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. 

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