Eclipse Trip: "Yellowbone"

…(as Teddy referred to it)…is such an amazing place. We love it, but when we visited there last year, I figured we probably wouldn't be back for a long time, since there are SO many cool places I want to visit even just here in the Western U.S., that there just isn't time for repeats! Except…that most places we go end up being so great that we WANT to repeat them. Sigh. Anyway, sometime last August, I looked at the calendar and realized that the total solar eclipse was finally coming up (in a year)! I had been looking forward to it for years, having always vowed I would see a total eclipse someday, and once I did some research I learned that the Snake River Valley in Idaho was a great place to see it!

So, I made reservations right then for a rental house in Island Park, and with Yellowstone being so close, we were delighted to realize that we WOULD have time for a repeat visit in the few days before the eclipse! Hooray!

When the time finally came, we were happy to have my mom with us on the trip too, and in addition to her devising all sorts of clever games to play with the kids in the back seats (thus keeping the arguments/fighting in the van to about 50% less than usual), it was fun to have her along because she could remind us what Yellowstone was like when she last visited, which was when I was about 4 years old. AND she was another pair of hands for the little ones to hold (the most popular pair of hands, naturally) which made the hiking much easier!
Sebastian said, "I think the worst thing about having a big family is having to stop at the bathroom so often." Yes, there was a lot of that.
Teddy seemed like a whole different boy on this trip! He was hiking under his own power (mostly), he was commenting on things, he was pointing out geysers…he has truly become an actual person during this year! (And I had forgotten until reading about it here…or perhaps repressed the memories…about how he SCREAMED nonstop while being carried in the backpack last year! And he was so HEAVY!) This year he was pleasant and darling and liked everything, and it was so fun to watch him taking it all in! Sebastian especially liked showing and telling Teddy about all the things we were doing, and then they'd reminisce about them as we drove home at night.

Because we'd been here so recently, and because everyone was warning about crowds and madness due to the eclipse, I thought maybe we should just skip Old Faithful and that whole area. But Sam thought it wouldn't be that bad, and he was right! We tried to get there fairly early in the morning, which helped. And there were crowded areas, but mostly later in the day, and really no worse than the crowds in the prime of summer season (end of June) we encountered last year.

Baptism and Fire

That title sounds like I must be saying "Baptism BY fire," which I guess would also be a good post, but what I really mean is that we had Daisy's baptism, and then that evening we went up the canyon and had a campfire for Seb's birthday. It was such a fun and happy day. Full of good things! First, the baptism, of course. Daisy was so bright and happy and glowing all day long! It made me smile just to look at her. We did her hair in Danish braids just like I had at MY baptism!
I'd gotten this white dress for her a few months earlier, so in June when the daisies were blooming by the lake, we went and took some pictures by them (as is our custom every year).


We should see the face of the Lord

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the April 1977 Conference.
In Elder Loren C. Dunn's address "Did Not Our Heart Burn Within Us?", he tells the following story about John Murdock, a friend of Joseph Smith's:
For a time he lived in the home of Joseph Smith and relates this incident: “During the winter that I boarded with Brother Joseph … we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber. … In one of those meetings the Prophet told us, ‘If we would humble ourselves before God, and exercise strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord.’ And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form; His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white: Whiter than any garment I have ever before seen. His countenance was most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never before felt to that degree.” (John Murdock, An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock, p. 26.)
Brother Murdock heard the prophet's words in a meeting. He believed them and followed them immediately. And they came true!

I know things don't happen this way all the time, so quickly and noticeably—and probably for good reason. But it seems important to believe that they can. Because there is something so true and simple and beautiful about this retelling, right down to the way the vision fades long before Brother Murdock is ready, but the impression of love remains. This is the result of hope and perhaps expectation: but it's an unassuming kind of expectation. The miracle and the humility are entwined.

