This text comes from a talk I gave today to the Springtown Ward
The land in which we live today has long been a place where righteous people have gathered, led by the hand of God. We often refer to it as the “promised land.” It is of this land I would like to speak today.
In ancient times, the Jaredites escaped the wickedness of their home country and were brought by the hand of the Lord to this continent. The brother of Jared was promised that “they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.” (Ether 2:7) The Lord goes on to say,
that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them. (Ether 2:8)
The Jaredites lived and worshipped as the Lord directed. They prospered initially, but soon fell into wickedness and, according to God’s promise, were eventually destroyed by their own hand. But the promise connected to this land was still in effect. As the last of the Jaredites prepared for their final battle on the hill Ramah, the Lord was preparing a new people to possess the land in righteousness, thus perpetuating the promise of this land. Lehi was persecuted for his prophecies of the coming of Christ and was forced to leave his wicked home country and again brought by the hand of God, traveled to this continent. Lehi recognized the significance of this land, and as he gathered his family before his death, he stated:
6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.
7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever. (2 Nephi 1:6-7 emphasis added)
Lehi’s family lived in periods of righteousness and wickedness for the next thousand years. Great blessings were bestowed during the righteous times. One such period came directly following one of the greatest events in the Book of Mormon: the personal manifestation of Christ to this continent. Of the 200 years following that glorious event, the prophet Mormon wrote,
16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. (4 Nephi 1:16)
The people at that time were taking full advantage of the promise the Lord made to those inhabitants, that “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 4:4). This promise is made throughout the Book of Mormon. The Lord first tells Lehi in 1 Nephi chapter 2. In turn Nephi, Jarom, Amaron, Alma the Younger, Mormon and others taught this promise. I believe this is the most repeated promise in the Book of Mormon and I also believe this is the promise of the promised land.
Unfortunately, wickedness eventually set in and before long, there were no righteous left upon the face of the land. Mormon, the great historian and military leader, saw the deterioration of his great nation and said,
17 O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!
18 Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.
22 O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you. But behold, ye are gone, and the Father, yea, the Eternal Father of heaven, knoweth your state; and he doeth with you according to his justice and mercy. (Mormon 6:17-18,22)
These words stand as a warning to those who defy the promise of this land. Though the Nephites were eventually destroyed, the Lord prepared others to come to this land of promise. While Mormon led his people to their last battle, the saints in the old world had already entered the long dark night of the apostasy. Amid great persecution, the apostles of Christ’s church were killed. I’m sure the surviving leaders of the church did their best to continue the Christian practices and beliefs, but it didn’t take long before outside influence changed and corrupted the true doctrine. Prophesied by many, including Isaiah, Amos, Peter, and even Christ, this period of darkness left the world unfit for Christ’s church to be restored. All remnants of the church and the authority Christ left with his apostles were gone.
And so the world entered a period of time where spiritual darkness reigned. The writings of the prophets were preserved, but they were kept from the public who were, in majority, illiterate. Even great leaders of nations were unable to read or write. Scriptures had to be copied by hand and usually took years to complete. The few who did have access to scripture used it as a source of power and altered doctrines for their benefit. Under these oppressive spiritual conditions, it is improbable that a restored church could have survived. The groundwork had not yet been laid to support the fullness of the gospel being restored.
It wasn’t until the Renaissance, a period of rebirth of art, literature, and society, that things began to change. Over a period of about four centuries, a series of courageous and inspired men rose up, whose combined efforts made possible a restoration of God’s church. The first of note is the englishman John Wycliffe, who in the late 14th century spoke out against religious corruption and began the first translation of the Bible into English. His teachings and work inspired and influenced other men for years to come.
The next important event was the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-1400s. What was once prohibitively slow and expensive, the written word, was dramatically revolutionized and paved the way for the proliferation of knowledge throughout the world. Many ecclesiastical leaders of the time resisted the printing of sacred text, seeing it as a threat to their power and position, but, as Joseph Fielding Smith said,
the publication of books, including the Bible, was too great a force to be stemmed, like an irresistible flood, printing, and the desire to read what was printed, swept over the entire land.
Elder McConkie concurred:
Few tools were more effective than printing in paving the way for the great revival of learning, for the religious reformation, and for the breaking away of peoples and nations from religious domination. Without the discovery of movable type… the barrier of gross darkness covering the apostate world could scarce have been pierced.
