Of course, in earth life, we pass through an actual veil of forgetfulness. We simply do not remember our 'former friends and birth' but have the prophets, scriptures and the holy spirit and, in our day, the restored gospel to guide us along our path here on the earth. During trek, we were counselled to remain within our assigned trek families – to, in a sense, 'forget' our former friends for a moment and focus on our new 'trek family' and the trek experience. One of our 'trek sons' mothers confided afterwards to me that one of her greatest concerns before trek was that each of her children would be placed in a 'good' trek family. I imagine that same concern was also expressed in the pre-existence .. that each of our loved ones would be assigned or born to or even adopted into good, loving families. I feel the assignment of our 'trek family' members was done by inspiration and possibly our assignment into earth family units was done in much the same way. We are in the families we are in because we need to be there or because someone needs us to be there for them.
In our trek family, we decided to assign 'trek middle names' after reading Helaman 5:5-6, where Helaman explains that he named his own sons Lehi and Nephi, so that they would remember the actions of their namesakes and go and do good as they had done. I chose the name 'Patience' for Ma and she chose 'Benjamin' for my trek name. Our youth captain selected 'Hope' for herself and we assigned each of our trek children their new trek middle name at our first family council. We chose the names Charity, Grace, Mercy, Harmony and Felicity for our 'trek daughters' and Lehi, Ammon, Mormon, Mosiah and Nephi for our 'trek sons'. In earth life, your names were thoughtfully chosen by loving parents for you. These names often have history and meaning, but not always – sometimes they are only names that your parents really liked. Regardless, just as in our trek experience, our real names were something else before we arrived here and are subject to change along the way. We are taught that Abram became Abraham, Sariah was renamed Sarah, Jacob was given a new name: Israel, the converted Lamanites changed their names to Anti-Nephi-Lehies. The Lord also expects us to take upon ourselves another new name – the name of Christ. Each week while partaking of the Sacrament, we witness “that [we] are willing to take upon [ourselves] the name of [Christ], and always remember him and keep his commandments”. The trek theme 'Come unto Christ' is in reality, the same theme for our earth life trek – to truly learn to Come unto Him is our ultimate goal. After all, we are each Brothers and Sisters in actuality, just here on a temporary earth-life trek experience, organized into various new yet enduring 'earth families'. As we learn to love these family members, we naturally want these relationships to continue on both now and in the hereafter. The Great Plan of Happiness provides us a way for this to happen.
And now, I would like to compare Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching to our Trek Experience. As outlined in D&C 20 the home teachers duties include: to 'watch over the church always', to 'visit the house of each member', to 'exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties', to 'be with and strengthen them', to 'warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ'. Sisters perform the same function as they fulfil their own Visiting Teaching assignments. On trek, our Ma and Pa duties were much the same: to 'watch over our trek family always, to 'exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and to attend to all 'trek' family duties', to 'be with and to strengthen them', to 'warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite each of our assigned 'trek children' to come unto Christ'. I found myself constantly turning and looking and counting heads. Is everyone here? Is anyone missing? Is anyone in trouble? Even sitting together under a large shady Pine tree I named 'the tree of Life' at our trek testimony meeting on Sunday, I couldn't help but constantly turn and count and check on everyone in our 'trek family. We were prompted then and even now to pray for them and discuss their welfare. As home teachers, I believe we are to do the same. Are your families at church? Is anyone missing? Is anyone in trouble? Are they OK? What can you do to help? What is the spirit prompting you to do or to say to help them on their way? Is anyone lost? In reality, I believe that conversion to the gospel, being a successful missionary, being a faithful home teacher, and raising a righteous family are all elements of the same great work – bringing souls unto Christ. Mosiah 28:3, explains that Alma and the Sons of Mosiah “were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.”
My trek journal records this entry: “I joked along the trail that somehow our family seemed to be missing Faith, despite having plenty of Hope and Charity and other remarkable virtues among our trek children .. that all changed on Sunday afternoon, when our family participated in the emergency rescue mission for those lost somewhere back along the trail. President McMahon stopped Priesthood meeting to announce a call to immediately send handcarts and men to go back and find them. Our trek sons all stood to respond to that call and the meeting was then disbanded. Leaving our wives and daughters and a few other volunteers to stay back and help prepare for their needs in camp, with some effort we helped find the 'lost sheep' and return them safely on our handcarts back to the valley. I was surprised to find so many in the group to be rescued – our ward Bishops and spouses as well as many other youth who could only attend for the day. After getting them all safely across the creek, Bro Zobell stood and extended our family, along with many others, a call to accept a new daughter into our trek family. I felt impressed to present her, then and there, with a dark pink bandanna - our family colour, from off my own neck to wear. Upon our return, Hope and Ma each immediately agreed with me that we should call her Faith. She fit right in with the other trek children and enjoyed a glorious Sunday afternoon with us in the valley. The Sacrament and testimony meeting, our breaking the fast evening meal, letters from loved ones, and time to reflect and ponder and write in our journals were all spiritually uplifting and even somewhat emotionally draining. Ma and I had moments to talk with our new daughter all that day, until she had to return back home with the Bishop's family. We love our Faith and plan to keep in contact with her as much as possible and encourage each of our trek children to treat her as a beloved trek family member. She is now to be included as part of our trek family and we are now responsible for her continued well being.” I feel that joy again each time I see any of our trek children or even their parents around town or at church. Now that our trek experience is over, should our love and concern for our trek family members stop? I think not. After your home teaching assignment is completed and you are assigned to new families, does your love and concern for your former home teaching family end? I hope not. When this earth life experience ends, will your love and concern for your own friends and family members stop? Of course not.
