Monthly Archives: July 2014

Listen — July 27, 2014

2014-07-04 10.54.39 2014-07-03 08.36.242014-07-04 14.13.19

His name is Dave and he is from England. We visit with him whenever we see him around town. He talks to all the American missionaries, perhaps because he likes to talk to someone who speaks his English. On this day, as usual, he wanted to discuss religion

I have read in the Bible about a “bottomless pit.” A pit with no bottom? That is a horrible thought! If I don’t have my name written in some “book of life’” then I will be cast into a bottomless pit? What kind of a God would do a thing like that?

We wanted to tell him that the “bottomless pit” is a term for the realm of Satan and those who follow him. But Dave was already talking about something else.

Then there is a “lake of fire and brimstone, ever burning but never consumed.”  Ever burning? Never ending? That is even more horrible!

We wanted to tell him, “A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, “They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone” [see Revelation 21:8]. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 224).

We thought of a comment made by Russell M Nelson:

“I am reminded of military days long ago when our platoon heard shouts from a sergeant: “Attention!” “Right face!” “Left face!” “About face!” We learned to respond to those orders with instant precision. In retrospect, I don’t recall ever having heard his command to “face upward.” Yet scriptures tell us to “look to God and live.” (Russell M Nelson April 1996)

But Dave was talking again.

And what about prayer? I don’t think a God would answer my prayer. When was the last time you had an answer to your prayers?

We started to answer that we pray for protection every day.

We might have told him about one of our trips to Casoy:

“We drove around and through the puddles from the recent rains. On one mountain curve we saw a big truck coming down the mountain. Elder Hall pulled far to the left to let it by. As he did so, the truck bucked violently and the pickup stopped. Elder Hall sat for a few moments with his hands on the steering wheel. Then he stuck his head out of the window. He looked at the front of the pickup and then toward the back, then down into the deep ravine below.  He sat back in the seat, then looked out again. He put the pickup in reverse and carefully backed out onto the road. We drove on, feeling thankful to be alive.

A while later, I asked:

So what did you see when you looked out the window?

Well, it looked like the rain-soaked soil on the edge of the road gave way under the tire of the pickup. There was about a three foot hole there.

Elder Hall paused.

It looked like the front tire dropped into the hole and bounced back out—behind the hole!”

We might have told Dave about our trip to Barangay Cabagdalan, far in the mountains from Balamban, when we took Elder Codinera from Lamac to his home there:

“We met a huge gravel truck on the narrow road. Elder Hall pulled as far as he could to the right to let the truck pass. As he turned the tire to pull back onto the road, the front passenger tire slipped off the edge of the concrete roadbed and into a drainage ditch. He tried to back out, but the back of the truck slid toward the ditch. Elder Codinera quietly slid out of the back seat.

Elder Hall turned the motor off and got out. The front tire had slipped deep enough into the ditch that the pickup was high-centered on the concrete. The back tire was about six inches from the ditch.

He didn’t have a shovel. He didn’t have a jack. We were on a remote mountain road.  All he could think was that he was almost 70 years old and there was no way he was going to get out of that muddy ditch.

Elder Hall climbed back into the pickup. His shoulders slumped as he spoke.

I’m done!

At that moment, Elder Codinera came back with a watermelon-sized rock that he placed behind the front tire. Two men in a pick-up stopped in front of us. Without saying a word, they found more rocks where there appeared to be none. They literally built a bridge behind the tire. Elder Codinera came with a narrow piece of concrete about three feet (1 meter) long to put on the top. One man stood in front of the pickup. The other two prepared to lift along the side.

Okay. Back up now! Slowly!

We backed onto the road. The men waved and climbed back into their pickup.”

We might have told Dave that not only does God answer prayers, but He sends his angels to have charge over His children.

But Dave was still talking. He would not listen. We said good-bye and wished him luck.

As we drove down the road, a hen clucked to her chicks. They quickly ran to her, and were saved from the speeding truck.

