Snapshots of Life

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hate and Bigotry

Hate:  to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward. 

Bigot:  a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

It seems that in the last week and one-half these words have flown around like the Autumn leaves falling from trees, except they've been descending about as gently as bombs.  The accusers are people all over the country who are enraged over the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which is, as we have all come to know, a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  It seems that the accused, interestingly enough, are largely leaders and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who supported the amendment.  That support came from individual citizens in the form of financial donations, volunteer time, and a vote 'yes' at the ballot box.  Never mind that members of the church only make up 5% of California's population and never mind that the 'Yes on 8' Coalition was made up of numerous different organizations and faiths, and never mind that the church made NO monetary donations as an organization, and never mind that the measure passed with 52% of the vote, and never mind that the church put out several statements urging love and civility throughout the process.  None of that seems to matter to those who are pointing fingers at the church as the main force of “hate and bigotry” behind the amendments adoption by the majority of Californians.  Granted, the First Presidency encouraged members to participate and they responded with nearly half of the money raised for ‘Yes on 8’ and contributed a huge portion of the volunteering.  But ultimately it was the voters who decided.  Is it not a stretch to say that 52% of Californians were duped and manipulated by the “hateful” minority of Mormons?  Nobody forced anyone to the polls nor did anybody force anyone to vote yes.  It is an especially interesting accusation given that the ‘No on 8’ campaign had just as much advertising, more money, and more prestige.

The church has now been a major target of the protesting that began almost immediately after the official word of successful passage of the proposition.  It has come in the form of a burning Book of Mormon on chapel steps, protests at sacred sites, shot-out windows, white powder pranks, vandalism, boycotts and threatened boycotts, forced resignations, and a drive to send Pres. Monson a post card for every donation made to the reversal campaign that will indicate the donation is being made in his name.  These folks carry signs that malign the church and its members as hate mongers and bigots.  They further express their belief that the church and its people are forcing their beliefs on others and inappropriately mixing church and state.

As I have watched the events unfold I have wondered where the hate and bigotry really lies.  For anyone who has taken an introductory psychology class you have likely learned about defense mechanisms.  Defense mechanisms are strategies of the psyche that we use to deal with difficult truth or reality through which we avoid facing intolerable feelings such as guilt, anger, hatred, and so forth.  Projection is a defense mechanism in which we ascribe to another person or group feelings, thoughts, or attitudes that are actually present in ourselves.  See, if we project unpleasant/unacceptable feelings or attitudes onto others, as if they are theirs, we do not have to face the truth of ourselves.  Displacement is a defense mechanism in which we transfer an emotion from its original focus onto another, usually less threatening or easy target.  For example, we get angry at our boss but can't take it out on him so we take it out on the secretary.

Back to the question then, where does the hate and bigotry lie?  No doubt, there are plenty of members of the church who are hateful and bigoted.  Surely, some supporters of prop 8 have displayed these characteristics.  Nevertheless, I am not aware of any protests by members of the church against the L.A. or Salt Lake Pride Center when 4 presumptuous judges on the Supreme Court of California made a decision about same-sex marriage on behalf of 34 million people.  I'm not aware of any book burnings, or vandalism, or shot out windows.  I know of no signs at that time that accused the supporters of homosexual marriage as being intolerant and hateful, nor do I know of any forced resignations, or mocking/vilifying of the leaders in their community.  I'm not aware of any of that from Latter-day Saints.  Nor do I suspect there would have been any of that had the measure failed, aside from perhaps some fringe-type wackos.  In fact, the church has called on its members throughout the campaign to be compassionate and civil.  They have reiterated over and over and over again that we must be peaceful, respectful, and kind.   

So I ask again, where is the hate?  Who is the bigot?  Is it hateful to have a differing view about marriage?  Is it bigoted to stand up for what you believe in?  Or, are these vitriolic accusations a kind of collective projection and displacement?  No individual or group in our society wants to be labeled a hater or a bigot or a discriminator.  So-called closed-mindedness and intolerance seem to be the ultimate social sins.  Thus, these labels become over-used and easy ammunition to silence and invalidate anyone who disagrees.  At the same time, they are persuasive to hypersensitive fence-sitters who don't want to commit any social sins or appear on the wrong side of "progress".  To be fair, not everyone that supports gay marriage has engaged in the rhetoric and immature behavior.  In fact, many are calling for peaceful and constructive dialogue.  But it seems ironic that those who are shouting "hate" and "bigotry" the loudest seem to have an awful lot of it in their own hearts.  

