Tuesday, August 1, 2017

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.

Other posts in this series:

1 comment:

  1. The kids and I are reading that book too as part of our Sabbath day activities. I've found it so helpful so far!!!

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