Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Personality and Intelligence

So, I was reading an article this morning that reminded me of something that amuses me:

I have taken the SATs, the ACT, and a formal IQ test.  None of the scores match up with each other the way they "should" according to conversion charts.  I mean, they're all within a reasonably similar percentile range, but several points off of each other in one direction or the other.  I've been accused of having avoidant personality disorder more than once, and I have been identified as an INFJ, INTJ, ISFJ and INTP by various personality-type junkies I know, as well as being identified as a green personality, a blue personality and a purple personality.

So, my point here would be?  Its just funny to me that so many different people and standards of measurement have measured me so differently.  Its not that I think all these tools are totally worthless--we all have frameworks we use to help us make sense of the world and people around us, to help us figure out more effective ways to communicate with and understand each other--but perhaps its best to approach each person in our life as an individual, not a "type".  And maybe it'd be best to do that while bearing in mind that we often only see snapshots of even the people we know fairly well, and that the way we interpret those snapshots is influenced by our own intelligence, personality or agenda.

After all, there are some of these assessments about myself with which I agree, and some with which I definitely disagree.  Looking back, I can see times where my self-assessment differed with someone else's assessment and, in retrospect, the other party was probably right and I was probably wrong.  And while the most basic features of most individual's personalities remain pretty much the same through most of their lives, people are fluid, changing often and sometimes dramatically.  I ascribe to a belief system that declares that individuals can, for good or ill, change their very natures.  Don't get stuck in a label, for yourself or for someone else.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Safeguarding Faith

One of the stories in the scriptures that has long fascinated me is the account of the Savior walking on water, and Peter's attempt to join him.  We focus--and rightly so--on the fact that shortly after stepping onto the water, Peter wavered, he fell into the water, and the Savior reached down and lifted him up with the words, "O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

Here's the thing about it that always sticks with me:  Peter had the faith to get out of the boat--in a sometimes tumultuous sea, far from the shore, he hopped over the side without life jacket or life boat and took a few steps on water, and then sunk below the waves.  As far as we know, he is the only person beside the Savior who ever walked on water.  If the Savior referred to Peter, who had just walked on water, albeit briefly, as "ye of little faith", how much bucking up could our faith possibly use?

It also reminds us that having the faith to take the first step does not guarantee us the ability to run across the water's top--faith must be bolstered continuously, step by step, never wavering.  If you waver for a moment, you could slip under the water and find yourself tossed about by the waves.

In our moments of "little faith", we thankfully have the same rescuer at our side that Peter had at his: Jesus Christ.  He may gently rebuke our lack of faith, after all the time we have spent with his companionship and the miracles we have seen him perform, but if we simply reach up and call for aid, he will not let us drown.  He will not abandon us to destruction simply because we sometimes lose our footing. "Be it unto thee according to thy faith", he said.  He will help in any and every way he can, but much depends on what you do with your agency--agency that, for all the power he wields, he will not usurp.  Peter, and the revelatory Priesthood he so honorably bore, became the rock of foundation on which the Savior built his church at the conclusion of his earthly ministry.  Certainly he can make more of you than you now are.

When he calls to you, have the faith to get out of that boat.  And then keep the faith, step by step, so that you keep that head of yours above water.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I've been thinking this last week about how much control we have over what happens in our lives, and about how much the decisions and actions of those around us, and simple happenstance over which none of us has any real control, affects what experiences we have in life.

I went to a stake training meeting last Saturday (though I haven't been set apart yet, I was called to serve as the education councilor in the ward Relief Society), and there was some discussion of making sure that sisters are prepared for helping to dress bodies for funerals, should the need arise (and in an aging ward and aging stake, it arises often).  They asked everyone who had had the opportunity to offer that service to a family to raise their hand.  Several sisters expressed mild surprise to see my hand go up (as is often the case--and I'm starting to get used to it--I was the youngest one in the room by about 10 years, maybe 15.  Someday I'm going to be the old lady in the room and its going to completely catch me off guard).

