Monday, July 26, 2010

Nine years ago today

View from Mom's grave

I said "Goodbye, I love you and I will see you when I get back" to my mom for the last time on earth. We were living with my parents at the time. Tim had taken the Oregon bar exam the day before and I was knee deep in Cub Scout Day camp. My dad happened to be home that Thurs. which was such a sweet blessing as he spent the day sitting next to my mom in the hospital as they both dozed holding hands while she got two blood transfusions. We all met up at the house about the same time and figured out the evening. She looked good - the blood transfusion had put some color in her cheeks. I hooked her up to the dialysis machine and said my quick good bye before rushing out the door to drop Ryan off with a sitter and have an anniversary dinner with Tim. A bit after dinner my cell rang. It was my dad. 

The next few days and weeks are to tender and sacred to write about, even now nine years later. Maybe next year. I miss her now more than I did then. I feel her closer now than I did then. I understand her more now than I did then. I love her more now than I did then. 

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
Forever and ever,
Your kiddo I'll be. 

I love you Mom. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tender Moments

Sat. July 3

Today we met at 8:00 to fine tune a d few spots and run through the show. I must say the weather has been beautiful! With a faint breeze to cool off the sweat. J Joseph Smith calls Nauvoo “the loveliest place on earth” and I couldn’t agree more.

We broke for lunch at noon and they cancelled the afternoon rehearsal! We spent the afternoon relaxing at the lodge – I slept while Ryan and Heather watched “Flywheel”. After the movie, we went to Nauvoo Suites where the kids met up with the Marshalls and the Birdsalls and went swimming. Since there isn’t a public pool in town, Nauvoo Inn & Suites opens their indoor pool to the public. It was wonderful! Best $2.00 I’ve spent. Ryan and Heather had a ton of fun and I spent an hour browsing their very fun gift shop and reading books.

Tonight was our first dress rehearsal. It took some time to get my hair done and get all our layers on. I am using compression nylons to keep the swelling out of my ankles – the angled stage is murder on ankles. So today’s current layers – compression nylons, socks, bloomers, petticoat, skirt, double bodice, shawl and bonnet. We met in the grove next to the stage and it was so cool to see everyone gather. It felt like I traveled back in time just a bit. We spent some times talking about the gathering of the saints then and today, then broke into districts to discuss some goals for the show dress rehearsal. And then with the sound of the bagpipes fading, we ran the pageant.


We had an audience of 50-75 people which really made it feel real. The show went well – we had to stop once to fix a couple of lighting cues. I missed the King Follett funeral scene because I was changing clothes. Ryan has to change pants then as well so we were still buttoning his suspenders as we went on. I am going to look over the blocking book and figure out a better way to make that work. We weren’t the only ones working out kinks – Charles Makepeace had some costuming problems and didn’t make is entrance. King Follett and the men/boys on stage that are digging the well and ditches just kept digging. We all joked how the well just about got finished on stage tonight. 

One of the core cast ( Charles Makepeace) had some problems with his costumes (couldn’t find his clothes). The re;ult, king Follett and the men and boys digging the ditches ened up dinging for a long time. They just kept digging while people were helping Makepeace backstghe. ON stage, King is digging a well. The joke is that he just about finished the well!

After the rehearsal, we sat on the stage and talked about the great moments and how it felt, what we learned, what touched us. The new Artistic Director is Paul Walstad. He has played Parley P. Pratt in the pageant for the last 5 years and tonight was the first time that he has every seen the pageant with lights, props, sound, costumes, from the audience. He wept. This pageant is so filled with the spirit. We shared some tender & fun moments together. We were all hot, sweaty, tired, but oh so full of joy, love and laughter.

Afterward, I went to talk to the audience – most of them stayed during our post show meeting and wanted to talk to us. We talked of the power of the pageant and the feelings. Everyone I spoke to after the show was touched by something in the show. Many are touched by the little, unscripted things. I talked with a former core cast member from last year who had never seen the show before from the audience. She talked about how she teared up seeing a little 4 yr. old boy carrying a mallet to work on the temple.

