WEEK SIXTY-EIGHT October 20, 2014
Had a discussion on chapter 7 of Brother Four’s book and discussed opportunities for volunteer work as he gets started in his new profession. I shared with him my idea of the puzzle of life and he asked if I could send him what I had written on the subject, which I agreed to do. As we were leaving Brother Four remarked, “You bring such a special spirit with that that remains in our home long after you leave. We are so appreciative of our little Bible studies together.”
ETERNAL LIFE—OUR PERSONAL PUZZLE
Gerald R. Haddock
It has been my experience that those who rebel against God suffer from creaking of the will, stiffening of the ego and hardening of the attitude. The remedy is and always has been, forget about yourself and serve God and others.
It appears to me that our mortal journey is in reality a puzzle. Viewing our mortal journey as a puzzle gives a method to increase understanding and a strength to overcome discouragement.
There are no straight edges in the puzzle of life, nor any corners to start putting our puzzle together. Everything at first appears random. Rather than working from the edges and corners as we do with most puzzles, this puzzle is worked from the center out. The center piece, the one we must find in mortality and through which all other connections in our puzzle are made, is Jesus Christ.
As in Paul’s illustration our desire must exert a willingness to see through a glass darkly. One piece is not enough, we can’t rest on our laurels. Our search is to find and fit each piece of our puzzle precisely, there can be no forcing of the pieces. It also appears that each puzzle is individually tailored by God to meet our personal needs.
It is only later, as we pass through the veil that we learn from the experiences of our life how they all fit together; which in turn blends mortality and eternity. The puzzle that is our life extends beyond mortal boundaries. Since mortality is but a slice of our eternal life, our puzzle here has no corners or edges.
The experiences of our life enable us to make connections between the pieces if, but only if we first center our life in Christ. Willingly surrendering ourselves to Christ allows us to connect with Him and gives us the central and biggest piece for our puzzle. It is through the multiple facets of that piece, Christ, that we are enabled to see and give order in our assembly of the puzzle.
The more pieces of our puzzle we have assembled, the easier it is to handle the things of this life. Some pieces when they are discovered have no connection to anything we have previously assembled and must be set aside until connections can be made at a later time. Otherwise, worrying about that piece perplexes us and can destroy our entire puzzle. There is a Law of Pre-Requisites.
We are still to be alert to the experiences of our lives and seek to make connections—that is what we can and must do. However, with the companionship of the Holy Ghost our ability to see and recognize connections increases as does our facility to assemble. You see, we’ve seen our puzzle assembled before and now through experience and faith we learn how to put it together as we fulfill our personal plan of salvation.
It appears that obedience to God’s will is a sort of spiritual emancipation in assembling our puzzle. Obedience itself, makes us free. Central to that freedom is the hope that disposes despair. As Satan’s object is to destroy all hope, obedience is the cure. In choosing the right way, i.e., being obedient, we are doing things that lead us closer to Christ. Anything other than Christ entices disobedience and loss of hope. Whereas not having edges or corners the puzzle of mortality can seem hopeless. However, centering our lives in the piece that is Christ, establishes a hope not requiring either edges or corners.
Viewing our mortal journey as a puzzle requiring us to be centered in Christ has fostered these additional thoughts:
1. Our God is more intimately involved in our lives that we are prone to see.
2. Our inability to see this intimacy in mortality is a causal factor in frustration, discouragement and eventually despair.
3. It is God’s will that we take the time to observe and notice this intimacy–make the necessary connections among the events of our life–as doing so is crucial to our spiritual well-being, our prospering.
4. It is necessary that we stop, look and listen to the events of our life in the context of the great plan of happiness, if we are to make necessary connections.
5. In so doing, we will see the coincidences of our lives for what they are—expressions of our God’s love and evidence of His arms being extended toward us continually.
6. In so seeing, our hope is increased as well as our ability to withstand faithfully the trials of mortality.
Brother Four replied, “That's pretty deep. I had to read it a couple of times and I think I have got it. In my puzzle scenario, there are pieces that are missing from the puzzle and even with the pieces that are there, often they are not in the right place after having been forced into a place that's similar, but not the same. Then there are pieces looking at other pieces and wishing they were another piece instead of seeing how they fit in just as they are, to help make the puzzle whole. When we allow the Holy Spirit to put us in position, we find that while we may not be the piece we want to be, we are needed too, and we all make a difference just as we are.”