Along with one of my cousins (who actually has the same calling as I do at the moment, in her own ward, ha!), I dressed my grandma's body for her funeral.  When my grandma passed away, she had been only half-active for many years, and I don't think anyone knew when she had last been to the temple (several decades at the very least), but I expressed my thought that she should be buried in temple clothing.  I wasn't sure how that advice would be received, since only two of my grandma's children identified themselves explicitly as LDS anymore--and one of them was completely out of sorts due to Alzheimer's, and the other has never been through the temple herself.  To my delight, they all agreed that that was a good idea.  But because of the directions that most other members of the family have chosen for their lives, myself and my one cousin were the only active, temple-endowed sisters close enough to perform that service, so with the help of a dear family friend and a member of the ward Relief Society presidency, Alyssa and I dressed Grandma.  I think we both hold very dear the memory of sharing that sacred experience of offering together that simple but important act of sacred service to the woman who had given so much in service to us.

That got me thinking about a few other experiences I've had that were a bit unusual for my age and circumstances.  I have had the privilege of serving as an escort to one friend as she received her Endowment, and the responsibility of being a witness for another at a disciplinary council.  I certainly never expected either of those things, particularly by this point in my life, but there I found myself. Going through the temple with my very best and oldest friend has been one of the most precious and profound experiences of my life.  On the other hand, in a way that is difficult to explain (at least here, in this context), the very different experience of going to that disciplinary council is also an experience that I cherish.  Few things have so taught me the value of following the guidance of the Spirit, and taking the long-view;  few things have better taught me the true meaning and value of love, and that hope is not usually about the immediate, but the eternal.  Hope is more resilient than fear or anger.  I know that deep in my soul, partly in thanks to that experience.  The contrast in those experiences has taught me more about myself, and about Christlike love, for while I certainly have more in common with one of those girls than I do the other, am much closer to one at this point, I love both of them equally, I can see the tremendous good in each of them.  Sometimes I remind myself that when someone is choosing something other than what I think they should.

And the experience that always comes back to me, that tugs at me often and heavily:  of having to go through the grief of losing our baby nephew and striving to find some way, any way, to comfort and be a friend to his grieving mother, and to speak at his funeral and try to convey that love, that wonderful personality of his, to a roomful of people. That is one experience that I hope never to have to repeat.  But I am grateful for what it taught me.  For all it took from us, I am indeed grateful for what it gave us--first and foremost, little Claire, my mischievous delight, whom we likely would never have known if Conner hadn't been taken.  I am grateful for that baptism of fire that made me a better friend, a better wife, a more appreciative sister, and a much better mother.  I am grateful for the ways in which it strengthened my testimony of our Father's love, and, nearly as importantly, his wisdom.  I'm grateful for the strange way in which the outpouring of love gave several others a safe place to express their own pains, to feel loved and so to move forward.

I'm grateful that Amanda asked me to speak:  I had never been one, by nature or, frankly, by training, to be open with my thoughts or feelings.  I had always been very reticent to share those things with others.  But as I prepared for that responsibility, I felt keenly that it would be a great disservice to Conner, to Amanda, and to everyone else present, to be anything less than completely forward and open.  I had the opportunity to share my feelings completely and honesty, unashamed by emotion, to share my testimony boldly and without reservation, and the love and spirit of those present there that day helped me to see how such things can lift, serve and help others.  It wasn't long after that experience that, with the help of a few clear promptings from the Spirit, I started this blog.

So what's my point?  There's a lot that we can control in life, so we ought to take care to make wise decisions.  But there is so very, very much that is out of our control, so the the most important decisions we make are about who we will be, what sort of person we will make ourself into, so that whatever experiences come to us in life, we can, with the Lord's guidance, make them for our "profit and learning".  If we choose to be teachable, all things truly can work together for our good, the wonderful blessings and the uphill challenges alike.  Experiences in our lives, including those that don't necessarily come because of our own choices, have the impact on us that we choose to let them have.  My experiences have taught me a little more all the time the importance of trusting in God, and not leaning on my own understanding.

The beautiful truth in that is that as I have trusted in God, my own understanding has increased.  That chosen reliance on him also increases my own capacity for understanding and growth.  Eternal progress starts now.  The only agency you control is your own.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The joy of old houses. . .