Another significant event in the 15th century was the discovery of America. Nephi saw in vision Christopher Columbus’ discovery of this continent.
12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land. (1 Nephi 13:12)
Columbus himself said,
With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail and he opened my will to desire to accomplish the project. … This was the fire that burned within me. … Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit … urging me to press forward?
At the beginning of the 16th century, a German monk and professor at the University of Wittenberg named Martin Luther, inspired by other reformers that came before, saw the corruption and worldliness pervasive in the church. He nailed his historic 95 theses–statements urging reform–to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. He was later banished and sought refuge elsewhere. He translated the bible into German for the masses. Elder McConkie said of him,
Luther’s break with Catholicism was part of the divine program; it came as an Elias preparing the way for the Restoration.
About this same time in England, William Tyndale began translating the bible into English. He, too, desired the word of God to be available to all. Instead of using Jerome’s Latin translation, Tyndale went back to the Greek and Hebrew texts. Prophetic were his words when he said,
If God spare me I will one day make the boy that drives the plough … to know more of Scripture than the Pope does.
When he could not find a publisher to print the bible in England, he had them printed in Germany and then smuggled them into the country. It was this version that was used primarily in the King James version of the bible. Tyndale was the one who penned the words in the book of James that caused Joseph Smith to say,
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. (Joseph Smith History 1:12)
Throughout Europe, other inspired men sought to correct the wrongs of centuries. Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin in Switzerland, John Knox from Scotland, Jan Hus from the Czech Republic, and others, many of whom gave their lives for what they knew was right.
While these men did not have the full truth, they were undoubtedly inspired by the Spirit of God to lay the foundations upon which God could restore his church in its fullness. Each one made an important contribution that, combined together, culminated in the formation of an environment that could sustain the flourishing of God’s church again upon the earth.
Joseph Fielding Smith said,
In preparation for this restoration the Lord raised up noble men, such as Luther, Calvin, Knox, and others whom we call reformers, and gave them power to break the shackles which bound the people and denied them the sacred right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience. …
Latter-day Saints pay all honor to these great and fearless reformers, who shattered the fetters which bound the religious world. The Lord was their Protector in this mission, which was fraught with many perils. In that day, however, the time had not come for the restoration of the fulness of the gospel. The work of the reformers was of great importance, but it was a preparatory work.
As evidenced by the persecution of the reformers, religious freedom and tolerance was not yet available on the earth. The Puritans were among the first of the groups to come to the American colonies seeking religious freedom. They had left England for America, seeking a place to worship God. The Puritans established a strict religious commonwealth intolerant of any other religion. Roger Williams was a dissenter from the Puritans who argued that no particular religion should be imposed on the people. He also believed that all churches had fallen away from the church established in Christ’s time. He was banished from Massachusetts in 1635 and along with others established the colony of Rhode Island, which allowed total tolerance of all religions.
As immigrants came and various religions began to take hold in the American colonies, no one religion dominated over the others. This diversity was the major reason for the religious liberties that later became a unique and defining feature of the United States.
Nephi foresaw the coming of the colonists in vision. He wrote,
13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; (1 Nephi 13:13,15)
Though there were safe religious havens among the colonies, true religious freedom was not protected and so the time was not quite right. Under the rule of King George II, the colonists enjoyed just policies from the British crown. When the next monarch, King George III, and his ministry took over in 1765, they began to enact oppressive and unjust laws on the colonists. For the next 10 years, the colonists endured the increasing difficulty imposed on them from overseas. It was, however, only under these circumstances that the colonists rallied to overthrow the oppressive rule that governed them. I believe God allowed these injustices to happen to inspire the minds of our founding fathers to draft the most important documents in our nation’s history. I think it is similar to the story of the people of Alma who were oppressed by Amulon and the other wicked priests of Noah. If you recall, they were given heavy tasks, but as they prayed, the Lord made their burdens light. Why wouldn’t the Lord just take away their burdens? He tells us why in Mosiah 24:
and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
Just like the story of Gideon and the Midianites, sometimes the Lord doesn’t give us the easy way out so that we may witness His hand in our lives. So it was with the early Americans.