At a previous Zone Training the sisters doing the training prepared sheets of construction paper with the name of a missionary in the zone at the top and folded accordion style at about one inch intervals. The task was to write in one of the accordion folds your positive thoughts about that missionary. It was only this week that those reflecting Elder and Sister Haddock were given to us. I notice that Jan’s principally dealt with her kindness and goodness while mine with being old and having been around the block a few times. But all in all they do show the contribution a Senior couple can bring to a group of young missionaries. Of Jan they wrote:
· You are so great! You are such a great example to everyone in the Zone! You do so much for us!
· You are an amazing companion for Elder Haddock! J We feel the love that you bring.
· I love how happy you are! You are always positive!
· Sister Haddock, you bring an “at home” kind of spirit to our zone meeting.
· Sister Haddock you are so amazing and so inspirational. You are so strong and beautiful. Thank you for being such an example to me and all the missionaries. Keep it up.
· Sister Haddock, I can really feel the spirit strong with you and Elder Haddock coming to our zone meeting. You are inspirational!
· Sister Haddock, you are great. I love your sense of humor. The stories you tell are great. I really enjoy to hear about all the work you do! Keep calm, Baptize on!
· I loved your presentation on having good table manners and have taken it to heart.
· Sister Haddock you are a great missionary and know the gospel; and its great to be able to serve with you.
· You care so much about what goes on in the lives of your investigators and those members you work with. I love hearing about what you teach to help the people you teach gain greater faith.
· You know your faith and know your God and love serving Him. You’ve helped me with that love and example and I hope you know that.
· You are amazing at being a diligent missionary. You truly try your best in tis work and are a huge example for us missionaries.
· Such an amazing example. Powerful, yet humbler, and a great person to talk to.
· Thanks for serving in our Zone! We know you and your husband do a lot of great work. Thanks for your service!
· Utah all the way! You and your husband are super awesome! We love you guys!
· Oh my gosh! We just love you so much! You are so sweet and you always have a smile on your face! It is easy to be happy around you!
· I love to see you both at our zone meetings. Your mere presence brings a phenomenal spirit into the room. Thank you for your service and sweet smile.
· Thank you for your kindness and sweet spirit! We love and appreciate you!
· You are the sweetest person ever! Your spirit is so STRONG! You are so kind and you are always helping others.
· Best companion ever.
· Thanks for serving a mission. You’re doing great things here, and we really need you. You’re awesome.
· I love how you are concerned about others and willing to go the extra mile for others.
· Clearly the better half! J
Of me they wrote:
· Cares and seeks to help with every individual’s concerns.
· Your comments bring wisdom and maturity to our group of young missionaries just recognizing who we really are.
· You are like a fountain of wisdom and knowledge.
· You are such a good example of a Christ-like leader. You are full of wisdom and all of your comments are enlightening and inspiring.
· Great man of God! That shows kindness towards all men. Thank you for serving with us!
· You are a great example to all of us! I really hope to serve a senior mission as well. Thank you for doing so much for all of us!
· Elder, you are inspiring and full of wisdom. I always learn so much from you.
· Elder, you are so wonderful and so smart. Thank you for sharing an inspiring us. You are spiritually strong.
· Elder Haddock, I appreciate your testimony and the wisdom you always have to share! You are an inspiration!
· Elder Haddock you are so kind. I love all of your stories. You are always a pleasure to speak with. Keep up the hard work with your families. You are about a great work.
· I’ve learned a lot from your comments at Zone Training. Thanks for strengthening my testimony!
· You are so knowledgeable and it’s great to be able to turn to you for advice.
· You know your doctrine and I love being able to hear your insights and to feel of the spirit you bring. You help me so much and make me want to have better studies so that I can know as much as you.
· Elder Haddock, you are the most humble smart person I’ve ever met. You know so much but more importantly you know how important the Lord is in your life.
· Elder Haddock you are a true genius! You have a lot of knowledge about the gospel and how we can be uplifted by Christ. Thank you for your great example.
· An excellent, informative, interesting and rock solid teacher. Always smiling, always happy!
· Thank you for your service in our Zone! We really appreciate the wisdom and maturity you bring to our mission.