We discovered a few days after moving in that the oven on the awesome vintage stove in our house wasn't working.  So for the almost two months we've been living here, we've had no oven and it turns out the repair man can't find the right parts for the ancient stove, so its whole awesomeness must be discarded.  Sad about that, but glad that hopefully by some time this coming week, I will have a functional oven.

Saturday afternoon, I had a meeting to attend in Butte, so I left with the dishes not yet done.  When I got home and got kids to bed, I went to do dishes and the water wouldn't heat up.  Doug crawled down into the basement (and by "basement" I mostly mean "covered hole in the ground") and discovered that the pilot light on the water heater had gone out.  Thought that was weird, got it relit, did the dishes and went to bed.

Then we woke up to get everyone ready for church on Sunday morning, and again water wouldn't heat up.  The pilot light had gone out again.  So I bathed the little girls and I as best I could in tepid water and went to church.  A repairman from NorthWest Energy stopped by on Monday, cleaned everything on the water heater really well and called it good.  A few hours after he left, we had to relight it in order to do dishes and bathe the kids.  So that's what we've been doing all week--Doug would crawl down to the basement and light the pilot, I'd wait 15-20 minutes and then bathe kids or do dishes.  Finally, yesterday morning, a plumber came out and checked it out and replaced the thermocouple and thought that would do it.  It still won't stay lit, and now even when it does light, the water isn't actually getting hot--luke warm at best.  And its Friday:  wanna take any bets on whether or not we get a repairman here before the the weekend starts?

Sigh.  Just in time for the 30 degree weather and a couple of inches of snow on the ground, we can't get any hot water.  Maybe I should brave the roads ands spend the gas money and go to mom's house for the weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

If you haven't checked it out yet. . .

you really should go peruse my sister's blog.  Seriously.  She's a talented photographer, a gifted storyteller, and most of the posts are about her awesome, entertaining, wonderful children (and having spent a fair amount of time with these kids the last year, I can tell you that they aren't just that entertaining and fun because she's a good storyteller, they really are just some of the most fun personalities I know, her four little people. And she's pretty fun herself).

So, seriously, go.  Even if you don't know her.  I guarantee you will enjoy getting to know her, reading her stories and seeing her fun photos.  Its worth your time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


For whatever reason, lately I have been more able than usual to see the value of a soft answer, of seeing the best in people, in noticing their accomplishments and not their failures or weaknesses;  I have been more able to judge people according to where they've been, rather than where I think they should be;  I have been better able to recognize the value of assuming the best about the intentions and motivations of others, even if goes against my previous experiences with them.  I have several theories on why the sudden (and seemingly unearned) rosiness of my life-glasses, but I'm going with the all-the-love-I've-recieved-catching-up-to-my-attitude theory.

Don't get me wrong: I believe there's a big difference between turning the other cheek and unnecessarily submitting yourself to a beating.  But what's so wrong with turning the other cheek, and doing it over and over?  Why is it so hard for us stubborn, prideful, sensitive fallen mortals to let the snide remark go?  To prove the unfair judgment wrong with a greater exercise of love and patience rather than to try to argue that unfair assessment away?  Why is it so hard to serve patiently instead of ridiculing or ignoring until we think we're ready to deal with someone or they're ready to deal with us?  Why is it so hard to refrain from criticizing or correcting others in their faults or missteps?

Because people are awful--or rather, they're just as awful as we are.  Most of the people around us are just as flawed as we are, but we expect them to be as good as we are in our strengths, and then we're impatient with them in their weaknesses.  There are people in life we have to maintain distance from because they are toxic--there are those individuals who are either so malicious or so conspicuously selfish that they poison the people and relationships around them--but those people are the exception, not the rule.  And sometimes, its OK to allow a little distance, to keep efforts at a minimum, because the challenges are big enough and numerous enough that you have to acknowledge that, at the moment, you simply don't possess the tools to build or mend that relationship.  But again, for the most part, those are exceptions.

