This last weekend was the kick-off for our ward's family trek, coming up this summer, for which Tyler and I are directors.
The events started with sacrament meeting where we were asked to speak. I am normally not at all concerned about speaking in church, very rarely get nervous and don't need a whole lot of time to prepare. We have known we would be speaking in church for about 6 months on this topic and I don't know if it was the time I had to prepare but by the time Sunday arrived I was a basket case. How could I possibly sum up my thoughts, feelings, inspiration and experiences in a 7 minute talk? Turns out I cant, I took about 12 minutes and the meeting went over time but I am still thankful to report that it went well.
Since I don't want to forget the things that I said, I am going to record my talk (most of it anyway) here. You really don't have to read it, I just don't want to forget.
"I have been asked to give a little insight into the Theme that has been chosen for our trek. A good theme should encompass the vision, the purpose, the objective of the trek, basically we needed the sum of why we are going and all we want to accomplish in just a few words.
The first time I mentioned our trek to a friend of mine she said, “I don’t need to go to Wyoming to feel the Spirit or gain a testimony.” She is absolutely right, however, I am interested as I study the scriptures how often sacred events occur in a place apart from our every-day. Perhaps this is because there are fewer distractions. We have been taught that as we stand in Holy Places we create opportunities to feel the Spirit. I have experienced this in my own life as well.
Jesus did not need to go to the garden, Joseph did not need to go to the grove, Moses did not need to go to the mountain, and I don’t need to go to the cove.
Having once experienced that kind of intensity of spirit I can not wait to go back!
Contrasting Experiences in the Cove:
The first time we visited Martin’s Cove was with the Stake Youth last summer. One of the most powerful parts of that experience for me was when we silently walked through Martin’s Cove. The feelings and thoughts that I had there are deeply personal and very sacred. I literally felt what the scriptures refer to as “a mighty change of heart.” It was unexpected and profound.
When we returned for our leadership training a few months later I was eager to return to the cove. I wanted to feel the intensity and clarity of Spirit that I had previously felt. As we started down the path I was disappointed that the leaders around us were all talking, some about the football game, some about the weather. I found myself too distracted to think clearly, completely unable to feel the spirit and, admittedly, irritated that my “moment” was being spoiled.
I decided to stop. We stood at the side of the trail and waited for the group to pass. Quite suddenly as they moved ahead and we fell behind, the peace and focus of the Spirit felt as if it literally descended and I felt the comfortable weight of it. We walked quietly and listened to the instruction of the Spirit as my thoughts, which had been so scattered and even fearful became clear. I know that the theme for this trek was direct revelation from a loving Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost and that it holds meaning and power.
Faith – In Alma 32:21 we learn that faith is the hope for things which are not seen which are true. Faith is confidence, kindled by the spirit, earned through obedience. Faith is a principle of action and of power. It is belief which develops our relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, and which solidifies our commitment to the work. Faith, steadfast and immovable, is the FOCUS of our trek.
Family – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “When you have your own faith, you are prepared to bless your family.” In the Proclamation to the World on Families we learn, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith.” Heavenly Father gave us families as part of His eternal plan. The pioneers understood the concept of family and made God and family their priority. Everything we do leading up to trek and while we are on the trek will be to strengthen our faith, and our families. Strong, eternal Families are the GOAL of our trek.
Finally – we needed an action word. The feelings that came to us as we walked through the cove were feelings of fortitude, of strength, of peace and clarity and focus. In the cove all the distractions dissipated, like imperfections being removed so that pure spirit could be felt. As we consider the example of the pioneers we see unwavering devotion, unbreakable determination. They would not turn back, they would not give up, and they would not despair. Their choice was purposeful; they were committed to creating eternal families. How do we sum up all of that in one word?
As a college student I was privileged to spend a semester living in Nauvoo Illinois. As part of our studies we were required to spend time in each of the sites there. One of my favorites was the blacksmith shop. I was fascinated as I watched the senior missionaries as they worked at the forge. If you’ve ever seen a forge you know that a bellows is used to create a fire that gets so hot it heats the metal until it glows red. The metal is then removed and folded and beaten into the desired shape and then the metal is quickly cooled in water. The process is repeated over and over and over to give increased strength to the metal and to remove impurities in the metal. Picture with me the process:
“The smith at his forge, with hammer in hand, works through the ash and the heat
He fires the metal until it grows red, and then starts to fold and to beat.
With both brutal force and delicate care he works with a goal in view
Strengthening, forming, perfecting, creating is the work the skilled smith can do.
So God, with his children employs trial and heat, pressure and yes, even pain
To form and to strengthen, to purify faith that will stand through life’s wind, snow and rain.
With love and care and covenant’s fire, a testimony is burned in each heart
As we pay the price to be acquainted with God, forging becomes our art.
References to forging of faith and testimony can be found throughout ancient and modern scripture. Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “As we look at the lives of the early Saints, we see that their covenants were the primary force in their lives. We need to become so deeply converted to the gospel of Christ that the fire of the covenant will burn in our hearts like flame unquenchable. And with that kind of faith we will do what is necessary to remain true and worthy.”
That is the OBJECTIVE of our trek; that the “fire of the covenant which we make in the House of the Lord, [will] burn in our hearts, like flame unquenchable.” (Brigham Young)
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “We all must have a conviction burning in our hearts that this is the work of God and that it requires the best we can give. We must have faith in this work – faith in what all believers are called to do, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our Father in Heaven. We need to conform our will to Theirs and then make that will rock-ribbed and pioneer strong.”
Brothers and Sisters, it is my testimony that our Heavenly Father expects us to give all our energy and attention to making and keeping sacred covenants that will seal our families through the eternities. He loves us and I love him, and I know that He will help us in “Forging Families of Faith”.
Anyway, that is the talk I gave. Tyler's talk was also amazing but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't love me for recording it here so I wont. I am always amazed at the power with which he speaks.
Then Sunday night we had our kick-off fireside. We started with a little paperwork and then moved into a series of short readings, done in first person, written by handcart pioneers. All those participating were dressed as pioneers and read their parts beautifully. One young woman sand a capella the first phrase of "Come, Come Ye Saints". Two young men, brothers told the story of Joseph and James Kirkwood and my little Ksenya held her little sister Darla as she told about a young girl who lost her parents both in the same day and then picked up her little sister and pressed on. We finished with an amazing cello/piano number "If You could Hie to Kolob" which was simply breathtaking. I was so thankful and relieved that the day went so well and that so many people were willing to help.
I feel like the movie 17 miracles is happening again for our ward. There have been so many miracles in the making of trek already and I am thankful to be a part of it. My sister made the observation the other day (as she swooped in like an angel and helped me to sew aprons for my girls) that this is a huge investment of time and resources. Then she asked, "So what is the pay-off?" I was a little taken back by the question as I hadn't considered it in that light before. When I thought about it I realized that the pay-off is increased faith, both for myself and for my family (and by extension our ward family), and a strengthening of our family. Those two things are worth all the time and money I can possibly invest.