Sunday, December 30, 2007

Beautiful Savior

From Penny Freeman to Elder Paul Freeman, dated December 29, 2007

Dear Elder Sweetie,

As I said in my last, the Christmas program in the Mission Bend Ward was absolutely wonderful. Adam refuses to take credit for 'writing' it, but his compilation and editing was truly inspired for in everything and all, he testified of Jesus Christ. Since you couldn't be there, I'm posting this so that you can have not only the text but the lyrics to the music. Adam outdid himself with his choir. He was astounding to watch and singing in his choir was a blast.

Christmas 2007 Program
Mission Bend Ward

Song-Junior & Senior Primary: Beautiful Savior (Crusader's Hymn)
Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer the moonlight
And all the stars in heaven above.
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
And brings to all the world his love.

Fair are the meadows,
Fairer the woodlands
And all the flowers of blooming spring
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer.
He makes the sorrowing spirit sing.

Beautiful Savior!
Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Thee will I honor,
Praise and give glory,
Give praise and glory evermore!

Narrator: Christmas is a time of joy, celebration, family and charity. It is during this season that our minds and hearts are turned to those miraculous events in an ancient and distant land that led to the birth of Christ, the King of Kings. Of Christ, Moroni wrote:

“I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever” (Ether 12:41).

This morning, we invite you to not only think of the events surrounding the birth of the Christ Child, but also the gift of eternal life that He has offered to each and every one of us.

Song-Choir and Senior Primary: I Wonder as I Wander, Appalachian carol, arranged by Ann K. Andersen

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die,
For poor onry people like you and like I,
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all,
And high from God's heaven a star's light did fall,
And the promise of the ages they then did recall;

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God's angels in heaven to sing,
He surely could have had it for he was the King.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die,
For poor onry people like you and like I,
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

Narrator: A Modern apostle of the Lord, President James E. Faust, penned the following words:

They heard His voice, a voice so mild;
It pierced them through and made their souls to quake;
They saw Him come, a man in white,
The Savior who had suffered for their sake.
They felt the wounds in hands and side,
And each could testify; This is the Christ;
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Savior, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ, the healer of our souls
Who ransomed us with love divine.

I read His words, the words He prayed
While bearing sorrow in Gethsemane;
I feel His love, the price He paid.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?
With saints of old in joyful cry
I too can testify; This is the Christ;
This is the Christ, the holy Son of God,
Our Savior, Lord, Redeemer of mankind.
This is the Christ, the healer of our souls
Who ransomed us with love divine.

Duet: Gesu Bambino

When blossoms flowered 'mid the snows
Upon a winter night
Was born the Child, the Christmas Rose
The King of Love and Light.

The angels sang, the shepherds sang
The grateful earth rejoiced
And at His blessed birth the stars
Their exultation voiced.

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord.

Again the heart with rapture glows
To greet the holy night
That gave the world its Christmas Rose
Its King of Love and Light.

Let ev'ry voice acclaim His name
The grateful chorus swell
From paradise to earth He came
That we with Him might dwell.

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord.

Narrator: Nearly 600 years before the first Christmas, Nephi had a vision of Mary the mother of
Jesus, and of the sacred birth (1 Nephi 11:13-21):

13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of aNazareth I beheld a bvirgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

14 And it came to pass that I saw the aheavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the acondescension of God?

17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

18 And he said unto me: Behold, the avirgin whom thou seest is the bmother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the aSpirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a achild in her arms.

21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the aLamb of God, yea, even the bSon of the Eternal cFather!

Song-Duet/Women's chorus: Cradle Song written by Henry Watts, based on a poem by Patrick K. O'Haran

Sleep, oh my little one,
Quietly sleep.
Angels shall guard thee slumbering deep.
White wings about thee
Enfolding that flame,
Holy Immortal Ineffable name.
Sleep, O my little Lord,
Darling one sleep.

