December has been a busy, interesting month preparing for
a wonderful Mission Conference on December 13th,
Two major Christmas Zone Conferences December 19th and 23rd
and tomorrow, December 29th-31st are Transfers again!
Sunday, December 7th was the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Broadcast.
It is a tradition we love. It was wonderful!
After the devotional I found Tom in bed with all his clothes on, having,
what we thought was a Vertigo attack. However in talking with him,
I noticed that the right side of his mouth was drooping,
he couldn't talk very well and his right hand was was tremoring.
It reminded me of a TIA that he had in 2007 on his birthday that eventually led to
discovery of a PFO (hole in his heart) that he had repaired at that time.
So under protest, I helped my wobbly husband to the car and drove
to the University Carolinas Medical Center Emergency Room
about 10 PM Sunday night. It is only 5 minutes from our apartment.
They took him right to a room and hooked him up to EKG and did a CT scan.
He still had symptoms of stroke but couldn't find anything on the CT scan.
However, about 2 AM the doctor came in and said Tom needed to be admitted to
the hospital for more thorough tests. Unfortunately this hospital had "no room in the inn"
so he spent the next two days in the Carolinas Medical Center in Concord,
which is 30 minutes away from our apartment.
This is just a small portion of the hospital complex.
It was interesting because I really never felt alone!
Being so far from family could have made the experience a nightmare
but I felt calm and surrounded by angels.
Tom was taken to the hospital by ambulance and I had to go
to our apartment to pick up his CPAP machine,
so I made my way there a few minutes after he did.
The only time I started a panic attack was when I was trying to find
my way in to this HUGE facility at 3:30 AM.
All the doors were locked except for the emergency room door.
I was exhausted and vulnerable in the dark all alone
but prayed and got the help I needed. Again, I knew that I was not alone.
Monday morning, Elder and Sister Hunt and Elder Slade came to the hospital
to give him a Priesthood blessing, which was such a comfort.
Sister Hunt offered to stay with me and I appreciated that offer
but I knew I would be OK.
I'm so grateful for their friendship!
Tom was a great patient and endured a battery of tests.
Results: His PFO surgery is still intact, his heart and arteries, his brain,
and blood work all came back normal, which is a huge relief to both of us.
He had intense Vertigo therapy and the diagnosis was a TIA.
I didn't get many pictures. I'm sure Tom is none too pleased that I'm sharing these.
This is an EEG test done in his room at the hospital, because of the tremor in his left hand.
He has a brain! A very good brain!
It was an exhausting anxious time but the hospital was wonderful.
The staff was amazing and very informative every step of the way
and we loved the neurologist. He was thorough and explained everything in
layman's terms so we could understand the tests and reasons for them.
From my previous experience in 2008, this was a great blessing.
A funny story that I thought is worth sharing. Tom was on a heart healthy diet
in the hospital.....Not at all what he is used to, or liked, though he made the best of it.
The afternoon before he was released two of the nurses were talking about
a new barbeque place, The Smoky Pit, that had just opened close to the hospital.
We were a little surprised when they said we should go check it out.
Remember this is North Carolina! Heart healthy menu to barbeque!
Tom was starving and thought it was a great idea. Guess where we ate an early dinner?
I should have taken pictures of the food.
It is now on the top of the list for the best barbeque we've had!
We decided to split a Pecan ice cream sandwich as part of the going home celebration!
It came in 2 bowls with a warm thin layer of Pecan pie,
topped with ice cream and another gooey layer of delicious Pecan pie.
(Pecan ice cream sandwich is definitely a misnomer.)
It was melt in your mouth scrumptiousness!
I now pronounce pecan, pecan with the accent on can. I'm a converted southerner.
Hmmmm.....Could this be the reason, we have gained weight?
We celebrated Christmas, quietly....literally.... because I was sick
and coughed non stop from Sunday until Friday after Christmas when
I finally went to the doctor.
After a breathing treatment and much yukky medicine
I am feeling better today.
Christmas morning. I tried to smile but it's a sick smile.
We were supposed to host Christmas dinner for 5 couples but ended up
at the Slades apartment because I was sick. Bless their hearts for offering!
This picture has us, the Andrus', Hunts, Sister Slade and the Reidheads
This picture includes Elder Slade. We were just missing the Klinkers who had family with them.
Christmas Zone Conferences
Preparing Christmas for the missionaries was a fun experience.
There were several missionaries who weren't going to receive any
presents, so Sister Hunt and I shopped for each of them and extras just in case.
We, with the help of Sister Slade spent a day wrapping and packaging up
6 presents for each of the missionaries in mailing boxes addressed to them.
Tom made labels and no one else knew they were from Santa.
Christmas Zone Conferences were wonderful, many packages from home and
from Santa were passed out at the end of the day. I love these missionaries!
