Monday, October 8, 2018

Happy Kids

I wanted to capture this one memory really quick before it escapes me.

Peter is just over 4 1/2 years old. He learned to ride his bike a few months ago, but with summer time being so hot in Modesto, he hardly practiced riding his bike. As a result, he still looks like a wobbly little deer that is learning how to walk. He veers around, can't really hold a straight line, and doesn't really know how to start. When he initially learned to ride, he could do those things okay, but without the practice, he can barely stay upright.

The other challenge with Peter is that he doesn't like being pushed into doing things that he's uncomfortable with. Obviously that's true of just about anyone, but he resists it more so, to the point where it's almost not even worth trying to push him into something new at all because he'll be totally resistant to the idea.

That setup all brings us to yesterday. It was General Conference weekend and we finished watching the last session. We typically go on Sunday walks and with the weather turning to fall, it was a nice day to head back out. I prodded Peter into riding his bike and he, of course, was hesitant. I let him ride on the street and jogged with him the whole way to make sure he didn't veer into traffic and that seemed to help him feel more comfortable. This ended up being just what he needed because he figured out how to start himself again on his own, and he was riding like a champ by the time we were done with the walk.

Now for the memory: Amy stayed with Jane and Peter as they rode their bikes home. I was lagging behind because Ali kept wanting to walk. As we got to the house, Peter stayed outside riding up and down our little cul-de-sac. Not only that, the kid was riding his laps while happily belting out all his primary songs from church. It was the cutest thing in the world to see him so happy and gleefully riding his bike, knowing he figured it out, and feeling just so proud of himself that he did so. It was such a highlight for me, one of many that makes me so happy to be a dad.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sam's Blessing

We decided to do Sam's blessing in Utah instead of our own ward. This is the first time we have done this, mostly because we're not super attached to our ward and thought it would be nice to do it with family. We would have done it in Amy's parents' ward, but we were driving home on the first Sunday of the month when it's traditionally done, so we decided to just do it at their house instead.

It ended up being really nice. In addition to David and Mary, Scott and Elisha came over with their kids, Brian Walton, Katie Johnson, and Greg and Sherrill Reid were all able to be there. I was especially happy that Greg and Sherrill could be there. For some reason, I invited them over as kind of an afterthought the day before the blessing, and he, of course, made it a priority and showed up.

We did the blessing in their front room which has just great lighting. It was a bright summery day just right after church. It was kind of funny because I kind of felt like that it would be kind of like a church meeting, but once everyone got there, the priesthood holders stood up and we did the blessing, and that was it. Not much fanfare or pomp, but it was really nice.

With my other baby blessings, I have gone into them with some pre-formed thoughts about the things I would like to bless them with. Most people in the church would probably disagree with that approach, saying that it should all come through the Spirit and that you are simply acting as a mouthpiece for God, but I don't see why if I'm acting as the proxy for the Lord, blessing his/my child, why some of my own thoughts wouldn't also be inspired, even if they are some things that I have conceived of beforehand.

This time, however, I felt more prompting in a direction with the blessing than I ever have before. I blessed Sam that he would be able to grow up with the blessings of peace and happiness that come through the gospel. As I started pursuing this line of thought, I felt impressed to say that Sam would be able to bring the light of the gospel to those who are in darkness. He would be the means by which the Lord could work through to touch the hearts of those who are despairing and help bring them back to the light of the Lord.

It was a neat experience for me because going into the blessing those weren't my thoughts at all. I didn't really have much going into the blessing, and maybe that's where you could argue that's because I finally allowed the Lord to speak through me. I still don't think I completely agree with that line of thinking, but this experience did help me to see more explicitly how God could use my voice.