Sleep, oh my little one,
Quietly sleep.
Heaven’s high hosts around thee shall creep.
All love and glory,
Beauty and grace,
With the kiss of a mother rest on they face.
Sleep, O my little Lord,
Darling one sleep.

Sleep, my beloved
Little one, sleep;
No crying be heard; O stir not nor weep,
A bright star is shining
Above thy dear head,
And to this poor shelter great kings are led.
Sleep, O my little Lord,
Darling one, sleep.

Sleep, then my kingly one,
Gently and still.
See how thine angels watch on each hill.
Here is thy mother
Close, dearest heart;
I shall be with thee when shepherds depart.
Sleep, O my little Lord,
Darling one, sleep.

Song-Ward Choir: Born in a Stable by Robert W. Thygerson

Born in a stable, a small child so bright,
Born in a stall on this still night.
Sleeping so sweetly on pillow of hay,
God’s richest gift in manger lay.
Sleep, holy babe, pure as snow,
Sent down to weary earth for all to know.

Mary and Joseph, both gentle and mild,
Tenderly care for their newborn child,
Waiting the sunrise that welcomes the morn;
Sweet baby Jesus on earth now is born.
Sleep holy babe, pure as the snow,
sent down to weary earth for all to know.

Narrator: When commemorating the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the Savior, his modern day prophets and apostles wrote the following in the document, “The Living Christ”:

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary's cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world. He rose from the grave to "become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20).

Song-Men's Quartet: Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
The stars in the heavens looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing; the poor baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle ‘til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.

Song-Ward Choir: Do you hear what I hear? words and music by Noel Regney & Gloria Shayne, arranged by Barry Simeone

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see? Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see? Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea.”

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know? Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know? Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold--
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”

Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen to what I say! Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say! Listen to what I say!
A Child, A Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light.”

Narrator: Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote:

"His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

"I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father" (D&C 110:34).

Of Him the Prophets also declared:

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

"That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God" (D&C 76:24).


"We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—'built upon the foundation of ... apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone' (Eph. 2:20).

"We testify that He will someday return to earth. 'And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together' (Isa. 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.

"We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son." (see The Living Christ, The Testimony of the Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Song-Ward Choir: Oh Come Oh Come Emanuel, ancient Plainsong arranged by Robert P. Manookin

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Song-Ward Choir: I Believe in Christ, music by John Longhurst, arranged by Mack Wilberg, text by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

I believe in Christ, he is my king;
With all my heart to him I’ll sing;
I’ll raise my voice in praise and joy,
In grand amens my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ, he is God’s Son;
On earth to dwell his soul did come;
He healed the sick, the dead he raised,
Good works were his, his name be praised.

I believe in Christ, O blessed name,
As Mary’s Son he came to reign
’Mid mortal men, his earthly kin,
To save them from the woes of sin.
I believe in Christ, who marked the path,
Who did gain all his Father hath,
Who said to men: “Come, follow me,
That ye, my friends, with God may be.”

I believe in Christ—my Lord, my God—
My feet he plants on gospel sod;
I’ll worship him with all my might;
He is the source of truth and light.
I believe in Christ, he ransoms me;
From Satan’s grasp he sets me free,
And I shall live with joy and love
In his eternal courts above.

I believe in Christ, he stands supreme;
From him I’ll gain my fondest dream;
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: “Ye shall obtain.”
I believe in Christ; so come what may,
With him I’ll stand in that great day
When on this earth he comes again,
To rule among the sons of men.

Bishop’s Remarks

Closing Hymn-Choir & Congregation: Silent Night, lyrics by Josef Mohr, translated by John F. Young, music by Franz Xaver Gruber

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, loves pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

The Parable of the Marching Band

From Ben Bernards to Elder BJ Bernards, dated November 12, 2007

Hey BJ,

Hope you're doing well. Keep working hard, loving the people, loving your companion, and staying obedient. If you don't know what to do, get out and start talking to people Open your mouth. Make a game of it...get creative. Feel free to play people's guitars or drums -- or share it for a ward / branch / zone conference talent show.