This is a very difficult issue, one that will not go away anytime soon.  It is creating dissonance in communities and congregations and families all over this nation.  Positions will likely not change on either side.  What can change, however, is a little more empathy and charity on both sides.  More to come on this later.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

When Thy Sweet Spirit Strikes the Strings

Over the past year or so I have been a member of 3 different wards.  In conjunction with various family functions and vacations I have had the opportunity to attend a few others.  I've been reflecting quite a bit in the last several months about what I see at church.  I must admit that sometimes I have a knack for picking up the character and personality of others, especially when it comes to their eccentricities and quirks.  It's not a trait that I am particularly proud of and I try not to use it as a source for criticism.  I also try not to psychoanalyze anyone who is not sitting in front of me in my office.  Nevertheless, it is easy for me to get frustrated or amused or annoyed by the man who constantly talks about the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon and its contents or the one who bears his testimony about how Barack Obama is going to destroy the world (not a supporter of Obama either but, really, testimony meeting??).  The choir director who has ADD or the auxiliary leader who is just a bit too focused on the presentation and the details instead of the message.  You have your know-it-alls and your tell-it-alls, your yappers and your snappers, your out-of-control children, and your too-much-in-control teachers/leaders.  This to say little of some of the resulting lessons, talks, and comments from these unique folks.  It's the same everywhere you go, right?  I don't think it matters if it's a student ward or a family ward, a Utah ward or an any other ward.  "The church is the same everywhere you go" as we like to say.

But, you know, that's not the real focus of what I've been pondering about.  I'm aware of it, sure, but all those thoughts are just part of my dirty, stinking pride that creeps up too often.  I've been thinking instead about the miracle of the Church.  The absolute wonder of it.  I've been thinking about how every Sunday people all over the world gather together to give talks, and read scriptures, and make commentary, and listen, and take bread and water.  The people are busy and preoccupied and burdened.  They are imperfect.  Yet, in each ward that I've been in, as a member or a visitor, I sit in a sunday school class or sacrament meeting and feel the goodness of the people.  The pure goodness.  They come and they participate for the same reasons I do.  They are called by the same Voice and are united under the same Head.  I sense that often they have a keen awareness of their imperfection but they are trying.  In the midst of all the weirdness and weakness I see remarkable faith and humility, often from the same people!  I see hope and virtue, diligence and love.  I am taught and touched by their gifts, examples, and sacrifice.  It is an incredible thing to see people in their true light.  Those talks and lessons and comments are more than words, they are inspiration, they are more than filler, they are truth.  The taking of the bread and water in unison with the saints is a process of covenant renewal and sacred worship, not just taking a tray and passing it down to your neighbor.  We remember and witness individually and collectively.  In the process, my imperfection and their imperfection is being chipped away - all that sin and all those quirks - one piece at a time. 

The last few Sundays I've felt this impression particularly powerfully.  It was a typical Sabbath today.  Priesthood was about service and we heard mission stories and testimony and home teaching plugs.  Sunday school was centered on 3 Nephi 17-19 and we discussed the Savior's visit to the Americas.  Sacrament meeting was the Primary program and we heard familiar primary songs and the simple Word from the children.  We smiled at their indiscernable shouts into the microphone and their waving and daydreaming.  For all intents and purposes, very usual meetings.  We even had kids crying so loud by the end of the program that the benediction was not audible.  Yet, through it all I felt a profound and comforting spirit.  It was a spirit of reverence and awe at what was happening.  In the process of those lessons I heard sincere and thought-provoking words.  I felt faith and testimony.  I saw and received charity.  I observed humility.  I was touched by song.  There I was, one of many in our building today and one of millions all over the world, to worship and to learn.  I came to commune with God and be uplifted by my brothers and sisters.  Wonderfully and mercifully, in the midst of all the imperfection and weirdness, I did and I was.