This morning Dave shared with me that his dad had told him just how proud he was of me, and of the person that I have become. He said that he knew Dave had been seeing this all along, but he was able to have a broader perspective not being as closely connected to me to be able to see a little more about the far reaching impact the gospel has had on my life. I was happy to hear that, and so happy that he could be part of that experience with us.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Winning Over Jane

I wanted to capture a memory while I still have it. It came back to me while listening to my current book, and it was as vivid as ever, but not one that I recall regularly so that neural pathway will probably extinguish at some point and I need to make sure I keep a record of it somewhere.

Jane is a daddy's girl, through and through. She was at a point not that long ago where she would be kind of mean about it to Amy, but she's mellowed out a bit. This hasn't always been the case though. When she was a baby, she was very much all about mama. I don't think I ever really thought much of it because she was our first kid and I didn't really know any different. It didn't bother me either, it's just how it was.

 When she was about 9 months old, we were living in a small apartment in Michigan. I was interning at Ford for the summer and we were having a pretty good time there. That was a great summer for our little family and Jane was scooting around as our only child. We had a few toys and no furniture and that was our life back then. We were figuring out how to sleep train her and one night I decided that I would help her get to sleep without mom's help. I don't know what made me make that determination, but I was going to make sure that I could be one that she could come to and I would be able to put my own kid down for bed.

Jane can be stubborn. This has always been the case from the first night she was born and of all of the babies in the hospital that week, she was the only one who couldn't sleep without being held. On this particular night in Michigan, she just wouldn't settle down enough to fall asleep. I went in to comfort her and she just wasn't having it. She kept reaching for the door, desperate to get to mom. It wasn't a feeding thing. She has been fed. It was purely needing some kind of consolation and for whatever reason she just didn't want to get that from me. I held firm. I knew that I could wait out a half hour or longer if I needed to and that I would outlast her because a half hour to an infant is an eternity, right?

I held her, tried to console her, but it just wasn't working, and that was when I started to put her down on the ground. She was wailing, trying to make her way over to the door, and I just kept blocking her. I would pick her back up, try again, and then she would fight to get out of my clutch, and then I repeated the same process. I wanted her to know that if she wanted comfort, it was only going to be coming from me. It took a few attempts, but eventually she gave in. Cuddling into me, she calmed down, and I was able to get her to sleep on my own.

And the funny thing is from that point on it's like her brain got rewired. I became the favorite parent and she sought me over all else from that point on. It's a neat thing to be a parent. I love having memories to point back to where I can say, that's when I won you over. That was my night with Jane.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Here Comes the Baby

I wanted to post on Ali's birth. I started going through video that I had of the day that she was born and as I was going through it, I realized that the one part of the day that I didn't have - her actual birth - I failed to capture. Now looking back, I vaguely recall not wanting to get that actual recording because I felt like it would be too personal. Isn't that funny? In this day and age of social media and sharing everything digitally, I decided on this very significant event to pull back and not record it?

I mention all of this because I wanted to see the footage of the room for when she was born. In the weeks prior to her birth, I remember wondering to myself if I would feel anything special when she was born. I kind of dismissed the thought pretty quickly, but then as the moment arrived I really did feel something so very special.

The day of labor and delivery is one of the best days ever. It really is. There are so many swirling emotions as you are about to welcome a new child into this world. I couldn't remember much about my feelings from either Jane or Peter's birth. I know that they were happy occasions, but the specifics of those feelings eluded me. That's why, I guess, I paid special attention to that day when Alice was born.

Her birth was scheduled, unlike Jane and Peter's, but in reality how it unfolded wasn't that much different with the exception of the sudden rush of what it's like when Amy's water breaks and we know that we are about to have a baby. After that, it's all been routine for us.

I do remember Ali's crinkly head as it began to emerge from the birth canal, and the full head of dark hair that she was sporting as she came out, much more than our other kids. The thing that will always stay with me was this feeling of fullness that enveloped me. It was as spiritual experience as I have ever had. This feeling of warmth, love, and joy just washed over me like a Gatorade shower over the coach when the team wins the championship. It was that quick and I felt drenched in that warmth. It's a feeling I'll never forget.