A few special moments for me – backstage each district has a circle of chairs they can leave coolers gather when they are not on stage. I took a few minutes in the show tonight to sit in our district circle by myself. I could see a million stars above and see so many people that I loved around me all while listening to the pageant continue on. I spent some time thinking and talking with Heavenly Father. So peaceful. So assuring. So strengthening.



Another moment was the Relief Society scene. I am a part of women who are gathered sewing shirts for the men building the temple. Tonight Sherri Birdsall and I visited. Her mom passed away 4 years ago, mine 8 years ago. We shared how we both felt them so near us during the pageant. The veil feels so very thin here. Both of us teared up and shared such a real, tender moment together. The pageant is not acted – it is real. The relationships are real and the friendships are forever.

Relief Society sewing shirts. I am second from right and Sherri is far right. We are watching Joseph Smith play stickball with the children. 

We left some time around 11:00 and went to Annie’s Frozen Custard. Other cast and crew were there and I had an opportunity to visit with Chuck and Jennifer Baker. Chuck is the band director. He shared some of the miracles that brought him to the pageant 5 years ago. You definitely gain a testimony of the hand of the Lord in this work. Every person here has a story of how the Lord brought them here and provided for them. Individually, they are touching stories but collectively, they are a monumental testimony of the power and love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

And the last moment of the night – we drove past the stage on the way home tonight a while past midnight. Again, my heart was touched to see the core cast, directors, lighting and sound crews all going strong perfecting the sound and lighting. Once again, a tender witness of the dedication of the saints when building something for our God.

Goodnight ~

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mission Language

Fri. July 2, 2010
I slept in until 7:00 today! Nauvoo has a lot of late nights and early mornings for sure. We met in the grove next to the pageant stage at 9:00 and talked about the language of our mission. We read from Preach My Gospel and talked about how everyone will hear the gospel in their language. Then we discussed the language of our mission – how we communicate through our bodies. We discussed the amazing gift our bodies are and the many miracles that they can do and how that gift is to be treasured, appreciated and embraced. We shared how our bodies can be a blessing and how to move with joy. I thought of stretching and extending myself – physically and spiritually. I have always loved Willowtree sculptures and bought myself one a year ago. This week I bought this beautiful angel –

I love the extension, the joy, the embracing of life. Interestingly enough, she is entitled “Courage” which made me think of Nauvoo as well. How much courage it took for me to apply and come by myself with Ryan, how much courage it has taken to walk the single life road again, how much courage it takes to share the gospel with others and even more to ask for a referral. This angel will always remind me of Nauvoo and the many lessons I have learned here.

At 10 we met in our districts and discussed setting goals and our plans to reach our goals. I loved sharing together. I have really missed like-minded goals and discussion and felt like I was soaking it up.
Ryan paying attention in district meeting. He keeps telling me that he listens better if he is doing something. Right. :)

After district meeting, we ran the show again, practicing our mission language. Amazing the difference it makes in communication when you can’t speak and have to find other means to communicate. I feel my testimony in a different way. It has made me think a lot of how I can use my body to share my testimony. How I carry myself, express myself. It has given me much to ponder.

Alex leading the mission language discussion.

After the run through, I ran to Keokuk to the Walmart to pick up a couple of things. Adam Bohl is the work crew young man in our district and it is his birthday today – he is 23!  Everyone signed a card for him and we got him a tie tack of the Nauvoo temple. One of my keepsake memories is walking past the backstage a while after we gave it to him and seeing him in all of his harness (he works the light towers) sitting on a pioneer trunk reading everyone’s comments. It struck me – the little things in life do matter.

Upon my return from Keokuk, I ran to the gym (and AC – yeah!) for our afternoon rehearsal. Today was the Powerpoint run through – where we sat in the gym and ran through the entire show in a power point presentation with our individual blocking books. We were able to discuss problems – entrances, exits, props, bottlenecks, and find solutions together. A couple of things about this- first, I love that everyone kept the challenges to themselves until we sat down to work it out together. No one brought it up in the middle of a run through but waited until we could all sit down together to work out the kinks. Secondly, I loved how every problem was phrased with a solution attached and that all were open to helping each other. People were constantly volunteering their efforts to make the way smoother for another. There were no accusations, only solutions. Loved it.