After repeated appeals to their oppressors, in July of 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Congress. This inspired document proclaims that
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
This Declaration of Independence was the first of three documents that finalized the conditions in which God’s church could be restored. It was followed by the Constitution, which was ratified in 1789, and finally the Bill of Rights in 1791. This last document is the one that put into law religious freedom as we know it today. The Bill of Rights’ first amendment reads,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
These words made it possible for God to do his work in this land. Fourteen years after this was signed into law, on a small farm in Vermont, Joseph Smith, Jr. was born. It was in this new free land that he was raised. The time had come, the conditions were right. At this time there was a great religious excitement. Joseph Smith said he was “called up to serious reflection” on the subject of religion. The sacrifices of countless individuals before him placed this humble 14-year-old boy in the unique circumstances that inspired him to yearn for the truth and the ability to receive it.
Joseph Smith was called of God to do what none had done before him. He sought not to reform or protest against any church, but was directed by God to restore anew what was lost. Through heavenly messengers, the priesthood was again restored to the earth and the keys of the kingdom were bestowed upon mankind.
For thousands of years, this continent has been a place set apart by the Lord. The promise made to the Nephites still holds true today. Inasmuch as we keep the commandments of the Lord, we will prosper in the land. It is our responsibility as members of God’s church to stay true to our beliefs and strive to be obedient to what we know is right. It is easy to get discouraged by all the negativity and wickedness prevalent in the world today, but I would like to draw your attention to the marvelous blessings and prosperity the Lord has given us in this age.
Most of us carry volumes of scripture and teaching materials on our phone. With the click of a button, I can search through hundreds of thousands of documents and do family history research right from my couch while wearing my pajamas. We can get on a plane and travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours. We can stay in touch with friends and family through phone calls, shared pictures, video chats, anywhere we go. It is truly a marvel. So many of these things were invented in this great land of freedom. The influence of this nation has changed the world. Think of what these abilities and technologies can do for the spreading of the kingdom of God. What an exciting time to be alive.
For hundreds of years, the hand of the Lord directed countless individuals to prepare the way for His church to be once again established on the earth. It cost the blood of many brave men and women who gave their lives so that we could be here worshipping God today. Let us not forget those who sacrificed so much and who were courageous in the face of adversity. Let us also remember that all of this–all that we do–is only made possible because of the great and last sacrifice made by He who broke the bands of sin and death.
During the early part of the nineteenth century, Samuel F. Smith wrote the words to the hymn, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee. The final verse reads:
Our fathers’ God to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!
What a blessing to live in a land where our only King is our God. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The pain is still too close to write something about my mom today. Even still, I wanted to share something, so I thought I would post this talk that I gave in church three years ago on Mother’s Day. I’d like to dedicate these words to the remarkable woman I call Mom.
Mother’s Day Talk May 8, 2011
Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. I’m honored to be speaking to you today. As a bishopric, we typically spend some time each week talking about our upcoming sacrament meeting topics and speakers. Under these circumstances, you’d think that I would have been part of the conversation deciding today’s speaking assignments. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the feeling of surprise I felt when Bishop looked over to me during a recent bishopric meeting and said, “We’d like you to speak in sacrament meeting on Mother’s day.” In all seriousness, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share with you today some of my thoughts and more importantly to give honor and respect to some of the most important people in our lives: women, sisters, daughters, and mothers.
President Hinckley said,
Woman is God’s supreme creation. Only after the earth had been formed, after the day had been separated from the night, after the waters had been divided from the land, after vegetation and animal life had been created, and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.
Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth.
Sisters, you have been blessed with special characteristics that make you who you are. President Hinckley also said,
God planted within women something divine.” That something is the gift and the gifts of motherhood. But motherhood is more than just bearing children. In Genesis, we read that Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living, though she had yet to birth a child. Elder Matthew Cowley taught that “men have to have something given to them [in this life] to make them saviors of men, but not mothers, not women. [They] are born with an inherent right, an inherent authority, to be the saviors of human souls … and the regenerating force in the lives of God’s children.” Sheri Dew said, “Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment he could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate.
Speaking to the young women of the church, President James E. Faust said,
I wonder if you sisters fully understand the greatness of your gifts and talents and how all of you can achieve the “highest place of honor” in the Church and in the world. One of your unique, precious, and sublime gifts is your femininity, with its natural grace, goodness, and divinity. Femininity is not just lipstick, stylish hairdos, and trendy clothes. It is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your qualities of your capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each of you possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty.