My thoughts for today -- the Parable of the Marching Band. ( knew it had to come sooner or later, right?)

When I was in marching band, I had high aspirations to become Drum Major. I loved the importance, the power, the respect, etc. etc. I thought it was the most important role in the band...and I was mistaken. The most important role is that of Center Snare. Let me explain why.

Marching bands only work properly when everyone is marching and playing together, in time...right down to 1/128th of a beat. You can't be off by a fraction. You have to march in the right directions, stop where you're supposed to, point your bodies the right way, hold your instrument properly, play 6-10 pages of memorized music, and do so in perfect unison with several hundred other students. Some scientists have listed the number of simultaneous actions being performed during a marching band performance and determined that it cannot be done -- the human body simply cannot do all those things at the same time, let alone do them well. But countless of people, young and old, have done and continue to do so.

The drum major serves as a sort of visual metronome and conductor. They keep the beat, give signals as to how and when to play, and stand in a high, central place where everyone can see them. This does not guarantee that everyone WILL watch the drum major, and there are plenty of marchers that go the wrong way, play the wrong thing or at the wrong time, or otherwise mess up what would have been a beautiful, unified performance...all because they weren't following the drum major.

But the drum major isn't the true leader -- the Center Snare player is. You see, it is commonly observed that musicians in a group will subconsciously "follow" each other's musical cues in regards to tempo, volume, attacks and releases, and so forth. It is very easy to force the band to speed up or slow down, simply by speeding up or slowing down yourself, or to influence others to come in at the wrong time, play at the wrong volume, etc. etc., And if your instrument is easier to hear than others...such as high brass or woodwinds, or sharp percussive noises that are felt as well as heard...then others are more likely to follow your cues. Of all the instruments in the band that can throw off a group, drums are the worst -- musicians will subconsciously follow the beat that they feel / hear from drums more than any other player. In marching band, that means the Snare Line sets the tempo. And in the Snare Line, it's the Center Snare that leads all the others.

But this presents a problem. Sound waves are easily distorted. It is a simple job to follow the drum line's tempo when the marching band is in a closed room, lined up in a concert arc, and everyone can clearly hear and feel the beats. But when the band is spread out across an open air football field, and everyone is constantly moving in various directions, the sounds from the snare line are distorted and the beats are not felt / heard at the same time by everyone around the field. So if everyone tried to just march their show and play their music and only rely on the distorted audio cues, they wouldn't play in unison and the effort would fail.

That's where drum majors come in.

Now, even though they're on a podium and not moving and up higher than the other players, they still have the auditory problems that the other musicians deal with -- the drum major can't rely on the sound of the of the snare lines to set the tempo.

But they can rely on their eyes.

Light travels faster than sound. And the Center Snares feet (if he / she is worthy of her position) are constantly marking the time and moving in perfect synchronization with the tempo.

So no matter where the Snare Line moves, as long as the Drum Major watches their feet, he will be able to set the proper tempo.

And as long as the Band is watching the Drum Major and follow what they see, and not follow the other signals they're receiving all around them, they will be playing in unison. It takes great faith to follow that drum major and keep your eyes on them, but doing so is the only way to guarantee that the performance will be of championship quality.

It's especially difficult when the marchers around you take their eyes of for a split second, lose the beat, or follow a different signal that they're feeling / hearing. As marchers, you have to learn how to work together to maintain proper body spacing to create the visual shapes of the show; you align yourself based on where certain anchor and focus points are, it's the only way to make sure your lines are straight and your curves are not. But if you rely too much on the people around you, and don't follow the drum major, you and those around you will mess everything up.