Youth playing Kung Fu - ask Ryan how. They played it a lot both years now. 

Susie Geersen, the costume director, talked to us about how to wear our costumes after the powerpoint run through. The costuming dept. of Nauvoo really underscore so many of the lessons taught in this experience. Amazing attention to detail. Again, the little things matter. Not only do they outfit all of us in costumes, we all have multiple costumes. We start the pageant in our darkest costumes and through out the show change one piece at a time until we are in our lightest costume at the end. And each of us have varying degrees of dark to light. Why? Why go to so much work for something that most will never ‘see’ in the show? The costuming is symbolic of the sanctification of the saints. That is amazing to me. We share our testimonies even in our clothing. I appreciate the layers of the gospel, the layers of refinement as I added and stripped various layers of costumes. Occasionally, someone will comment on how the lights get brighter at the end of the show. They don’t. They intensity of lighting never changes throughout the show.  It is each individual person loosing their dark layers and putting on their lighter layers. The sanctification of the saints. The sanctification of each individual. 

We had a longer dinner break as they wanted us to run the pageant in real time which meant that we had to be at the stage at 7:30 to run the bagpipe parade and then the show at 8:30 with lights and sound. With the break, I ran to the Laundromat and caught up on all of the laundry. Even this turned out to be a lesson for me. There were a few of us from the pageant in the laudromat and a couple of others. Suddenly, I realized how easy it would be to visit with my pageant friends. We love each other and had much to talk about. But suddenly I remembered that we were set apart at “special witnesses of Christ” and that my purpose was to invite others to come to Christ. I decided to strike up conversations with others in the Laundromat. I met a sister from the Philippines.  And a couple moving to Maine. And then I met Laura. Laura and her husband Adalalberto are natives from Mexico but they have lived in Arizona for years and are now moving to Florida. On the way, they decided to detour and see as many church history sites as possible. They have 6 kids – four boys (Helaman, Zenif, Amulek, and Ammon) and two girls (Gwendolyn and Wendy). They toured all the sites in Missouri and then came to Nauvoo. They had a hotel for two nights but then realized that they had miscalculated and were going to miss the pageant. They didn’t have enough money to extend their hotel stay so instead, they let the hotel go, drove to Walmart and bought a pup tent for 4 and a camp stove and were camping 8 days so they could see the pageant. I couldn’t believe it. She wasn’t complaining – she was happily doing laundry for her family of 8, talking about how excited they were to see the pageant. Tears came to my eyes. I realized that not only have the cast made sacrifices to be in a show honoring the sacrifice of the early saints, many of the audience have made great sacrifices to be there as well. It was a tender moment. I hugged her and invited all of them to the run through that night.

We met at 7:30 and practiced the bagpipe parade with the pipers. I LOVE the pipers. They are sweet, wonderful people that work very hard for very little recognition. The play throughout Nauvoo and before every vignette. They play during the Frontier Country Fair and during the pageant. It was so much fun to all walk the parade route behind them and the flags and end up at the stage. I love how the bagpipes sound like so many sounds blended together to create a harmony. I love how they are throughout the entire Nauvoo experience. 

We ran the opening (the anthem and prayer) so we could get a feel for the timing and just have a moment of prayer, and then we began our first run through with sound and lights. We had an audience of 30-40. Afterward, some of us went out to talk to the audience and I made friends with two brothers from Arizona. They gave us a referral but we had to search to find anyone with a referral card. What a nice problem to have! I must say that I was following Ryan’s lead. He went out to talk to the audience right after the show and struck up a conversation with them first. I love how kids are great examples of doing the right thing. 

I titled this post Mission Language. Today, I have learned so much about the language of disciples of Christ. I've learned how I can use my body and even my clothing to testify of Christ. I have found Christ in the average and mundane, like clothing and laundromats. I've learned of the common language of sacrifice, music, and love. With those thoughts, I leave this quote by Pres. Thomas S. Monson:

"There is one language... that is common to each missionary - the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


July 1
This morning began at 7a.m. for all of the men as they learned how to build the temple on set. The rest of us met them at 8a.m. where we spent the morning fine-tuning scenes and dances. At 10a.m. we had district meetings in the grove. Today we discussed serving each other, what that looks like and how we can be more observant of serving opportunities. Also, the importance of attitude – it makes all of the difference. It is Heather’s Birthday, so Dad and Sandy brought tons of cookies and we handed out cookies to everyone and sang to her.

