for the last year).

It is from Elder Richard G. Scott, from THIS TALK, and it says this:

“Your happiness now and forever is conditioned on your degree of conversion and the transformation that it brings to your life.” 

I feel very prompted and confident that the coming year will develop through these words just as much as the last year developed through the words of Jacob 5.

It’s time to get to work now.

It is time to dig in.

So put your seat belt on.

Because year two begins now.