The only thing, ultimately, that will heal relationships, that will grow relationships, is love.  Not the wishy-washy childish love that says, "I love you because you make me feel good", but the grown-up, mature, Christ-like love that says, "I choose to love you, when its easy, and when its hard.  I choose to see you as a child of God, my brother or sister, worthy of my effort and attention, my patience and my affection.  I love you, even when you hurt me or make me angry."  When we really start to love someone, really see all the things that Lord sees in them, is when we can be hurt and angry and still not say that terrible thing we want to say, because our desire not to hurt them back is bigger than our anger.  With enough effort, with enough understanding and grasp of Christlike love, we can even get to the point that we don't even think that terrible thing.  We can reach a point where we aren't so much hurting for ourselves, but for the one who is angry or mistaken--we are disappointed not by what they cost us, but by what the rob themselves of.

Christlike love is not blind to faults--I would say quite the opposite, that Christlike love can perceive faults in their most complete context:  the circumstances, choices, people in our lives and innate characteristics that created those flaws, or led to those mistakes.  That more complete understanding of the individuals in our lives can help us to be patient with them, to be more patient with ourselves, as we work our way through those challenges and, ultimately, past them.  Christ does not serve us--love us--because he doesn't see our sins and weaknesses;  he serves us because he can see what we are capable of being, beyond our sins and weaknesses, and is determined to help us find that joy.

He conquered sin, pain and death, through the infinite love of the Atonement.  We cannot hope to change anything about people in our lives in regards to their nature, character or certainly disposition towards us, through explanation or argument.  The only way to influence the way that people treat us, respond to us, see us, is to show them His love shining through us.

When we have people in our lives that, for whatever reason, just don't seem to want to like us, or that we just can't find anything to like about, relationships that just don't seem to work, we ought to pray to Heavenly Father to help us to see that person the way that he sees them. I have had that experience more than once, where I found love for someone, and always it started with the Lord providing an opportunity to serve that person.  I know that there are times when my kids drive me crazy, there are traits and personal challenges they have that make me a bit batty now and then (or at least bewildered), but I always feel tremendous love for each of them, can see so many wonderful things to love about each one of them.  I'm quite certain, then, that a perfect and all-knowing parent can show you how to love one of his children if you sincerely ask.  Chances are that every individual in your life that you struggle with, or that seems to struggle with you, has many more good qualities than bad ones, more successes than failures.  There are a diversity of gifts--try to recognize the gifts in others, and express your appreciation of those gifts.  There are also a diversity of weaknesses.  Be willing to extend to others the patience that you would like for yourself in your own flaws, even--perhaps especially--when they seem unwilling to extend that patience back to you.

At the end of each day, the fact remains that you have a Savior who loves you enough to cover all your flaws with the Atonement.  You have a Redeemer who suffered terribly so that you would not have to.  And he did all that for everyone else in your life, too.  Sometimes, you have to be willing to accept an apology you did not receive, because the debt has been paid and that person is indebted to the Savior for that forgiveness and redemption, not to you.  Maybe they're self-righteous, or rude;  maybe they're not as smart as you, or spiritually clueless;  maybe they're abrupt;  maybe they're angry or judgmental; maybe they're emotionally immature or socially challenged.  Chances are, you are one of those things, too, or something equally as offensive.  Be willing to see past those things to the good in that person, because Christ has forgiven all those things in you.  He sees you perfectly as you are, and sees you just as perfectly as you could become through his love;  seek his help to see others that way yourself.

We do not change people's minds by talking about ourselves, we don't change their hearts by arguing.  Contention is wholly a tactic of the adversary.  We extend Christlike love to people, over and over again, especially when they behave as though they "don't deserve it", and in so doing, we help them to become more lovable.  We talk of Christ, we preach of Christ, we rejoice in Christ.  Everything else matters little if we don't.  And we serve people in the same way that we lead them, "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge.. .without hypocrisy and without guile. . ."

It is relatively easy to love those who love us, who show us that love in word and action.  Much of the work of life is in striving to develop and demonstrate love for everyone else.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life in the Village

Doug often teases me that where I grew up doesn't count as an actual "town".  Its a hamlet, he says.  I guess it qualifies.  The official population as of the 2010 census was 849.  Take into account the surrounding area, not included in the city limits, and I imagine you're well over 1,000--maybe even the 1200 range!

There are a lot of challenges to living someplace like that.  Its hard to hide, if hiding is what you're inclined to at the moment.  Lots of people seem to know everything about you, or think that they do.  Things like that can be hard to deal with at times.