This test of being able to follow the drum major is frequently pushed to the extreme in a friendly competition we called "The Drill Down". We only did it once a year. Everyone lines up in a big square grid without their instruments, and simply marches around, following verbal orders from the drum major and marching in time to the metronome beat clicked out with a pair of clavy's. It's an endurance / obedience contest to see who is the best marcher and can last the longest. If you make one tiny mistake -- you step off too soon / too late, stop too soon / late, turn the wrong direction, miss a beat, don't keep your arms up at the right angle -- you are eliminated. Those eliminated stand on the sidelines and watch as the pool of marchers gets smaller and smaller, the commands come more rapidly, the tempo increases dramatically, and the overall difficulty jumps by leaps and bounds.

Eventually only one or two people remain standing. When it's evident that they can't be eliminated via a march off, they are put to the final test, to see if they can be forced or persuaded to "break attention", i.e., to crack a smile, blink their eyes, drop their arms, or otherwise stop standing at perfect attention. Everyone that has been eliminated is given free reign to do or say anything they want to force that remaining marcher to break attention, and they will continue until he is broken or the drum major declares him the winner.

In my last drill down, I'd made it down to the final two. One of my good friends was the other marcher, and he was eliminated in a series of tricky calls and maneuvers that I'd barely performed myself. I was left standing there at attention, and the drum major yelled for everyone to "come break me." I stood there at attention as 200 kids ran full speed at me, charging like the glorious Rohirrim at the Battle of Minas Tirith, yelling and screaming and coming to stop within centimeters of my face. I was instantly engulfed in a sea of screaming, gnashing, tormenting pubescent marching band geeks that jostled and swirled and yelled and played their piccolos at high-pitched minor-second intervals (but then, I"m being redundant) -- can you imagine a more ghastly, horrifying, vortex of humanity? Me neither.

They took great pride in trying to break me, screaming in both of my ears at point blank range, trying to do anything and everything to break me. THey even started invoking names of color guard girls I was interested in and pulling at my clothes (I think someone even tried to pants me and see what I would do.)

The only thing I could do was to close down my 'external' senses and focus every bit of mental concentration I had on a single point of steely resolve, far far away in my mind. Everything rolled off me like raindrops, and I felt tossed like a ship on the ocean...but no matter how hard the waves of the marchers crashed, I would.....not....capsize. I simply wouldn't. I had made up my mind that I was going to win, and nothing would keep me from breaking.

The storm lasted forever. My arms and back were burning. My eardrums were ringing in pain from the screaming and yelling. But my mind stayed calm and quiet, and I knew that it would soon be over.

And over it was. The drum major called off the hounds, and the staff members watching quietly came over, dismissed me from attention and congratulated me. I nearly collapsed right there on the field and I'm sure the others cheered and jeered a bit. Practice went on and I didn't receive any award or recognition for it...but I knew what I had accomplished. I knew that when I'd set my mind to stay at attention, I would do it, no matter the cost, no matter the torment around me. A sweet peaceful strength made itself right at home inside me for a long time after that, as I knew what I was capable of.

So, enough of the story. I'm sure the parable is pretty clear.

Who is the Center Snare? And Who is His Drum Major? Or the Assistant Drum Majors or Section Leaders? Who do you look to? Who will you follow? Who will you keep your eyes on, even when those around you try to step off at the wrong time, who march the wrong direction, who play the wrong music? Wherein will you find your resolve when the world tries to crash upon you? When you are "called to attention", would you stand so, even if those around you break and try to get you to break as well? Would you stand alone in the face of all the other missionaries? Would you march to the beat of His drum, even if you were the only person doing so?

I know you would. In the words of Samuel D. Bernards, "You are mighty...because you kneel."

I love you bro. Work it up.

I Stand All Amazed

To Elder Paul Freeman, dated October 30, 2007

Dear Elder Sweetie,

Hey. It’s funny how I make a whole list of things I think I’m going to tell you when I write, and then when I sit down to write, it all shoots out the window.

I did really want to tell you that the camera is cool. Have fun with it, but use it to supplement your journal/personal history, not replace it. Also, don’t become a tourist missionary. I know you know better than that, especially after your experience with the type in Samoa, but, I’m the mom so I get to nag on ya just a bit. You’d think I was slacking off if I didn’t tell you something you didn’t already know at least once a month, neh?