Satan tries to lure all of us to the edge of the abyss and pull us down into the bottomless pit of his domain. We can be safe only when we listen to the voice of our Savior, and come to Him.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matt 23:37)

 

How to Build a House in Eight Hours — July 24, 2014

A  "green" site complete with street light and road

A “green” site complete with street light and road

"Foundation" posts and floor joists

“Foundation” posts and floor joists

Preparing flooring

Preparing flooring

Trusses

Trusses

The floor

The floor

Roofing

Roofing

The ladder--used barefoot

The ladder–used barefoot, with large nails for the rungs.Walls, windows, ready to install door- an 8 hr service project completed

Walls and windows done. Install door, pick up the shirts–the home is ready for occupancy. Another “Mormon Missionary” and members Community Service Project completed.

 

“My House is a House of Order” — July 20, 2014

Watermelon-sizeJack fruit grows on trees

Watermelon-size Jack fruit grows on trees

Cut with a "bolo"

Cut with a “bolo”

Delicious!

Delicious!

Come in, Elder Hall. We want you to check our house.

We looked in the front door. The study desks on one side of the room were tidy and organized. On the other side, pamphlets and teaching aids were perfectly sorted and aligned on shelves. The windows were clean and the light fixtures had been dusted.

Shoes were neatly placed on a shoe rack. The gleaming expanse of the clean, white, tile floor was breath-taking.

Sister, come into the kitchen. I want you to see the refrigerator.

The elder opened both of the refrigerator doors.

See, we cleaned out all of the ice in the freezer. We scrubbed the shelves inside and on the door. And we scrubbed the outside.

The refrigerator looked like a picture from an advertisement. A can opener, pans, and other kitchen utensils were hung artistically on the wall above the counter. All the dishes were washed. The counters, sink and stove were clean.

Elder Hall, come and see our toilet. It is shiny clean!

Not only was the toilet clean, but the tile has been polished. We saw the bathroom tile was actually a pleasant blue. We had thought it was a dirty brown.

Elder Hall, we are sorry to ask. But could we get some more cleaning supplies?

This was not a Senior Couple fantasy. It was the work of two diligent missionaries.

Elders, how did you find time to do all of this?

We decided to get up at 5 o’clock instead of 6:30 each morning until our house was clean. Now we only get up a 6 o’clock. We want to have a clean house so that we can have the Holy Ghost to be with us and better do the Lord’s work.

Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. (D&C 13:8)

These young elders were setting a pattern that would allow them to live in the house of the Lord for the eternities.

Answers — July 13, 2014

2014-01-24 12.05.52

The District President was the closing speaker for the Tutay Branch conference.

“Exactly twenty-two years ago today I entered the Mission Training Center in Manila. One month before I was to leave, the Branch President called me into his office. The President said that he had been inspired to call me as Branch Clerk. I was astonished. I had no experience as a Branch Clerk. I had no knowledge of how to do the job.

I was about to leave on my mission and what little time I had left seemed to be completely filled. I explained all my reasons to the Branch President. The President told me that he had considered all those things. It didn’t make sense to call me, but he still felt inspired to do so.

I accepted the calling, but for the next month, I asked the Lord, “Why me?” Until the day I was released, I could not think of one reason why I had been called to be Branch Clerk.

After I left the MTC, I was called to serve in a new mission on the island of Tacloban. There were few qualified to serve in leadership positions, and often missionaries were asked to serve as leaders. After I had been in the mission six months, I was called to be a Zone Leader, and as part of my duties, to serve as Branch President. My companion was my counselor.

I was young. I was not a very experienced missionary. Again I asked, “Why me?”

I found that the branch financial records were in shambles. The financial report had not been completed. There was no branch clerk. My companion had no idea what to do.

Then I knew the answer to my question. I been called because I knew how to manage branch financial records, and I could teach others what to do. The Lord had prepared me during the month before I left for my mission.

