Sunday, March 9, 2014
Beacons and Targets
On the first Sunday of almost every month at the MTC, is “Mission Conference.” During this two-hour meeting, President Lon Nally and his wife Kaye always speak, and one of his counselors and his wife, along with one of the District Presidency members and his wife, also speak to an audience attended by all of the missionaries and all of the Branch Presidency members and their spouses—upwards of 2000 people. Uplifting and edifying discourses consistently characterize these meetings.
During Mission Conference on Sunday, February 2, 2014, the following story was told:
“Elder Nelson Cordova—a member of the Seventy who resides in California—was just finishing his evening shift as a recorder in the Los Angeles Temple. The phone rang; it was the LAX airport control tower. The obviously stressed man on the phone asked, ‘Where is Moroni?’ Apparently the light that shines on the Angel Moroni atop the temple had gone out—and without Moroni as a beacon, some of the pilots were worried about landing safely.
“Elder Cordova and others climbed to the top of the temple to start the light again with a generator they kept on hand to use during power failures. He said he was amazed that the caller actually asked for Moroni by name—and that he learned a lesson that night—‘The temple is not only a beacon in the lives of the Saints, but for others as well.’ ”
In the context of the talk, the story was used as an attention getter for the theme of the talk, “beacons of righteousness.”
At this month’s Mission Conference on March 2, 2014, President Nally mentioned, in passing, that the New York Times had posted the day before on the front page of the internet edition, a lengthy article about two LDS Sister missionaries serving in Korea. He indicated that he’d not had time to read the entire article yet; he was merely commenting on its front page status.
My response on hearing the Los Angeles Temple story was surprise that pilots and air traffic controllers would know by name the Los Angeles Temple and the Angel Moroni.
My response to the New York Times article, which I read online Sunday afternoon after Mission Conference, was also surprise—why did the New York Times think that their readership would actually be interested in LDS Sister missionaries? As for accuracy, although their premise was somewhat flawed, so that what followed was slightly off, the tone was neutral rather than negative. To judge for yourself, go to:
Another surprising article, titled “The Facebook of Mormon” appeared earlier this year in The Atlantic magazine:
Why was I surprised in each case? Mostly because for the majority of my life, people of other faiths whom I have encountered in the world have either never even heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons, or, they have heard only the distortions or skewed representations circulated by enemies of the Church. Mocking, scoffing, and outrageous misrepresentations from the world are what I have come to expect.
In January’s Mission Conference, President Nally told us about an experience his granddaughter had recently had while serving her mission in the Philippines. One day, she and her companion were accosted by a North American man who viciously spewed so much hatred at them and at the Church that they were brought to tears. Afterward, their tears were replaced by smiles because of the smiles and friendly greetings of the warm Filipino people, and by the comfort that came to them from the Spirit.
The monumental task of the MTC is preparing the missionaries for such varied experiences. Sometimes, as they serve their missions, the missionaries will be “beacons,” and sometimes they will be “targets.” And sometimes they will be surprised . . . . ~PLH
My Husband’s Take:
One of the liabilities of being assigned at the Provo Missionary Training Center, is that one loses contact with the residential Ward and Stake within which one resides. I miss the members of the Ward where I once presided as Bishop. I want to know how they are doing; my affection for them has not diminished one whit during the past year. I feel the same way about the members of the Stake with whom I worked closely while I served on the High Council. I miss my former Stake President, Richard K. Wilson, whom I love like a brother. I know that I am missing something of the leadership blessings that I might have had with the recently called Stake President, Jeff Robinson, whom I have known almost since the day that we moved into our home here in Orem.
What I have felt for these two great men, I have felt elsewhere in my travels with the Church Educational System. I have enjoyed the fellowship and confidence of Stake Presidents for more than fifty years and I am a better person for having known and worked with them. When I have had eyes to see and ears to hear, I have invariably been edified by those who preside in the Church and Kingdom of God. I have seldom gone to a Stake Conference or a Stake Leadership meeting where I have not been edified and blessed for having been in attendance. This has been pointedly true as I have listened and conformed my life to the teachings of the various Stake Presidents with whom I have served.