But in most ways, I have always loved the little-ness of the place.  Since a majority of those who live there are members of families that have lived there for many generations, you often end up feeling like you just have a giant extended family (in some cases, like my family, that is quite literally true).  There are many over-lapping family connections and longstanding friendships between individuals and families, and the sense of community is greater, I think, because you rather quickly become aware of how intertwined your lives are, and how many different ways you depend on each other.  I was keenly aware of this growing up, since both my parents were volunteer EMTs, and I knew many volunteer firefighters and search and rescue workers and other such individuals.  I knew everyone I went to school with--seriously, every one.  When good fortune came to one family, it often blessed many others.  And when tragedy came to one family, it often affected the entire community.

This past summer, a member of the community, and long-time high school basketball coach, was diagnosed with cancer, and the outpouring of support has been wonderful to see.  It has culminated this week in images all over Facebook of guys shaving their heads to show support for their now-bald friend, and entire stands full of people wearing their blue and white "No One Fights Alone" tshirts for Homecoming.

It has reminded me of the first time my village made such an impression on me.  When I was about Keilana's age (a little younger, I guess--I was a second grader) our little town became rather contentiously divided.  I had a hard time understanding why and what was going on because I was so young, but because of my dad's position in the community (he was high school principal at the time) he was right in the middle of it.  All I knew is that a lot of people seemed upset at my dad for reasons I didn't understand, and I was hearing adults and children alike saying hurtful things about my father, and a few family friends, that I knew weren't true.  It was very confusing, because some of the people who were most vocally opposed to my father were people I thought were friends, or were the parents of my friends.

Just a couple of weeks before school got out that spring, three kids (our neighbors, two of them very close friends with my brothers) went for an afternoon joy ride with their uncle in his small plane, and disappeared.  They were missing for ten days.  I remember much of the experience very clearly for a lot of reasons (the youngest child, Jesse, was my twin brother's closest friend at the time, and it was our first face-to-face confrontation with the reality of mortality), but the thing that stuck out to me that week was that for those ten days, the teeny tiny municipal airport was busy all hours of the day, with volunteers of every kind going out on flights and in organized hiking groups, searching relentlessly.  The Missions are rugged and thick with trees and brush--not easy hiking or searching.  The number of volunteers and their tirelessness was astounding to my little not-quite-8-year-old self, and more than that, I saw people who had quite recently been at each other's throats working together without contention or complaint.  It clicked for me that these missing kids were more important to them than whatever grievances they had been nursing--even if they didn't personally know the kids or their mother well.  I realized in watching them that their love was stronger than their anger.  It was the first thing that had made any emotional sense to me in months.  And I realized in that moment, that all those people would've been out there doing the same thing if it were Michael and Eldon and I in that plane, despite what some of them may have said about our dad recently.  I realized I was surrounded by a tribe that would come looking for me if I disappeared, and that was a great comfort after a very confusing year.

Though I still struggle to understand what it must've been like, what it must still be like, for their mother to deal with the reality of such an astonishingly devastating loss, that experience was also the first time that I came to understand, in some instinctual way if not intellectually, the power of adversity and struggle and loss to remind us of our importance to each other.  The people in this little village care about each other, even if sometimes some present hurt or perceived wrong leads them to forget it.  But when it really matters, they'll be there.

Just look at a portion of those who are there for Coach Rice:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holy Elevation, Batman!

Oh, dear.  The last three months (ever since I went on that fire call), I have been doing virtually nothing exercise related.  Between all the work I had to do for moving, actually moving, trying to get organized and still in the early stages of moving while the kids were already trying to get on a school routine, then the terrible, terrible smoke that made running outside something of a health hazard, plus several illnesses for me and the kids, I just hadn't made it a priority.

The last couple of weeks, I'd been doing some minor strength-training routines just to get myself back into the habit and start making a little progress (and I usually start with strength training, because, lets face it, even when I'm thin I'm built more for force than for speed or distance. . .sigh.  But, hey, it can be nice to build muscle relatively quickly and be stronger than most chicks even when I'm horribly out of shape).  So this morning, my alarm went off at six, and I couldn't face the cold.  I just need to buck up and deal with it, but I wasn't quite there.  So I waited til it "warmed up"--Keira and I left the house at 8:30 (Kylie is hanging out with her cousin and auntie this week), when it had warmed up to a balmy 36*.  Keira was bundled quite well in the jogging stroller, and I was wearing a hoody and it was clear, dry and very sunny, so the temperature actually wasn't a problem, and, as most high-mountain mornings are, it was gorgeous outside.

