Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Life to Be Celebrated: President Gordon B. Hinckley

January 29, 2008

President Hinckley died Sunday evening, on January 27th. The news didn’t come unexpectedly. He was 97. The years were starting to catch up with him (finally). Last general conference (October 2007), he actually used his cane to get from his chair to the podium — the cane he always carried simply because he was advised to. He carried it, but that was all. He was beginning to slow. He had worked so hard for so long and he missed his Margery so much. I hated the idea of him lingering on, forced to stillness, all while his mind yearned to be active and doing. I wanted to see him vital and vibrant to the end (which he was). Surely it was time for him to be called home.

So, the news was not only unexpected, it also came as a relief (as callous as it may seem) — even news of joy. Mormons are odd that way. Death is but a portal, a door through which we all must pass, and we know that the best is yet to come. So, when we think of President Hinckley being called home, we think of his reunion with his beloved wife, of his falling to his knees at the feet of the Savior. I can see him wetting his feet with his tears of joy and gratitude, humility and love, and our Lord bending down to raise him up, enfolding him in his embrace. Surely, he said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

And so, we are glad, but still, sad for ourselves. How dearly we will miss him. How loved was he not only by adults and not exclusively members of the Church, but by all those who knew him. In the past two days, the outpouring of love and gratitude for him has been astounding. Youth from all over the world are standing for something. President Hinckley has invaded the unlikely realm of Facebook and MySpace, cyber communities primarily the domain of the high school and college students. Much of the content is worldly, sometimes vulgar, crude, and profane, espousing the value of immediate gratification and amorality. But tens of thousands of young people are using this medium to tell the world they love this great man, they will miss him, are grateful to him, and are openly professing the many ways he has touched their lives.

It is a difficult thing to imagine, such an outpouring of love from young people toward a 97-year-old man whom most have never seen in person and are of no family connection. But President Hinckley was true Christian charity and humble service. He strived to live and love as did his Lord and Savior, and we all, young and old, always knew how much he loved us and how hard he worked in our behalf. He especially loved the youth. He encouraged and uplifted them. He reached out and touched their hearts.

The secular press tries to explain him. They ask historians and scholars why and how he made such an impact on our lives, and they do their best to answer. They cite his lifetime of service and achievement, his 25 years at the helm of the Church, first as a counselor in the First Presidency and for the past 13+ years as the prophet, the phenomenal growth of the Church, the explosion of temple-building. They say he was a good and kind man, caring and intelligent and funny. But that is the best they can manage.

To understand him, one must know what is central to all. President Hinckley was and is a prophet of God. He received revelation in our behalf. He spoke the words of the Lord, and with those words came the confirmation of the Spirit that those things are true. He spoke the Lord’s message and it was always one of hope and joy and gladness. Amidst wars, famines and pestilence, earthquakes and mighty tempests, he always spoke of gratitude and optimism. I hear in my mind his voice saying ‘Isn’t it wonderful!’ I cannot say how many times I heard him use those words in illuminating the many gifts and promises our Father has in store for us, as well as those already showered down upon us. He always promised us the best is yet to come.

President Hinckley is beloved and revered by millions. He will be missed, remembered with tenderness and tears, but he will never be mourned. How can we help but rejoice for him? How can we help but say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy New You

From Jami Bernards to her son, Elder BJ Bernards, dated January 7, 2008

Dear Elder My Son, and Sam & Julia, Ben & Megan, Kiki, Sarah, grandparents, friends,

Did you have a good week? How did you celebrate the new year? Are you happy? Are you eating well? Are you in need of anything?

We had a fast and interesting week. New Year's eve we stayed home and watched a movie with the children, and fell asleep on the couch. We've had enough of partying. I can't even remember what we did on Tues. The kids did not have school, I know that. Wed. as I dove back into the milieu of the center, we received word that Uncle Stan had past on, Grandma Wanda's oldest brother who was 92. Dad and I both needed to be there at the funeral, so we decided to drive out to the SF bay area and take the kids with us, planning on leaving the next day, Thurs. Then we heard about the huge storm that was coming in and changed our plans. Had we been in the Sierra Nevada mountains during that storm it would have been awful. We might have been stranded for days. So we used Dad's last frequent flyer pass and bought one more ticket. We both were able to fly out Friday morning.*

. . . We rented a car and drove up to see Ben and Megan at their hotel in Sacramento. Megan's aunt Brenda had invited us to come to her home for dinner, which was very kind. In her neighborhood there were branches of trees right and left, and reports of ancient trees uprooted. Roads and parking lots had deep areas of flooding where the storm drains were clogged with debris from the downpour. Ben said the winds there were reported at 70 mph, and that had it been a storm coming off the Atlantic, it would have been classed as a hurricane. I am certain we were trying to land in the thick of it, and as it moved west it passed over Sacramento and on through the Sierra Nevada's, then Nevada. I am so grateful we were not in those mountains with all our children in the car!