Eight months later, I was called to be Branch President in a different branch. I found the same problems there with the financial reports.

The Lord works in mysterious ways. You may not know why you should accept a call, but the Lord does. He knows what we do not know. We can trust Him. He has blessings for us that we will miss if we are not willing to serve.”

I know not by what methods rare,

But this I know, God answers prayer.

I know that He has given His Word,

Which tells me prayer is always heard,

And will be answered, soon or late.

And so I pray and calmly wait.

I know not if the blessing sought

Will come in just the way I thought;

But leave my prayers with Him alone,

Whose will is wiser than my own,

Assured that He will grant my quest,

Or send some answer far more blest.

EZRA TAFT BENSON April 1977

 

The Miracle of Love — July 6, 2014

2014-07-04 15.15.54

 

Elder Hall stood at the podium and looked out over the congregation:

“Brothers and Sisters, I wish that each of you could sit where I sit and look at your faces.

I can see when the Spirit touches someone and they receive truth.

I can see those who have received their blessings in the temple and light it has brought to their countenances.

I can see the joy of those who are preparing to go to the temple, of those who are preparing to receive the Priesthood, and of those who are making positive changes in their lives.

I would like to read some of the promises to those who have received their blessings in the temple.

And when thy people transgress, any of them, they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house.

 And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them. (D&C 109:21-22)

Yesterday you had a wedding in your branch here. You had to wait a long time because the Branch President who was to perform the ceremony was not here. You finally had to get the mayor to perform the ceremony.

I would like to tell you what else was happening yesterday. I want to show you that the Lord does give the blessings He has promised to those who keep the commandments and receive the ordinances of the temple.

Yesterday, Sister Hall and I had a number of things that we needed to do. We had been asked to go to Cebu for a youth baptism, and for a personal endowment and sealing. A member had asked for a Priesthood blessing. There was a wedding here in this branch. We had been asked to attend a convert baptism. We were to attend a District Presidency activity.

We were confused and unable to decide which things we should do Then we received a call from the sister missionaries in this branch. They asked us to go and pick up the Branch President who was to perform the wedding ceremony. A short time later the elders assigned to this branch called and asked up to go and pick up the branch president. So we drove to his house.

The president was having a very severe asthma attack. He was leaning on a table by a by a window struggling to get some air into his lungs. His whole body was shaking from the effort.

The calls by the sisters and the elders were the first miracle of the day. Without their insistence that we go to the president’s house, he would not have received help in time.

After a blessing, I and another man put the president’s arms over our shoulders and walked with him past several houses to the road where the pickup was parked. The president is a big man and was almost unconscious at the time. Yet by some power, his legs moved and carried him quickly to the road. That was the second miracle of the day.

We lifted him into the pickup and drove rapidly to the hospital. There three medical personnel helped the two of us get him out of the pickup and into the hospital.

In the Emergency Room, the attendants started oxygen and gave us a prescription for medications that he needed. We drove down town to the pharmacy to get them and hurried back to the hospital so the medications could be administered.

The president’s lips were blue and he was totally unresponsive. At that point, the president’s wife called to ask if we would bring her to the hospital, which we did.

Sister Hall stood outside the hospital holding the couple’s three-day-old baby while the mother went to her husband.

She rubbed her husband’s arms and chest. She laid her head on his shoulder and spoke into his ear.

Rainier! Rainier! Rainer! I love you! I am here. I love you!

His eyes partially opened as he attempted to focus. She continued to stroke him and to talk to him, giving him strength to continue his struggle until the medication could take effect.

Finally the president was stabilized enough to be sent by ambulance to a hospital in Cebu. After we took his wife and new-born baby to Cebu, I said:

Sister, do you know you saved your husband’s life today?

Yes. I was praying for my husband and worrying that I could not be there because I had just given birth. Then I received a strong impression that I needed to go to my husband.

When you told him you were there and told him you loved him, you gave him strength to hold on.