One of your particular gifts is your feminine intuition. Do not limit yourselves. As you seek to know the will of our Heavenly Father in your life and become more spiritual, you will be far more attractive, even irresistible. You can use your smiling loveliness to bless those you love and all you meet, and spread great joy. Femininity is part of the God-given divinity within each of you. It is your incomparable power and influence to do good. You can, through your supernal gifts, bless the lives of children, women, and men. Be proud of your womanhood. Enhance it. Use it to serve others.
Young women, you have great potential for influencing others. These gifts you have are real. Elder Quentin L. Cook in the most recent General Conference shared this story about one influential young woman:
When I was recently assigned to a conference in the Mission Viejo California Stake, I was touched by an account of their four-stake New Year’s Eve youth dance. Following the dance, a purse was found with no outside identification. I share with you part of what Sister Monica Sedgwick, the Young Women president in the Laguna Niguel stake, recorded: “We didn’t want to pry; this was someone’s personal stuff! So we gingerly opened it and grabbed the first thing that was on top—hopefully, it would identify her. It did, but in another way—it was a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. Wow! This told us something about her. Then we reached in for the next item, a little notebook. Surely this would give us answers, but not the kind we were expecting. The first page was a list of favorite scriptures. There were five more pages of carefully written scriptures and personal notes.”
The sisters immediately wanted to meet this stalwart young woman. They returned to that purse to identify its owner. They pulled out some breath mints, soap, lotion, and a brush. I loved their comments: “Oh, good things come out of her mouth; she has clean and soft hands; and she takes care of herself.”
They eagerly awaited the next treasure. Out came a clever little homemade coin purse made from a cardboard juice carton, and there was some money in a zippered pocket. They exclaimed, “Ahh, she’s creative and prepared!” They felt like little children on Christmas morning. What they pulled out next surprised them even more: a recipe for Black Forest chocolate cake and a note to make the cake for a friend’s birthday. They almost screamed, “She’s a HOMEMAKER! Thoughtful and service minded.” Then, yes, finally some identification. The youth leaders said they felt greatly blessed “to observe the quiet example of a young lady living the gospel.”
We as leaders have an obligation to help and encourage young women, like the one this story, to find and develop the attributes of womanhood. I love the words of Elder Russell M. Nelson on this subject:
A worthy woman personifies the truly noble and worthwhile attributes of life. A faithful woman can become a devoted daughter of God—more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish, more anxious to exercise compassion than to exercise dominion, more committed to integrity than to notoriety. And she knows of her own infinite worth.
As brethren and holders of the Priesthood, it is our responsibility to show the proper respect to women. All of us here today, with no exception, are here today because of the sacrifice of a woman. I believe the reason there is a special bond between a mother and a child is because of the great sacrifice a woman goes through to bring a child into this world. We sacrifice for those we love and we love those for whom we sacrifice. If we look to He who sacrificed the most for all of us, we will also find He who loves us more than any other. Our Savior endured pain and ridicule and paid the ultimate price because of His love for each of us.
All the primary children know how much I like stories, especially from the scriptures. I would like to share a few stories with you today; the first from the scriptures. Like for so many things, the Savior provides us with an example of showing respect to the woman who gave Him life. Persecuted, ridiculed, scourged, crowned with thorns, the Savior hung on the cross while the soldiers cast lots for his coat. Under these entirely undeserved circumstances, the Savior’s heart went out to His mother.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
It astounds me that while suffering, which caused the greatest of all to shrink, He still sought to honor and protect His mother. What an example of love and respect. Some of the very last words the Savior spoke as a mortal man were words seeking the well-being of His mother.
This is not the only example the Savior gave us of respecting and honoring women. Jesus taught some of His most important doctrines to women. It was to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that he first acknowledged Himself to be the Messiah. He taught her of the living water and said, “I … am he.” To Martha he said “I am the resurrection, and the life. … And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” On the third day after his death, the Savior found Mary weeping outside the sepulcher.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
It is no surprise to me that Jesus first appeared to a woman. I believe it was Mary’s great faith and love for the Savior that qualified her to have this sacred experience. It was also she who was entrusted to deliver the first glorious and divine message of His resurrection.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared a story a few years back about how his father showed love and respect to his mother.
Years ago, when my brothers and I were boys, our mother had radical cancer surgery. She came very close to death. Much of the tissue in her neck and shoulder had to be removed, and for a long time it was very painful for her to use her right arm.