At the close of the meeting our Bishop stood to offer a few closing remarks.  He spoke emotionally of how the previous day he had participated in the funeral of his infant grandson, who we had all been praying for with him and his family for several weeks.  He mentioned how he had been so touched by the outpouring of love and support from the ward that this little baby and his parents belong to.  He bore testimony of the blessing of little children.  As he concluded his remarks the primary children presented him with a huge card showing their love for their Bishop at a time of grief and loss.  He thanked the children and simply said, "there is always good that comes of tragedy".  It was a snapshot of exactly what I'm talking about.  The tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat prevented me from singing most of the closing hymn, even with all the screaming children.  I was just consumed for a moment in the goodness of God and the goodness of His people.  The words of the hymn expressed the feelings of my heart.

Before thee, Lord, I bow my head
And thank thee for what has been said. 
My soul vibrates; my poor heart sings
When thy sweet Spirit strikes the strings.
How sweet thy word I've heard this day!
Be thou my guide, O Lord, I pray.
May I in patience do my part.
Seal thou the word upon my heart.

Do thou, O Lord, anoint mine eyes
That I may see and win the prize.
My heart is full; mine eyes are wet.
Oh, help me, Lord, lest I forget.
So may my soul be filled with light
That I may see and win the fight,
And then at last exalted be,
In peace and rest, O Lord, with thee.




Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tempio a Roma #2

A few satellite pictures of the temple site!

I wish I could figure out how to highlight the plot of land...but I've tried and I can't.  Running from the top-center to the right-bottom is a piece of the freeway that circles Rome, known as the GRA.  The church land is in the center of the image.

A closer view.  The land stretches from the top to the bottom of the image.  You can see the villetta with the olive grove underneath.

A closer view of the villetta and the olive grove.  The satellite photos must have been taken in the Fall or early Winter because I don't remember it being brown like this.  They don't do it justice.  It really is a cool place.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tempio a Roma

In May of 2005 I began this blog with a post about the very first stake in Rome, Italy, which was being organized that very day.  I mentioned the historic nature of this event, not only because it was the first stake in Rome since the apostasy, but because it was an important step toward the building of a temple in Italy.  I talked about some of the prophecies that had been made by Lorenzo Snow and Ezra Taft Benson regarding the future of the work of the Lord in Italy.  Well, now 3 1/2 years later the Lord has seen fit to answer the multitudinous prayers of the Italian saints and the missionaries who have served them over many years!  As you all know, in the Saturday morning session of general conference President Monson announced that a temple would be built in Rome.  The gasp throughout the Conference Center was audible and so was mine, indicative not just of our surprise but also of our excitement.  It was not an announcement that I expected but one that I received with great joy.  I am so grateful and happy for the members of the Church in Italy.  It did not take long for me to determine that Tania and I WILL be attending the dedication.

The temple will be built on a piece of land that the Church has owned for several years.  Just prior to the time that I served in Italy, the Church purchased a plot of land on the outskirts of Rome, just inside a huge circular freeway that surrounds the greater Rome area.  The land is 15 acres and sits on a hill - a classic temple site.  It was formerly the site of an old Villa surrounded by trees and an olive grove.  It has long been suspected that this would be the future site of the temple.  On the day that we arrived in Rome, jet-lagged though we were, we spent some time on this land.  The mission president shared with us the prophecies regarding Italy and then gave us time to go into the olive grove to reflect, ponder, and pray.  One year later, following a transfer to Rome, this piece of land with its Villa became my home.  While the Villa itself was less than ideal, the opportunity to live on this sacred plot of ground was a privilege.  It was truly a beautiful place.  I loved watching the sun shine through the olive trees in the early hours of the morning as I studied, or watching the sun set from the balcony on the rare occasion that we were home at sunset.  I have treasured and sacred memories of this place, which will soon be the site for the first house of the Lord in Italy in the known history of the world.