I just wish that I had it captured on video to remember it better.

In any case, I'm so excited for our baby boy to arrive. To be honest, this one has been the hardest for me to get excited for, I think mostly because I know too much now as a parent of three kids. I know the disruptions that come with adding a newborn to the family. I know the many sleepless nights that are ahead for us. I'm quite familiar at this point with the physical and psychological adjustment that comes with a new baby and his arrival.

But I do know the good stuff too. I know the feeling of seeing your child for the first time. I know the sweet cuddles that come as our child settles into my chest and makes the tender coos and infant breathing noises that only a new baby can make. I also know the love and tenderness that our other kids can express as they welcome their newborn sibling. And I know all of the wonderful times Amy and I will fawn over ours kids as we talk about how much we love them once they have gone down for the night (after racing to get to that point in the first place. It's a funny irony).

I'm getting pretty ready for it. It's nice to have these memories to reflect on that bring me back to all of the wonderful things about having a new child in the first place.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter from...Modesto!

I never come on here anymore, but I still really value the exercise of writing. There were a couple of things from this past weekend that I wanted to capture somewhere and, well, that's why I'm here. 

I think the last post that I had was about changing jobs...2 years ago. I have since then changed jobs again, this time for a new company. BUT, that's not actually why I'm here. 

It's about my kids and about Holy Week, Easter, and General Conference weekend. 

We had a really great week this past week. Amy and I decided that we wanted to try and place more particular emphasis on Holy Week and really sharing with our kids what Easter is all about. I've said this to her a number of times, but I wish our church were better at Easter. The popular line that I attribute to President Hinckley about why we don't focus on crosses like other churches do is because we focus on the living Christ. It's a good line, and there's much truth to it, but for some reason it always feels like we end up skipping to the end of the story without remembering that the drama and the build-up to the resolution only occurs because of the preceeding acts. I think we do ourselves a disservice by not taking the requisite time that we should be spending on Christ, the crucifixion, atonement, and subsequent resurrection. It should be the holiest, most spiritual time of the year, but as a church sometimes it feels like we only pay lip service to it. We'll sometimes not even hold church meetings on Christmas day, but sometimes we barely even have an Easter program assembled for the bigger of the two holy days. At least in my opinion. 

So there you go, there's the background of why we decided we would spend more time this week focusing on the Lord and what he did for us. The week looked like this:
  • Sunday - Palm Sunday and triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 
  • Monday - Cleansing of the temple, and talking about what they mean to us. 
  • Tuesday - Focus on Christ teachings - this time around we focused on the parable of the 10 virgins, which for our kids, turned out to be really good. 
  • Wednesday - Last Supper and institution of the sacrament. 
  • Thursday - Gethsemane and the Atonement. 
  • Friday - Crucifixion. 
  • Saturday - Review some of the previous events and preview Easter Sunday. 
  • Sunday - Resurrection and appearances following resurrection. 
I'm looking forward to how this practice will evolve and help us as a family focus more on the Lord and this special week. 

All of that is to preface me talking about the two things that I wanted to bring up: the solemn assembly for General Conference that we had yesterday during the first session of Conference, and then tonight talking about the Resurrection. 

Solemn Assembly

Solemn Assemblies only happen every so often in the Church. Most commonly they occur with the sustaining of the new president of the Church. Other ones that I can think of were the dedication of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and the dedication of various temples, Nauvoo and Palmyra being the first ones that come to mind. 

President Monson passed away in January and so this was the first General Conference with our newest prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. I don't really remember that one that we had for President Monson even though it was in my adult life, and I'm almost certain that I watched it with my then girlfriend at the time, Becca Silva. So how things were arranged seemed new to me. 

They begin by naming the new President of the Church, then the First Presidency, and ask for sustaining votes from the top quorums of the Church, down through the other quorums and auxiliaries of the Church, starting with the First Presidency. 