After District meeting, we ran through the entire show. It was wonderful! So many mistakes! One thing I have learned in this experience and that we talk about often is that Zion is not the perfect in heart, rather Zion is the pure in heart. Zion has mistakes but Zion has such a wonderful, sweet, pure joy – a pure heart. As we have learned this show, there has been so much laughter, so many dear friendships. So much love.

This is my second year in the pageant and both years have been incredible experiences. I truly feel like I’ve seen Zion – I know what it looks like, feels like, sounds like. It tastes good. I’ve thought a lot about what makes this experience so good, so wonderful. I’ve come up with a few elements or principles that have contributed to the making of this experience.

  1. Family – Family is always first priority in the pageant. First of all, we experience this as a family, which is rare. I know one family applied for pageant a second year because one of their sons was on a mission the first year and they felt so strongly that the pageant was such a huge experience for their family that they had to do it a second time so that he could experience it. Secondly, parents are requested to take care of the family first ALWAYS. The directors not only do not mind if you need to miss a rehearsal or cue to take care of your family, they truly want you to care for your family first. As big as this production is, the family always is the first priority. Family support (wonderful women who provide games and activities for the kids) is offered but never required. Lastly, everything we do on stage, we do as families. We stand near each other, dance together, pray together, and testify together. This experience has really taught me how important families are in Zion and to our Heavenly Father. It has taught me how to organize a huge project and still honor individual families.
Douglas family (minus Easton playing at family support). They are blue cast and I was their mentor for the first two days of stage rehearsals. 

Family support tent

2. Sacrifice – every one of us has sacrificed to be here. We pay our own way and the sacrifice of time, money and other opportunities truly makes this a special experience. Even if someone offered to pay my way, I don’t think I would accept. Sometimes it is an honor to sacrifice and this is one of those times. There is a lot of sacrifice once we are here as well. Cramped quarters, living out of suitcase for two weeks, disrupted sleep schedules. One brother got up very early to walk the 5 miles into town today to make the 7a.m. rehearsal so that his wife and kids could have the car. Yet, for some reason it doesn't feel like a sacrifice. It feels empowering, strengthening. 

nap time in the gym

  1. Genuine Love – I have been amazed at how well the staff, directors and core cast have been at knowing us by name from the very first. We are not just a face, a number or “red cast”. They all know us by name and who our families are from the very first. We are known. There is so much power in knowing someone by name and realizing the many hundreds of people that they are working with each summer, compounds that blessing. In addition to knowing us, I have learned the power of inspiring rather than requiring. I know many will not believe this but in 2 casts, each with over 150 people ages 18 months to very old, with one week to teach an entire 75 mins. show, I have never heard a single negative comment or criticism. Never.  All the comments are focused on what we did right and how wonderful that looked. Many times individuals will be highlighted to share something they did particularly well and by the end of the pageant, all will have been highlighted. Everything is framed in how we can help each other, support each other, lift each other. We are constantly invited to stretch ourselves. 
Ryan with Lamar Gimmeson & Kimball Leavitt

We took a break for lunch and returned to the stage at 2p.m. where we ran through the dances. Because of the heat, we finished early and had a bit more time for dinner which was great for us as we had invited the Strickland family over for dinner. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs with apples and carmel dip and ice cream for desert. They have 4 kids and we had a great time talking, laughing, and playing together.

After dinner we returned to the stage for an evening rehearsal which felt so much cooler compared to the afternoon rehearsal! We spent the evening rehearsal fine tuning building the city and then ran a full run through. It was so much fun. Much laughter. Even more love.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Of Prophets, Temples and Testimonies

Wed. June 30

The temple as seen from the stage

It is getting harder to accurately express our pageant life. Today started at 8:00a.m. at the stage as we learned more blocking. I don’t even remember which scenes – morning feels so long ago.