On one occasion the neighboring property had a significant grass fire.  The fire spread rapidly and burned a good portion of the neighbor's land.  Strangely enough, it did not even touch the church land.  There was a distinct line right at the property where the fire stopped, and I have pictures to prove it.  It was remarkable.  On another occasion the Lord granted my companion and I a great "tender mercy".  Our water heater was less-than-consistent.  We had been working hard preparing for conferences and we were tired of taking cold showers.  We determined that in our companionship prayer we would pray that the following day we would have hot water.  In fact, I believe we thanked God for giving us hot water the next day, as if it had already happened.  Sure enough, the following day we took showers in steaming bliss!  The next day the water was cold again but we didn't mind.  Some might want to dismiss such trivial things as mere coincidence, but I'm just simple enough to believe that a kind Father was passing out bread and fishes.

On the day I was transferred from Rome I again took some time to walk through the olive grove one last time.  I felt the love of God and the sweet spirit that was a part of that future hallowed ground.  I grabbed an olive branch as a reminder and souvenir.  The olive branch is now just twigs and leaves in a baggy, but I still have it, and it still reminds me of the time I lived on the plot of land that will soon house a temple in Rome!  God be thanked for having seen fit to grant this blessing to the people of Italy and the whole Mediterranean region!   

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shooting the Tube

Have you ever heard of shooting the tube?  Well, in high school some of my brothers were introduced to this activity.  It involves going to the east side of Salt Lake, right where the I-80 freeway heads up Parley's Canyon.  You park at the Sons of the Utah Pioneers building and hike your way down to the creek below.  Apparently when they constructed the freeway they diverted the creek underneath by way of a huge tube.  The tube is probably over a hundred yards in length and at least 8 or 9 feet in diameter.  Where the creek meets the tube on the east side of the freeway there is a pool of water that develops, which then constantly flows down toward another pool at the bottom on the west side of the freeway.  You walk up the inside of the tube in a little under a foot of freezing cold water.  You then dam up the top pool with boards, which are always available.  Once the pool has collected a large amount of water everyone sits down (this is the worst part because it is so cold) in a line and the guy in the back removes the boards.  The collected water shoots down the tube and sends everyone in the tube sailing downward and into the pool below.  The water is so freezing that it takes your breath away...and some jerks like to splash the whole way down!  Bodies crash into each other as you fly out of the tube and into the lower pool.  Of course, the water is still coming for awhile, so it takes a little effort to get up and out of the pool.  It is better than any water slide you'll ever ride, except for the cold part.  Just before my brother Mike headed back to Boston, my brothers, sister, and I went for a run.  This was my second time, and I gotta say, a lot better than my first!  We didn't have anyone to take pictures of the actual event so we had to do some staged ones.  Both pictures are at the bottom of the tube just before it empties into the pool.  It was a good time!

P.S.  Yes, I have gained weight since I got married.  

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Joining the bandwagon

Okay, I'm joining the bandwagon! This is like blogosphere mania right now, but I think it's pretty fun. So, here's the instructions:

1. Post one (or some) memories of me as a comment on this blog. It can be anything at all, although it will probably be coolest if it is a memory that you and I share.

2. Next, post the same instructions on your blog and make this blog trend even more trendy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tagged by Lisel

So, this is about 20 days after the tag but I guess it is better late than never. The rule is to name 6 facts about me and tag a few people at the end. I will try to name some facts that a lot of people wouldn't know about me.

1. I hate The Princess Bride and Dumb and Dumber. I know, I know, some of the most beloved movies of practically everyone. Don't throw things or post ugly comments. When it comes to The Princess Bride, the whole show just kind of annoys me. Especially that part where the girl rolls down the mountain in that hideous orange dress shouting, "aaaas yoooou wiiiiish". Then that freaky part when the witch woman is going, "boooo, booooo" or something to that effect. L-A-M-E. Then, Dumb and Dumber is just, well, DUMB!