· Thank you for being so chill and awesome. We love you!
· Thanks for coming on a mission. We need you here!
Further to my blog of last week in response to the bishop’s question about following the brethren I was reminded of this incident and shared with him. During the last few months of my mission as a young elder, I was living in and working out of the Mission Home. My companion and I had been teaching a single sister. We had finished the six discussions and although she was in harmony with all we taught she was unable or unwilling to commit to baptism.
So I spent some time pondering and praying and eventually constructed a seventh discussion tailored specifically for her. About the time I finished putting it together, Elder LeGrand Richards came to Washington D.C. as a conference visitor and in one of those tender mercies, chose to stay at the Mission Home instead of with his daughter and her family.
Taking advantage of the opportunity one evening following dinner I shared our experience with the investigator and that I had put together an additional discussion to present to her the following evening. I was seeking his counsel, hoping he would read through the discussion and offer me some pointers.
To my surprise, rather than doing that he offered to be my companion for the discussion and expressed no need to review my prepared discussion, having confidence in what I had done. He said, “Now Elder Haddock, you realize I will be the junior companion. It will be your responsibility to give the discussion. If I feel prompted to say something I will, but only in that event.” He then asked if I could arrange something for my companion to be doing so we could go together. I assured him that I would take care of that.
The next evening we went to the discussion. I, as I had been asked, only introduced him as Elder Richards and made no reference to him being an Apostle. Remember in my day no one wore name tags.
I gave the entire discussion I had prepared with nary a word from Elder Richards, concluding with my sure and certain testimony borne of the Spirit and experience and felt the ratifying power of the Holy Ghost as I had seen it operate many times before.
It was at this time that Elder LeGrand Richards, Of the Quorum of the Twelve chose to speak. I then witnessed a marvelous physical manifestation of the spirit that transcended anything I had ever seen during the bearing of a testimony. His words were no more eloquent than mine, nor more powerful. Yet the floor seemed to ripple in waves, the walls shuddered and the drapery moved as if a huge wind had entered the room.
Our investigator bolted straight out of her chair requesting baptism and within a couple of days we accommodated her.
Now, dear Bishop here are the two principles I learned that day. First, being a “special witness of Christ” is something far greater than knowing Jesus is the Christ. Second, the Lord sustains His special witnesses in a miraculous fashion. Not because they know more than we know, or even because their witness is more certain than ours can be, but because they have been anointed to be “a special witness.” Simple stated, the Lord sustains the Brethren, regardless of their humanity, and it is imperative that we do as well.
We visited with the Sixty-two family this week noticed some needs and tried to attend to them. Notified the bishop who the very next night had his high priest group leader in their home assisting them. It sure is great to see the Church in action doing the right things, the right way. We were so pleased. In fact the bishop thanked us for the communication saying: “the Altisima ward family has been engaged and will do what needs to be done. Thanks again.”
The next day we met with Sixty-two family again today to take them grocery shopping as neither of them can drive. It only took about an hour and one-half and it felt oh so right to be giving them this service. Had dinner with the One family who cooked us spaghetti. Had a good discussion and resolved some things that had been disturbing him.
The following day we took the Sixty-two family to view “Meet the Mormons.” They were both overjoyed and quite touched. In all five of our investigators were able to see the film and each enjoyed it immensely.
Saturday was a special day for us. Escorted the Twenty-one as they received their endowments at the Newport Beach Temple. They were so excited and prepared. Felt fully in charge and aware of what was happening about them. Spent considerable time with them in the Celestial room following the session. They had nary a question. Sister Twenty-one was in awe of just being there, something she had never supposed would happen in her life. Next week to the San Diego Temple for their sealing and that of their children. I will be blessed to be a witness for this eternal ordinance.
Sunday I spoke in the Aliso Creek ward. It was one of those special talks, the type you always hope for and dearly cherish. When it’s as if angels are speaking and you are just the conduit. One brother sent me a note which read, “Well done dear Brother! You always speak to my heart. What a blessing it has been to have you with us and to have you in our home! I will always remember your sweet spirit and matchless testimony. You have been a blessing in my life I would have missed had I not returned to the True Church of Jesus Christ! Warmest regards.”