One of the things I’ve been forgetting to tell you for a couple of weeks now is that Dad got a new pet. He hasn’t named her yet, as he says it’s bad luck to name a baby banana tree until after the cold season, especially if she’s only two feet high.

She has a nice comfy little spot by the back fence, however. We went looking for sod to cover up the gaping hole they made in the lawn when they fixed the leak in our water line. He saw some really humongous trees, but he said he didn’t want anything that had leaves taller than he was, so we took a pass on those. Besides which, the $350 was a bit exorbitant. He looked at some medium trees, but then he saw that poor little baby tree and just couldn’t leave her behind. (Think ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas’ and you’ve got the right idea.)

She suffered from being left in the car while we went into Kroger, I’m afraid. Two of her three leaves got somewhat steamed, but Dad just cut off the bad parts and she’s not the worse for wear. Her fourth leaf was just coming out, starting to unfurl when we adopted her, and now she has the beginning of a fifth starting to shoot up.

When we brought her home, I went into the house to put the groceries away and stuff, and Dad came in and said, um, could you help me out here? I went out there and he had chopped down half of one of the end bush out by the fence to make room for the banana tree. (Yes, she really should have gone where the holly bushes are, but you didn’t take them out, and Dad and I had trouble enough dealing with the laurel out back). Dad hacked away at the trunks and branches and stuff with the machete and I broke the stuff down further. We filled up two big trash cans with the refuse, tightly packed because I was doing it, and still have a pile of logs out by the compost. I’m not sure what Dad’s going to do with them. We seem to be collecting that sort of thing at the moment.

Now, he tends her quite lovingly. We bought some dirt and peat that he’s mulched her with and she’s got a nice big trough going all around her that Dad fills with water now and again. I’m afraid the hole wasn’t as big as we would have liked as Dad was digging it after he chopped down the bush, and between the clay and the roots, it was next to impossible.

Speaking of roots, our next-door neighbor has started trying to dig post holes for the fence, but I’m afraid it isn’t going so well. There are so many roots and stuff, it’s really difficult to do. Dad says that some of the trees need to come out, and I’m afraid I have to agree with him. Unfortunately, most of the trees that need to come out are on their side of the fence, so it’s not as simple a solution as one would think.

It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I feel like we should be helping them somehow, but how is the question. I think we’ll end up halving the materials or something. It’s kind of a dicey business. But, last Saturday while Dad was out tending the banana tree, it got dark and way past dinnertime and I had to go fetch him. He was yammering over the fence with the neighbors, so that’s a good sign. Your dad does the weirdest things sometimes.

Oh!!! I can’t believe I didn’t lead off with this. Adam got his BIG promotion. I don’t know if you were here when he first got wind of it or not. If you were, forgive the repetition, but Jim (the CFO) took just him out for lunch one day and said they were going to need a materials manager pretty soon. Adam said, ‘when do I start?’ Jim told him he just needed to clear it with the higher-ups.

So, today Jim snagged him as he passed and said he got the job. He starts in his new official capacity on January 8th or something. They haven’t negotiated anything yet (such as job title, salary and his own office, etc), but it’s a major, major coupe for him. He’ll be reporting directly to the global Operations Manager who reports directly to T---’s CEO. His title will be something like materials manager or some such. We’re all hoping that he’ll get an office because he really needs one. It’s just too chaotic in the cubical pit. I’ve got visions of them helping to pay for his master’s degree. That would be really cool.

Did I ever mention that he’s got Dallas talked into biomedical mechanical engineering? He’s going to design the joints for Adam to distribute. That totally shocked me to hear because I had said something along those lines in passing (such as, medicine is where the money is), and he never betrayed any interest. But, it’s very like him to listen to Adam, so that’s good.