2. I love history. When I was a kid our yearly family vacation was to St. George for the annual pharmacy convention. I would take the tourist map from the hotel room and guide my 3 younger brothers on a tour of all the historical sites in the city while my parents were in meetings. I couldn't have been more than about 11 or 12 when we started. I'm not sure what Lisel did, maybe tanning or something. It was always hot but we would see the temple, tabernacle, Brigham Young home, play house, etc. I still remember Shayne mosied around back then too, always straggling way behind everyone else. People must have thought we were a pretty strange bunch of kids. We were nerds but they are good memories! One time, we visited the Jacob Hamblin home the next day with my parents and apparently word had spread among the senior missionaries that 4 "toe heads" were walking around the city seeing the sites without their parents.

3. When I was just a toddler my uncle thought he was real funny and pushed me into the deep end of the pool. I couldn't swim. My mom was nursing one of my brothers so another uncle jumped in to save me. I still remember the picture of being under water and panicking, then being snatched up by the uncle. As a result, I was scared of water for a long time. For the first few years that my family had a boat I would pretend I was sick everytime we went waterskiing to avoid having to try. I'm mostly over it now, but I do get a little uneasy on big bodies of water if it gets at all choppy.

4. I am a major procrastinator on most things and I usually run pretty late (family trait). I did not get my eagle until the day I turned 18. I did not hold my eagle court of honor until two weeks before I left on my mission.

5. I have never broken a bone or cut myself bad enough to get stitches. I've had to have stitches or staples for some minor surgeries but never from an accident.

6. I really like to do yard work. There is something that feels really good about working outside and getting your hands dirty. I miss not having a yard to help out with. I like it so much that Jeje and I decided to plant a garden of sorts and hang it on our 3rd-story balcony. I will have to take some pictures and post the funny story to go along with it another time!

I tag Jeje and Mike, since they haven't responded to the tag from Lisel yet. I also tag anyone else who needs something to blog about but can't think of anything at the moment.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Moses 1 and the Temple

Do you ever feel like you have something to say but don't quite know what it is? It's like there are churning thoughts in the back of your mind and you want to express them but there aren't words or sentences to organize them into understandable discourse. In fact, there isn't even really a topic or focus, it's more feeling than cognition. Well, that's how I've felt the last few days. Not sure why, but I do. Maybe it's because I've been trying to make sense of a few things in my life in the last few weeks. Much to the chagrin of my feminine-communicating-style wife I've always been a private thinker and problem solver, prefering to sort things out internally before even acknowledging to others that I've been thinking about or pondering over something in the first place. Admittedly, this is an odd characteristic for someone who listens to people's thoughts and feelings all day, and who has been trained to "talk it out". But, it is what it is, and sometimes it is to my detriment. Given all of that I figured it was time to blog again, since it has been far too long and I just feel like saying something.

A few years ago I did an intense study of Moses, chapter 1. There was a great need at the time. I found some of the answers I was praying and searching for. It is, perhaps, one of the most powerful chapters of scripture ever recorded. The lessons are plentiful. More recently that study has returned to the forefront of my mind as I have worked with struggling clients. Then, over the weekend Jeje and I went to the temple and I saw very similar lessons taught there in a more visual and symbolic way.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons that can be gleaned from Moses 1 is satanic style, in other words, the tactics of the great tempter. We know that God is unchanging, from everlasting to everlasting, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Thus, we can learn from the scriptures and the prophets, patterns of divine interaction and involvement that engender faith in the constant character of the Creator. Similarly, I believe, we might gain insight into the patterns of the evil one, who is Lucifer, that eternally banished and fallen son of the morning. The following are a few devious devices that are demonstrated in Moses 1 and also, to some extent, played out in the temple ceremony.

1. In an amazing discourse entitled "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence", Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught the principle, with his extraordinary power and eloquence, that Satan rears his ugly head not only previous to and in anticipation of great revelatory and spiritual moments, but also after them. It is AFTER Moses speaks to God "face to face" in the mountain, receives His glory upon him, is taught that he is in similitude of the Only Begotten, and hears that God has a work for him, that the old serpent comes to the scene. So it is with us, albeit on a smaller scale. Of course, Satan's object and design in this tactic is to cause us to question, to doubt, to forget, and to fall.

