Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Mountain of the Lord

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.

3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
2 Nephi 12:2-3 (See also Isaiah 2:2-3)

My grandfather built a cabin on a mountain. Not just a little scrub cabin, a big beautiful cabin with many rooms and a giant (well, it seemed to my six-year-old self giant) stone fireplace. Nestled in the tall pines of Twin Peaks, California, the cabin was my favorite place to go for most of my younger life. Grandfather died shortly after it was completed, but my grandmother kept it for many more years. Years that were filled with family gatherings, happy dinners around the huge round table, toboggan runs with my cousins, building snowmen with my dad, beloved memories with my sisters and so much more. The Cabin (for it truly deserves the honor of capitalization) was also a place of peace. The porch swing on the deck became holy ground as I made my first foray into a true study of the scriptures. Holy words, read in such a peaceful place created holy ground for me. The cabin, in my youth, was truly the Mountain of the Lord’s House. 

Years later, I came to understand the deeper meaning of Nephi’s words, and Isaiah's intent when speaking of the Mountain of the Lord’s House. He was referring to the House of the Lord. Now I know you’re thinking this refers to the beautiful churches that can be found in nearly any city or town in nearly every nation. And I have thought so too, they are beautiful, sacred edifices where we go to worship. We, of our many varied faiths, worship weekly in sacred holy places. And it is beautiful and glorious.

But as I have grown older, I have come to learn of a singular Mountain, a uniquely beautiful place of Holiness to the Lord, and that is His Holy Temple. Temples have been a place of worship since biblical times. From the portable tabernacle of the Israelites to Solomon’s temple of old, people have entered the Lord’s House to worship. And temples exist today, indeed they dot the earth. These temples are my new sacred ground, the place I go for un-interruped peace. In the shattered moments of grief and trial, I have entered the temple to receive a renewal to my spirit, to feel closer to God than I feel in any other place. I have found answers and solutions to many things as I have learned of His ways and as I feel His Spirit speak to mine. The temple is a place of Joy, where families are united eternally. My beautiful family has gathered here for sacred moments shared. It is a place where the veil between Heaven and Earth is very thin. I feel closer to God in THIS Holy House than on any mountaintop. Just as The Cabin became sacred ground because of the sacred learning I experienced there, the Mountain of the Lord is also sacred ground. Oh, how I love the feelings of peace that are felt in this sacred place!
We love thy house, O God,
Wherein thine honor dwells.
The joy of thine abode
All earthly joy excels.

A new temple was recently built near my home (only ten minutes away, yay!). The Phoenix Temple has been completed and the public has been invited to tour the building before the dedication, after which it will be open only to faithful Latter-day Saints. I have witnessed many people from many faiths, who, upon entering the sacred and beautiful rooms have been moved to tears at the peace they feel. I have heard many say, “There is such a peaceful, spiritual feeling here!” as they view the exquisite paintings and furnishings. We dedicate our finest things to the Lord and He returns to us eternal peace. We enter His Holy House and come away strengthened and edified. Renewed. 

The Cabin on the Mountain still exists, despite fires and calamities. For decades now it has been owned by someone else and our family has not set foot inside.We have been shut out, as it were. We can recreate our family gatherings in other places. We can play in the snow, and have happy days and nights together. The beauty of the mountains can bring a peaceful feeling for anyone who pauses long enough to feel it. But I have learned that no mountain on earth, no place of gathering, will ever match the peace and safety we feel in the Mountain of the Lord’s House. 

We love the word of life,
The word that tells of peace,
Of comfort in the strife,
Of joys that never cease. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Looking for the Land Bountiful

1 Nephi 17:3 ...And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthenthem, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; 

I’ll be happy as soon as….
How often do we struggle through a trial or a hard thing, and when we finally reach the end, and are ready to have a break, something else happens, almost as if the Lord is saying, “You’re not done yet.” You know what I’m talking about- those times when you’ve been planning “as soon as [insert nearly any life event here], I’m going to finally have some time to [insert some relaxing, self-indulgent project here]….” and then something happens to change the plan. Drastically. As in you KNOW that self-indulgent project will never happen.

I’ve seen it a million times (you’d think I’d learn!). 

As a younger mom, I made a routine of walking daily with some friends for a little exercise. One friend often commented, “As soon as this child learns to walk, things will be easier” or or “It will get better when all my children are in school all day” or “If my oldest could just pass her driver’s test, things will start sailing along!” Finally she figured out that there was always something on the horizon, some big accomplishment or challenge, but as soon as that hill had been crested, another hill came into view. It was a learning point for me, as well- I could wish away the hours with my family waiting for the next big event, but I might miss some beautiful moments if I did that. Far better to keep climbing the mountain and enjoying the view as much as possible.

We can spend our time hoping the mountain will change, or we can look to the Source of help. When we prayerfully take the first step up the hill, His light illuminates the places we have not seen, points the way and gives us strength to continue. As we are near the top, we might look forward to the return descent that we miss the vistas below. We may also think that, having completed the climb, we are deserving of a long rest, of not having to do more. But that is not His way. Without constant growth, we cannot become our best selves and we will not learn to walk by faith.

The prophet Nephi knew this well. After escaping the destruction in Jerusalem, Nephi’s family journeyed for ‘many years’ in the wilderness, finally arriving in the land they called “Bountiful”,which was overflowing with milk and honey and much fruit. There they settled, rejoicing after having endured many hard things, that they had finally arrived. But before long, the Lord commands Nephi to build a ship and flee once again.  Hardship- rest- hardship. Do you see a pattern here? That’s right, God did not let Nephi’s family rest for long, He continued to challenge their growth. What’s more, He continued to light their path. Nephi says he prayed often, and despite some pretty stiff opposition, he remained faithful. 

My own testimony of faithful enduring is this: When I turn to my Savior, when I do my best to serve Him, that is when His love carries me, His Peace fills my heart. That is when there is joy in my journey. The most sacred experiences of my life have been a result of faithfully continuing the journey back to Him. It is then that I find the Bountiful blessings in the land I am in. 

There is a promise in all of this dream dashing, a great and everlasting one. And this is it: If we, ‘the children of men’, are faithful in keeping commandments, whatever the opposition or hardship, God blesses us, gives us strength, encouragement, peace and yes, even joy, in our journey. The reward is everlasting!

"And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

"Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem." (1 Nephi 17: 13-14)