Yes, I know. I know there is great power in love. Some of my friends in the Emergency Room were laughing at me, because in our culture we do not give public displays of affection. But I did not care. I knew what my husband needed.

And that was the third miracle of the day.

The Branch President and his wife received the ordinances of the temple several years ago. Yesterday the Lord confirmed the promised blessings upon them.

We believe that the Great God of the Universe knows and loves each of His children. Through the power of His love, He not only is able, but does, arrange miracles to bless the lives of His faithful children.

I testify that this is true, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

 

Faithful — July 2, 2014

mahogany furniture-grade lumber

mahogany furniture-grade lumber

"spill-way" bridge
“spill-way” bridge

the young elder lives past the gravel pit

the young elder lives past the gravel pit

 

Elder Hall, Elder Peck will be going home on Wednesday. Will you come to Lamac to get him and his luggage…and his companion? It is very difficult for him to ride habal-habal on one motorcycle with a driver, two big missionaries and luggage.

Sure. What time do you want us to come?

Could you come about 7 AM?

Elder Peck had been working in the mission office as an AP. He had extended his mission for two weeks and had asked to be a proselyting missionary again. He was assigned to Lamac, and a young man from Balamban branch, who had recently received his own mission call, served as his companion. For the previous six weeks, the young man had stayed  in the apartment with the Balamban missionaries, lived all mission standards, and served as a companion for one of the elders.

We took the elder to Pinamungajan where he got on a bus to go to Cebu, and then drove to Toledo. Elder Hall addressed the “soon-to-be” missionary.

Elder, where do you want to go?

Just take me to the terminal and I will take a bus.

You are going to Balamban, right? We need to take a mirror to the missionaries there. We can take you there.

We made the delivery.

Elder, where do you live?

Oh, it is very far and very dangerous. I will just go by myself.

We would like to take you. We want to see where you live.

We drove through the jungle where huge bamboo arched over the road. We passed large spreading old mango trees. There were hand-hewn beams of mahogany furniture-wood lying along the side of the road waiting to be marketed. The rocky, rutted and pot-holed road curved up and down and around over two high mountains and through the valleys between. There were three “spillway bridges” to cross and two places where the river had to be forded.

When Elder Hall’s parents served a mission in Arkansas, they talked about “low-water bridges.” The bridges were low enough that when the water level rose, the bridges were covered with swift flowing water, and the road was impassable until the waters receded. Possibly the need to ford rivers and creeks, and the use of low-water bridges, led to the use of the conditional commitment phrase, “The good Lord willing and the crick don’t rise.”

“Spillway bridges” are similar to low-water bridges. In a country where a storm can drop 12 inches of water in a matter of hours, spillway bridges are to be used with caution.

Elder, how do you get to church?

I hire a motorcycle if I have fare.

How much is the fare?

It is 70 pesos.

One way?

Yes.

So it is 140 pesos each Sunday?

Yes.

That is a lot of money.

Yes.

And if you don’t have fare, what do you do?

If I don’t have fare, I walk.

How long does it take you?

About 2 hours.

One way?

Yes. One time when my brother was walking with me, we didn’t get home until 7 o’clock. We were so tired and it was dark, so we played singing games. We sang, “High on a Mountain Top.”

We checked the distance on the odometer of the pickup. It was 15 Km (nearly 9 ½ miles). Those who measure such things report that 4 miles per hour is a good, brisk walk. At that rate, the first 8 miles would take two hours, and the extra mile and a half would take another 38 minutes. Quite probably walking rate measurements were taken for a short distance on a relatively smooth, flat path.

The road hazards, as well as the heat, and rain, could significantly increase the difficulty and the time needed to trek to and from church each Sunday.  If he didn’t have money for fare, he probably had to wait until he got home to eat. But the young elder’s commitment was never conditional. He planned to come every week, and he did. Week after week, he raised his own personal banner of faith on his mountain top.