2. Satan would apparently direct our focus to our carnal nature and persuade us to follow it. We are born into a fallen world - "carnal, sensual, and devilish" - and the old nick exploits that condition as much as possible. Moses had just been informed by the Lord Himself that he (Moses) was HIs (God's) son, in similitude of His Only Begotten. Yet, the very first thing that Satan says to Moses is, "Moses, son of MAN". It seems that the adversary's tactic here is to divert Moses from what he had just learned. Satan is no dummy. He does not tell Moses that he is not a son of God, that would be too revealing of his intentions after what Moses had just experienced. Instead, he just reminds him that he is a son of man. His pattern is subtle, using the lower truth that Moses is a son of man (remember Moses had just exclaimed that "man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed") to distract him from the higher truth of his sonship to God the Father. Is there not a struggle within us all between the spirit and the flesh? Indeed, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak". Though this dichotomy may present itself differently in each of us there is generally a part of us that feels the truth of our divine heritage, that longs to do right, and another part of us that is tempted and attracted by the things of the flesh and the world. The tendencies have varying names and manifestations but in each individual sphere the pull is great to succomb to them. Satan stands ready to remind us of that pull. Furthermore, it appears that even when we are seeking out God for direction or answers, he who rebelled against Him is there to offer some answers of his own.

3. The great serpent, who actually has no more power or authority than a harmless garden snake, commands us to worship him as if we have no choice. Following the adversary's reminder to Moses that he is a son of man, he demands, "worship me!". To worship is to love (in fact, in Italian the verb 'to worship' is 'adorare', that is, to adore or to love) and to love is to heed and to follow. The message seems to be, "you are this way so embrace it, love it, heed it, and follow me". The happy trail leads to nowhere. Perhaps this is no more aptly exemplified than in our modern world. In great irony, choice is heralded above all, but only inasmuch as it is legitimized by the loudest voices. Any decision contrary to their choice is simply backward, suppressed, or otherwise insignificant.

4. The adversary attempts to cause us to fear. Of course, fear and faith are polar opposites. When Moses initially rebuts Satan, Mr. Devil pulls the drama card and "cries with a loud voice and rants upon the earth". His tactic is evidently to lead us to lose confidence in ourselves and our Father. Thankfully, I don't know of too many who have heard Satan literally crying out or seen him ranting on the earth, but he certainly cries out in our lives and rants in our souls in a more spiritual and emotional way. The message is often something like, "You can't do this" or "God isn't listening to you" or "You're not worth it". Such rants raise fear and weaken faith necessary to call upon God for deliverance, healing, grace, or any other blessing.

5. Satan uses every strategy to convince, including intimidation and tantrum. Furthermore, he does not go easily. At one point in Moses' interaction with the evil one the devil trembles and the earth shakes. He even goes so far as to weep, wail, and gnash his teeth. Apparently when subtlety is futile he is willing to up the stakes and pull out all the stops. Although we may not see him shake the earth, we may feel him shake our faith. We might expect then, that sometimes things get worse before they get better when it comes to overcoming the influence of Satan and the flesh. We might also expect that as we grow closer to God the intensity of his buffetings may very well increase.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject, nor do I wish to imply that I fully understand these principles or always manage them as I should. No doubt, there are additional tactics not discussed here. Surely, there are more nuances to be observed and insights to be had. Nevertheless, these few points have been helpful for me. I believe there is strength in awareness. With greater insight into the satanic style we can then more clearly see how Moses counters it, and thus, how we can recognize it in our own experience and counter it ourselves...but that's for another post!

Friday, March 21, 2008

...And the Next Thing I Knew...

I had just picked up a new door handle for my car at the local Toyota dealership's Parts and Service Department. On my way home, not even two blocks away from the dealership, I momentarily looked down and the next thing I knew I was only feet behind an ugly metal fortress of a vehicle that was at a complete stop. I slammed on my breaks but it was too late. Thank goodness, no one was hurt and his car didn't even have a scratch. My car was not so lucky. This is now the second time that my hood has buckled, fender been crashed in, light busted up, and alignment destroyed. There goes the tax return. It has not been the best week of my life. Here's to a better one next week!