One morning about a year after the surgery, my father took Mother to an appliance store and asked the manager to show her how to use a machine he had for ironing clothes. The machine was called an Ironrite. It was operated from a chair by pressing pedals with one’s knees to lower a padded roller against a heated metal surface and turn the roller, feeding in shirts, pants, dresses, and other articles. You can see that this would make ironing (of which there was a great deal in our family of five boys) much easier, especially for a woman with limited use of her arm. Mother was shocked when Dad told the manager they would buy the machine and then paid cash for it. Despite my father’s good income as a veterinarian, Mother’s surgery and medications had left them in a difficult financial situation.
On the way home, my mother was upset: “How can we afford it? Where did the money come from? How will we get along now?” Finally Dad told her that he had gone without lunches for nearly a year to save enough money. “Now when you iron,” he said, “you won’t have to stop and go into the bedroom and cry until the pain in your arm stops.” She didn’t know he knew about that. I was not aware of my father’s sacrifice and act of love for my mother at the time, but now that I know, I say to myself, “There is a man.”
Women have the potential to have such a powerful and significant influence in all our lives. Mothers, sisters, daughters, friends; all these relationships with womankind have the potential to touch lives in a way men simply cannot. The gifts you sisters possess and the power you wield is real. I was touched as I read this story retold by Elder Nelson:
The influence of your mother will bless you throughout life, especially when you serve as a missionary. Long years ago, Elder Frank Croft was serving in the state of Alabama. While preaching to the people, he was forcefully abducted by a vicious gang, to be whipped and lashed across his bare back. Elder Croft was ordered to remove his coat and shirt before he was tied to a tree. As he did so, a letter he had recently received from his mother fell to the ground. The vile leader of the gang picked up the letter. Elder Croft closed his eyes and uttered a silent prayer. The attacker read the letter from Elder Croft’s mother. From a copy of that letter, I quote:
“My beloved son, … remember the words of the Savior when He said, … ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for you will have your reward in Heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’ Also remember the Savior upon the cross suffering from the sins of the world when He had uttered these immortal words, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Surely, my boy, they who are mistreating you … know not what they do or they would not do it. Sometime, somewhere, they will understand and then they will regret their action and they will honor you for the glorious work you are doing. So be patient, my son, love those who mistreat you and say all manner of evil against you and the Lord will bless you and magnify you. … Remember also, my son, that day and night, your mother is praying for you.”
Elder Croft watched the hateful man as he studied the letter. He would read a line or two, then sit and ponder. He arose to approach his captive. The man said: “Feller, you must have a wonderful mother. You see, I once had one, too.” Then, addressing the mob, he said: “Men, after reading this Mormon’s mother’s letter, I just can’t go ahead with the job. Maybe we had better let him go.” Elder Croft was released without harm.
We are deeply grateful for the faithful mothers and fathers of our wonderful missionaries. The love they bear for their children is sublime.
As I try to find the words to express my gratitude for the women in my life, I am humbled by the love shown and sacrifices made on my behalf. I consider myself blessed beyond description. Brethren, I implore you to take time to tell the women in your lives how much you appreciate and love them. Tell them by word and perhaps more importantly by how you treat them. Sisters, cultivate the gifts God has given you so you may find the joys of motherhood: yours is a divine gift and calling. This is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Quick Trip to LAby Angie
Jim and I were up bright and early Monday Morning: he was off to a dentist appointment and I went to Zumba. It was my first time back since before our trip to Georgia. Several people noticed that I was no longer attached to my O2 tank and took the time to comment on that and offer encouragement. One sister (who is a nurse) stopped me on the way out to ask how I was doing and how long I had had respiratory problems. I explained that it was actually a complication of my heart problem. Her eyes got wide and she asked if I would mind telling her about it. I told her about my single ventricle and fontan surgery and was surprised to see her almost in tears. She has a 14-month old granddaughter who was born with the same defect! She is being treated at Primary Children’s Medical Center (my home-away-from-home for so much of my childhood) and is receiving the newer 3-stage fontan over the next three years. We talked for almost an hour, and it was a really sweet experience.
That afternoon, I helped put together a luncheon for the family of one of the sisters I visit teach, whose mother passed away last week. It felt good to reciprocate some of the service that we have so abundantly received. For Family Home Evening, we watched Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “Gratitude in Any Circumstances,” and then wrote some Thank You cards. Tuesday was Earth Day, so Jim and I had a picnic during his lunch break, complete with Jelly Beans for treat (because it was also National Jelly Bean Day).