We were seated in our home still finishing up breakfast. Jane, our oldest, was very interested in the proceedings. She's at a pretty good age (5 1/2) to where we can explain these things and she can grasp pretty well what's going on, and also the fact that she is naturally curious helps keep her pretty involved in these kinds of things. It's really kind of my favorite feature about that girl. 

Anyway, I stood when they asked for elders and sustained the prophet, and Amy did when it asked for the Relief Society, but what really stuck out to me was when it came time for the general body of the Church, which included our Jane. President Oaks was conducting the meeting and he asked for the general body of the church to sustain President Nelson, and we pointed it out to Jane and she stood up on top of her chair and proudly held her right arm up in the air. The spirit really touched my heart as I saw her participate in the meeting in a way that really seemed more grown up to me than just the little 5 year old body she is occupying right now. 

I know people hear about an 8 year old "making the decision" to get baptized and kind of roll their eyes at that. Well, of course they are deciding to get baptized. It's what the family expects of the child and has been working toward with that child, so to do otherwise would really upset the standards you have coached in your family dynamic. I've been that person with the semi-eye-roll. It's like saying that Jane decided on her own to eat her vegetables. Yeah, she decided that, but I also told her that she wasn't going to have the treat after dinner if she didn't, know what I mean? 

But I think I get it a little more now. There's more to it than that, because you can actually coach your child through those things, but they are acquiring those behaviors and practices on their own. Maybe I have to coach my kid through prayers most of the time from 1-4 years old, but some time during that 4th year of life, there's a light bulb that is starting to light, powered by its own electricity, to where the kid is acquiring those habits of their own volition. I've seen that with Jane a number of times over the past year or two. 

She's prayed a number of times on her own to try and solve her own problems. She got stuck in the back of the van before and couldn't figure out how to climb back over the seats, but she thought to say a prayer, then thought of a new way to climb out that worked. Another time I fell asleep with her on her bad while she was sick, and I woke up next to her in the night with her kneeling on her bed saying a prayer out loud to help her cough go away so she could go back to sleep. There are tiny acts of faith that are starting to accrete and form into the makings of her  own testimony. 

That's what I felt about seeing her raise her arm to the square in support of our new prophet. I was so grateful to have that moment. 

The Resurrection

We finished the night this evening talking about Easter morning and what happened in the tomb, and the events that played out thereafter. We reviewed the events of the last few days and then we started to talk about when Mary sees Jesus, and asks for where the body is. Thankfully, Amy started to telling the story because she had the details more firmly in her mind than I did. 

Amy shared that Mary talks to the Lord without realizing that it is Him. He asks her, "why weepest thou?" And she makes her reply, and then he says, "Mary," and that's when she realizes that it's Him, capital "H". Right as Amy explained that, I felt the spirit of her words, and I could see that Jane was feeling it too. I mentioned that I felt the spirit when Amy shared that story, and then Jane replied, "I felt the Holy Ghost" when Amy shared that story. 

Of all the things that I though were most helpful when I was taking the missionary discussions, I thought when Elder Quinn asked me how I felt about Jesus, and when I expressed my feelings and felt the spirit, he astutely said, "I felt the spirit when you shared that." That's when it clicked for me.

All those times where people say, "I feel/felt the spirit," as someone new to the church, I never had any clue what that meant. What does that feel like? What does that even mean? I never had any idea, that is, until Elder Quinn made that comment to me. 

Yesterday, after the Solemn Assembly experience, and maybe it even occurred to me before sometime earlier this week, I thought that if there were a time that I felt something like that that I should point it out. Maybe it could help Jane in the same way to identify what that is she is feeling. 

Well, the moment came and I felt it, and she confirmed that she felt it too. 

For the last couple of years I feel like my testimony has undergone some changes. I've never really questioned or been moved to doubt much, but I have just looked at things with some different perspective than I did 10, 15, or more years ago. I've wondered more times out loud, at least to myself, is this stuff really true? I've read other friends accounts of how they write off "the spirit" and attribute it to something else entirely. Or they consider the truth claims of the Church - the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, etc. - and the ascribe the events to other explanations. 

