I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
We are often called Mormons.
We worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am telling you this because I wanted to share an experience with you. Before I do that I want you to know that I believe in a modern day prophet (President Thomas S Monson) and twelve apostles. Within our church there are many more leadership positions, trickling down to our local leaders. Both men and women hold leadership positions and everyone in our church gives their service on a volunteer, non-paid basis. Worthy men hold the Holy Priesthood which, we believe, is the same priesthood that was on the earth when Jesus Christ was here.
This week, on February 15, an apostle of the Lord, Elder Dallin H Oaks, visited our branch here in Beijing. He was joined by his wife, Elder Donald L Hallstrom and his wife.
I was asked to prepare a vegetable tray for the dinner planned for these couples. As E and I were setting up the tray, long before anyone was due to arrive, Elder Oaks came into the room. His presence was strong and he walked right up to E and greeted her with his booming baritone voice. He then walked over to me and shook my hand, looked me in the eye and introduced himself. The only thing I could think to say was, "welcome to Beijing and thank you for coming to see us". I hope with that simple phrase he knew how grateful I was that he came to China to speak with us.
E and I were thrilled that we got to meet him in private, before the hub-bub began. We left the room as other people came into the room to enjoy their dinner. Because of the current calling (volunteer position) that hubby has, we were invited to join the guests for dessert prior to the meeting. As we settled our kids into third row seats we went to the room and mingled with the guests.
When it came time to go to the meeting room, we all filed in and took our seats. Every seat was taken, about 300 total. There was an audio system set up for those saints in China who were too far to actually be present at the church. Despite the number of people, the reverence was thick with anticipation. When Elder Oaks came into the room he shook every single person's hand. The meeting began at exactly 7:00pm. The meeting commenced with an incredible musical number by the youth (ages 12-18). They were accompanied by the piano and a violin and sang, "We Thank Thee Oh God For A Prophet". They sang the first verse in Chinese, which as so amazing. E was part of the choir, I was proud!
This meeting, though formal by nature, was in fact very informal. This means that there were no written talks given. All the speakers spoke to us from inspiration and a few notes. This was a last minute stop in Beijing on their way to Japan, just to let us know we are not forgotten.
The first speaker was Elder Hallstrom. He spoke to us about making our foundation in living the gospel of Jesus Christ based on the ordinances and the covenants we have made. I appreciated his comment about when making a decision we should ask ourselves, "does this draw me closer or away from my covenants?" He also said, "Wherever we live, whatever the circumstances we are in, we all have the same access to heaven." This really spoke to me, as sometimes we can feel far away from that access in the People's Republic of China. I think he was also referring to so many of our friends and loved ones that currently do not go to church or get to know Jesus Christ.
After Elder Hallstrom, his wife spoke to us. What a great life being able to travel around the world with her husband and speak what she knows to be true. I would love to do that! She spoke to us about "fixing our hearts on the Book of Mormon". You may wonder why we believe this book to be scripture when much of the world only believes The Bible to be the word of God. We know that this book is also the word of God, along with The Bible. It does not replace it, it enhances it...completes it, if you will. The reason why we are referred to as Mormons is because a prophet named Mormon abridged the writings of many ancient prophets to make The Book of Mormon. We do not worship Mormon in anyway, but are grateful that we have been given this other testament of Jesus Christ. We know that this book was written for the dispensation of time that we are in right now. To learn more, click here.
It was then time for Sister Oaks to speak to us. She is a tiny lady with a very, very youthful voice. If you closed your eyes you would think that a twenty year old woman was speaking. She spoke about a few different topics. What really stood out to me was that she told us that she hears her husband pray for us in China out loud. She told us that he is in tune with the people of China, and we as the saints here. It pierced my heart to know that we are remembered and prayed for by an apostle. She also relayed a story that she heard from a Bishop. It was an analogy about a bus trip from Las Vegas (symbolizing our earth life) to Lake Tahoe (the celestial kingdom, our goal as the highest glory of heaven). In the story, the bus stopped in a town for a bathroom break (symbolizing the terrestrial kingdom, a lower glory of heaven) and not all the people got back on the bus. They were pleased with the town and settled to stay there, instead of heading on to Lake Tahoe. The message was that we should not settle for second best. We need to strive, everyday, to do what we have to do to make it to the celestial kingdom.
This meeting was great enough, even before hearing from Elder Oaks. He is a funny guy! I loved the line he used, "You know that the Lord loves Chinese people because he made so many of them!" Amen to that! He spoke about his mother, being an example of optimism. She looked at her husband's early death as a chance to cultivate her talents and bless the lives of others. He joked about using an iPad, that Elder Packer who is well into his nineties, told him HE HAD TO learn how to use one. To my surprise he even spoke about the Texas pastor who publicly called "Mormonism a cult". He said that after he felt insulted by this, he realized that it was such a blessing that this man brought such attention to our church because we do worship differently and that gave us the opportunity to explain to people what we believe and invite them to learn more. He said, "that man provided a way to introduce the world to our uniqueness".
The meeting concluded at 8:30pm. On the way out, he stopped and shook D's hand and asked him how he was doing. It was a special night. It was a night that I will soon not forget. This is an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am grateful that we have modern day revelation, a modern day prophet, and modern day apostles. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to meet and learn from these wonderful, spiritual and positive people. In a world filled with misery and confusion, it brings peace to my heart.