Monday, October 1, 2012

Unburied Memory

Something I was reading yesterday brought to mind a memory I'd forgotten I even had.

In the spring of 2007, Doug had to attend a development conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  I decided to tag along, and we rented a car so that we could spend some time exploring a couple of the Church history sites in the area.  We were able to see the temple grounds at Far West, and visit Liberty Jail (which was an incredible experience).  But the one that came to mind, the one I had almost forgotten, was the Sunday afternoon trip we took to Independence, Missouri, where the Church runs a large visitor's center about the pioneer history in the area (across from the visitor center is a still-vacant lot that the Prophet Joseph long ago dedicated for a temple--the first temple site dedicated).  The sister missionary who gave us our tour in the visitor center was explaining what it was these early pioneers were trying to accomplish, what it was that drove them.  She talked about their singular focus on building Zion.  Then she asked a question:  We have well-established headquarters in Salt Lake, surrounded by largely-LDS cities and towns, and many, many temples, so should we still be building Zion?  How would we do that, not being commanded to gather in one place anymore?

Doug spoke up and ventured an answer.  As briefly as he could, he tried to explain to her what we understood about the commandment to "build Zion".  He told this young sister about the ward we were a part of, about the convert baptisms we were witnessing month after month.  He told her about the ways the work we chose overlapped with our Gospel responsibilities, about how many of us were trying to obtain certain goals with a common understanding, and a striving for personal growth and missionary work all intertwined with it.  By the time he finished, she was in tears and speechless.

This memory surfaced on the heels of a lovely email from a dear friend.  It was a group email, sent to many of our closest friends, expressing her love and her gratitude for having been a part of all the wonderful things we tried to accomplish together.  Doug and I moved, this friend and her beautiful little family moved, and so had two of the other friends that she sent the email to--we were compelled to move on, to other adventures.  But there is something special with this little group of travelers we were with for those few brief but intense years.  She related the bond and understanding to the one that she shares with those she served a mission with in France 20 years ago, an apt comparison.

When I connected the two thoughts, it finally clicked for me, in a small way, the way so many of those pioneers must've felt.  They were, very literally, trying to build Zion:  homes, churches, temples, relationships, testimonies.  And so often, they were compelled to move on before things were finished, often separating from friends and families in doing so. How frustrating it must've been to have to walk away from the things they wanted so badly to finish, to see complete and whole.  How hard it must've been to leave people they loved dearly.  And how very, very much they must've cherished each other, and their common experiences.

For me, this was an important thought, because I can see, from the distance of of nearly two centuries' time, how very much what they started, what they accomplished, mattered.  They didn't always finish what they expected or wanted to, but the foundation that they laid has been integral in accomplishing so much more, even though these brave souls never lived to see it.  I've no doubt that that empty lot, dedicated 181 years ago for temple building, will someday have a temple on it, perhaps someday soon.

The Lord uses us for his purposes, and sometimes human error and angry mobs will get in the way of the progress we think should be happening, but that doesn't mean the work we do is wasted, or won't (eventually) be built upon, and in the mean time the importance of the testimonies we build and the souls we welcome into that happy band of brothers with us is incalculable.  I needed that reminder.

I can't imagine life ever being more intense and difficult than it was from 2006-2011.  But I can't imagine it ever being better, either.  God bless those wonderful souls who taught us so much about what it truly means to be a saint.  They will always hold a precious place in my heart.

"How good and glorious it has seemed unto me, to find pure and holy friends, who are faithful, just, and true, and whose hearts fail not; and whose knees are confirmed and do not falter, while they wait upon the Lord. . .They shall not want a friend while I live; my heart shall love those, and my hands shall toil for those, who love and toil for me, and shall ever be found faithful to my friends.”  ~Joseph Smith, Jr.

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