. . . Conference was so incredible for me — for us. I have been going to the temple once a week and I think that really prepared us to hear the voice of the Lord. I know Heavenly Father spoke to me through the mouths of his prophets. Since then, . . . everything has been a lot calmer. I just can’t seem to work up a snit about anything. There are causes for concern a’plenty, but I always get peace and reassurance. Heavenly Father tells me, ‘Be still and know that I am God,’ when I go to the temple, and so, as you can imagine, I do what I can to get there as often as possible.

I even got up and bore my testimony on Sunday (we have stake conference next week), and President T--- was on the stand. I was nervous as all get-out, especially because when I consider Heavenly Father working through his servants to bless our family, President T--- is right up there at the head of the list and I had to say so. I felt kind of goofy, but out it came anyway. He smiled at me and mouthed ‘thank you’ as I scuttled back down to my seat, so I’m thinking I didn’t make too big of a fool of myself.

Did I ever tell you that they created a new ward? They called it G---, so I’m thinking that they must have taken some of the K--- ward as well as some of one of T--- wards to make it. That’s ten wards in our stake now, and it’s a bit of a concern. I’m worried that they’ll split the stake north/south, which will put us in something other than President T---’s stake. That would make me sad.

We’ll be moving to the 2:30 block in January. Ugh. But, the good thing is, I’m hoping that will make it easier to get to choir practice. Since the T--- moved into their new house in the S--- ward, Sister L--- and Sister P--- have been rattling my cage about getting back to choir. I promised Sister Lyon I would when we changed to the new schedule, but I know I really should now. I know. It’s all a matter of faith, neh?

Speaking of Sister P---, did I mention that she’s my visiting teaching companion? We decided today that we’re going to go four-wheeling down the dirt road into the forest because we want to see how the construction is coming along for the bridge at T---. That’s going to be fun. Sister P--- has her own dirt bike, but we decided an ATV would be wiser if I was tagging along.

The thing that I’ve been most wanting to relate to you is a bit different than all of the above. Actually, it’s two things.

First, I’ve been trying to strengthen my obedience in keeping the commandments. Victor said something once about prayer that has stuck with me ever since and makes a lot of sense to me. He said true prayer is all about heeding the Spirit’s promptings about what to pray for. So, it’s listening as well as speaking.

Also, it’s always strengthened me and made my prayers more meaningful when I consider my Heavenly Father sitting on the bed beside me as I kneel to pray. Often, I have pondered exactly what ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ meant to me. When I approach my Heavenly Father in prayer, do I get through the door because Christ opened it? Or am I saying, Christ sent me? These thoughts have rattled around in my head, but I could never quite get the confirmation I needed. Then, the other day, as I knelt to pray, I thought, to me, it means Christ kneeling beside me, Him saying to Father, ‘Here is my sister. Hear her, I pray.’

Darlin’, that prayer was the sweetest, most profound experience I have ever had in all my attempts to grow more near to my Father. My love for my Savior overran me as I felt that conduit to heaven open up to me. I felt as if my Father laid His hand upon my head as I spoke, as I wept, and my surety of the Atonement, of my Savior’s love and sacrifice for me filled me up to bursting. I did not want to cease praying. I could not. One entreaty led to another and then another, and I understood Enos as I had never done before. With each exchange, for surely, they were exchanges between him and the Father, as they were between me and the Father, the communication became more clear, less muddled, more pure, and the Spirit filled him with a greater understanding of those for whom he should pray.

Since then, I have understood that communication as I never have done. When prophets of old have prayed for great miracles — or when they have refrained from providing the proof demanded of them by the ungodly — they have done so because the Spirit prompted them. They didn’t simply act on a set of guidelines they had assimilated. The Spirit told them that for which they should pray. When the Lord promised them that He would grant whatsoever they begged of Him, He did so with the utmost confidence in them because He knew they knew the promptings of the Spirit.

I caught a small glimmer of that, and yesterday as I was reading in Third Nephi, when it says the people heard and testified that the tongue could not convey those things which they saw and heard when Christ prayed to the Father on their behalf, I caught a glimmer smaller still, but surely it leaves me filled with wonder. What must it have been like to witness and experience that pure communication between Christ and our Heavenly Father? Surely Christ wept for joy because of all those He had strived to teach and lead, those people allowed themselves to see what He would have them see. They accepted the great gifts He would give them. How great must have been his joy.

