Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Family Vacation&A Strengthened Testimony

Last week was amazing. My family went on a vacation across the country to: 1)Kirtland, Ohio, 2) Niagra Falls, 3) Palmyra, New York, and 4) Nauvoo, Illinois. We spent a lot of time at church history sites and I loved the spirit that I was able to feel on the trip. 
As we were all going into the sacred grove I hung back behind everyone so that I would be able to be alone and feel the spirit a little more. As soon as I stepped into the grove I felt overwhelmed with the spirit. It was such a special place. I went off into a little section by myself and, though there were many people walking along the paths around me, as soon as I began praying to my Heavenly Father the paths became vacant and I seemed to be all alone in the peaceful grove just talking to God. I sat there and just prayed for about thirty minutes and I know that my Heavenly Father was there with me as I expressed my concerns about serving a mission, wondering whether I was worthy enough, whether I was capable and talented and strong enough to serve and to teach others. It was very clear to me that He would make it more. As I sat in that grove with tears streaming down my face I thought of Joseph Smith, of the humble prayer that he said in between those trees. I though of the time he spent in Liberty Jail and I thought of his question, "Oh God, Where art thou and how long wilt thou hand be stayed?" I immediately felt a very strong feeling that I knew where God was. He was right there and I needn't ever question that or wonder if I was alone.
In the Palmyra temple later that day I picked up the scriptures and let them fall open and I had a very similar experience to one which I previously had in the Mesa temple. The pages turned to D&C 39 (last time it was section 112) and, once again, I felt impressed that the words were just for me. Just like the last time I attended the temple with a question about my mission in mind, I read of how God told His servants, told me, that, though they had made mistakes and had seen sorrow because of those mistakes, He knew their hearts and loved them. He knew that they were ready and desired for them to go on missions and spread the gospel to others. It seems pretty clear to me what He would have me do. 
On our way home my family stopped at the Nauvoo Pageant. It was amazing. The actor for Joseph Smith was incredible and was everything I had imagined the prophet to be. As we were driving to our hotel that night I felt a feeling, stronger than ever, that I knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I always believed it and I knew the Book of Mormon to be true so it only made sense that Joseph Smith was a true prophet yet my heart went out to him for the trials he went through, I was grateful for his part in restoring the gospel, and I knew that he was a prophet. 
On that same drive mom told us of how a President Johnson had called our home a couple of weeks ago. She told us of how, when he was an Elder Johnson and served his mission here in Nebraska he had baptized my grandparents and my dad and, after doing so, he had said, "Someday there will be a President Norman Sillivan in this area." I'm sure he thought that he was speaking of my grandpa but, little did he know my dad would soon be called as the first branch president here and open up a new branch in which I grew up. President Johnson was just recently called as a branch president up in Washington somewhere and, receiving a book full of other branch presidents, he curiously flipped back to the old area where he'd served. What a surprise it must have been to see a Broken Bow Branch and to see, as the branch president, Norman Sillivan. He had prophesied of that coming to pass and he had been an instrument in the creating of this branch, in the creating of my family and the gospel being in our lives. Little did he know what a huge impact he would have. My heart was full of gratitude then and it is again now as I think of that elder so long ago. I cannot wait to someday meet him, shake his hand, and tell him, "Thank you. Thank you so much for all you have done for my family, for me." He will never know how much he affected my life but he did, he blessed it in a very big way. I am more determined than ever to do the same for others, even if it's only one family. I want to be able to do for others what that elder did for me. God has given me so much. I am so excited to give a sliver of that back.

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