Always when I am speaking the Lord has been kind enough to give me something specific to that congregation. Usually as I set on the stand the spirit whispers how I am to begin my talk. In this talk I found myself reflecting on our recent return to Provo for our grandson’s baptism. There with family and all it should have felt like home. But as Sister Haddock and I drove from John Wayne Airport to our little apartment I had the feeling we were home. This was the first sacrament meeting for this ward which was just created. I told them I suspect the reason we felt home was because we had been in the homes of many of you in this ward, the Altisima Ward and the Lake Forest Ward and arising out of our service have been filled with love. I promised them as they opened their hearts in service to one another their hearts would be filled with love. I then felt to speak to the single sisters who responded by cornering me after the meeting so appreciative for what was said. I told them I had learned the Lord has a special place in his heart for single sisters, particularly those who carry a huge load in behalf of others. I shared how a single sister I knew found herself with her car breaking down and needing a new vehicle. She prayed for a specific make and model and mileage and the next evening a fellow she knew called saying he and his wife were getting a new car and felt they should offer her their old one rather than trading it in. It was the make and model and mileage she requested. I told them that single sisters always have the ear of the Lord and then shared this story of President Harold B. Lee
“My Aunt Jeanette McMurrin told me this interesting story. She was widowed and living with her daughter. One morning her daughter came to her and said, “Mother, we don’t have anything to eat in the house. My husband, as you know, has been out of work. I am sorry, Mother.”
“Aunt Jeanette said that she dressed and worked around the house, then closed her door, knelt down, and said, “Heavenly Father, I have tried all my life to keep the commandments; I have paid my tithing; I have given service to the Church. We have no food in our house today. Father, touch the heart of somebody so we won’t have to go hungry.” She said she went about with a feeling of gladness, thinking all would be right.
“There came a knock at the door in a few hours, and there was a little neighbor girl with food in her arms. Choking back the tears, the widow brought the child into the kitchen and said, “Set them here, and tell your mother that this came today as an answer to our prayers. We didn’t have any food in our house.”
“Needless to say, the little girl went back and carried that message, and in a little while she returned with still a larger armload. As she brought the bags to the kitchen table, she asked, “Did I come this time as an answer to your prayers?”
“My Aunt Jeanette replied, ‘No, my darling, this time you came as a fulfillment of a promise. Fifty years ago when your grandmother was expecting a little child, she didn’t have anything to eat and she was lacking in strength and nourishment. I was the little girl who carried food into her house so that she would have the strength to bring her little baby—your mother—into the world.’ Then she said, ‘The Lord said, ‘Cast your bread upon the waters, and after many days it shall return again.’ This time you have been carrying back to me the foodstuff that I carried into the home of your grandmother so your mother could be born into the world.’” [Ensign, Feb 1972]
I told them I wanted 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?
When it seems as if the heavens are brass, when our prayers seem to be left unanswered, and we are near despair
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
WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
Let me offer four suggestions how to proceed when the heavens seem as if they are brass, for some this may be your 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. Let you heart be filled with gratitude for others’ success. Allow God to disseminate His blessings as He sees fit. Express Gratitude for All He does. 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.
Elder 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.)
I shared this story. A young nine-year old boy in our ward, a best friend of our son, was seriously injured when struck by a car while riding his bicycle. The injuries resulted in a coma for the boy. Several months later at the request of the distraught mother she came to me and said, “Bishop, can we seek a miracle at the hand of the Lord to restore my sons health.” We agreed to do so and requested a 48 hour fast among ward members. The bishopric fasted for 72 hours in preparation for the blessing. We left for the rehabilitative center feeling, each of us, that the Lord was going to grant our petition and we were going to see the boy arise from his bed and return home. Following the anointing by one of my counselors I proceeded to be the voice in pronouncing the blessing but after speaking the formalities of a blessing immediately my tongue was tied and I could not utter a word. We removed our hands from the boys head and went outside into a small grove of Torrey Pines and prayed as a bishopric. As voice I poured out our hearts to the Lord; rehearsing all that had been done for this occasion, the faith of the ward members, the family, and the bishopric; reminded the Lord of a prior experience raising another from a coma; highlighted the righteousness of our request and effort in doing good, etc. Feeling some comfort we returned to the boy’s bedside were I again attempted to bless this young boy. But again I became tongue tied and unable to speak. We adjourned to the Torrey Pines but this time our approach with the Lord was different becoming a “Father, what would thou have us do” pleading expressing a willingness to do His will. The answer came. We were to return and speak the words that the Lord would put into my heart. So we returned to the bedside. The words then uttered stated the boy would live for several years but remain in his comatose state; eventually he would pass peacefully to the other side; further there were things his mother was to learn and do. We left the center and drove straight to the mother’s home. As the words had so recently been spoken I was able to repeat them verbatim to the distraught mother who burst into tears. As she calmed down she expressed that she knew exactly what the Lord meant about things she had to learn and do and was prepared to make those adjustments in her life that she would be worthy of having her boy once again.
