The Last Word

Ancient Guards

Have there ever been times when you felt alone, vulnerable, helpless—or maybe all three? I know I have. In fact, I feel those emotions right now as I navigate a circumstance with which I’ve never before been faced.

Navigation is an interesting concept. It involves accurately assessing your position then planning and following a route that will get you to your desired destination.

If you’re like me, your desired destination is exaltation in the highest celestial kingdom of God. To go back home to Him who gave you life. And if you’re like me, accurately assessing your current position might leave you a little crestfallen as it magnifies just how much territory looms between you and your desired destination.

When I recently went through the exercise of navigation, I was initially overwhelmed—but almost immediately, I envisioned the glorious scene shown above that I captured on a springtime drive through Utah's breathtaking American Fork Canyon.

In the beauty of this scene, I saw an entire lifetime of effort.

I am the fresh, new growth—shrubs, really—springing up from the river’s water, the symbol of all life. Just above me are those people in mortality—friends, teachers, church leaders—who stand tall enough to help me. I am blessed to have some of the best. Above them, the stately pines—my parents, my grandparents, and the rest of my ancestors, observing me keenly and breathing to my spirit which route I should follow. And above them all are the ancient, towering rocks—my Father, my Savior, and the Holy Spirit, guarding and directing and whispering the way in their effort to bring me back home; in their massive strength, they fervently guard me against those who would sway me forever off the path to the destination I so dearly hope to reach.

So, you see, I am not alone. I am not helpless, even though I might be nothing more than a tender new blossom like ones here. Because I have an entire assembly of guards, cheering me on as I navigate the next level on my way to a place where I can thank all of those guards face-to-face. You do too.

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In a season during which we recognize gratitude, I was reminded of this beautiful painting by the inspired Latter-day Saint artist Caitlin Connolly. Driven by a curiosity of the feminine, she has painted so many lovely pieces that speak to my heart. The one shown here particularly whispers to my spirit.

When I first saw it, I imagined myself as the younger woman on the left. Next to me, so close she is almost a part of me, is my mother. And next to her, virtually flesh of her flesh, is her mother—my beloved grandmother.

Seeing it again now so I could share it here resurrects all the feelings I had the first time I saw it. Then and now, I was moved with gratitude for all the ways those two women—my mother and my grandmother—became part of me in such central ways.

BLOG WOMEN paMy grandfather served in World War I, and after he returned, he developed what was then called “shell shock.” We know it as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After a career on the railroad and at Columbia Steel’s pig iron plant at Ironton, his mind slipped away, succumbing to the terrors of war. He was hospitalized at the Utah State Mental Hospital for the last two decades of his life.

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In this life, each of us is on a journey—and when we try to do it alone, we inevitably fall. Our spirits get bruised and battered—something that happens even to the strongest. The good news we should all remember is that Jesus Christ voluntarily accepted an assignment from the Father to save us. To save you. Your soul. Christ knows your name and loves you and willingly promised to do His very best to bring you back into the presence of the Father.

His ability to do so depends on your ability to trust Him.

BLOGBeeWindowAs I consider the need to trust the Lord with all my heart, regardless of what is happening in my life, I am reminded of an experience related by Elder James E. Talmage. Elder Talmage was writing his seminal masterpiece, Jesus the Christ, in a room in the Salt Lake Temple where he was free from distractions and had unrestricted access to the Spirit to assist him in creating that work.

MOSESWaterWhenever I look at mountains that are in my path, the ones that stand between me and my desired goal, I think of others who have overcome seemingly immovable obstacles. And those thoughts always lead me to Moses.

The great prophet Moses was given stewardship over the children of Israel—he was to lead them out of captivity in Egypt and take them through the desert to the promised land. That sounds pretty daunting to me, and perhaps it might have felt the same to Moses. But in fulfilling that stewardship, Moses taught us all two lessons of eternal import.

MOSESHorsesWith the children of Israel in tow, Moses led them from captivity as instructed by the Lord. But the Egyptians were not going to be easily denied. Fast on Moses’s heels, Pharaoh’s army approached with gathering speed, determined to capture their former slaves.

The chase was on, and Moses and the children of Israel were maintaining a shaky but decisive lead. Then it happened. It was the Red Sea. There Moses and his people were: towering sand dunes on every side, six hundred chariots bearing a ferocious army behind them, and nothing but a lot of water in front of them.

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Adoniram Judson was one of the first missionaries from America to be sent overseas. He entered what is now Brown University at the age of sixteen and graduated as valedictorian of his class at the age of nineteen. During his final year at Andover Theological Seminary, he dedicated himself to God and decided on a missionary career.

In 1812, just a few months after marrying his wife, Ann Hasseltine, he was sent to Burma, where he served as a Christian missionary for almost forty years.

img blg CUPOldCup1Ann and three of their children died while Adoniram was serving in Burma. When a fellow missionary, Sarah Boardman, lost her husband, Adoniram penned a letter to her in which he wrote: “You are now drinking the bitter cup whose dregs I am somewhat acquainted with. . . . I can assure you that months and months of heart-rending anguish are before you. . . . Yet take the bitter cup with both hands. You will soon learn a secret, that there is sweetness at the bottom.”

Some of the sweetness at the bottom of the cup surfaced years later when Sarah and Adoniram married and continued serving together in Burma.

I found such hope in that tender story. And I love the image of sweetness at the bottom of a bitter cup, waiting for the faithful to discover it.

But I love even more the image of the Savior filling a bitter cup with sweetness—transforming the entire cup from one that was bitter into one that testifies of His power and goodness. Creating a cup that overflows—every drop of it sweet. To read more, click below.

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