The seasons in Missouri are disorienting to me. I didn’t realize how much weather plays a part in the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Perhaps being busy with things of greater importance makes the more trivial things less appealing. Anyway, I was grateful we were able to go set up the Jameson School Christmas Store today. Not only did it tidy up our workplace, but I felt a twinge of Christmas Spirit as I imagined the children coming through on a shopping spree for their family members.
I was able to get the first AOA Work and activity history report for October done in this week. The time involved made me appreciate those who have taken care of this assignment for decades.
Tuesday, I took care of our scripture study teaching assignment because Darrel was focused on his talk for Sunday. I introduced D&C 76, and covered the first 24 verses. More than ever, I realized the impact of this guided tour of eternity had on those steeped in Protestantism. I loved the contrast of the vision contained as it began with the highest potential of each man and woman personified in their vision of the Father and the Son. I found it insightful that an equivalent number of verses were then dedicated to the fall of Lucifer and the depths of depravity to which a son of God can fall, including the terrible fate that awaits those who come to earth but then chose to follow Satan into a state of perdition or ruin.
Marion G. Romney taught, “A corollary to the pernicious falsehood that God is dead is the equally pernicious doctrine that there is no devil. Satan himself is the father of both of these lies. To believe them is to surrender to him. Such surrender has always led, is leading now, and will continue to lead men to destruction.
Latter-day Saints know that there is a God. With like certainty, they know that Satan lives, that he is a powerful personage of spirit, the archenemy of God, of man, and of righteousness. The reality of the existence of both God and the devil is conclusively established by the scriptures and by human experience.”
Jon and Kaye Mitchell arrived on Wednesday. We felt their trip was sweet gift from Heaven for all involved. I was able to get new tires on the car that morning so we could explore without concern. All the current AOA missionaries and guests gathered for Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday. We spent the morning introducing AOA to Jon and Kaye. Their discerning spirits made watching their response to this sacred place a treat. Thanksgiving Dinner was held in our Directors’ home. The tables were beautifully decorated. and we ate on formal dining ware complete with goblet glasses. The sights and smells of Thanksgiving greeted us at the door. The sharing of meal assignments made it the easiest Thanksgiving Dinner I’ve attended for many years. We missed family, but our AOA friends were a fantastic substitute.
Friday was our big day for Church History in our area with the Mitchells. Following a nice breakfast, we traveled to Hawn’s Mill, Far West, the Three Witnesses Monument in the Richmond Pioneer Cemetery, David Whitmer’s grave, and the Eight Witnesses/ Zion’s Camp Monument. Sharing the stories associated with those places was like watering a thirsty flowerbed. Jon and Kaye seemed to soak in every detail I could think of. They stretched my current knowledge to the limit. Because we weren’t hurried and it was just the two couples, it was one of the most enjoyable visits we’ve made to these sites. We topped of the day with dinner at the Joy Wok, and an endowment session at the Kansas City Temple.
We arrived earlier than planned, so we got ready and spent the time in the Celestial Room. Most of the time it was just the two couples. The praying, pondering, and relaxing for almost an hour were a beautiful prelude to the session.
Saturday, Jon and Kaye helped Darrel mulch a section of ground as a service project. They were naturals after their years as grounds keepers for the park, town hall and cemetery in Levan. The morning couldn’t have been more beautiful. I worked on my lesson for Sunday and then joined them for a few hours exploring the nooks and corners of AOA. Never have I felt the spirit of the early pioneers more present than we did with them. That afternoon, we gave them a taste of Jamesport and the Amish. Watching Kaye shop in the Amish Grocery store was like watching a kid in a candy shop. It was delightful! On the way home we made a loop through Chillicothe to see the city light display. It is similar to what we enjoy each year in Spanish Fork Canyon, although not so large. Their display is free, and guests are able to get out and enjoy the lights up close and very personal. Who knew the firm warning about high voltage lines and sudden death has no “ground” here in Missouri.
Sunday I taught my first Come Follow Me Lesson in connection with my new assignment. I loved studying about the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum. One thing I learned that shed light and greater understanding was a message from Joseph Fielding Smith, the great-grandson of Hyrum. I’ve always had a deep love for Hyrum because he performed so honorably in the shadow of his younger brother and felt some joy as I read the following.
“Along with the martyrdom of Joseph, the death of Hyrum was a necessary event. In an 1841 revelation, now section 124: 94-95, Hyrum was told that he would “be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery” The same revelation declared that Hyrum had been appointed “a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph” and was instructed to “act in concert also with my servant Joseph” At the time of his death, Hyrum was effectively operating as the Assistant President of the Church and a co-witness of the Restoration.”
President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “If Oliver Cowdery was ordained to hold the keys jointly with the Prophet, and after his loss by transgression, this authority was conferred on Hyrum Smith, then why do we not have today the same order of things, an Assistant President as well as two counselors in the First Presidency? It is because the peculiar condition requiring two witnesses to establish the work, is not required after the work is established. Joseph and Hyrum Smith stand at the head of this dispensation, jointly holding the keys, as the two necessary witnesses fulfilling the law as it is set down by our Lord in his answer to the Jews (see Matthew 18:16). Since the gospel will never again be restored there will be no occasion for this condition to arise again. We all look back to the two special witnesses, called to bear witness in full accord with the divine law.”
Jon and Kaye provided a fireside for the missionaries last night. They shared some experiences as missionaries in the Ukraine a few years ago, under the leadership of President Boyd K. Packer’s grandson. They presented a series of miracles that eventually brought the gospel to the people there. They have a troubled and oppressed past. During the German invasion of 1932 alone, 4,000,000 people starved to death. Yet, the gospel light has dawned bringing hope. I remember in 1978, when President Kimball asked the members to pray with the faith for the doors of all nations to open. In 1991, Elder Packer and Elder Oaks dedicated this land for the preaching of the gospel. In 1998, the Kiev Temple was announced; in 2007 the ground-breaking took place; and in 2010 a temple was dedicated.
While Jon and Kaye were serving, the country celebrated 25 years of Independence and the Church was very involved. They shared the fact that as they gathered one time, representatives of all twelve tribes of Israel were present.
I was touched by the wisdom of a Kievan Prince, Yaroslav the Wise, to his sons before his death in 1054. He said, “…Love one another because you are brothers from the same mother and father. If you will live with love among you, God will be with you and will conquer your enemies, and you will live in peace. But if you live in hatred and strife and quarrels, then you, yourselves, will fall and the land of your fathers and grandfathers will also fall, which they obtained with great difficulty.”
The brothers chose to ignore the counsel. The oldest murdered two of his brothers and the youngest finally gave battle to him. The counsel became a prophecy. They fell as did the land they loved. Invasion, suppression, and sadness brought bitter years to the history of the Ukrainian people. I found the principle taught binding on all societies and families who chose to merit the aid of Heaven.
We felt a hollow spot this morning when we awoke and found Jon and Kaye well on their way to Lansing, Michigan to begin another adventure as full-time missionaries. Their visit will be a sweet spot in our service forever.
We feel some excitement as we enter the Christmas Season. We invite all to make a list of the ten most life-altering events of 2021. As we did this each year, we find the things that matter most are grounded in the blessings of the Gospel and the hope we have because of the Babe of Bethlehem who grew to become the Savior of the World.
We love you all! Darrel and Karen Kenison