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Summer things and funny things

Seb attending to customers at the carwash


This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the April 1977 Conference.
Elder David B. Haight opens his talk with an intriguing statement:
Shortly before the Savior’s betrayal…an event now known as the Transfiguration occurred, which I am sure was meant for our spiritual enlightenment as well as for those who were personal witnesses.
I find that intriguing because I haven't ever thought of this experience being for "our spiritual enlightenment." I've read about the Mount of Transfiguration, of course, but it always seemed like one of those extraordinary things that happened to Peter, James, and John because they were apostles, and needed to be eyewitnesses, and NOT something that would have much application to any…normal person. So, immediately I started wondering what the idea of "transfiguration" could possibly mean for ME, and all I could come up with was that maybe each temple experience could kind of approximate or foreshadow a more complete transfiguration. I've just been reading this article about how the whole point of the temple ceremony is to, literally, come into the presence of God. That journey happens symbolically, yes, but it is meant to be received in a very literal sense as well.

Elder Haight continues to describe what happened in the New Testament transfiguration experience, and it's interesting that he focuses first on what Jesus was seeing and feeling (I've always thought of it mostly from Peter, James, and John's perspective):
Perhaps Jesus felt not only a sense of the heavenly calm which that solitary opportunity for communion with His Father would bring, but even more, a sense that He would be supported in the coming hour by ministrations not of this earth. He was to be illuminated with a light which needed no aid from the sun or the moon or the stars. He went up to prepare for His coming death.
And then the benefits for the apostles:
He took His three apostles with Him in the belief that they, after having seen His glory—the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father—might be fortified, that their faith might be strengthened to prepare them for the insults and humiliating events which were to follow.
Both of those descriptions fit into the idea of what we could receive from a meaningful temple experience. Calm, communion with the father, a sense of angelic support. Illumination and preparation. Fortification against trials. I've felt all of these blessings at various times in the temple, and it makes me think maybe I have been "transfigured" by those experiences—just a little, not anything like the apostles seeing Jesus' glory in person, of course, but still—these things have changed me in not-insignificant ways. Perhaps permanently? If I let them?

I feel like I still have a lot more pondering to do before really understanding what Elder Haight was driving at by choosing this topic and saying it should enlighten all of us. But here's one more thought I had: occasionally I've read criticism about how the current LDS church leaders don't "see God" and have constant manifestations and visions, etc. like the early church leaders did. I have no such worries and think other people have addressed this misconception well. But I couldn't help but think about this question as I read Elder Haight's talk. He doesn't say anything about it explicitly. He is humble and unassuming in his tone, which is consistent with how I always think of him. But the structure of his talk made me think there was something in his topic that came from a very personal place. He starts his talk with a testimony of President Kimball:
He to whom you have just listened, Spencer Woolley Kimball, is God’s prophet to all the world. Not only are the heavens not sealed, as many suppose, but a living prophet is here admonishing and counseling and is available to all who will listen. He is God’s anointed for all mankind to follow.
Then he describes, in detail, the transfiguration of Christ and his apostles in the New Testament. And then he draws a direct line from that miraculous event to the miraculous vision Joseph Smith had of Jesus Christ in the Kirtland Temple. Last, he returns to the latter-day apostles:
Those keys—the same that were delivered to Peter, James, and John on the mountain—authorize us to carry the gospel to all nations and declare the power, glory, and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ and that the day of His coming is near.
I don't know if Elder Haight (or President Kimball, for that matter) had had his own literal "transfiguration" experience, and I don't think it really matters, but I just felt from his words that he knew what he was talking about. Transfiguration, and the accompanying blessings that come from a personal encounter with God, were not abstract concepts to him. They were real. They were relevant. And they had application to the rest of the church as well.

Elder Haight ends with this:
We invite people everywhere to inquire further into this divine message which we have to offer to all mankind.
This talk makes me want to do just that!

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Wildflower Hike 2017

Last year when I was waking everyone up to leave for our favorite late-summer hike in Albion Basin, the girls were the only ones I could persuade to get out of bed and go with me. And then this year, they were convinced that going with "just the girls" was our special tradition and it must be done that way again! So, although some of the boys would have been willing, we stuck with "tradition" and had a great girls-only hike! It's probably for the best, because the girls are MUCH more desirous of having their pictures taken with every little flower and every new view than the boys are! And, as we all know, taking those pictures is just what I LIKE to do. 
It was so nice and COOL up here early in the morning! The girls were shivering, but I just loved it.