For me, it's these kinds of moments that confirm to me the truth claims of the Church. It's through the expression of faith in my children where I'm feeling something tangible, but not something that I can easily explain, like say, if we both felt the chill of a cold breeze. We shared a feeling, and she's barely understanding everything that is being said, but she is present enough in the moment and coherent and savvy enough to pick up on some level of meaning, and then the Spirit comes and is able to testify to the both of us. 

That's what it really comes down to, isn't it? I don't know any other way to explain that to someone. It's real, and it hides in the background, but it is really there. I know it is. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Changing Jobs

I wanted to write about my job transition, you know, for posterity's sake.

July 21st of last year I started my first job out of the MBA program with United Technologies. Truth be told, I had a hard time finding someone that would be willing to take a chance on me. What I started to run into more and more in my job search was that I was a little too removed from the business world to be able to find a graduate entry level job in HR. I had a couple of years of HR experience, sure, but I was about six years removed from that experience. Between graduating from the BYU MBA program and my last stint in HR was six years of meandering grad school experience.

I should give myself more credit. The MBA stuff wasn't meandering by any means, but my time in the psych program definitely was. I was trying to find my niche and not having much success.

So I was able to convince the folks at UTC that I was worth taking a chance on, and the entire time I was there, I felt like I was gold for them. That part I appreciated, because in the recruiting process, I was feeling mostly unappreciated.

I came on and performed well. I was identified as a high performer and I was told as much relatively early on. I was very flattered. But then things started to turn south with my department at my location. First my boss who recruited me to UTC left at Thanksgiving. Then our HR coordinator left, taking her nine years of experience with her. My labor rep counterpart left several months later, and all of a sudden, we were three HR professionals handling nearly 1300 hourly people and about 200 salaried people. We were stretched thin before my counterpart left, but after he was gone, we were drowning, and I was the lone person dedicated to labor relations at our plant. I loved the experience I was getting, but it was taking its toll on me.

Couple my feelings about work along with our feeling as a family that maybe we weren't as happy in Indiana as we would have liked to have felt. Our ward was good, but we didn't feel integrated. We had phenomenal neighbors, but in over a year being in our place we still didn't feel like we had anyone that we were especially close with. Having spent a previous summer in Michigan in addition to the time that we had already spent in Indy and we were feeling ready for something new. Being that I was only about a year removed from the MBA program, I was still in the habit of searching for jobs nearly everyday. It was a habit that I had gotten into for about 2 years while in the program and one that I kept up following my time there.

So I started applying to a few jobs here and there. I was really interested in Pepsico because I felt like that was a good fit for my experience, education, and I had heard a lot about their investment in the HR function and it felt like a good fit. I started working my BYU connections and felt confident about being able at least getting into the process with them.

Well, I applied to a few job postings by June 2015. At the end of the month we went on our summer vacation to Utah with Amy's family. On Monday, June 29th, my former boss at UTC called me up and said that she had an opportunity at her current company, Nestle. To be honest, it wasn't something that we were really excited about. It would mean that we would be staying in Indianapolis for at least another couple of years and we weren't exactly excited about that prospect for reasons I mentioned previously. Nestle was a more interesting company just from the branding perspective, but I wasn't sure that I was going to love the company. And I felt like I had a pretty good shot with Pepsi and I was excited for that prospect, but Nestle was a little more unknown to me.

I ended up talking to my former boss and she got me excited about it pretty quickly. The Indiana thing was still an obstacle, but Amy and I had both said that if we just had some people we felt close to, it might completely change our feeling about the area and going with Nestle did mean that we would be on the north-side of Indianapolis and we felt like there was a lot of potential in that kind of move. And one of the biggest pluses about Nestle was that I would be working for Jill again and I knew that at least for the next few years my working relationship with my boss would be great because it was so good before. Also, Jill is a great person to have in your corner and I knew that I would have her full confidence as a member of her team. Beyond all of that, Nestle has more western locations and the Nestle USA headquarters is actually based in Los Angeles, so long term if I were to stay with the company there is a clear path back West.