This was the first conference with 4 zones. Where in the world are the Urbans?
President and Sister Craven
We were Santa's helpers!
The highlight for December 2014 was our Mission Conference
with Elder D. Todd Christofferson, an apostle of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Because we are not allowed to take photos of his visit, I found these pictures online.
Here he is shaking hands with future missionaries,
so perhaps with a little imagination
you can picture him shaking each one
of the 260 missionaries hands before our conference began.
As Office Staff, we were seated
in the front row on the left side of the podium.
All the Sister missionaries were seated in front of the Elders.
There is protocol for everything that is done.
We were instructed how to, in an orderly fashion, walk row by row
to shake his hand. We practiced it. No hugging unless he initiated it.
A brief hello from each missionary.
Before President and Sister Craven arrived with Elder Christofferson,
Elder Urban was asked to meet the car, open the door for him, welcoming him.
I know that was a special assignment he will never forget!
We all stood as he walked in the "overflowing sea of missionaries" in the chapel.
Even the pianist stood as he continued playing beautiful prelude music.
Reverence permeated the chapel.
Elder Christofferson, President and Sister Craven and President and Sister Cheney
stood on the floor in front of the podium greeting each one of us.
I was able to see the expression on each missionary's face
as they shook his hand. There was such light and joy in each face.
When Elder Urban and I took our turn,
He looked at Elder Urban and took my hand and said,
"Now I get to meet his better half!"
Then he thanked Elder Urban again for greeting him outside.
Imagine this was Elder Christofferson standing in the Harrisburg Chapel
teaching us and telling stories and answering questions.
These are the complete notes I took at the conference.
I wasn't sure that I should share all of them but
with Elder Urban's approval, I decided to.
President Craven’s testimony- An apostle of the Lord prayed for us all this morning in our home. He prayed for all of our missionaries.
“What Child is This”- musical number by group of missionaries. It was Heavenly!
He talked about Divine chastening: Though it is often difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct.
Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path.
(Please go to the link at the end of this blog to a video on his FB page that is about this very subject.)
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
Questions from different missionaries and his answers- Elder Christofferson would ponder for a moment each question, give background story and then teach us lovingly, great gospel principles and truth. Over and over again, I had witnessed to me that He knows the Savior personally and is truly his Apostle and Prophet. He was candid, open, kind, endowed with power and filled with light and love.
1. What is the most important thing you have learned from the First Presidency?
Thursday mornings, when the Prophet and Apostles meet in the Salt Lake Temple, they form a Prayer Circle and always pray for the missionaries. They are also very aware of each of our prayers for them. They feel the power of our collective prayers in their behalf and acknowledge the strength that is received from those prayers. They then have lunch, break bread, on the 4th floor of the temple. He commented on how different each personality is, and how they can have very different opinions from each other. But everyone loves the Lord! They are unified. He quoted D&C 38:2 “…be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
He likened the pyramid of marriage with God at the top and husband and wife at the other two corners.
The closer we each come to God the closer we come to each other! This same principle applies to missionary companions, to Office Couples, in our callings and even in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.
2. How has your understanding of Priesthood keys changed since becoming an Apostle?
Keys of the Priesthood (The priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of all—men, women, and children.. The keys of the priesthood, held by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, direct the work of the Lord upon the earth.) Purpose is to reach out to all the world, to preach the gospel and to baptize.
He quoted D&C 112:28-30. (In reading those verses it is worth reading the whole chapter.)
28 “But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it;
29 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned.
30 For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times.”
Elder Christofferson taught us that the First Presidency and the Twelve are only 15 people. They can’t do it all. So they look to the Seventy’s to help. They look to us as Missionaries. We share the keys and have apostolic authority from our Prophet to draw on the keys and to share the gospel with the world. He told us that the brethren feel companionship with us and pray for us.
He quoted D&C 63:60-64
60 “Behold, I am Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ.
61 Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips—
62 For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority.
63 Wherefore, let the church repent of their sins, and I, the Lord, will own them; otherwise they shall be cut off.
64 Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.”
He reminded us that we have the authority BUT we have to seek the guidance of the Spirit to use that authority. Our wish should be that we could bless other’s lives with things that really matter. It is our privilege that the Lord lets us help him.
3. What experiences have you had to bring you to this place in your life?
Over time- Our faith, testimonies, knowledge, develop with the experiences we have and choices we make, over time. There is no surer knowledge that comes than from the Holy Ghost. Words sometimes are inadequate. Those things we learn Spirit to Spirit are most perfect. The Book of Mormon, when we read with pure intent, we receive an answer. Moroni 9:3-5 “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men….ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.”
The Book of Mormon is an instrument of conversion. Not just once. The Spirit will witness to us again and again. We receive revelation when we read the scriptures.