Love in the everyday

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Welfare Session of the October 1976 Conference.
I've been thinking lately about the practical ways in which Relief Society helps me learn to care for other people. It happens so simply and with such little fanfare that it's easy to feel like you aren't really doing anything. Usually just a sign-up sheet goes around, and you sign up on it. Or, someone calls and says, "Can you help with this?" and you say, "Sure." And it's probably always true that we could do MORE, and BETTER. But still, I love having constant reminders and chances to decide to do something for someone else—rather than staying always caught up in my own routines and worries.

When I was growing up, there was a lady in my church congregation that had Multiple Sclerosis. The Relief Society brought meals to her family—twice a week, maybe?—for YEARS. Ten or fifteen years at least. I helped my mom bring meals in, so many many times. It seemed such a normal part of our dinner routine. And all the ladies in the ward shared that work. It wasn't VERY much trouble for anyone in particular. Now, I know meals don't solve every problem in the world. But it seems so good and right that for all those years and years, her Relief Society sisters did act like sisters—taking care of family members they loved. Even when I was just a little girl, I recognized that that was how things should be!

There have been ongoing needs in other wards I've been in over the years, too. I was looking at a sign-up sheet recently for one of our Relief Society sisters and Daisy was asking me, "How long is the ward going to keep doing this?" And I loved that I could say, with confidence, "As long as she needs us! Forever, if necessary!" If it were just ME—that would feel pretty daunting. But when it's all of us together trying to help, it just feels good. Again—it's not everything. We're not curing her. We're not taking away all her troubles. But it's such a privilege to be doing something that shares in God's love even a little. And that IS the word that comes to mind: privilege. I am honored to be part of an organization that encourages me to do such things as a matter of course! I loved being able to say to Daisy, "This is Relief Society! This is your role as a woman. This is just what women do."

And of course it isn't only women. Here's what Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone said about priesthood quorums in his talk in the Welfare Session of Conference:
There is a holy brotherhood in a good quorum that draws the members together with bands stronger than steel. The quorum is a brotherhood of charity wherein the “pure love of Christ” prevails. When this “charity” pervades all that is done, then every member has a Christlike interest in every other member. Quorum members feel the weight of the burden which is carried by their unemployed brother as though they themselves were unemployed. They are motivated to action.
It sounds kind of lofty at first. Intimidating. How can any quorum possibly ensure that charity "pervades all that is done"? People are so different…and they annoy and misunderstand each other…and it's hard to have charity all the time in families, let alone in a ward full of random neighbors! But yet in the Relief Society, I have in fact experienced what he's talking about: times where I actually "feel the weight of the burden" of someone in the ward I have grown to care about. I may not be wholly "one" with that person in opinion or personality type, but their sufferings or joys resonate in my own soul when I hear of them. It seems improbable, but I've felt it and it's real!

Sometimes I feel bad that I don't do more to be like "real sisters" with the people in my ward. I know if I knew them better, I would be able to serve them better. I know people won't trust their deepest needs and feelings with just anyone. But it seems so daunting to try and forge those true bonds when there's so little time or opportunity for me to do it! Still…I'm realizing how much good can be done, how much charity can be learned, even when conditions are less than completely ideal. An awkward or self-conscious word of comfort can still be comforting. A superficial conversation in the hall after which you think, "That was dumb; why did I say that?" is still the beginning of a relationship. A freezer meal for someone that you only remember at the last minute, and you wish you didn't have to do it tonight, but you do it anyway because you signed up, is still a way of reaching out. And if you keep taking those small little opportunities year after year, the "sisterhood" part has a way of surprising you when you least expect it. Your neighbor's husband dies and though you've never shared a heart-to-heart conversation before, you hug her and cry with her and feel your heart stretching toward her again and again even later when you pray. Or you walk into the church gym and see ladies decorating the tables with balloons and stringing up lights and all of a sudden you just feel like bursting with love for these strangers you didn't even know the names of ten years ago. Or you watch a new teacher's hands shake with nervousness as she starts her lesson and you find yourself praying that she will realize you don't even care what she says in her lesson, because you already love her anyway. Whenever this happens to me I'm overcome with amazement: Lord, how is it done? And every time I ask it, the answer is so simple: it happens bit by bit as I keep doing what I'm asked by God to do.