The week following our return back from Utah I came on-site to the Nestle Anderson site and had a round of interviews. I felt like everything went well, but I had no idea what the whole process would look like, if Jill would be the one to really drive the whole thing or not. I got my answer pretty quickly. Eight days after my first interview I had an offer in hand and had met with Jill's boss and gone to a nice dinner with the two of them while they did a hard sell on why Nestle is so great.

I wrestled with the decision. I felt like I had to take the opportunity for a lot of reasons. There was a pay bump, but the bigger thing for me was that Nestle felt like a more stable opportunity with lots of potential opportunities, which could possibly come with an international assignment and that was something that we were really excited to do if it ever came our way. I said yes, but gave a month's notice with UTC because I knew that I was putting them in such a bad spot.

That month with UTC was tough. It was flattering that they were trying to pitch me to stay. They were offering me an opportunity to move into the generalist role with them so my interfacing with the union would be much less than it was as the labor rep. They also were able to fill the labor manager role that had been open the previous 10 months, and it was looking like they were going to be able to start filling out the rest of the labor team as well. I was beginning to waffle. I also liked that UTC had the education benefit because I really was thinking about starting my new grad program in the fall at CCSU. And probably the biggest thing was that I felt like I would be able to continue with doing some of the good that I had been able to accomplish in my time there. I liked working for Steve and I really did feel like I was being challenged and was growing in a lot of ways. During this kind of limbo period I would often go out for a run in the evening and come back and tell Amy what I was struggling with.

But I still had my hesitations about UTC. It felt like a lot of people were leaving the company, not just at my site, but even on an HR call with the BIS business they were noting how hard it was for us to hold onto talented salaried employees. The business was seasonal, albeit not to the extent that it is with the automotive industry, for example, but it definitely had its ups and downs. It was a tough place to be for a lot of people, not just me. And I really just didn't feel like there was a lot of focus on the HR function.

I had been praying continually about the decision and wanted some sense of finality. One weekend about two weeks from my designated last day with UTC, I told Steve on a Friday that I would have a final decision for him and would let him know what I would be doing when we came back from the weekend. I don't think that I was really expecting anything really definitive as far as revelatory answers go. I felt like I was pretty sure about what I was going to do and confident that it was the right move going forward. I had a good idea of what I was going to do and didn't think that I needed heavenly nudging in one direction or another.

I went to bed that Friday night like I had every other night since I had put in my notice with UTC. Amy and I said prayers together, I said my own, and we were asleep after a typical Friday night. I woke up with a jolt at about 3am. My thoughts on the matter couldn't have been clearer. I was immediately coherent and the word in my mind was clear: No. Don't waste one more minute worrying about UTC and what was going to happen with them. Even though it was hard to say goodbye to Steve and Kelly, it was absolutely the right move for me to go to Nestle. The little things that weren't done in trying to get me to stay - Maribeth not taking me aside to talk, or the lack of clarity about the potential move into the generalist role - those things spoke volumes about their typical mode of handling their people. I was an important piece, sure, but they weren't exactly pulling out all the stops to get me to stay. Nestle with Jill was a great chance at something new, working for a very well known brand, and lots of opportunities to move into all kinds of different positions with the company.

I gave my final answer to Steve, played out the next couple weeks and that was that. My first few weeks and months at Nestle were just what I expected them to be. I was having lots of good opportunities to learn a new role with the company and getting good exposure to different kinds of work. I was really enjoying what I was doing without the high stress environment that UTC had been.

