Wednesday, January 29, 2014

God is in the details

Every so often I hear or read debate or conversation about whether God cares about a certain thing. Does God care about football team x winning?  Does He care about a teenagers's algebra test?  Does he care that I become more skilled at my profession? Does he care about my family saving money to get to Disneyland?

I know that our Father in Heaven and His Son both know and care about intimate details of our lives. They often bless us with small wonders and mercies, even though we are not looking for them and may not notice them. I'll give you an example that happened to me.

I have a fairly regular pattern of exercising on weekday mornings at a gym on the way to work. (Let's leave discussion of results from that exercise to another forum). I have a bag for clothes and I place my stuff in a locker, then come back and clean up for my work day. As i dress and leave, I frequently forget to remove my combination lock from the locker handle and attach it to my bag.  I never realize I have forgotten to do this until I come back the next day and see that my lock is not attached to my bag. I suppose I am getting old or stressed or preoccupied. But here is the small miracle: the lock is always hanging on the locker or sitting nearby. This has happened at least 20 times in the last year.  That is too many to be a coincidence. I would expect someone to have thrown it away before 20 instances passed.

Now, it would not be a big deal to lose a cheap combination lock. $7 item. Even if you added it up, from each instance, it is not a world shaking amount.  But I feel that God has looked after me in this small thing. It has saved me some expense and kept my other belongings safe while I exercised. It is a small thing that shows me that God cares for me and knows me.

So while He may not care about which group wins a sporting contest, I know He cares about the people involved. I know he cares about you and the details of your lives.

 By: Mark Robins

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Love that Elevates

"We love him, because he first loved us." - 1 John 4:19

Today I am particularly grateful for the love of others, including the sweet condolences I have received from members of our congregation at the passing of my father. I recognize that this love and kindness is a reflection of the love of our Savior.

My feelings are especially tender at this time as I think of my father's life and the many acts of love and concern on his behalf. He was a wonderful father, and I will miss him a great deal.While he grew up with an understanding of the gospel of Christ, he lived a wayward life for many years.

My father, Ray Davis Ericson, grew up in a loving gospel-centered home in Salt Lake City, where he enjoyed playing sports and being the life of the party. But as he grew he also became indifferent towards religion and altogether quit participating in church. Perhaps a bit lost, he also quit playing football for the University of Utah and decided to see more of the world. He eventually married and had two children but had little foundation for establishing a family.

Some years later his marriage failed, and Ray returned home to Salt Lake City. He brought with him a heart full of pain and regrets. Surrounded by a strong family and loving church leaders, he went about rebuilding his life. He lived with his parents and started attending monthly firesides with his Davis and Bryson cousins. While he recognized their love and faithful examples, he still had a lot of doubts about his own character and spiritual standing.

My father was also befriended by James Elvin Lowry, a member of his bishopric. Brother Lowry saw in Ray a potential that others didn't recognize. He gave Ray a job selling insurance and encouraged Ray to consider dating his daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Ray struggled to find himself. He changed jobs often and told himself he would never marry again. He eventually married Mary Elizabeth "Mickie" Lowry in 1967 after a long courtship (some three years after the death of Brother Lowry, Mickie's father). They were married by Ray's cousin, Robert A. Bryson, who was an LDS bishop at the time.

Mickie saw the potential in Ray and was patient with him while he continued to make some changes in his life. As a convert to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mickie had a goal of being married in the temple, but Ray wasn't ready for such a sacred ordinance.

During this time, Thomas S. Monson, who was an apostle of the Lord, often purchased his gas at a service station Ray managed. While Ray waited on him, Elder Monson patiently answered Ray's questions related to the gospel and encouraged him to continue seeking for truth. Ray's brother, Loyd, recognized his receptivity to Elder Monson's visits and wrote a letter encouraging Elder Monson to continue with those visits.

Ray considered Elder Monson a friend and appreciated the genuine interest he expressed in his well being. Elder Monson went so far as to say that he would perform the sealing ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple when Ray and Mickie were ready for that sacred ordinance.

Finally, on April 5, 1971 Elder Monson performed the sealing ordinance of Ray and Mickie Ericson in the Salt Lake Temple. My brother, David Ericson, who was almost two years old by that time, was also sealed to my parents. I was born some eight months later. Elder Monson commented at the time that Ray was "a diamond in the rough."

As years have passed, our family has been blessed many times over by the investment of love and friendship Elder Monson made in our father's life.

President Thomas S. Monson is now the Lord's chosen prophet and leads the Church of Jesus Christ here on earth. In a General Church Conference in October, he encouraged us to "see others as they may become."

He said:
". . . there are countless individuals who have little or no testimony right now, those who could and would receive such a testimony if we would be willing to help make the effort to share ours and to help them change. In some instances we can provide the incentive for change. I mention first those who are members but who are not at present fully committed to the gospel."
President Monson appreciated my father for who he was, but he also recognized and encouraged him to reach his divine potential. He saw my father for what he could become. His love, which was a reflection of the love of the Savior, truly cast out darkness and helped my father seek for the light of the gospel.

Dad went on to have a wonderful marriage and was faithful in his participation in the gospel of Christ. Those rough edges were knocked off one by one to reveal the true diamond within. While I am sad at his passing, I know that he is now rejoicing in his reunion with my mother, his parents, his brother, and many others who recognized him for who he truly was.