Shall the youth of Zion falter

In defending truth and right?

While the enemy assaileth,

Shall we shrink or shun the fight?

No! True to the faith that our parents have cherished,

True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,

To God’s command,

Soul, heart, and hand,

Faithful and true we will ever stand.

 

 

Angels Have Charge — June 25, 2014

A bucket for the well

A soccer ball “bucket” for a well

Butterfly gate

Butterfly gate

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have an opportunity to sustain—support, help, pray for—each of our leaders in their callings by raising our right hands when their names are read to us in general conference, stake conference, ward or branch conference, or sacrament meeting. Our sustaining is a vote of confidence in the person, because we recognize that he or she has been called of God through priesthood authority.

Elder Hall had finished calling for a sustaining vote of the leaders of the Toledo Cebu Philippines District. He looked out over the congregation.

For your information, there are 23 missionaries from the Toledo District now serving, or in the Mission Training Center, or who have received calls and will soon be serving. We extend our love and commendation to these young men and women.

We remembered attending a farewell Family Home Evening the week before for a sister about to leave to serve a mission. When we reached the house, her grandmother offered us small boiled bananas. People filtered in from the trails and through the jungle. Few were members of the church but all were friends who had come to honor one of their own. Over forty people squeezed into the house, with more standing outside the doors.

The meeting began with a song, a prayer, and a spiritual thought. A sister missionary gave a short lesson. Then we divided into teams to play games. The rule is that the team that loses has to do a talent. Our team lost. So I taught the group to sing “Once There Was a Snowman,” complete with actions. It was a bit crowded.

Then people gave advice, gave testimony, or expressed love to the young sister, followed by lots of hugs.

As we walked down the dark path to go home, I remembered reading a description of a “black velvet tropical night.” The warm moist breeze was soft and smooth against our cheeks, and really did feel like rich velvet.

A few days later, we were attending a Temple Preparation class for three young sisters who were preparing to receive their blessings in the temple prior to serving a mission. The instructor had shared D&C 109 with the class. Then she asked:

Elder Hall, what blessings have you received from receiving the temple ordinances and making covenants with our Father in Heaven?

He looked down and thought for a few moments. Then he looked up.

You just talked about Doctrine & Covenants section 109. I’d like to read verse 22 again and talk about how the blessings listed there have affected my life.

“And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them.” (D&C 109:22)

A few years ago we had a family reunion at what is called Alturas Lake in Idaho. My sons and I wanted to float down Alturas Creek to the lake. We rented a kayak and drove up towards the head of the creek.

It was springtime. The snow-melt had turned the usually placid creek into a wide river. One of my sons said the water was too high and that we should not try to float the creek. I said that I thought we would be alright.

Not long after, we knew we were in trouble. Huge pine trees and branches had been caught by the raging torrent and piled up in a log jam just ahead. My sons bailed out, but I stayed with the kayak.

The powerful current forced the kayak down under the log jam. I found myself about ten feet (3 meters) under the water and under the log jam. The force of the water held me so tightly that I could not move any part of my body. I knew that there was no way that I would get to the surface before I drowned.

Elder Hall paused a moment in thought, then continued.

Now, in Joseph Smith’s history, when he made his first attempt to pray vocally for wisdom from God, he said he:

“…was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction … I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head…”

Elder Hall continued his story.

When I thought that there was no hope, it seemed that a conduit opened above me. I was able to go up through that conduit, and, sucking great gulps of air, pull the kayak up after me.

Sisters, the power of God is real. His promises are true. We do go forth from the temple armed with power, with God’s name upon us, and His glory round about us, and with angels to have charge over us.

My life has been preserved a number of times. This was the most dramatic.

Elder Hall smiled a bit ruefully.

I am so grateful that the Lord has given me more time to repent.

President George Q. Cannon said:

“Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing; we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are children of God and that He has actually given His angels … charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.”

(Gospel Truths, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, 1:2.)