I continue to be surprised by just how real our short trek experience felt. How powerful and how motivating. I imagine that will be our same feeling after this earth life ends and we return back to our former and future eternal life experience. I can imagine hearing us repeat those words: “I continue to be surprised by how just how real our earth life experience felt .. ”. Home teaching done properly, invites our Brothers and Sisters into our short earth life experience. We must 'watch over [them] always', regularly 'visit [their homes and invite them into our own]', 'exhort them to pray', 'be with and strengthen them', and 'invite [them] to come unto Christ'. By so doing we will learn to love them by serving them and develop the virtue and blessing of Charity in our own lives. The more we include them as part of our earth life family, the more we will feel responsible for their continued well being.” D&C 84:77 teaches Christ's words: “And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends ..”. Home teaching is simply inviting your friends, your own Brothers and Sisters from the pre-existence, into your life, back into your family circle, in the here and now.
Our Heavenly Father promises us, that if faithful, we will receive 'all that he has'. The 'Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood' in D&C 84:33-40 explains that by 'receiving' his servants, we are receiving Christ and the Father and His Kingdom and that 'all he has' will be given us. He cannot and will not break this covenant, but it can be broken .. by us. Heavenly Father gives us His oath (or guarantee) that we can have the power and blessings of the priesthood if we covenant (promise) with Him to do certain things. We in turn covenant that we will "magnify" our assigned callings in the priesthood. In exchange, God promises by oath and covenant that we will be "sanctified by the [Holy] Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies"; that we will become the sons [and daughters] of Moses and Aaron and the seed of Abraham; and that we will receive exaltation and ultimately receive all that God has.
As President Eyring taught (in Apr 2008 'Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood') “.. faith in the oath and covenant will lead us to develop the feelings of charity essential to an eternal family. One of the promises we make as we accept the priesthood is to care for others.” During our trek 'rescue mission' and even in our emergency response to the flooding in High River and to other disasters across the world. I have felt and seen the effect .. “the miracle of that growth in charity in the hearts of priesthood holders. So have many of you. And so have many outside the Church. They watch us and think it a miracle that we are able to get so many people, so quickly, working together so well and praise our great organizational skills. That is only a small part of the miracle.” The greater reason for the miracle is that these priesthood holders and their families and spouses have such faith in the oath and covenant of the priesthood. It is not how we are organized that makes the difference: “faith in the oath and covenant of the priesthood impels us to go long distances, stay long hours, and endure hardship as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ in caring for those in great need.” It is the driving force behind the countless hours of preparation and organization in each trek family and behind the scenes, that permitted us to participate in and enjoy our trek. It is the reason those hot, weary and tired young priesthood holders immediately stood to respond to the call to go out and 'rescue' those 'lost' out on the trail just as their pioneer fore-bearers did. It is the reason our stake was able to call and send out clean-up crews just days after the flood waters hit, why the church was ready then in Okotoks with experienced church service missionaries and a well stocked, effective emergency response station and continues to stand ready to respond throughout the world.
In responding to the call to act, we are simply in that process of giving 'priesthood' service and are developing the power and the spirit of Charity necessary to become great husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters in families here and in families forever. As Elder Eyring puts it: “Those instances of service under direction of [priesthood authority] have occurred in our outreach to people, as brothers and sisters in God’s family across the earth, time and time again.” It was seen at trek. It is seen, as well, in the quiet dedicated performance of home teaching and visiting teaching month after month. It is seen in the fulfilment of the promise we each make under the Oath and Covenant to watch over and care for others.
I suppose that it is possible that not every participant at trek had the exact same great trek experience. In addition to those who chose not to attend, some may have gone under duress or only experienced the fun, social aspect of this event, along with the all the hard work, blisters and great rugged outdoor camp experience. I suppose the same could be said for our 'earth life' experience. I believe it all has to do with what we are willing and prepared to 'receive' and do. On trek, we were showered with spiritual blessings at every turn, with opportunities to learn and feel the spirit, yet each only got out of it what they were willing to 'receive'. In much the same way, here in our earth life, our Father and His Son stand ready with open arms, inviting us continually to 'come unto Him' and to be 'perfected in Him'. The trek theme song put it powerfully this way: “Come unto Christ. Come unto Him, and by His grace be made holy again. He's calling your name. He's waiting for you .. with arms open wide. Come unto Christ .. and you will find eternal life.” .. and peace .. and joy .. with your beloved friends and family – those with whom you were assigned to trek with, those with whom you were assigned to watch over and visit as home teachers or visiting teachers, those with whom you were called to teach, and those with whom you were assigned or choose to live and grow up together with .. those with whom you choose to call your friends, as He said: “for from henceforth I shall call you friends ..”.
Helaman 5:7 “Therefore, my [trek sons and daughters], I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them [those for whom you were named].” Remember who you really are, what we have accomplished together along the way, and where we are all headed!
Happy Trials :) Pa 'Benjamin' Davies