The benefit with all of this is the clarity you get with hindsight after some time has passed. I missed certain things about UTC. They happened to implement a parental leave policy that would have given me 8 weeks off when Alice was born in stead of the one week I got at Nestle. I missed out on the free schooling that would have been provided by the employee scholar program at UTC. Those were a couple of big things that I would have really liked.

What I didn't see coming, however, was that in February UTC had announced that they would be closing down their Indiana manufacturing facilities and moving all operations down to Mexico. This was a devastating blow for the community and everyone local to the area, but was just one more signal that I had made the right decision. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to deal with all of the drama that would surely come with a workforce knowing that they had an impending death sentence awaiting on their employment, but more just a signal of the divergent fortunes these two companies face. UTC, while a largely stable and profitable company, faces a lot more obstacles and challenges in its future than Nestle does. Nestle is the largest food manufacturer in the world. Our position is secure and it continues to make steady progress in profits year after year. It's really a pretty remarkable company. UTC would have found me a home. It's not like the plant closing would have meant the end of my road at the company because they did value me and I think they would have found me a home elsewhere. The bigger thing was just the stability that Nestle provides that UTC couldn't, and that's what I have been feeling most grateful for most recently.

What's also been a huge blessing has been all of the things that have come since I left UTC. We moved to the north side of Indianapolis. We bought our first home and love it. We are a part of a great ward that we actually were aiming not to be a part of, but as fortune or providence had it, we were steered to exactly where we needed to be. We have made some great friends being where we are at now and we love the position we are in.

Basically, everything that we were looking for that we felt like was lacking prior to our move was found once we got here. It's not like things were bad before either, but we just felt like there was more out there for us and we didn't feel settled with where things were at. That's been such a nice part of this process is feeling like, okay, this is exactly where we should be. You just can't beat that feeling.

I'm just so grateful that we've been guided to where we are at. It's such a good feeling knowing that you are just where you are supposed to be. I'm glad we have been sensitive enough to follow that direction and I'm grateful for the urging that I got because while I think it was the direction I was moving anyway, it was reaffirming to have the additional emphasis in feeling like it was the right direction to go. Maybe I would have later waffled, but with that backing there was no way I could second-guess that it was time to move on.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spiritual Experiences Journal


A few weeks ago we had a stake general priesthood meeting, During the instruction, our stake president recommended that we keep a journal of spiritual experiences throughout our life that we can go back to and reference. He didn't give any indication that it was to benefit our kids or anything really specific. He just kind of made the comment and then moved on to something else, but I started thinking about it and it felt like good counsel so of course I wrote it down in my little note-taking journal and I promptly and very lazily just left it there.

Then we had our semi-annual General Conference last weekend and it was something that came to my mind again during the Sunday sessions of conference, only it occurred to me as Amy and I were watching the hour-long special put together documenting the building of the Provo City Temple and all of the history surrounding the original building, the Provo Tabernacle.

As we were watching the documentary, I remembered the counsel from President Burdett and then realized that not only should I be writing down my own personal spiritual experiences, but that I should also recount things like the announcement of this temple. This was something that deeply affected me when the announcement was made and I think acknowledging these kinds of significant moments in the history of the church and even events in the world and my own perspective on them will be a good thing for my kids to hear about. Although I didn't think about this at the time, as I write now I realize that it's akin to the testimonies that were given during the time following Joseph Smith's martyrdom and the succession crisis that followed. The reason we know about those events are because of the numerous accounts from eye-witness testimonies. Heck, I guess the testimony of the 3 and 8 witnesses to the Book of Mormon are parallels also. We need these witnesses and we need to be able to understand the context of the time in which they occurred.

Obviously, this is not something that is in my own family history, but I think my kids and future would like to know my thoughts on some of these significant church events. But I think there is also a lot of value in just being able to refer back for my own sake to my own past and remember the lessons that I have learned and re-remember experiences that I have had. Isn't that one of the common refrains that we hear in the Book of Mormon? The verses that immediately come to my mind as I think about REMEMBER verses are in Helaman 5 where Helaman is speaking to his two boys, Nephi and Lehi and he's counseling them to "remember, remember" and then you get to verse 12 where he say to remember that it is on the rock of your Redeemer that you should build your spiritual foundation.