This afternoon was something exceptional. We spent an hour and a half reviewing the music of the pageant with Bro. Brad Thompson. He is amazing. First, we would sing a song and we sounded much like a fairly decent ward choir. Then he would ask us what thoughts we had about the song, experiences relating to that subject, how those emotions look like and sound like. He asked us the purpose each hymns – why was this hymn chosen? Why was this verse chosen? What is going on while we are singing? Our sharing almost became a testimony meeting. And then he would say, “O.K. Let’s sing that.” And suddenly that ward choir sounded like angels from above. Every eye was glued to Bro. Thompson’s direction and every cheek wet from the trail of tears.

I am just understanding this but Nauvoo Pageant isn’t about the Pioneers. It is about each one of us. Every part of the pageant is our story. Our story of family, love, loss, healing, and joy. It is our testimony of Joseph Smith and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we sing each song, we are thinking of our individual stories, singing our individual stories, not acting the Pioneers’ story. 

In the evening, we learned the blocking of the Martyrdom and building the temple scenes. First, they had myself and two others share our feelings from last year as we learned this part of the show. We each talked about the powerful witness we each felt that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. Then, without any instruction, we ran the scene. As we formed the walls of the jail, we stood as silent sentinels as Joseph and Hyrum Smith walked to their deaths. The spirit profoundly witnessed that Joseph was a prophet of God. Everyone was silent, even the children. Tears trickled down our cheeks. The Spirit was so thick I felt like I could physically touch it. The moments were powerful ones that I will never forget and forever lean upon.

From the martyrdom, we immediately turn to finishing the temple. The temple on stage is a sacred. It takes all of the men on stage and another 15 young men underneath to build the frame. 

Then the sisters bring out the fabric panels that make up the face of the temple. The panels are treated as sacred, partially because of what they represent but also because of the sacrifice and dedication that was given to make them. The following is an article printed in the Ensign about the Nauvoo Temple project.

Nauvoo Temple: One Stitch at a Time
By Karol Jean Kasteler Miller

Late in April 2005, I received a phone call from a friend at Church headquarters, asking if I would like to do a big project: design and sew a 25-by-40-foot fabric representation of the front of the original Nauvoo Temple. It would be used in a new Nauvoo pageant. It was an exciting challenge for which I would use an architectural drawing of the temple as my guide. The deadline to finish the project was in six weeks.

Using the blessing of e-mail, I gathered help from women in my family, lifelong friends, and various stake and ward members. They included local Chinese, Laotian, and Thai sisters. My family garage served as our workshop.

Eighty women helped sew, embroider, crochet, and cross-stitch the panels over 30 days and nights. Ten women sewed the temple tower over the next 10 days and nights. Many supportive family members also helped at home.

Sometimes sisters would clutch their sewing bags and say, “I just don’t want to go. Can I come back tomorrow?” The sisters felt an urgency to complete the sewing so our temple would be built by the deadline. We had one goal in mind—completing the temple in time.

We felt a connection with the building of the original Nauvoo Temple and the early sisters in Nauvoo. As we sewed, we reflected on their tremendous sacrifices. We sensed that we understood in some small way the feelings of those pioneer sisters as they labored hard to assist in completing their temple. We pushed harder.

We felt creative blessings multiply as the project progressed. I was blessed with good health and amazing strength, despite getting very limited sleep during those six weeks. Countless sweet and powerful prayers were offered. We met our goals with grateful hearts. I believe all of us who participated understand more now about consecrating time and talents to the building of the kingdom here on earth, and so much more of the magnitude of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s vision.

Every time we use the panels, they are very carefully folded, placed in special baskets and kept tucked away when not in use. We strive to never let them touch the ground. This year I am a runner that carries the panels past the sisters to the brethren who attach them to the bar that hoist them into place. Last year I was a sister with my arms outstretched keeping the panels from touching the floor. No matter my job, it is such a privilege to build the temple. As the temple goes up, we stand back and gaze at it and every time, the Spirit wells up. Ryan comes over and joins me and some of my best parenting memories are these nights standing together gazing at the temple. 