It was good to be with Brad's cousins and extended family. The service for his uncle was at the *** church in his neighborhood, where he had been a member of the congregation for over 50 years 9 (having left the only true church some time in his early years). It was interesting to see their rites and rituals, 'having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.' It was also interesting to observe his posterity, that it was rather small, for someone of his age, (92), barely enough people to fill 1 1/2 short pews. There were less than 15 people there who were his descendants. Comparing that with what we know of families of righteous saints who have been married in the temple and have lived a lifetime of faithful service, it is truly remarkable the difference. I am convinced that the covenants of the temple and the blessings of the priesthood are real and powerful, and I am very grateful for them.

We attended Sacrament meeting the next day in Castro Valley. It was such a joy to witness ordinances of the priesthood, by those who have been called of God and ordained with power and authority from him. It was a blessing to partake of the emblems of his atonement, knowing that it was in the manner he had ordained, and that the officiators were ordained with his holy priesthood. I bore my testimony of the tremendous blessing it is to be a member of this church. I shared my privilege of reading from the Book of Mormon, and learning of the tree of life, and the love of God which is spread abroad in the hearts of the children of men. I felt to rejoice and share my witness that this is the true church, and that I have received that witness through the power of the Holy Ghost. I am so grateful for all my blessings. I am truly rich. And I am filled with desire to share this good news. I am grateful that you (BJ) are being diligent in the use of your time. I hope that you will maximize every moment, search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and you will be led to those who have been prepared to receive the gospel.

One of the brethren who bore his testimony said, 'Happy New You!' He was recently converted, and his 14 year old son was baptized the Saturday previous and was being confirmed a teacher that day. I love it. 'Happy New You!'

Time for me to get to work. I love you all,


* Story of harrowing flight to Oakland edited for length.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Attributes of a Loving Father

From Gay Neves to her three grandsons currently missionaries:

I’m writing this to my dearest, wonderful grandsons who are now serving the Lord, and everyone else in the family that I love so much. I’ve wanted so badly to share some things which are in my heart, and now I’m getting stronger, I’d like to share something that Brother Wayne Brickley said in one of his talks "How Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children." I couldn’t get the transcript, so I’ll have to paraphrase and give what quotes I was able to glean from the broadcast, but even the crumbs of the essence of the things he said and rang true on my heartstrings, like a memory.

Heber C Kimball said, "I’m perfectly satisfied that my Father and My God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively and good-natured being." Bro. Bridkley cited the joy of being in the presence of such a person as one of the incentives we have to live good lives. He said "How do I know that the reports of these attributes are true. "Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant and lively and good natured when I have his spirit."

The Lord said, through Joseph Smith, "I delight in a glad heart and a cheerful countenance."

"That arises from his own attribute. We left the presence of our Father with all that energy and absolute determination that we were going to come back. I bet one of our motives was that we really, really loved him; not only that we admired him and respected Him, we really, really enjoyed being with him.

For us to have a clear memory of Him, on the other side of this veil, would be cheating in keeping his commandments. We’d do it simply to be in the presence of such a beautiful being.

He quotes Heber C. Kimball again, "I can not think of anyone of my acquaintance so much like God as was Brother Brigham’s father, John Young. He was one of the liveliest and most cheerful man I ever knew and one of the best of men. He would come and visit and sit and talk with us and sing and do anything that was good, to make us lively and happy."

What if, in spite of all that I have working against me, my looks, my bank account, of whatever it might be that I feel is a limitation to me, I could at least become such a person."

Then he spoke of his children who had strayed. "I wonder what that would do when the day should come that the tentacles of the covenants start drawing them back from their imperfections and draw them in. I wonder how that would play into things if they were bonded to me, and these peaceful attributes . . . which I have cultivated in imitating God himself, were [the power.]

I love you, Grandma Neves