4. How does Grace work?
It is greatly misunderstood, especially in this part of the world. (the South)
D&C 20:29-30 “And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
30 And we know that *justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true; 31 And we know also, that **sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.”
*justification in this sense is forgiven or pardoned.** sanctification is to be cleansed by grace so that we are guiltless, spotless. We must repent, follow the Doctrine of Christ, Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and Endure to the End.
We have to receive the gift of the Atonement.
D&C 88:33 “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.”
He reminded us that, “We are carrying the Kingdom of God in our hands”. We offer the gift of grace. Many don’t understand the eternal gift of grace. He testified that is the Kingdom of God. This gift is TRUE!
He also gave us a warning, “Take heed not to fall from Grace. Keep receiving it. Stay on the path and always remember that the Savior’s Atonement Saves Us.
5. What would you have us know about covenants?
Faith is the spiritual gift of the Holy Ghost. We can influence how much we receive.
Prayer- the Spirit strengthens us through prayer. Get to know what we have faith in.
Acting on faith, nurture it. Faith becomes knowledge.
Acting on faith, nurture it. Faith becomes knowledge.
Important to share our testimony of our faith. He shared an experience he had many years ago when he was bearing his testimony the Spirit bore testimony to him of his testimony!
Alma 32: 33 “And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.”
Covenants strengthen Faith! Keeping covenants makes strong Christians!
He shared a French article that he read some time ago about Mormon’s baptisms for the dead. It said that we take rolls of microfilm and dip the in water! (It was pretty funny)
These covenants, even for the dead are individual and very personal, one at a time by one. “Let him enter” (each enters the kingdom individually)
6. What would you have us know? (I happen to think this is the most important of all)
Principle of Repentance. Mistakes are not fatal! Repentance leads us to grace. It’s not always easy. Intentional sin is grievous. We don't need to add to the Savior’s suffering. We can’t play with sin and bank on easy grace.
He reminded us of Samuel the Lamanite in Helaman 13-15, teaching repentance to the Nephites in Zarahemla.
Repentance is a gift from God.
He told us when teaching to get a commitment of the next step, which is repentance.
There is NOTHING in our lives that can’t be repented of! He told of an experience he had when he was a Seventy. He had the responsibility of giving temple blessings back to a woman who had been excommunicated. As he was driving to meet her, he was reading her file about the grievous sins that she had committed. He said that he couldn’t imagine the First Presidency ever letting her go to the temple again. When she was brought in to the room, he said he saw a beautiful daughter of God, pure and holy as an angel and saw a different woman than he could have imagined. He knew that the Atonement had transformed this woman and could transform any of God’s children.
As he was telling this story, I felt the Spirit so strongly testifying that this was true.
He said of repenting and forsaking your sins, “When you are finished, You are finished!” Forsake your sins. If you remember them, don’t remember with guilt. Don’t stress. The Lord had forgotten them! Then he said quietly under his breath, “Satan, the Jerk! He keeps reminding us!” He told us to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” He stated with authority, “ The Lord wants us to be happy. He wants us to walk in the Sunshine, not in the shadows. Receive His grace. Believe it! Don’t be mired in our sins. Time doesn’t make forgiveness. Repentance makes forgiveness.
I could tell he was passionate about us understanding this gift from the Lord of His Atonement and how repentance can bring peace and hope in our hearts and lives.
Lastly he gave us all a Blessing by the power of His Apostolic Keys.
He promised that His Grace will attend us.
We will be able to find many who are ready to receive.
He reminded us to be happy in what we are doing even if we feel sad for those who don’t receive the gift.
He promised us a good life if we are tied to the Savior.
He blessed us to know that the Savior accepts our offering and that we are worthy to receive that witness.
Be diligent in our offering and we will have peace that comes with it.
We were promised that we will have convincing power in our teaching and testifying.
We will receive revelation in our studying and our understanding will be expanded.
We will have the protection of Heaven and that angels will be with us when needed.
We were promised that we will be able to remember this day our whole mission.
He testified that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. His grace is sufficient. That He lives and that He personally, actively guides His church on the earth today.
This was a profound experience for me and one I hope to remember and treasure the rest of my life. Being in the chapel with all 260 missionaries, by itself, was powerful. Standing together, as Elder Christofferson entered to room, being able to each take a turn shaking his hand was a privilege. He was gracious and kind, funny and eloquent, and filled with the light of truth. The Spirit in this meeting was full of the love that I know our Savior has for each of us. I felt the Spirit testify to me, over and over again.
We hope that your Christmas was wonderful and that 2015 will bring you joy amidst challenges that may come your way. Please feel the great love the Savior has for you and walk in His Light.
Sending our love to y'all!