WEEK SIXTY-FOUR September 22, 2014
Just completing our second week of triple digit heat here in Southern California, capping off the third year of a devastating drought with 100+ days and nearly 70% humidity. Made us happy our call was not to Sister H home state of Louisiana. At least we don’t have the bugs. Had a 2 and ½ hour transfer meeting, mercifully cut short by our MP as the A/C in the building failed in the heat as it has in the Newport Beach Temple.
Had a couple of gospel thoughts this week. One in preparing for a gospel essential’s lesson on the importance of living in a sinful society and its relation to hell. Came to the conclusion that Satan’s objective in the Garden of Eden was not that Adam and Eve would know the things of God but rather that by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would be miserable (2 Nephi 2:17-18) forever; misery being what Hell is all about. Hell is not a fixed geography as much as it is the condition of suffering that results from our own alienation from God. It’s our choice.
Some, without the benefit of latter-day revelation, think but for Adam and Eve, we would have no sin and life as we know it would be better off. Leaving aside for a moment the consideration that there would have been no posterity but for the fall and thus no “we” to begin with, sin itself is part of the sanctifying process of we mortal beings. We must know the difference between good and evil, make the choice to be good thus a sin strewn environment is necessary to our exaltation.
Therefore the Atonement was not an afterthought to clean up the mess made by Adam and Eve. Rather sin, introduced through the fall, assists us through the Atonement to return as glorified beings in the presence of our Father in Heaven. Let me say that another way, the Atonement is not a backup plan in case we happen to fall short in the process of mortality, rather the Atonement is the ordained means whereby we gradually become complete and whole, in a sin-strewn process of sanctification through which our Father in Heaven patiently guides us. As Elder David A. Bednar said, “One of the principal purposes of our mortal existence is to be spiritually changed and transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Adam and Eve could have chosen misery, been overwhelmed with their guilt, given up and quit as I suppose Satan desired, rather they saw their redemption and that of all mankind arising out of their transgression through the Atonement. (Moses 5:10-11.) So their hope remained intact and happiness replaced misery.
The second gospel thought that occupied me was in preparing for a talk I never gave at Sacrament meeting. A young missionary sister and elder were to precede me and at the time I was asked to speak I suggested to the counselor in the bishopric that there would be no time. As the meeting proceeded, with a baby blessing and all, 40 minutes were consumed before the Sister arose to speak and she took 16 minutes rather than 5. The elder then took five and a counselor in the stake presidency was there to follow me with a special announcement. The announcement was that the Aliso Creek ward was going to be realigned next Sunday into two wards.
The baby blessing was for a non-member, member grandmother. As I was awaiting my time to speak the spirit spoke to me: We have witnessed a beautiful baby blessed in the name of Jesus Christ and two young missionaries bearing testimony of truth in the name of Jesus Christ. I now confirm my love for my Savior, that He lives, and I do so in his sacred and holy name even Jesus Christ. Amen.
Several said it was the best talk they have heard in a long time. But of interest was the comment of the counselor who had called me to speak, “While you were speaking the non-member family there for the blessing caught my attention. They never took their eyes off of you. Something happened to them as you spoke.” They did seek me out after the meeting to shake my hand.
The inspiration that came to me in preparation was to speak to those who, on occasion or more frequently, feel to express the Prophet Joseph Smith’s heartfelt plea: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (D&C 121:1); when it seems as if the heavens are brass, when our prayers seem to be left unanswered, and we are near despair; the heavens are silent!
In August 1831 the Prophet wrote of the nightmare in Missouri—“I cannot learn from any communication by the spirit to me. I am ignorant of the reasons for our plight and the Lord will not show me. My prayers go up to God day and night.” But silence met his anguished appeals. I considered some possible answers before dismissing all of them as the impression of the Holy Spirit revealed four standards that work in every case.
Possibilities briefly touched upon were to include sometimes God’s answers are too indirect, too oblique, for us to recognize because we are looking for something else; we impose expectations and preconditions on the kind of answer we anticipate; God may be speaking in ways we have yet to recognize as speech such as 3 Nephi 9:20 when the Lamanites “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not;” sometimes if may be that our expectations are too modest, not grandiose enough (we are looking for the light in the east and the whirlwind is upon us); other times our expectations are too grandiose and not modest enough (such as when the answer comes simply, or from another); maybe we are praying too much with our knees and not enough with our feet (even God cannot steer a parked car); timing is wrong (revelation comes “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” [D&C 88:68]); maybe we have not persevered long enough (“For some of us that test may come in our challenge to keep trying, to keep planting seeds and nurturing them, without feeling any clearly recognizable swelling motions, or spiritual confirmation, but simply enduring is hope and desire until, after long and patient service in love, the joyful taste of the fruit comes “as a natural sequence to the performance of duty” (Philip L. Barlow , Quoted The Crucible of Doubt, 129); or maybe it’s our inability to relinquish all our preconceptions of how God may choose to answer our entreaties.
I was going to offer these four some suggestions of how to proceed when the heavens seem as if they are brass, for some this may be their Abrahamic test—
1. Believe that God is there. Believe that He has heard your prayer. Believe that he can and will answer your prayer. Believe in His omniscience. Believe He will succor you. Believe in all His promises. Believe regardless of circumstance.
2. Trust your Heavenly Father. Trust that He will answer your prayer in the best way possible. Trust that He knows what and when to act. Trust His love for you as His son or daughter. Trust Him enough to allow Him to take your worries. Trust that all your afflictions will be consecrated by Him for your gain. Trust regardless of consequence.