Friday night, we drove down to North Hollywood to visit Alex and Melinda and pick up some things from Grandma & Grandpa Packard’s house on Pickford Way. We drown down after work and got rained on a bit, but got to see some really beautiful clouds, a gorgeous sunset, and even a rainbow. After it got dark, we even saw some giant flashes of lightning that lit up the entire sky, but we didn’t hear any thunder. We made good time and got in just before midnight.
Saturday morning, Jim got up early and helped to put together Alex’s new computer (which Jim helped him pick out). At about 10, he went to pick up Jason from LAX and they spent the afternoon in Culver City with Aunt Debbie, Mark, and his crew (David, Leslie Ann, their kids, & cousin Deb). Jim picked up some stuff for us and for Jon and then returned to finish the computer. In the meantime, Melinda and I left Aurie with Alex while we went to help with this year’s Mormon Helping Hands project: cleaning up flood debris and trash along the LA River. Mel & I chatted and sang hymns and primary songs and, despite it being hard work, we were having a great time. Then, in a moment of very poor judgment, I fell into the river. I went completely under, but quickly got my footing and stood up in murky water about four feet deep. Climbing out was quite a challenge and I was a complete mess but I was soon safely on solid ground and heading to the information desk to get a few scratches patched up. The only serious casualty was my phone, which was in my back pocket. We’ve yet to see whether it will survive the ordeal.
We went home, got cleaned up, and picked up Aurie, then headed out to the LA Zoo where we saw lions and giraffes, and even one of my favorite animals: a sloth. We spent several hours there, then met up with the boys for dinner at The Island’s, a Hawaiian Burger place in LA that we fell in love with after going there with Grandma and Grandpa a couple years ago. Alex and Melinda had never been, so we introduced them to it, and they enjoyed it too. For dessert, we stuck with the Hawaiian theme by getting Hawaiian shave ice, which was also delicious.
This morning, we got up early and started our trek home. Jim had to stop by the Pickford Way house, so it added a bit to our trip, which meant we walked in to church just a couple minutes late, but I guarantee we left for church before anyone else in that congregation. Of course, we drove 350 miles to get there, but who’s counting…
Home Againby Angie
Returning home was harder than we expected, but it was so wonderful to have family around us for a few days. We also found a special blessing waiting for us when we pulled up to our house: members of our ward had come over and mowed our lawn and weeded (front and back) and planted flowers in the vacant planters on our front porch. We felt so loved!
Wasn’t General Conference wonderful!? I felt like many of the talks were deeply personal and applicable to both sides of our family, especially on Sunday. Is was a very comforting way to begin to return to “real life” which – this week – meant lots of work, laundry, phone calls, and thank you notes.
On his first full day back at work, Jim’s group leader, Gordon, stopped by his office to inform him that he (Jim) had won an award while we were out in Georgia! Gordon had nominated Jim for this excellence award a while back because of the Java class that Jim taught in the Fall. The nomination was approved and he was awarded a nice certificate. We are so glad that Jim has been supported and appreciated at work, despite our recent family crises.
On Thursday, Pam Dozier invited me to join a group of women from her ward who get together casually every other week to discuss whatever they’re studying in their scriptures. Though I’m not in their ward, I still knew several of the girls and it was wonderful to talk about Conference and other spiritual topics.
We decided to do something special for “date night” on Friday: we moved the couches around and built a blanket fort in the living room, then we curled up inside it with a bowl of homemade kettle corn to watch a movie on Jim’s tablet. It was a blast.
On Thursday, Jim had created an elaborate and very effective setup for archival photographing. We spent a good part of that evening and Saturday afternoon taking pictures of all of Mom’s recipe cards. I posted a video on facebook about the project. Now that the photography part is done, the more time consuming steps begin: editing the pictures and uploading them to the family recipe website, which we plan to fix up a bit.
Yesterday we had the Elders over for dinner. We shared with them some of the ravioli left over from the funeral that we had frozen, and sent them home with some extra servings… And there’s still some more in our freezer! It’s the cruse of ravioli that never faileth. They shared with us the neat new video the Church made for Easter: http://easter.mormon.org – If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out!
Funeral services for my mother, Kathy Ann Packard Hoffman, will be held on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. The services are at 6 PM at the Newnan LDS Meetinghouse at 821 Old Atlanta Highway, Newnan, Georgia.