Asked them to consider this promise of the Lord when your prayers seem not be answered
DOCTRINE & COVENANTS 38:
1 Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;
2 The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;
3 I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me…
7 … verily, verily, I say unto you that mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me;
8 But the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am …
9 Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome…
15 Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours…
16 … for I have heard your prayers.
Brother Forty-four wrote, “Hi Elder and Sister Haddock! My wife and my dad said that you gave a talk in church today. I had to work, and I was wondering if you could email it to me, I would love to read it. They said it was really powerful.”
Following the meeting Brother Sixty-seven came up and asked to speak with me following the services that day. He shared that for 2-3 weeks now he had the impression I was to give him a blessing which he kept dismissing. Said during the talk he was convicted of not acting on the promptings he had received. “This is a hard thing to do. I don’t’ think it matters who gives a blessing. So this makes no sense to me and I don’t know what the blessing is for or is to be about.” We set an appointment for the next evening.
During our walk Monday morning we received a call from one of our senior couples who informed us his wife had tripped on a crack in the sidewalk in their walk earlier when it was dark and hurt her shoulder. He was hopeful we could return from our walk and assist in giving her a blessing which we did. Later learned she had dislocated her shoulder socket and fractured the shoulder joint. We walk the same walk!
In a discussion with our son he wanted to talk about the coma experience I had shared. I had written an account which I sent to him and then being prompted to make some changes resent it again later. Said he, “I have called you before to inquire about certain stories. I know that there are many who allow things to slide, but I just want to make sure that I've got things right. All the facts that is. I feel that the very best opportunity for the spirit to be present is going to be with truth and light. Sometimes, however, it isn't always easy. Sometimes we remember things a little differently from the way it actually happened. In fact, sometimes the spirit witnesses something to me while an event is occurring and then years later I will somehow incorporate the extra insight that the Lord gave me as part of the story when that isn't exactly the way that it occurred. It is just that the spiritual impression can become so powerful in my mind, that it in and of itself becomes part of the actual story.” I told him this was my thought. Often the experience evokes a reality born of the spirit that, although initiated by the experience may differ from the experience itself, yet becomes both the experience and the reality as the two become one in us. When this occurs in reading the scriptures it is as if we are reading between the lines
Before driving over to participate in the blessing the next night, I visited with the Lord. I expressed that this brother has had strong feelings about me giving him a blessing for some time now, although he doesn’t know what the blessing is for, and I have had no such feelings; further that I whether this direction was coming from the Lord but I would leave and go and if a course correction was required I would obey accordingly and not give him a blessing. I indicated my desire to act only in accordance with God’s will and a willingness to do whatever he directed, including laying my hands on his head as Nephi wrote not knowing beforehand the things that I should say.
Following a sweet prayer by Sister Sixty-seven, I then laid my hands upon this dear brother. The blessing was very specific and covered a wide range of topics. A special feeling transcended all the words conveying the love Heavenly Father had for him. I suppose I would characterize the blessing as one of acceptance, love and hope from Heavenly Father to His son. His wife, who had come and sat beside him so she could hear, commented, “Now I know why Elder Haddock was to give the blessing.” However as for me, “Why was I to give the blessing?” “Why not someone else?” I have no idea. There are so many to choose from in this ward. Our lives had randomly intersected for a few weeks outside of church and perhaps that was taken by him as a sign. Maybe something in the talk affected him in a way he saw it as a sign to him. Just maybe it was the Lord’s will, although never communicated to me and for whatever reason the Lord may have had, and if so I am so happy to have been invited to participate. For us it was a sweet experience mindful of the blessings associated with doing the Lord’s will rather than one’s own and that’s good enough for me. I always feel blessed to be used by the Lord.