But I thought about dying anyway.  Or at least quitting. I was not yet in good shape when I stopped exercising, and now its been months since I did anything, and so I start jogging at 5330 feet--yes, more than a mile high.  Eek.  I got back to the house after 25 minutes, and I was done.  I started to think I was remembering past running experiences inaccurately.  In Lindsay, I was up to about three miles a day when I was going to McDermott.  When I was living in San Luis (the year I wasn't pregnant), I was running a couple miles most days, and it didn't seem hard or long at all.  When I was living in Hawaii, I thought I was running five miles a day, because I wouldn't wake up til six, and then I'd go for a run and have time to come back and shower, put on makeup and do some homework before my 8am class, or throw on a change of clothes before my 7am class.  Yeah, that's the other thing--I'd go for a run, and then go to a 50-minute dance class.  It just didn't seem reasonably possible, so I came home and used Google maps to retrace my old running routes, thinking maybe they were shorter than I thought.  Turns out that one was 5.8miles round trip, the other was 6.1miles. And I'd run them in a little less than 50 minutes.  That just made me feel like more of a loser than I already did.

Of course, I was at sea level, I was 18, and I had not been through four pregnancies and was consequently not trying to run a household and raise four kids, I just had to worry about me.  I've never gotten back to that mileage (certainly not that time!) since, but I have had years in between pregnancies where I've been up to 2-4 miles a day and it didn't seem like this big a deal (that may be part of my problem--Keira is 18 months, and that's about the longest I have not been pregnant in 9 years).  So here's hoping I can get over the pain of getting started.

Ok, that was a long post just to complain.  I promise I won't do that again.  No more running/exercise updates.  I just figure that this way I get the complaining out of my system, but no one has to listen to me if they don't want to.  So bless you if you made it this far.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

OK, Sam, now would be good. . .

So my best friend Sam and I have long had his plan that we will live next door to each other and raise our kids together.  She has these two little kids, a boy and a girl, who happen to be extraordinarily cute, and a husband who is secretly a Jewish cowboy (shhhhh. . . .don't tell anyone).  I think now would be an excellent time to live next door to each other.  And Anaconda is a cool place.  And the ward could really use some more young families.

Of course, its possible that I'm a little homesick.  Today when I was in Deer Lodge, there were these 9 month old twin boys in stroller that, I swear, other than being a little cheekier and just generally bigger, were dead ringers for Freddy and Baz.  Seriously, I wish I'd had a camera on me, it was uncanny.  And then later in the day when we were grocery shopping, I saw another kid who totally could've passed for a about-nine-years-old Gage.  Crazy stuff.

But I really need to get to know Kyler and Brooklyn better, so bring them up here!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Irish Treasure

She's so smiley and happy. So easy-peasy.
We (meaning the older kids, mostly) joke a lot at our house about Keira being our Irish baby, as she was born on St. Patrick's Day.  As far as the ethnic personality that is projected by or onto the Irish, it suits her.  She has great charm, is quite clever, loves to sing and dance, and is quite affable and generally easy-going.  She loves to laugh, and to make others laugh, and is quite social, usually happiest when she is surrounded by many other happy people that she can play and dance with.  But somewhere in there, she's got an unbendable stubborn streak, and a quick, intense temper.  People don't see that temper too often, but they don't forget it when they do.

She has been such a little gift.  She has all the joy that her older siblings have in their natures, but she lacks their intensity--she doesn't have Keilana's intense, manic energy, or Dylan's intense focus or moodiness, or Kylie's intense attachment or emotional sensitivity.  She's somehow at once both mellow and gregarious.  She's one of my more affectionate children, but less attached--happily spending the night with babysitters, or traipsing off to a new nursery class the first time we're in a new ward where she doesn't know anyone.  She wears her heart on her sleeve, but doesn't bludgeon you with her emotions.  Her's hoping she stays so delightful, always.

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.