Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lessons from the Museum: Part One

It's Wednesday and, after almost five months, I still find myself missing the museum dearly.  Five years ago I decided to become a docent because by golly they could get me married--they had to have unmarried sons, grandsons, neighbors, coworkers, ward members. I stayed because my service became one of the greatest blessings in my life.  I wrote on my very last night that "My museum family has been an incredible influence in my life and words can't really describe how much I will miss them. Wednesday nights became my weekly pick-me-up and I always left feeling emotionally and spiritually fed." And it's true. There were hard days/weeks/months/years when I relied heavily on my time at the museum. In fact, I'm not sure how I would have gotten through some of those dark days without it. On more than one occasion, I would enter the museum feeling alone, angry, forgotten, or scared and would be required to testify of the goodness of the Gospel and the Lord. It was in these moments of testifying that I would be reminded of what I knew and more importantly, that I wasn't alone or forgotten.

As my service to the museum was winding down, I started making a list of the things that the museum had taught me. Slowly the list grew. And I am grateful to  have a list of those lessons that I can look back on when I need a little reminder.

Without further ado, presenting Lessons Learned From the Museum: Part One

One of the very first things we did at the museum was to tour the storage areas. Of all the artifacts in the storage units, what stood out was an Empire Penguin that a missionary brought back from New Zealand in the 1870's as a souvenir. For years that penguin was a part of the museum family. It showed up in displays, it was dressed up for holidays, but, once the current building was built that all stopped. Through some trying years, that penguin became a symbol to me as I felt very much like that penguin: unknown, forgotten, unused and unloved. I was reminded that while I thought that I was Mr. Penguin that wasn't the truth. Just like the archivist, who knew exactly where it was, I had a Heavenly Father who knows where I was too.

One of the things I tried to do was to find connections that made that person's story relevant to each of us. One of my favorite connection dealt with the story of the down and out company. Each spring, young men would volunteer to take wagons loaded with goods back East to sell and pick up those Saints that wanted to come West. It was a highly desired job as it meant they had the first look at all the new blood. There's a great journal entry from one of these newly arrived European Saints in which she talks about meeting the men of the down and out company and how clean and handsome they were and that she would never get married because she had nothing clean to wear and must look like a fright. I'm happy to report that by the time she reached Utah she was engaged. Awww. But, it was a reminder that in the midst of "the grim and the dirt" that good things will happen--which helped me through some of my dating "woe is me" moments. It also reminded me that I could draw strength from others who had been there before.

Again and again, I saw that the Lord does not work in coincidences. He's not just a God that lets things happen without some sort of plan. No, he is intimately aware of what we need and works on the details of our lives. In the scriptures we read about the principle of "two or three witnesses." On that June day in 1844, many of us forget that there were two witnesses to those events--John Taylor and Willard Richards. But, it goes a step deeper. These weren't just random men. They were two members of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles. One of their duties is to be a special witness of Christ. In that moment when the Lord needed witnesses to those deaths, he choose two men uniquely qualified to bear testimony.

I gave a lot of Pre-Trek tours. Sometimes dealing with a bunch of board teenagers wasn't very fun, but I found if I could connect the stories of the past with what they were dealing with, I had a better chance of getting through and actually teaching them something. One of the stops on the tours, was at the Nauvoo temple wall. In the museum it was approximately 17 feet high which was how much of the temple was completed when Joseph and Hyrum were killed in the June of 1844.  Before the Saints were driven out in February of 1846, they completed the temple. I still find it incredible that those Saints were able to finish the rest of the temple in such sort period of time considering that it took 40 years for the Salt Lake Temple.

Stopping at the temple, seems like an odd stop for a Pre-Trek tour as those handcart pioneers who never experienced the blessings of the temple before their journey across the plains--but I believe they came for the blessings of the temple.

Sarah Rich summed it up so perfectly: "Many were the blessings we had received in the house of the Lord, which has caused us joy and comfort in the midst of all our sorrows and enabled us to have faith in God, knowing He would guide us and sustain us in the unknown journey that lay before us. For if it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark. To start out … in the winter as it were and in our state of poverty, it would seem like walking into the jaws of death. But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, and we put our trust in Him feeling that we were His chosen people and had embraced His gospel, and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come."

So what is our journey. For those Saints, their "physical" journey was to come to Utah and hence the blessings of the temple. They came because they understood that their journey required the protection of the temple.  And much like those Saints, our journey is to the temple. And we need the protection in an ever changing and scary world. In the end, we're both making our journey to the same place--the temple. And isn't that awesome?!?!! Like spine chilling awesome.

Thomas Evans and his wife joined the Church in England and became part of the second handcart company. Which isn't that unusual. But Thomas Evans was unique in that he had a wooden leg due to a mining accident and a pregnant wife. The Evans' began their journey and, while it was hard, they could do it until the reached the sandy plains of Wyoming where pulling his handcart became physically impossible. He reached the point where he couldn't do it anymore and told his wife to go ahead without him. She said, she wouldn't because getting to "Zion" was a family affair and they were going to get their together or not at all. They didn't see how they could make it and thought that their journey would end there in Wyoming. But, the company rallied around them and they got to Utah safely. It was incredible enough that he walked across the plains once on a wooden leg, but Thomas Evan did it FIVE time as he served two missions back to his native countries. I love this story for three reasons. First, it shows that our journey really is a family affair and that we have to help each other get there. Second, there will be times when we will need a "hand" from others and there will be time when we'll be the strong ones that will be offering others help. Lastly, its a great reminder that with the Lords help we can do things that we think are physically, emotionally, or spiritually impossible.

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