The Christmas season is upon us with the First Presidency’s Annual Fireside tonight! We are in the midst of celebrating our only Christmas at Adam-ondi-Ahman. Things that seemed so important at home in years past make little difference in this setting. Although this Christmas will be very different for us, we anticipate it being among the most memorable of all. The sunrises and sunsets at AOA are almost breath-taking. It occurred to me recently that they are symbolic. The sun first rose on mortality in this sacred place, and it will eventually set here as well. Both were or will be beautiful as they are part of God’s plan for His children, and as certain as the sun rising and setting each day.
Darrel finished our scripture study teaching assignment on Tuesday. He covered D&C 76:25-49. He likened fly fishing to Satan’s tactics in our world today. The goal of the fly fisherman is to catch trout through skillful deception. He knows these artificial insects embedded with tiny hooks need to be a perfect deception because the trout will identify even the slightest flaw and reject the fly.
His conclusion was taken from Elder Ballard’s October 2010 Conference address. “Like the fly fisherman who knows that trout are driven by hunger, Lucifer knows our “hunger,” or weaknesses, and tempts us with counterfeit lures which, if taken, can cause us to be yanked from the stream of life into his unmerciful influence. And unlike a fly fisherman who catches and releases the fish unharmed back into the water, Lucifer will not voluntarily let go. His goal is to make his victims as miserable as he is.”
Darrel worked at the sawmill cutting lumber for the Pavilion. He assisted a bit in putting the last two trusses together, and was assigned to help stand them in place. Thursday, they put the tin on the roof. Friday they cleaned the site in preparation for Elder Walker’s visit. We were the first group to have lunch there as we gathered for tacos on Friday. Darrel has done a lot of fix-up projects here in our new home in his spare time.
We’ve had several opportunities to serve in the communities around us. The long-awaited Jameson School Christmas store opened its doors two afternoons this week. The high school and junior high students came on Thursday and K-6 came on Friday. It was delightful to see them arrive with their lists, carefully searching the loaded tables for the perfect gift for each person. Once they made their selections, they moved to the wrapping room. We thought we were prepared to be fast and efficient in that effort, but learned a lot the first day to improve the process. With the little children it was intense for about 30 minutes at this one stop shopping store, but we were better prepared and seeing the sparkle in their eyes as they loaded up their wrapped and labeled gifts anticipating how they would look under their Christmas trees was all the pay we needed.
Friday the sisters learned how to make fabric Danish Christmas Stars to decorate a small tree in the Doxey Trailer for Elder and Sister Schwitzer. It was a fun morning and a rewarding service.
Saturday, three couples served as volunteers at the First Annual Christmas Around the Square in Gallatin. That represented progress in my mind. Gallatin City has never asked the missionaries for any help in the past as far as I know. A member who owns a little store front in Gallatin offered to find volunteers to help with the Christmas Baby Contest and the visit from Santa. She asked the AOA missionaries to be those volunteers. There are still strained feelings among some towards the Church in Gallatin that have been perpetuated since 1838. Sadly, all the facts are not considered by those who hold onto distorted tales about things that neither they nor we had anything to do with. There was a bit a stiffness with a few when they realized who the volunteers were, but that dissolved quickly as we warmly interacted and assisted in making the day run smoother. One of the ladies asked if missionaries could help again next year. We assured her that they would! As we visited with one woman while waiting for Santa to arrive, we had three segments of conversation that grew less guarded and sincere as she asked questions that we openly and sincerely answered. We came home rejoicing in that opportunity because to us it represents that hearts are softening, and the Lord’s work is progressing.
We’ve loved being part of the “Light the World with Love” initiative this week because of some sweet results. We anticipate that pattern to continue others to follow and invite all to give it a try.
Our study of D&C 137-138 regarding the redemption of the dead this week was a tender experience as we learned more of President Joseph F. Smith’s life and conditions in the world when this revelation was received. I found it interesting that the month following this revelation recorded more deaths of U.S. citizens than any other period recorded in history. Those deaths were the result of the Pandemic of 1918. That feels quite personal presently. I have often taken the comfort of the truths both he and Joseph Smith Jr. received for granted, not realizing what they meant to the Christian world.
One scholar noted that Christianity’s problem regarding salvation is based on three premises. 1) God loves all people and desires their salvation. (1 Timothy 2:3–4). 2) Salvation comes to those who knowingly and willfully accept Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 3:16). 3) Most people live and die without accepting Christ or even knowing that they could or should.
The problem is that all three premises are true, but they can’t be reconciled. Proposed solutions tend to discredit one of the premises if death is the deadline that determines a person’s salvation. It turns out that it was Augustine, not Jesus or His apostles, who decided that death should be a deadline, but Augustine’s view prevailed in Christ’s church, at least in the West. Protestant reformers, for all the good they did, generally followed Augustine on this point. Then along came the Latter-day Prophets, particularly Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith.
Through the revelations now known as D&C 137-138 we learn that desire, not death, is the determinant of salvation through Jesus Christ. He saves all who desire to be saved by Him once they know that good news. Which side of death they are on makes no difference. By removing the assumption that death determines salvation, Jesus resolved the conflict concerning salvation for Joseph and for everyone else.
May we be more grateful than ever that the Babe whose birth we celebrate, grew to manhood and did all necessary for us and those we love to obtain salvation. That is true for all who have ever lived. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news!
Our Love, Darrel and Karen Kenison