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To be home again

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 1976 Conference.
I love President Hinckley. I just love him! His talk in this session was characteristically straightforward, compassionate, and optimistic. I kept getting tears in my eyes as I read it, for no real reason except that I kept feeling, "This is true! This is so true!" In the talk, he speaks lovingly to those who have left the church, but I felt like there was so much hope for anyone in his words—hope that when we feel a little distant, like we've drifted or wavered a bit or just have lost a little of our spiritual energy—we can always come back to where we belong.

President Hinckley says:
And so I repeat, do not let pride stand in your way. The way of the gospel is a simple way. Some of the requirements may appear to you as elementary and unnecessary. Do not spurn them. Humble yourselves and walk in obedience. I promise that the results that follow will be marvelous to behold and satisfying to experience.
My mother-in-law and I were talking about this yesterday. The teacher asked in her church class, "Have any of you experienced miracles by doing the simple things like praying and reading your scriptures?" My mother-in-law thought, "No, not really." Then she considered further. She has prayed and read her scriptures nearly every day since high school. Who knows which, of all her many blessings in that time, can be attributed to those good habits? As we were talking, I felt confirmation of this in my heart: that many good things, "marvelous and satisfying" things, in my life have come (without my realizing it) from my attention to these small requirements.

Then President Hinckley invites us:
Try it. There is everything to gain and nothing to lose. Come back, my friends. There is more of peace to be found in the Church than you have known in a long while. There are many whose friendship you will come to enjoy. There is reading to be done, instruction to be received, discussions in which to participate that will stretch your minds and feed your spirits. 
The quiet longings of your heart will be fulfilled. The emptiness you have known for so long will be replaced with a fulness of joy.
Again, I felt the truth of this confirmed as I read it. It's so easy to take "going to church" for granted. It doesn't seem to give spectacular results every week. But as President Hinckley reminds us, there is so much it provides, quietly! Friendship. Things to read, things to learn, interesting discussions. Yes! It gives all of this to me. Of course there are bigger things as well from time to time, miraculous things—but I can't discount the value of the small ones. There would be so much emptiness without them! When I think of how much goodness they bring into my life, I wonder why I ever let myself get casual about those things!

President Hinckley told the story of a friend from his mission. This man had drifted away from the church over the years, and when he ran into President Hinckley he opened up to him about how much he missed the gospel in his life:
There were tears in the eyes of this strong man as he spoke of the Church of which he had once been so effective a part, and then told of the long, empty years that had followed. He dwelt upon them as a man speaks of nightmares. When he had described those wasted years, we talked of his returning. He thought it would be difficult, that it would be embarrassing, but he agreed to try. 
I had a letter from him not long ago. He said, “I’m back. I’m back, and how wonderful it feels to be home again.”
Although I haven't left the church (and I hope I never will), I can relate to this wonderful feeling of coming "home again." The goodness of the gospel really is "home" to me. Every time I recommit to my calling, or try harder to pray sincerely, or refocus on being grateful, or increase my efforts to love and serve others, or determine to better keep my covenants—I feel it. The distance closes and my strength is renewed and I think, "THIS is how things should be. I want to feel like this always!"

I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father allows us to do this again and again, as often we're willing. It's one of the best feelings we can have, and I can only imagine how much greater it will be if we stay faithful and eventually we get to say it to Heavenly Father and Jesus for real. "I'm back. I'm back, and how wonderful it feels to be home again!"

