Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ministering Angels

 Observation: December 16, 2007

In reading the December, 2007, Ensign the other day I read the article written by Merrill J. Bateman, former President of BYU and now a general authority emeritus, entitled, "A Season for Angels." I thought it was a nice message but it didn't really grab me until I got to the very end where he made a most profound and significant point that went right to my heart. I am sure many of you have already read this article, and if you have, it could bear reading once again, and if you haven't, you will want to do so.
It is not my purpose to give an in-depth review of this beautiful article, but to highlight the theme and purpose he had in mind as he wrote it and why it has tugged at my heart strings.

He said that the ushering in of every gospel dispensation has involved the working of miracles, and the ministration of angels delivering vital knowledge, and priesthood keys and power. The reason for this is that there has not been the essential Melchizedek Priesthood authority on earth at these times to establish the Kingdom of God. Therefore, heavenly messengers, angels, have been sent with the necessary power and authority to usher in each new dispensation of the gospel. For example, in the ushering in the dispensation of the Meridian of Time, the visitation of angels was very prevalent because of the apostate nature of Judaism -- no Melchizedek Priesthood at that time, and because of the eternal importance and implications surrounding the birth and atonement of Christ.

Think of the angelic visitations to Zachariah, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, the shepherds, and then the angel warning Joseph to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt to protect them from the wrath of Herod. And then consider the vast number of miracles performed by Jesus during his three-year ministry preceding his death and resurrection. In the Garden of Gethsemane an angel came and strengthened the Savior, two angels bore witness that he had arisen from the empty tomb and two more angels were in attendance at his ascension into heaven. It truly was a "Season of Angels." I am sure this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the number of angelic visitors that visited and taught Jesus during his 33 years of mortality.

We know that the ushering in of the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times involved a visitation by the Father and the Son, as well as a host of additional angelic messengers delivering priesthood power and keys as well as the working of many mighty miracles as was the case in the Church established by Jesus Christ in the Dispensation of the Meridian of Time. The reason for this of course, is that there was no priesthood authority on the earth at that time and it had to be brought back by "Angels."

Well, Jack, will you ever get to what it was in Elder Bateman's talk that is so important to you? It is the following quote and its implications: "What is the lesson for us today as we enter a new Christmas season? Who will minister to those in need? Who are the angels that will prepare the way for His return? I have noticed that during the early stages of a dispensation, angelic ministers come from the other side of the veil, but as time elapses and the number of faithful members increases, more is expected of those in mortality. For example, when a new country is opened to the gospel, missionaries learn that many have been prepared in miraculous ways to receive the gospel, and miracles occur with some frequency to advance the work. Once a core of members is established, however, the Lord’s assistance changes as He provides opportunities for the members to become the miracle workers."

Any miracles brought to pass this Christmas season will require our faith and works. We are the angels now who minister to those in need and perform mighty miracles of service in blessing the lives of others. As Elder Bateman concluded his message he beautifully and insightfully said: "As we sing the hymns of Christmas and speak of angels sent to earth to witness the Savior’s birth in the meridian of time, may we rise to the occasion and minister to those in need in our day."

I guess the reason I feel so strongly about what Elder Bateman said is that I know how true it is because I have been ministered to by angels for the past, almost 20 years now. Jokingly I have said that Jo Anne is an angel, "Always up in the air harping about something!" Truthfully though, I have been ministered to by angels in the form of my wife, my children, many women in our ward and stake, and many wonderful brothers, all of whom in my own mind are but an extension of Christ and his love. I have never needed heavenly messenger angels because of the mortal angels who have kept me alive through their acts of love.

Our youngest daughter, Jackie was born while our oldest son, Mike was on his mission to Argentina and Rachel is just five years older than Jackie. At the time of my accident Jo Anne and I wondered why the Lord would have sent us these two girls in our old age, thinking we now could not give them the same quality of life as we had given the four older children. Jackie was four and Rachel nine when I was injured. Little did we know that they truly were "angels" that Heavenly Father had sent into our lives to bless us more than we could have ever imagined at the time. They both were my arms and legs for many years, and have performed countless acts of service for me. Just think of it -- when you can't do one single physical thing for yourself you are totally dependent on the love extended to you by "angels." I do believe however, that a wonderful dimension of depth and caring has been added to each of these girl's characters that maybe could not have come in any other way. I suspect it is a blessed side effect that comes from being an "angel." It would take more than a book to express my feelings about my "Angel Jo Anne."

