Monday, October 1, 2012

To Hold Sacred

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

To Hold Sacred, by Paul B. Pieper
Of the Seventy

I've mentioned that my new assignment at church is to be the music leader in primary. I'm still learning how to help children spanning the ages of 18-months to 12-years-old, but this learning process is more comfortable than I thought it would be. A few things happened yesterday that I was reminded of as I reviewed Elder Pieper's talk:

In junior primary (children aged 3-8), I led the opening song. After learning that the lesson for the day was on honoring parents, I chose to sing I Am a Child of God. Standing in front of a room full of children, I realized that their singing wasn't perfect: many were wiggling around and a few were off-key (and quite loudly so, at that); however, as I looked around the room, I noticed that most were looking right at me. I made my way around the room with my eyes, focusing on as many of their faces as I could, and the wiggles and off-key-ness seemed to fade away as I felt the sincerity of the song and how genuinely these children believed—or rather, knew—that what they were singing was true! I felt something in my heart that said, "remember this moment; this is important!"

Singing with children, I had an encounter with the divine!

Later, I visited the children in nursery (children aged 18-months to 3-years). I entered the room and heard the nursery leaders happily announcing my arrival, and then was surrounded by happy children wanting to either give me big hugs, tell me something, or show me something that they were holding. (Note: my own 21-month-old just quietly sat on a chair and smiled at me, as if he were sharing his daddy with his friends.)

After this great welcome we sang a few songs, but the whole time I kept thinking of what I felt as I was surrounded by these ten-or-so smiling toddlers: I felt that I have a great opportunity to supplement their learning of Jesus through songs (even if we do sometimes sing about a tiny turtle who eats soap and has bubbles in his throat).

Surrounded by loving children, I had an encounter with the divine!

We took a casual walk in the afternoon after church. While some of the family rested, the rest of us made tasty coconut macaroons (recipe) with the coconut we prepared over the weekend (read more here) and later took the walk to deliver a plate of cookies to the friends who gave us the un-husked coconuts. With our family spread out over the span of about a block (due to different walking speeds), I felt surrounded by happiness. There I was, in the middle of paradise, at the tail end of my family chain, hand-in-hand with my toddling boy, watching my happy family on an errand of love. At that moment, I heard a whisper in my heart that said, "love your family!"

It wasn't raining yesterday, but this is a cute picture

On a lovely walk, I had an encounter with the divine!

NOTE: You may have expected #3 to be about senior primary (children aged 9-12). Sorry, no distinct encounters with the divine for me there; we just had fun together!

In his talk, Elder Pieper recounted experiences that prophets had that can be classified as encounters with the divine. We are blessed and benefitted because these are recorded for us to learn from and apply in our lives. What I loved about his remarks, though, was that he made a connection to me personally when he said:

Our experiences with the divine may not be as direct or dramatic nor our challenges as daunting. However, as with the prophets, our strength to endure faithfully depends upon recognizing, remembering, and holding sacred that which we receive from above.

In this time of multiple calls a day from political surveyors or candidates' headquarters, I'm contemplating whom to vote for. While the practical part of my mind frequently reminds me that my single vote really is of little-to-no-value, I still feel a duty to study the issues and cast my conscience. Doing this helps me face internal wrestlings on difficult issues.

In addition to feeling the need to recognize more the encounters with the divine that I have almost daily, Elder Pieper's words also made a connection to my recent political activities. I saw a friend recently post the following on his facebook feed:

What I love about democrats is their focus on helping the downtrodden, emphasizing the idea that everyone is an equal, . That notion touches my heart and should for every human being. If you were to unwrap a democrat's DNA, I believe you'd find a sincere desire to help everyone achieve happiness. I'm totally on board for that!

What I love about republicans is their belief that this happiness is achieved through applying principles of work, thrift, diligence, acting instead of being acted upon. This idea is totally true and I totally believe it. And if you could unwrap a republican's DNA, you'd see that same democratic desire to help everyone achieve happiness. I totally resonate to that idea.

Of course, the big "debate" for our country is determining the right path to achieve this happiness. And that is the beauty of our democracy, being able to choose our path.

I'll finish this post by sharing that there is a big part of me that just wishes that we all could realize that we're on the same team, fighting for the same happiness, and that working and reasoning together will do more than working and reasoning separately. 

There are real differences between candidates' positions, but instead of focusing on negatives, I crave for discussion on things each feels are meaningful. In my mind, I would call these things sacred. After giving a definition of the word sacred, Elder Pieper said something that connected, for me, to the topic of voting:

That which is sacred to God becomes sacred to us only through the exercise of agency; each must choose to accept and hold sacred that which God has defined as sacred. He sends light and knowledge from heaven. He invites us to receive and treat it as sacred.

Every voting season, we hear of making our voice heard, voting our conscience, or marking our choice. Elder Pieper taught that the way to align with God and things He designates as sacred is likewise through choice.

Many people get worked up during voting season (rightfully so?) to help others make "the right" choice: to vote, and to vote for the person they support. Important as this is, I'm reminded that there are countless other choices I make more frequently than every two-to-four-years that signify what I know is really important.

Holding sacred things sacred through my decisions (and not just votes) helps me have encounters with the divine.

And these encounters can have longer tenure than terms of office.


Here's a bonus video from the Church about voting and political neutrality (link):

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