Sunday, December 14, 2014

What drives a Latter Day Saint?

This evening my wife and I attended a Christmas Devotional Service for Temple Ordinance Workers who serve in the Houston Texas Temple.  For us it’s become something of a tradition, a means of kicking off the Christmas Season.  This year was no different as we heard talks which touched our hearts from members of the Temple Presidency and their wives, short explanations of gratitude for all who serve along with insightful messages as pertain to the workings of the Temple.

President Brad Crane addressed us near the close of the meeting with an historical perspective based on his attending the Nauvoo Temple’s dedication.   I should mention this was the 2002 dedication for a replacement Temple for one which the Saints had to abandon in 1846 when they were driven out of their homes in the middle of winter and began their 1250 mile trek which eventually brought them to the Salt Lake Valley.

President Crane wondered aloud what could provide enough motivation for a family to leave their home in the middle of winter, cross the frozen Mississippi River and plod along in the wilderness day after day and continue to rejoice in the Lord?  Thousands were starving, sick or died as they faced hardships along the way and yet they persevered and even flourished upon reaching their new ‘home’ in the desert where nothing grew. 

How could this be so?

It must have something to do with what the Saints learned in the Nauvoo Temple, a place they would only get to visit once prior to being forced to leave everything behind.  What could you learn about God and your relationship from ordinances which are performed in the Temple?

I pondered what was being offered at the Christmas Devotional as it became clear that each Saint who crossed the Great Plains under extreme conditions, many lost family and friends along the way; these Saints learned of God and His love for each them to such an extent that their testimonies were strengthened beyond their physical weaknesses and permitted them to complete the journey.

There’s an account as recorded from the Family Record of Francis Webster Written by William R. Palmer which documented the testimony of a surviving member of the ill fated Martin Handcart Company.  (please take the time to read the included link)

Many years later during a Sunday School lesson a discussion was being held on the foolishness and lack of planning that went into the Martin Handcart Company and tragic consequences that befell so many Saints.  An old man who had been sitting quietly through the discussion could take no more as he stood up and silenced the class by explaining that he had been one of the survivors.

“We suffered beyond any thing you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation; but, did you ever hear a survivor of that Company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that Company ever apostatized or left the church because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities. I have pulled my hand cart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there.

Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company." The speaker was Francis Webster, and when he sat down there was not a dry eye in the room.” 

I suppose my original question, “What drives a Latter Day Saint?”, has an answer; but even so, few outside the Church can wrap their arms around it.  The driving force behind Latter Day Saints has to do with understanding their eternal relationship with our Father in Heaven, His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  

The ordinances available in the Temple are of an eternal nature.  The blessings enumerated in these ordinances are combined with covenants with the Lord which detail our responsibilities and commitment to building up the kingdom here on Earth.  If an individual understands his/her place in the eternities along with the rewards for faithfully adhering to the covenants made in the Temple; then hardships, sickness and even death have little power over such a testimony. 

In closing I’m reminded of a particular Hymn,  Come, Come Ye Saints.  

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
'Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell—
All is well! All is well!

We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the Saints will be blessed.
We'll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we'll tell—
All is well! All is well!

And should we die before our journey's through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell—
All is well! All is well!

Text: William Clayton, 1814-1879  Music: English folk song

May this Christmas bring you closer to your Father in Heaven and the gift He gave us through His Only Begotten Son, our Savior, even Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

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