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A restless, anxious feeling

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the October 1976 Conference.
Water from the failed Teton Dam rushes over the Broadway Bridge in Idaho Falls. For three days residents sandbagged the banks as the volume of water continued to increase. “The whole bridge was vibrating. As I dashed out onto the bridge I took a handful of photographs and left, taking less than a minute,” said photographer Robert Bower.  Robert Bower Courtesy of the Idaho Falls Post-Register; original here
President N. Eldon Tanner gave a talk called "The Purpose of Conferences," and it was a little unusual because he mostly just quoted what other general authorities had said in various recent Area Conferences. (And there was another talk in this session that consisted almost entirely of quoted statements from the apostle Paul! So…that was interesting too.) 

The part of the talk I liked best was President Tanner, quoting Elder Packer. (And now I will quote them both, making three of us in all. This is starting to remind me of how everyone always starts the Joseph Smith/"Book of Mormon most correct book" quote with the phrase "I told the brethren." Why? We're already extracting only the applicable words for this quote. So why not just: "Joseph Smith said, 'The Book of Mormon is the most correct book' etc etc.? But no, it's always "Joseph Smith said, 'I told the brethren that...'")

Ahem. So…Elder Packer, as quoted, had been talking about the Teton Dam disaster. I have heard President Eyring talk about this before too, but I've never known much more about it except that the dam broke. I looked it up and found some articles about it, and it was really interesting to learn about. It is terrifying to think of that deadly wall of water rushing down to all the unsuspecting communities below! And according to Elder Packer's account, it was really miraculous that so few people died:
But what happened to the people that Saturday morning? There was a miracle! There were several deaths, but only six of them by drowning. How could such terrible destruction take place with such a little loss of life? 
The answer: they were warned. A number of them had been subjected to a restless, anxious feeling that morning, and so responded instantly when the warning came. They heeded the warning. Latter-day Saints pay attention to warnings.
President Tanner then summarizes:
Elder Packer stated that by scientific calculations 5,300 lives might have been lost, but there were so few. And it was not a case of going upstairs onto the roof. The houses were completely washed away, and most of the people had miles to go to reach high ground. They were saved because they heeded a warning and then warned their neighbors. 
…That is how they were saved. Everyone, when warned, raised the voice of warning to his family and to his neighbors. … Do you think they were casual about it? That is not the way it happened. The warnings were shouted and screamed. Horns were honked. Every means was used to sound the warning. ‘Come out of the valley. A flood is coming!'
Then comes the application:
Elder Packer concluded his account in these words: 
“It is Saturday morning in the Lord’s scheme of things, and we go complacently about our work, concerned with the ordinary cares of life. But many of us carry a restless, anxious feeling. And in these conferences we have heard the prophet and the apostles raising a voice of warning. ‘Come out of the valley,’ they are saying. ‘Come to higher ground. Come away from the flood of mischief, and evil, and spiritual disaster.’ And I repeat, it behooves every man who has been warned, to warn his neighbor.”
I've been reading Clayton Christensen's book The Power of Everyday Missionaries, which is the best treatment of member missionary work I've ever read anywhere (you should definitely read it! I love it!)—so missionary work has been on my mind a lot lately. And when I read these words from Elder Packer, I felt so arrested by them. "A restless, anxious feeling"—yes. I do have that. You could call it guilt, I guess, for not being better at missionary work (though that book makes it all seem much more achievable!), but it's also just a worry that I'm going to miss some opportunity to help someone who needs me—because I'm too caught up in my own life and my own worries. Can you imagine if you were running for safety from that dam breach, and you realized no one had told your neighbors? That they were sitting there unaware of the floodwaters coming toward them, and you could have helped them and didn't? It fills me with horror!

Maybe that seems like a negative way to think of it—since usually we talk about "sharing the good news" rather than "sounding the warning voice" (it sounds so much nicer!)—but to me, it really brings home the reality that this is important. Like Elder Packer says, it's not something to be "casual" about. People are drowning, already! And the gospel can save them! How pathetic of me to avoid saying anything that might help, just because I might say it badly or it might seem intrusive or weird.

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