Would I be an angel to others in different circumstances? I really don't know! I think the challenge of this Christmas season and every other season of the year for me and for all of us, is to realize that we are the only "angels" that will be sent to those in need in our neighborhoods, our families, and our wards and stakes. May we ponder on that thought this Christmas season as we sing of those angels that came in the Meridian of Time. Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 7, 2007

I'm Glad I Did

December 7, 2007, Observation:

A while back Jo Anne and I drove over to her mother's home in Santa Ana.  Her dad passed away several years ago and her mother joined him this summer.  The home is up for sale and Jo Anne wanted to spruce up the plants and shrubs in front of the home.  She actually enjoys working in the garden and I believe has inherited some of her dad's Idaho farmer genes.

She said we would only be there an hour which translates into three hours -- she is severely time challenged.  It was a beautiful sunshiny day, but instead of getting out of the van and sitting in the sun watching Jo Anne work, I opted to remain in the van with the door and windows open.  I must admit I enjoy watching Jo Anne work with a shovel and rake with no guilty conscience on my part, given my physical condition.

Our van's CD player holds six CDs so while Jo Anne worked I sat and listened to some of my favorite music.  I love classical music like the kind Jimmy Durante sings.  My daughter Jackie downloaded as many Jimmy Durante songs as she could from the Internet and made me a nice CD.  My favorite number is "The Blackstrap Molasses and the Wheat Germ Bread Makes You Live Until You Wish You Were Dead!"  Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, and Jane Wyman sing along with Jimmy in an unforgettable classic rendition of a great piece, only rivaled by Beethoven.  Another favorite CD I listened to that afternoon was The Best of Mozart.  There are two numbers on this CD that I truly love; his clarinet Concerto and a French horn number.  I like the clarinet concerto because as a sophomore at BYU I learned how to play it on my clarinet.  Whenever I hear the French horn solo I almost break out laughing it is so fun to listen to.  I love Mozart just because of that one thing he wrote for the French horn which certainly wasn't his greatest work.  Then I listened to the Carpenters.  When I hear Karen Carpenter's voice I just melt.  It's like having someone scratch my back which I think feels good, although I can't remember that far back.  And then comes my favorite all time CD by Robert Goulet.  I change out all of the other CDs periodically but never Robert Goulet.  When he starts out singing "If ever I would leave you it wouldn't be in summer" & etc. from Camelot, I get tingly all over.  And then I have a CD of some of Chopin's best piano compositions, some of which I used to play when I could move my fingers better then I can at present.

So there I sat watching Jo Anne working, listening to that great music, and reflecting back on my life.  Every once in a while Jo Anne would come by the van, smile, and shrug her shoulders trying to communicate in that way that she was sorry she was taking so long but had to keep working.  She could have saved the smile and the shrug because I was having a most pleasant afternoon.  I was just feeling an overwhelming feeling of peace that is difficult to describe but is very real.

As I was sitting there I began talking to myself; you know you are getting old and a little crazy when you start talking to yourself.  The conversation was kind of like this: "Jack, I really enjoy your company.  It's good to be with you.  I like the things you are thinking about and the music you are listening to."  I don't know what you will think of that conversation, but please don't judge me too harshly.  I am sure many others don't enjoy my company nearly as much as I do. What a wonderful thing to be at peace with one's self, totally entertained, and very content, with some good music and better memories. 

Listening to BYUTV the other day, I heard a talk given by Elder L. Tom Perry on November 1, 1992 to a gathering of CES teachers at Brigham Young University.  He entitled his talk, "Making Memories."  He had been in the Netherlands, and in a meeting with the missionaries, quoted the wife of the mission president as asking these young men and women if when their missions were over would they be saying to themselves as they looked back on their experience in retrospect, "I wish I had" or "I'm glad I did?" And then Elder Perry said to the CES teachers "I come to you with a question about eternal memories you are building in your lives. Are they followed by the comment “I wish I had,” or can you say, “I’m glad I did”?

I think we could all ask ourselves those two questions as we build the "eternal memories" that we store in our individual memory banks.  Elder Perry taught that the answer to those two questions in our individual lives will be based on the principle of obedience. He went on to say "Each of us makes daily entries in our book of life. Occasionally we take it from the shelf and examine the entries we are making. What kind of memories will flood our minds as we examine the pages of our personal entries? How many pages will contain “I wish I had” entries? Will there be entries of procrastination and failure to take advantage of special opportunities? Will you find there entries of thoughtlessness in treatment of family, friends, or even strangers..."

Happily, we are able to open a clean white sheet in our book of life each day of our lives and hopefully fill it with many "I'm glad I did" entries which will cause the "I wish I had" entries fade into the dark recesses of our minds.  The "I'm glad I did" entries will be based upon our obedience to eternal law.  All the memories we create are eternal memories as King Benjamin so beautifully expressed in his great sermon: "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness [with a book of life filled with "I'm glad I did" entries]. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.” (Mosiah 2:41.)  [Emphasis added]

I do believe the peace and happy memories we experience in mortality is but a precursor to what we will experience when we pass into our next estate.