I struggle to express the tender feelings of the day, the many witnesses and confirmations I’ve received, the waves of blessings. In addition to what I have shared, there were so many wonderful conversations, friendships built, laughter, jokes, hugs and joy. My words do not do this experience justice. My pictures cannot record it accurately. I am so grateful to have this experience and wish every person could feel and experience and know what I have felt, experienced and know. My heart is full of the good news of the gospel.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Nauvoo, Day Two (longest post ever)

Tues. June 29, 2010

This morning started out with a Missionary fireside in the chapel. Many of the most powerful moments of this pageant experience will not have a single picture to record them. This is one such moment. It was inspiring. Edifying. Tender.

The Nauvoo mission president and his wife spoke – Pres. and Sister Ludlow. Sister Ludlow’s talk especially spoke to my heart. She spoke of not postponing joy. How many times do I find myself saying things like, “it will be better when…”  or “I’ll be so glad when ______ happens” ?  She reminded us that all of us have trials and challenges. Moments that become our story, moments we will remember and tell over and over again with much laughter. Why wait until then to laugh about them? I felt a personal challenge make laughter part of the story in the first moment. Later, the stories will be that much richer as I remember the adversity and the laugher.

The Nauvoo Temple President and his wife also spoke. They spoke of the hand of the Lord in restoring the Nauvoo temple. The Saints were commanded to build a temple and many were hesitant. They had built a temple in Kirkland, Ohio, only be leave it behind as they moved to Missouri. In Missouri, they began two temples only to be driven out. You can imagine their thoughts at the idea of building another temple. But after that initial hesitation, build it they did. They dedicated one day in 10 to the temple quarry or building site. The temple is built on the bluff over looking a large bend of the Mississippi river. Today, the temple is striking. In the 1840’s it was breath taking. Amazing. Stunning, easily the most beautiful edifice along the Mississippi. When the persecution intensified, so did the pace of construction on the temple, until workers were working around the clock to finish it. It became a monument of their faith.

The Saints were forced to abandon their homes, farms, business and most importantly, temple in the winter of 1846. I strongly believe that the memories and covenants of the temple strengthened their shoulders to face the hardships and sacrifices ahead of them. A few years after the Saints left, the temple burned to the ground in an intensely hot fire. A tornado flattened the parts of two walls that were remaining shortly after the fire. The foundation stones remained, sleeping among the grass and weeds for over 100 years. And then the Lord started the work to restore the symbol of testimony of so many. Missionaries unknowingly met up the grandson of William Weeks, the original architect who gave the church the original plans found in an attic. A lithograph was found of the original temple. Through various miracles, the church was able to re-buy the 6 original land parcels. And 150 years after the saints turned their faces West, the announcement came that the temple would be rebuilt. Today, it is 98% exactly as the original.

The Temple Pres. made a comment that Joseph Smith saw the temple finished in a vision. Joseph also knew that the Saint were heading west and had begun plans to take them west. Joseph was murdered before it was finished. The temple Pres. said that he firmly believed that the temple that Joseph saw in the vision was the temple as it is today and that Joseph knew it would be rebuilt. I had never thought of that before.

The music- the fireside opened with the core cast singing to us – it was amazing. It gave me tingles. After a few talks, the work crew – 15 young men ages 16-25 stood together and sang “We are as the Army of Helaman”. The spirit was so strong. Then we came to the final hymn, “I Stand All Amazed”. Brad Thompson, the musical director, came to the microphone and asked us to sing our testimonies, to let our emotions for the atonement be expressed in our singing. Oh I wish I could some how share with you the hymn we sang. Tears poured down my cheeks as we sang our testimonies through that wonderful song. It was beautiful. During the closing prayer, you could hear sniffles throughout the congregation as everyone was deeply moved.
After the fireside, we moved to the grove next to the pageant stage and had a safety meeting. We have a lot of medical ability in our cast, which is always comforting. After the safety meeting, we broke apart into our districts. Our district meeting focused on this quote by Brigham Young:

“If you feel evil, keep it to yourselves until you overcome that evil principle. This is what I call resisting the devil and he flees from me…When you are influenced by the Spirit of holiness and purity, let your light shine; but if you are tried and tempted and buffeted by Satan, keep your thoughts to yourselves – keep your mouths closed; for speaking produces fruit, either of a good or evil character…you frequently hear brethren and sisters say that they feel so tried and tempted, and have so many cares, and are so buffeted, that they must give vent to their feelings; and they yield to the temptation and deal out their unpleasant sensations to their families and neighbors. Make up your minds thoroughly, once and for all, that if we have trials, the Lord has suffered them to be brought upon us, and he will give us the grace to bear them..But if we have light or intelligence – that which will do good, we will impart it…Let that be the determination of the individual, for spirit begets spirit-likeness; feelings beget their likeness…If then we give vent to all our bad feelings disagreeable sensations, how quickly we beget the same in others, and load each other down with our troubles, and become sunk in darkness and despair! …In all your social communications…let all the dark, discontented, murmuring, unhappy, miserable feelings – all the evil fruit of the mind, fall from the tree in silence and unnoticed; and so let is perish, without taking it up to present to your neighbors. But when you have joy and happiness, light and intelligence, truth and virtue, offer that fruit abundantly to your neighbors and it will do them good, and so strengthen the hands of your fellow beings.”

Emphasis mine

This principle is powerful and so applicable today. I love that he uses the word vent twice. How many times do we vent and leave a trail of bad fruit in our wake for others to pick through? To me, the most powerful teaching is what to do with our own bad fruit, because we all have moments of frustration, disappointment, offense, trial, and irritation. This week we have learned that it is how we react in those moments that makes us saints, those are our defining moments. So if we are not to give vent to those feelings, what should we do? Ray, our artistic director, made me laugh last year when he said, “You don’t swallow bad fruit. It will make you sick!” So if we don’t unload it on others, if we don’t keep it inside, what do we do with those feelings? I love what Brigham Young said – you let it “fall from the tree in silence and unnoticed.” You let it go; let it roll off your back. You share the good and let the bad go.

We have become good friend with Shanti Rose, the cast member who plays Emma Smith, who shared with us the phrase, “Drive-by fruiting”. Sometimes in life, people make a negative comment to us and the natural man wants to say something back. It has been so wonderful to recognize those comments for what they are – a drive-by fruiting, and let them go.

Today in district meeting, Jeff (plays Joseph Smith) likened others’ comments/fruit to Shanti’s grapes –  one grape was good except for a tiny spot of bad. I thought of how easily and often I have eaten the good half of a grape and tossed the bad. Suddenly, I realized that is how I should handle conversations, especially when bad fruit is present. Let the bad comments fall to the ground unnoticed and focus on the good. 

I have loved seeing us work on these principles. We have laughed at ‘drive-by fruitings” and have worked hard to frame everything in the positive. We have cheered when asked to run another part of the show again even when we are hot and tired and sore and the cheer has made all the difference. Ryan worked really hard to figure out a way to express his feelings for his cravats in a positive light – he came up with: “I love this cravat so much that I will wear it on the performances only so I don’t get it dirty.”

After District meetings we met on the stage for our first stage run through of the dances. The Stage is a raked stage, which means it is at a steep angle. Even walking becomes a challenge on an angle. Lots of laughter as we tried to remember what we had learned the night before, squish it all into the stage space and run it on an angle. The fact that all were laughing and no one was injured was a huge success. We did get to start fine-tuning it a few more times.

After a 2-hour lunch break, we headed back to the gym and air conditioning where we worked on the evening dance. And then after dinner, we headed back to the stage where we learned the blocking for the healing scene, the laying out the city and the parade. I really loved how my “family” – Ryan and I and a grandpa and his granddaughter, really came together in the healing scene. I felt bonded to these people I only just met as we worked together to tell our story. Ryan is the sick one in our family and I think back to my feelings when he was born and spent a few days in the NICU. The worries, the prayers, the peace, the overwhelming joy and gratitude as he got better and came home.

Over and over, we keep talking about that the pageant is our story. Every single one of us has experienced a miraculous healing. Everyone one of us have experience times we desperately needed the Savior. We are not acting on stage. We are telling our stories, out testimonies. We just happen to wear pioneer costumes as we tell our stories.

 Love you all!

Step by Step

Day 20 Stumbles - Temptations - For a while I've wondered about personal temptations. It has felt like Satan wasn't really worri...