I knew that when I accepted the call to serve at the Provo MTC that I would be distanced from people that I knew and loved. That was one of the sacrifices that I was expected to make. I had watched others make the same sacrifice when they had received similar calls that took them outside of the Stake. I have to say that I grieved just a little as the truth of what I suspected came to be realized. I was, however, not abandoned by any means. I had simply changed venues.
For the past year, my wife and I have sat at the feet of the MTC Presidency, rejoicing in the teachings that have been presented to us as we tried to serve the young men and women who had responded to a prophet’s call to serve. There have been training meetings of various kinds, visits to our particular Branch where Presidency members have spoken, and, of course, the monthly Mission Conferences that traditionally take place on Fast Sunday. These have been rich experiences and I have taken copious notes on all of the addresses that have been made. Of all of the speakers, the one I have enjoyed the most has been President Lon B. Nally. In part, I think that I have been particularly attentive to him because he essentially serves as my Stake President, at least as far as my weekly experiences in the Church are concerned.
I decided that I would review my notes from these various conferences and training meetings so that I might share some of the tremendous insights that I have gained as I have sat at President Nally’s feet. Alas, I discovered that my notes are few, and those that appear are almost unintelligible. As I turned the pages, I sorrowed at the lack of adequate stimulus to remind me of the wonderful things that he had said, principles that had touched my heart deeply. I decided to see if this lapse in recording had affected the rest of my notes on the various talks that had been given by others. To my surprise, I discovered that much of what had been said by others had been preserved by my pen. Why had I not treated President Nally’s words better?
As I have pondered the lack of detail in my journal, I have settled on a couple of possibilities. First, during the President’s talks I may have been so enthralled by what he was saying, the sublime nature of his insights, that I simply could not take the time to write them down for fear that I might miss something of what he was saying while I tried to write. Frequently our visitors at the MTC will ask us not to take notes that we might more readily feel the spirit of the Lord. I had not understood what they had been suggesting until now. Perhaps the strength of the spirit on those occasions was so strong that I unconsciously chose to abandon my journal for a greater good.
Secondly, I have thought that maybe some of the things that the President communicated to me personally, that is to say, those things which I learned by the spirit, were too sacred to record. Perhaps they were some of the unspeakable things of the Kingdom, things that could not be written down, because there are no human words into which those thoughts and feelings might be translated. The oddity was that I thought that I had written them down, that I would find them when I perused my journal afterward.
Yet, for all of my ruminating on the matter, I had not been able to intellectually explain why my circumstances are the way they are . . . until this morning, the day after I began writing my portion of this posting. I have concluded that the messages and instruction that President Nally has delivered to the missionaries and their leaders are written down, but in my most personal journal, upon the fleshy tablets of my heart. I am a different man for having been in those meetings, just as I have become a different man for having hearkened to my Stake Presidents throughout the years. I cannot explain what specific doctrines or teachings have influenced me, I just know that I am more determined than ever to be the kind of person that the Gospel of Jesus Christ defines as a disciple of the Son of God. It is a wonderful experience to be entrusted with what I think now are unspeakable things.
In the light of this morning’s epiphany that I had about my journal and the teachings and testimony of President Nally, I finally understood what happened to me several months ago, as President Wilkins and I walked out of a Mission Conference together. I turned to him and exclaimed, “President Nally did it again! He hit the ball right out of the park!” The President turned to me and asked, “In what way? What did he say that made you feel that way?” I tried to explain myself and found that my usual glibness had failed me. I felt like I had just had a stroke. I could not articulate in any satisfactory way what I had been feeling and thinking as a result of President Nally’s address. I have since decided that my heart does not have a playback feature. I know how I feel; I know when I am being blessed; it is as real to me as anything I experience in life. But for the present, I am unable to share what I have gained in this particular venue. Perhaps these things are too sacred to share; perhaps they are impossible to share with others for the time being. All I know for certain is that I am looking forward to the next three years; I am confident that they are going to prove as joyous and as precious to me as the last twelve months have been. ~PNH