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Few Memories of the Lord's Anointed

Today, with many of you, I have spent some time reflecting on the life of President Gordon B. Hinckley, prophet of the Lord for nearly the last 13 years, and lifetime disciple of Jesus Christ. I hesitate to write about it because nearly everyone is, and heaven knows I don't have anything particularly unique to add to the incredible tributes that have already poured down like rain. I have listened to the news stories and read the articles from local outlets and national giants. I have taken in the commentary from friends, religious leaders, and politicians remembering and praising the prophet. In all the listening I have not come up with any profound conclusions, only a simple question. How is it that we all feel like we knew President Hinckley and that he knew us? I don't know the answer, but I know that I feel that way. Every story, every statement, every blog seems to reflect the same sentiment. I never got the chance to actually meet President Hinckley, I've never shaken his hand or told him my name. I've been in the same room (actually ginormous hall) as him, I've been in close proximity outside, but never actually met the man face-to-face. Why then, do I feel such an affinity to him. He would no more know me than a stranger on the street, and yet somehow he did.

In April of 1995 during a solemn assembly, as a 14-year-old boy, I stood with all the Teachers in the Aaronic priesthood throughout the church to sustain the new prophet, seer, and revelator. One by one each quorum stood, then the whole body of the church. It was in the living room of a friend and he and I stood with the awkwardness of teenagers but also with the feeling of great sacredness within. We took part in that historic moment that has only come a handful of times in this dispensation and we resolutely raised our arms to the square...and the Spirit bore witness.

In July 1997 we gathered at This is the Place Heritage Park to welcome in the wagon train arriving in the valley after a long trek that reenacted the same journey of 1847 in commemoration of the pioneer sesquicentenial. We were a "basket family" dressed in pioneer garb ready to greet the weary traveleres with a basket of food and gifts. President Hinckley was there too. It was my first close encounter and the Spirit bore witness.

In April of 2000 I was a young missionary in my first city. I had only been in the field a month and I was homesick and discouraged. We traveled to a nearby city to hear General Conference - in English! President Hinckley spoke these words, his voice cracking with emotion, "He is my God and my King. From everlasting to everlasting, He will reign and rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. To His dominion there will be no end. To His glory there will be no night. None other can take His place. None other ever will. Unblemished and without fault of any kind, He is the Lamb of God, to whom I bow and through whom I approach my Father in Heaven." The message inspired me and reminded me of the power of His work. The Spirit bore witness.

In February of 2002 I happened to get a ticket with a random family to the church program in the Conference Center during the Olympics. I was sitting clear up in the balcony. President Hinckley was not expected to attend the performance that evening but in a surprise to everyone he entered the hall. I am always touched by the hush that immediately comes over any congregation when the prophet enters the room, but this time it was different. There was a gasp and then a cheer and then extended applause. It was not something that we should adopt in Conference, but in this setting, with people from all over the world, including dignitaries and athletes, it was moving. The Spirit bore witness.

In discourses too many to mention he spoke with the power of God and the Spirit bore witness. God in His tender compassion bore witness to me through His Spirit that President Hinckley was His mouthpiece on earth for that time. He was indeed His anointed at that hour, in that day, with that message. What is even more remarkable is that God inspired His servant to speak to me, and to you, and to the whole world. The Spirit knits hearts together in love, even hearts that are otherwise unfamiliar to one another. So, I did know President Hinckley and he knew me after all, because God knows His prophet and God knows me and the Spirit bears witness.

I will miss our beloved prophet. I will miss his friendly smile and being called by him a "beloved associate". I will remember his great humor and his favorite prop for jokes - the cane. I will picture him at the pulpit in my mind, his right hand moving up and down to emphasize his point, and hear his words echo as he draws out the word 'great', as if to match the phonetics with the meaning being conveyed. I will miss his incredible organization and use of language, his innovation, his willingness to speak to the media, his boundless energy. But most of all, I will miss his testimony and his love. Can anyone doubt that this man knew the Lord? Now the page will turn to another chapter in church history but we look forward with excitement and optimism, for the words that President Hinckley used on several occasions to close Conference are always true for us, "He watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps!"

And the Spirit bears witness.