The second thing that happened to me, or that I experienced, was during the Sacrament the following week. I found myself pondering my Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane and wondering whom it must have been who was allowed the great privilege of offering Him succor as He paid that infinite price. An angel came and ministered unto Him, perhaps to mop His brow of the blood and sweat, perhaps to offer water, perhaps to brace Him as He suffered unimaginable pain.

I thought surely that angel must have been corporeal, which made a short list of those taken up into Heaven without tasting death, whose bodies were translated and they retained them still. Perhaps it was Alma or Noah or Elijah or Enoch. Surely they had been translated because they work they yet had to perform required physical bodies, and not until Christ defeated death could resurrection take place.

As I thought on it, I thought of the anguish they themselves suffered in being forced to watch their Christ suffer as He did and themselves unable to share the burden. I thought of them weeping with His agony, and I could not stem my own tears.

Christ is real, my son. His Atonement is real and sure and certain. I believe often times we make it too complicated, perhaps because we cannot believe ourselves worthy of such a price, but it is so simple. It is breathtaking and beautiful. Christ suffered and died for my sins. He forgives me freely. He assures me of His love even as I fail and fail again. He offers me His strength, if I will but lean on His ample arm. His criteria is simple because His work and His glory is to bring us back to Heavenly Father. We but need to come unto Him. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Rejoice. Surely, we must rejoice. We must shout hosannas to the most high God. These things are true, of this I testify in His name.

As part of that experience, I cannot recall the sequence, I had my Book of Mormon open to Third Nephi and was reading of the calamities to befall those in the Americas at the time of His crucifixion. Whenever I think about this, visions of volcanoes erupting and earthquakes rending the earth have filled my head, but that day, I comprehended the storm. The hurricane. As I read of the cities swallowed by the sea, I thought of the Mississippi coast devastated by the storm surge. As I read of mountains covering others, I thought of the great mud slides which happen so often in Central America in the wake of such storms, those which cover thousands of homes. When it talks of people carried away by the whirlwind, I think of the infinite videos we have seen. I think of the trees falling before it. I see the lightning that cracks the sky and the thunder which shakes the earth. I experience all this, and then I consider it must have been a ten times worse than anything I have ever experienced firsthand. I still have visions of volcanoes spewing fire to rain down from the heavens and consider the earth roiling beneath their feet, but setting it all in the face of that mighty hurricane makes it even more real for me.

I consider the aftermath, all the survivors struggling to put their lives together again, and images of destroyed families picking through the wreckage of Katrina fill my head, as do the images of a land inexorably altered by the storm. I think of all those Mormons running around with chain saws offering help to whomsoever required it, and I see those people gathered at the temple at Bountiful, perhaps there to restore and rebuild their Father’s house. Surely, Christ would show Himself to just such folk — those who recalled the promises as well as the devastation and who always remembered Him, no matter the circumstances.

Then, I think that you probably have a more profound understanding of that than anyone in our family. Now, as you busy yourself with helping the displaced and homeless from the fires, as you offer your service freely, as you ever have done, another layer of experience and understanding is added to you, and surely strengthens your testimony of Christ’s love and your own purpose. We cannot live His commandments and strive to become more like Him without our testimonies of Him strengthening as well.

I consider all these things, and I marvel. I know Heavenly Father is preparing you. He has a great work in store for you, and that is what all this is all about.

But then, you already knew that, but like I said. I’m the mom. I get to overstate the obvious. It’s one of the perks of the job.

Now, I’ve got to quit because Sister P--- and I are going to catch the nine o’clock session in the morning, and then Ariane is going to catch an afternoon session and then take the kids trick-or-treating. How’s that for a jarring segue?

I love you, darlin’. Never, ever forget it.