The burial will be on Friday, April 4, 2014 at the Harmony Grove Cemetery located at 11455 East Locke Rd, Lockeford, California. We will be holding a memorial service in the Harmony Grove Church (adjacent to the cemetery) from 1-2 PM. The grave will be dedicated following the service.
Following the burial, we will gather for visiting and a catered meal at the Heritage Oak Winery (a property that has been in the Hoffman family for generations). The address of the property is 10112 East Woodbridge Rd, Acampo, California. If you would like to attend, please RSVP Roger before Wednesday, April 2.
If you are unable to attend, but would still like to honor Kathy, please visit her online memory tree and submit a memory to share with her family. The address is http://memory-tree.jigawot.net You may also enjoy reading the other memories friends and family have written.
A Journey’s Endby Jim
About half past midnight, our beloved wife and mother, Kathy Ann Packard Hoffman, peacefully passed away surrounded by her loving family. Her breathing slowed and weakened for a few minutes giving us enough time to gather the family and then she reached the end of her journey. She battled Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease for more than six months, and she fought valiantly until the end. She led an exemplary life and blessed all those who were fortunate enough to know her. The impact she had on countless lives can never be measured. You are an inspiration and a strength to all of us, Mom. We love you.
A Rare Findby Jim
Mom hasn’t been able to close her eyes the last few nights, which seems to make sleeping difficult. We gave her a little muscle relaxant last night to help her be drowsy enough to get some sleep, which helped for about eight hours. The hospice nurse told us that she may sleep with her eyes open and that that is pretty normal. Mom’s breathing has continued to be fast but even. She still sounds congested, but she hasn’t been coughing — though, I don’t believe she could cough now if she needed to. It’s been days since she’s had any significant amount to drink, but the nurse assured us that when the body is shutting down, desires for food and water also fade and that, from what she can tell, Mom is as content and as comfortable as she can be.
Dad and Becka spent some time cleaning Mom’s office today and they found the original film of a special experience from Mom’s childhood. Her father, David, was deployed to Korea while her mother, Vera, was pregnant. When Mom was six weeks old, Vera had the rare opportunity to be featured on a TV spot that supported the war by filming messages from family members and sending the film to their loved ones in the military (as well as airing the spots on television as a promotional item). After receiving it, David had to travel quite a ways to be able to watch it. That film has been a treasured family heirloom that Mom watched many times while growing up. They had made a digital copy a few years ago, so Dad found the DVD and played it in the living room for Mom. As soon as it started playing, Mom’s eyes shifted to look at the screen. She looked very intent, and it was the closest expression to a smile that we’ve seen in a few days. Her attention span was short, and she was soon looking away in a sort of daze once more, but Becka and Angie both felt that it was an authentic response to that familiar footage.
This afternoon we received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Dad’s cousin, Bob and Joyce. It was very sweet of them to send. Thank you for your kindness.
Later this afternoon Jon and I went out shopping and I realized that it has been nearly a week since I’ve even l stepped outside the house. The strange thing was that it didn’t really feel like it had been very long. I guess I don’t go stir crazy very easily, especially when I’m busy doing something I think is important.
Angie’s been doing a great job taking care of Mom’s house plants and today she brought in some of the lemon blossoms that have opened and we put them with the peach blossoms from yesterday. Angie also brought a pot of Mom’s African violets into the living room so she could see it blooming.
Rebecca has been very diligent in helping Mom be comfortable by swabbing Mom’s mouth out frequently to keep it moist. Mom had a hard time when Becka sponged with just water, so now she’s using some thickener the hospice provided, so it’s less likely to drip down the wrong pipe and make her cough. Rebecca read online that keeping Mom’s mouth wet is the best thing to do to relieve any discomfort she may have from being dehydrated. I’m sure it helps her feel better to have her mouth kept clean this way.
For our Family Home Evening tonight, we did another lesson on family history. Dad read a presentation he did for a community family history conference recently and then we watched a video about the Granite Mountain in Utah where billions of records are kept and preserved. It was very fascinating. For dessert we had some brownies made by Becka topped with jam that I made. We watched “Smile for Life” (which Becka said got the best response out of Mom since watching her baby movie) and then we sang hymns for a bit, had prayers, and said goodnight.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. We feel a special strength and spirit in this home as we serve our mother. I know that comes from you.