Friday, April 6, 2012

Thoughts from the Visitors' Centre on Good Friday

Two experiences we have had in the Visitors’ Centre this week have made me stop and ponder what is really important and how I should be spending my time.

First, we met Bayo, from Nigeria. Bayo joined the church 14 years ago when, as a reporter, he was asked to write a story from a press release he had been assigned about a large conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that was going to be held in his city. After writing the article, something kept telling him that he should go to the conference and see what it was all about. When he went, he had a spiritual witness that what he was hearing was true. After investigating the church and being taught, he joined. He is now in a Branch Presidency in his hometown in Nigeria.

Bayo’s Elders Quorum was having a temple day together while he had to be on a business trip to London, so he found a way to “join” them while in London by traveling an hour south on a train to attend the London Temple for the first time. We met him and got to know him in the Visitors’ Centre. What a sweet man. Since he didn’t have a camera, he asked if we would take his picture by the temple and email it to him. Of course! A simple kindness that only took a minute or two, then we emailed the photos to him later in the day.

The next morning, we received this email response from him:
            Dear Elder and Sister Carpenter,
            Words cannot express adequately enough how grateful I am in
            your selfless effort to help me capture in pictures the memories of
            my experience at the London Temple and sending same to my
            email. I forwarded the pictures home to my wife and 3 kids and the
            joy they expressed was spiritually electrifying. This couldn't have
            been but for your love and kindness. May Heavenly Father meet
            you always at the point of your needs.  Thank you.
            Brother Bayo O.

Oh, that we could all be that gracious and humble. The world would be a different place….

The second experience was on Tuesday morning this week, when a group of Primary children and their leaders and moms came to the Visitors’ Centre. They had gotten up early, dressed in their Sunday best, and traveled an hour and a half in a car caravan to spend some time on the temple grounds. They were on their very best behavior.  Fortunately, it was a beautiful, warm day and the temple grounds were in their Spring glory.  The one remaining little white duck on the grounds was happy to see them. So were we.

Their first stop was the Visitors’ Centre.   They came in and enjoyed running around to our different kiosks to see what videos and pictures each had to offer.  After they got their fill, their Primary president brought them all together and sat them down quietly on the benches, facing the Christus.  The president asked one little girl of about 7 to give an opening prayer. Her prayer was a simple, heartfelt expression of everything she could think of for which she is grateful to Heavenly Father. Nothing more. Two of our sister missionaries talked to the children and asked them questions about Easter and what they knew about Jesus. They had thoughtful answers. Then, the sisters played the beautiful two minute recorded narration of the words of our Savior to us. As I watched the faces of those little children as they looked up at the statue of the Savior and listened so intently to his words, it brought tears to my eyes. These were not doubting children. They were children who lived with him not so long ago, and they recognized his voice. They were children of simple faith.

We often have the opportunity to watch as little children interact with the statue of Jesus Christ. The babies and the little toddlers are the ones I love to watch. Yes, it’s only a statue of someone’s interpretation of the Savior, but it is amazing how often little children stop whatever they’re doing and look at the Savior and listen to his words with complete attention and reverence. Many of them gaze into his face intently for a long, quiet time. Often children go up to the statue to touch it and wrap their arms around it. I always wonder if there is something familiar in what they see or hear that they recall from before they came to earth.

On this Easter weekend, I express my heartfelt gratitude for the life and mission and death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He spent every part of his life showing us the path and providing the way for us - all of us who have ever lived on the earth - to return to live with God again after this life. Through his magnificent, personal atonement for each one of us, he gained an understanding of everything we have ever suffered or ever will suffer on earth. He is always there to help us through our pain and sorrow and inadequacies and disabilities because he already took them upon himself. He has been there before.

Elder Holland once said, "Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion, Christ is not going to turn his back on us now." All he asks of us is to come unto him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, with full purpose of heart.

Only days after his death and resurrection, Christ told the Nephites (and all who would listen):

      “Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto
me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of
mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will
come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who
come unto me.
      Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I
created the heavens and the earth, and all things that
in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning.
I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me
hath the Father glorified his name.
      I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha 
and Omega, the beginning and the end.
      And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken
heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me
with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I
baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost….
     Behold, I have come unto the world to bring
redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
     Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me
as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the
kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down
my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent,
and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.”   
                                   III Nephi 9: 14-15,18,20-22

He has extended his arms to us with an invitation to come unto him. He is waiting for us.

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