As I was thinking about this again recently, I think one of the biggest values that this kind of journal provides is to contextualize faith and a person's testimony. Sometimes it's easy to lose a lot of the meaning behind scripture when you just read a story without thinking about the broader context in which the events are occurring. It's easy to lose sight of the importance of the exodus of the children of Israel when you don't take the time to truly examine everything that is going on and how it's more than just a wild story with a number of unusual miracles that occur. It's easy to read the Liberty Jail sections in the Doctrine & Covenants and just think of them as sad verses for Joseph because he's just having a pretty rough time. There is so much richness there and it's why Nephi tells his brothers that they need to liken the scriptures to themselves.

On a slightly different, but still related note, here's another reason why I think this exercise is important: It's incredibly important to develop a faith that is agile and responsive in a world where values are shifting and disintegrating. In a CS Lewis way of explaining it, being a tree standing up against the wind is an easy thing to do in a forest of trees, but much harder when that tree stands in isolation. I think at some point, everyone is going to have to go through a time in life when a person will have to stand up against the winds of temptation that threaten to flatten the things that the individual holds dear.

Seeing this has been a theme that I feel like I have been witnessing in people that I've known over the course of the last 10 years. People that I knew growing up or as a young adult that I thought were rock solid in the gospel began falling away from the Church because they learn about some of the hard to reconcile aspects of our Church's past. Or the prevailing culture clamors loudly against our ideals when for decades and centuries, the conventional wisdom was closely aligned with our gospel principles. I am only 35 years old as I right this, but in just the last 10-15 years I have witnessed a titanic shift in the value placed on the traditional family as well as the elevation of tolerance as a surrogate for love. What I most want for my kids is to be able to stand for eternal principles and truths, even if that sometimes means enduring not just loneliness, but ridicule.

Bringing this back to the topic at hand, I want my kids to know that I lived through this time in the world with my faith intact. I have been able to keep the lamp of my testimony burning brightly in spite of the onslaughts in the world, and survived because of it as well. I think that's where the real value of this kind of Book of Remembrance will provide to my children and posterity.

Provo City Temple/Tabernacle

If you have spent any significant amount of time in Provo that you have had at least some interaction with the Provo Tabernacle. It's featured prominently in the city right in the main downtown area at University and Center Street. It was actually right near there where I got my first speeding ticket on my very first night moving into Provo prior to moving to Utah to start school at BYU. The building is probably one of the most notable buildings in Provo next to the library just north near campus and the Provo Temple and MTC. 

For my time there, I had some additional experiences with it. It was a place I ran by on many occasions when I lived up on the south side of Provo while attending grad school and later while I was married. I attended at least one Christmas concert there and had attended several stake events there as a single adult living in the nearby area. 

Like many Provo residents it was a very sad event to hear about the fire that consumed the building. I was engaged to Amy at the time and we lived not more than 2 miles away. Then you maybe took some time to drive passed it and see the remains and life goes on.

Then, almost a year later President Monson spoke in the opening session of General Conference and made what's come to be a customary announcement of new temples. At the 2;34 mark the video below you can jump to the part where President Monson begins to make the announcement.

I'll never forget the gasp from both the audience in the Conference Center as well as our own as he declared that they would be renovating it for the site of a second temple in the city of Provo.

The story of the Provo Tabernacle becoming the Provo City Temple provides an incredible metaphor for what God can and will do with our lives if we will partner with Him. Consumed and burnt out and a shell of our former selves, the Atonement can restore and renew a person to not only a previous state, but an exalted one, one suitable for the Lord to call His own. I just love that. I'm so grateful for the emphasis that the Church places on its historical edifices and the interest it has in preserving its history. I'm grateful for temples. And I'm grateful for the Atonement.