No Ordinary Blessing

Dear Will:

I think I’ve mentioned before that I teach early morning Seminary. My class begins at 5:45 a.m. each school day. This year we are studying the Old Testament.

In preparation for this week’s classes, I have been reading about the prophet Enoch.  Although there are men in the scriptures who seem a bit inaccessible to me either because they’re too perfect or too superhuman (I’m thinking about Nephi and Elijah, for example), Enoch seems like my kind of guy. Uncertain. Deeply flawed. Human.

When God first told Enoch that he wanted him to go preach to the people, Enoch was full of very reasonable excuses. “Why me?” he said in essence. “I’m too young, nobody likes me, and I don’t talk so good” (see Moses 6:31). Something like that, anyway. Well, God sent him out nonetheless, and the early results were not very promising. We’re told that “all men were offended because of him.” Some said, “there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us” (Moses 6:37-38). (You can see what this new assignment did for Enoch’s popularity.)

Even so, Enoch persisted, and the people came around—and then some. So great was the impact of this one, humble man and his glorious message that “the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).

Imagine. Who wouldn’t want to live in such a place with such a great group of people? And to think it was all made possible by a reluctant prophet—a man who thought himself so awkward and so unpopular that he tried at first to decline the assignment.

You and I may never have the opportunity to dwell in such a place, but fortunately we do enjoy the benefits that come from having a living prophet on the earth. This coming weekend, in fact, Thomas S. Monson will be addressing the world along with his counselors and the Twelve Apostles, men divinely appointed to share with us the will and word of the Lord.

Enoch’s followers had to go up into the mountains to hear his message. But you and I can hear a prophet’s voice without even getting up off of the sofa. If your receive BYU-TV through your cable provider (most of them carry it), you’re all set. And if not, you can always watch a live stream of the conference online. Just go to lds.org where you’ll find all kinds of options for hearing the words of the prophet in your own home. (Sessions run both Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 2, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. PDT.)

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, reminds us of what a blessing it is to have a living prophet—and the miraculous technology that allows us to hear his words here in California even though he is standing and speaking hundreds of miles away:

“Our merciful and loving Heavenly Father has not forsaken and will not forsake His children. Today, as well as in times past, He has appointed apostles and prophets. He continues to reveal His word to them.

“What a marvelous privilege it is to hear God’s messages for each of us during general conference! Let us prepare well for this great blessing of divine guidance delivered by His chosen servants.

“For this is no ordinary blessing” (Ensign, Sept. 2011).

I’m looking forward to a great, inspiring weekend. As one who is himself deeply flawed and very human, I need all the help I can get.

PW

Only That Day Dawns to Which We Are Awake

Dear Will:

I woke up this morning to a wet patio. Some time near dawn, it had rained.

There are few things as refreshing to body and soul as a summer rain (around here anyway). It cleans our smoggy air, washes dust from the street and sidewalks, brings welcome nourishment to our parched earth. I suppose in some way it does the same thing for each of us, providing clarity and renewal of spirit.

Happy though I was to see that some rain had fallen, I stood with a degree of disappointment as I looked out on my soggy backyard. It had rained and I had missed it—and who knows when it might rain again around here. I looked up, saw blue skies, and knew that the “shower” had already come and gone. If only I had gotten up a little earlier, I thought. If only.

Near the end of Walden (one of my all-time favorites), Henry David Thoreau says: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” If you want to benefit from new ideas, new thinking, altered perspectives, you have to be open and watching for the possibility, in other words. I think we’ve seen evidence of that in “the Arab Spring,” haven’t we? Thousands of people throughout the Arab world have witnessed and participated in a shift in thinking—the dawning of democracy—because when the moment arrived they were, as it were, awake.

It has caused me to ask myself how I would respond given a similar opportunity. Am I truly open to fresh perspective? If it’s true, as Thoreau says, that “there is more day to dawn,” that the sun is truly “a Morningstar,” am I sufficiently awake to perceive the light? You might even ask it this way: If God wanted to talk to me, would I hear or sleep right through it?

As I ponder all of this, I can’t help but think of something said in our last General Conference by Elder David A. Bednar. He was talking about the way that God communicates directly to his children—the patterns of personal revelation:

A light turned on in a dark room is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. Many of us have experienced this pattern of revelation as we have been given answers to sincere prayers or been provided with needed direction or protection, according to God’s will and timing. Descriptions of such immediate and intense manifestations are found in the scriptures, recounted in Church history, and evidenced in our own lives. Indeed, these mighty miracles do occur. However, this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.

The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently “distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45). This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare.*

Like a sudden summer shower, light from God can come upon us unawares, and if we are not truly awake we’ll miss it altogether.

As I finish this note, I look outside to see that the clouds have gathered once again and drops have begun to fall. I’m heading outside to see and feel and celebrate the summer rain.

PW

* You can watch or read the entire talk here. I highly recommend it.

A Weekend Bonanza

Dear Will:

When my son Seth turned 12 in February, he was ordained a deacon. His best-friend-for-life, Cameron, was made a deacon around that same time. Since Cameron’s dad Warren and I are also good friends, he and I promised the boys we would take them to Salt Lake City to attend the Church’s semi-annual General Conference—our way of welcoming them into the priesthood. So it was that the four of us flew to Salt Lake last week in a four-seat Bonanza with Warren at the controls. The skies were clear and the weather was beautiful when we arrived—highs in the low 70s.

What a marvelous adventure! We had the sort of father/son bonding time that you would imagine and got to attend two of the five sessions of the conference in person. In the Priesthood session, we sat just a few rows back, directly in front of the Prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson. Through incredible good fortune, the boys even got to meet six of the twelve Apostles (a thrill as big for the dads as for the boys, I must admit). But the fun was just beginning.

On Sunday morning, we awoke to several inches of snow on the ground—which delighted the boys, of course. Because of the weather, we waited until late in the afternoon to begin the flight home. Although it was still snowing when we took off, we soon found ourselves with a clear, sun-washed view of the Salt Lake valley. I can’t describe to you how beautiful it was, with a fresh blanket of white snow covering the hills and mountains all around. It was truly glorious.

Then as we flew south through the Utah desert, the snow disappeared. Although I have driven through that rocky corridor many times, I had never gotten that bird’s-eye view before. (Commercial airlines fly too high, but in the Bonanza we were at 12,000 feet.) It was the perfect time of day for the flight: early evening, when the sun was casting wonderful shadows off of the red rocks, buttes and mesas of southern Utah. Indescribable.

As I looked out the window that evening, it occurred to me that the flight home provided an apt metaphor for General Conference. The weekend of Conference allowed us to rise above our usual cares and concerns and get a perspective on the things that truly matter. As servants of God, our leaders enabled us to see farther and more clearly as we look off toward a distant horizon. And the view they provided was truly glorious.

In case you’re interested, the Church posts the transcripts and video from the Conference online. You can find the whole proceedings here.

Here are some of my favorite talks from the Conference that I would highly recommend:

I would also encourage you to review any of the messages from President Monson. If you get a chance to do so, you will feel lifted above your present cares, and you too will gain clarity and perspective to help you deal with your day-to-day challenges.

PW