3. Choose to joy in other’s success. Recognize the hand of God in answering prayers of others. Seek to express gratitude for others’ success. Allow God to disseminate His blessings as He sees fit. Rejoice in all such manifestations of His love. Love God and all mankind regardless of consequence.
4. Get off your knees and onto your feet. Make a new bow. Do what you alone can do. Do what you are able to do. Exercise the limited talents you may have. Never, never surrender your hope regardless of consequence.
Richard G. Scott has taught: “What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of [Heavenly Father’s] trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.” (Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Ensign, May 2007, 10.)
We saw anew the great blessing of fellowshipping from members this week. The One family in response to a dinner party with us and two other couples from the ward said, “Dear Jan and Jerry, We wanted you both to know that we truly enjoyed the dinner party. My husband was especially pleased with your comments about how he is helping to advise his gardener Sammy. He is a good friend to people he enjoys. He really enjoys you and all those friends that were at the party. We will get a little better organized and then we'd love to have a gathering here. Hope you enjoyed a birthday bite of pie. It was really nice that everyone brought something. I loved that fruit dip with the marshmallow and whipped cream cheese that Jan made. I'll be trying that out at another birthday party on this Saturday! Hope you guys are staying cool. Hugs!”
Following the dinner Sister H and I made a presentation and showed a video on how our actions in serving others demonstrates our commitment to the Savior. I said, “I love to embarrass those who have done good deeds” and told how Brother One had gone out of his way to advise his gardener, teaching him pricing and invoicing among other things and even gave him a flower design which the gardener used on his neighbor to win a neighborhood beautification award. Later in the week we dropped in and Brother One who was down a bit from some things that occurred in the rental of his house. He said as we left, “I always love your stopping by. We are both happier and in a better mood for your having visited us.”
In our new member discussion with Sister Thirty-Nine she shared how her sister and her always fight, “likes cats and dogs.” She then shared how when her sister was driving she ran over a large board that had fallen on the highway causing Sister Thirty-Nine shriek, which put her sister over the edge who began hollering and screaming at her. She said, “I thought I need to do what the gospel teaches. So I bit my lip and let her rant without saying anything. After some time she calmed down, surprised that I had not yelled back at her. She commented that I had changed. We talked and our relationship has been different ever since.”
Had dinner with the Two family this week. They are doing great. Their 14 year old son has been relying on the Lord to make friends at school and being a light and shared some heartwarming experiences including acing his first math examination.
Received a call from Brother Four asking if I could provide transportation for him to get to Newport Beach early one morning this week. I told him I could make some changes to make that happen and then learned he had reached a court summons for something “unknown” to him to report to the Harbor Justice Court. He had no idea what it was he said. I picked him up at 7 a.m. which started a long day that didn’t end until 3 p.m. We drove to the Superior Court building where I was finally able to read his summons. Noticing the VC designation before the file number I told him it was a Vehicle Code violation. Then he remembered. He had been given a ticket for driving on a Washington State license and a moving violation. The code was for driving without a license. I asked him how long he had been in California and he told me 18 months. I pointed out that California law requires a valid California license within 30 days. He argued his Washington license was still valid so the officer was in error. I told him that was not the case. We got to the court house and a line was forming on the north end for traffic violations and we got into line only the 11 back. There were over 200 before we got to the window when it opened. I discreetly pocketed my name tag. When we got the widow he admitted having been given the ticket, but said the officer told him he would be receiving a letter in two weeks regarding the hearing and he never received it. The clerk told him that was not why he was here. He missed the hearing date shown on the ticket and he was now here in lieu of a bench warrant and had to report to Department H8 upstairs. So we went up. In all over 100 in the courtroom. I felt comfortable there but he did not. In walks the judge, who is a member of one of the wards we serve, but who didn’t act as he recognized me in the courtroom.
Brother Four and about 15 others came to the bar for the same offense, driving without a license. They were given three options: 1) If they then had a valid DL they could plead guilty and their fine would be reduced to $30 plus fees and all moving violations waived; 2) If they didn’t have a valid DL they could plead guilty and their fine would be reduced to $100 plus fees; of 3) The could plead guilty and give a DNA sample for a $75 processing fee and all violations would be waived. Should they wish to plead not-guilty, as this was only for arraignments, a court date would be set for a trial where they could present evidence and take their chances. Brother Four saw the wisdom in offering the DNA sample.
During the first recess the clerk called for a “Mr. Haddock, the judge wants to see you in chambers.” Brother Four was very surprised as was I. I went through the well to the door and was ushered in by the bailiff. We had a good discussion in which I learned a great deal about some changes in California law. He told me that officers have been told again and again that there will be no letter, the ticket is the summons to appear. Two had been convicted of felonies, one for murder, since the DNA sample program, only in Orange county, was instituted. We next went to the District Attorney’s office for the DNA sample, then to DMV for materials to get a California license, then to lunch at Polly’s Pies before taking him home. Received the following note of appreciation: “Elder Haddock, your selfless act of generosity really confirms that there are men and women of God on this earth who are constantly be revealing God in our words and actions and without realizing that we're increasing other people's faith. Thank you for increasing mine. It had to be God's favor. We are so convinced that God is ordering our steps, that our faith is increasing daily as God moves obstacles and sends His people to answer prayers. You and your wife are true angels sent by God to deliver good news. God bless you.”