Saturday, September 23, 2017

Anniversary Post: Town of God's Instruments by Jaymi Cox

This Stake blog celebrated its four-year anniversary on the 23rd of August. Since its inception, there have been incredible posts written by the members of our community. Because this was a new endeavor, none of us on the original committee knew what would come of this blog or if it would even last. Well, here it is, still going strong and providing a message each week that is uplifting and that allows us to get to know each other's stories a little better. 

              To celebrate the past four years, for four weeks, the blog will feature a post from each of the years it has been online. I love this post written in 2016 by Jaymi Cox because it reminds me to heed the promptings from the Lord and to trust that He will provide the words and/or actions needed to comfort His children.

When you live in a small town and someone passes away, the whole community is affected.  It was probably someone you are related to, someone you went to church with, a neighbor, a friend, a coworker, or someone you’ve known since you were a kid.  Let’s face it.  If you’re from St. Johns, you know a lot of people.
Except for the first six years of my marriage, I have lived here my whole life.  Peter and I lived in Tucson after getting married.  I will never forget how worried I was about dying while we lived there.  The fear was due to this feeling I had that if I died, no one would go to my funeral.  OK, well maybe my Bishop and his wife, my visiting teachers (maybe), our home teachers (who came over one time in the six years we lived there), or possibly the Relief Society President if she didn’t have a prior engagement.  It seems silly to think about now, but I was really worried about having no one show up!
I have always loved this little town.  I never wanted to leave!  Mostly because of the people who live in our town.  I really love the people here.  There are so many people in this town who have impacted my life.  Looking back, it was God doing his work through others.  It wasn’t so obvious back then, but I was later taught this principle in an amazing way.
There is a family in town who lost their son in a motorcycle accident.  The mother of this family is a relative of mine, but while growing up I didn’t have the privilege of knowing her very well.  I attended the funeral, but I tried to keep my distance.  I just didn’t know what to say or do.  After the funeral, it seemed like I was running into her more than ever, but I still tried to keep my distance.  Many of my prayers during that time were definitely in her behalf, but I was asking Him to comfort her.
One morning after dropping my three oldest children off at school, I found myself at the stop sign facing the cemetery.  You know the one right in front of the City yard.  Well, instead of making my normal left turn to go home, I went straight up to the cemetery.  I remember my three-year-old son, who was in the back seat, asking me where I was going.  I told him “I don’t know; let’s see.”  When I got to the top of the hill, I saw her.  My devastated relative laying across the grave of her son.  Hoping that I hadn’t been seen (not likely since I was in my diesel SUV), I quickly turned around and started back down the hill.  I instantly started questioning God.  I knew he sent me up there, but I wasn’t what she needed. I couldn’t help her, and I didn’t know what to say!
I will never deny that my SUV turned itself around.  Before I knew it, up the hill back to the cemetery I went.  I was pleading with God, “If you’re going to send me, tell me what to say!”  When I got to her, I picked her up off the ground and just held her.  Then the words came to me!  I said, “God brought me to you.”  I had never felt anything more powerful in my life!  From that moment, my testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love for his children was set in stone.
I am grateful every day that I was born and raised in the “Town of Friendly Neighbors”.  People matter here.  People are remembered when they pass on.  Living in this town gives me confidence that I matter in this big world.  We have a loving and caring Father in Heaven.  He knows each of us and is aware of our needs.  We are his instruments.  We are one of the most important ways He shares His love, His service, and His blessings.  When I look back, I see all the times God sent someone to help me.  I live in a town of God’s instruments!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Anniversary Post: He Shall Prepare a Way by Kortlynn (Herring) Long

This Stake blog celebrated its four-year anniversary on the 23rd of August. Since its inception, there have been incredible posts written by the members of our community. Because this was a new endeavor, none of us on the original committee knew what would come of this blog or if it would even last. Well, here it is, still going strong and providing a message each week that is uplifting and that allows us to get to know each other's stories a little better. 

To celebrate the past four years, for four weeks, the blog will feature a post from each of the years it has been online. This post was written in 2015 by Kortlynn Herring, who has since married. I love her message and need to read it often.

I recently returned from serving in the Japan Tokyo Mission.  What an experience.  There aren’t enough words to describe the feelings I have and the lessons I learned.  But there is one lesson learned that has affected me the most.  Our Savior, Jesus Christ, lives, and His atonement is real.

Before I had the opportunity to serve a mission, I knew what the atonement was, but I didn’t really understand what it all meant, and how it applied to me.  I could always give the primary answers, and I knew some scriptures that talked about it, but I had never truly applied it to my life.  I don’t mean repentance, which I definitely have the experience of, but the often overlooked, strengthening power, or enabling power of the atonement.
At the beginning of my mission, I read a scripture that I had read hundreds of times before, that took on a new meaning to me, it helped me begin to understand the enabling power of the atonement, and I adopted it as my mission scriptures.  It’s 1 Nephi 3:7.  It reads “And it came to pass that I Nephi said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save He shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them.”  The more I studied, and the longer I was out on my mission, I realized that on my own, I couldn’t do this.  I began to notice how truly weak I was, and how often I messed up.  I realized that even though I wanted to “go and do” and “accomplish” the thing that I had been commanded, that I couldn’t do it.  I began to question where the prepared way was.  I began to wonder where the miracles were.  Why wasn’t I fluent in Japanese yet?  Why were so many people turning us away?  What more could I do?  Why do I feel like I’m failing, even though I’m trying?  I remember asking myself these questions, over and over, and then I realized that I didn’t have to do this alone.  He didn’t call me on a mission to see what I could do by myself.  He didn’t call me to see how gifted, talented, or smart I was.  He called me, to do my best, and to help me realize that the way had already been prepared.  That the power to do hard things, the power to overcome all my trials, had already been provided.  I just needed to ask for it, and trust it.

It was then that I began to realize that the prepared way, was my Savior, Jesus Christ, and the power to do this, was through Him and His atonement.  He knows we are weak.  He already knows we will make mistakes, and that we just aren’t quite good enough on our own.  But that’s not the point.  The point is, that through Him, we can.  That because of His atonement, we will be able to accomplish EVERYTHING the Lord would have us do.  Through His atonement we can OVERCOME any trial, any challenge.  He has given us the power to go and do.  We just need to trust Him.  I just needed to realize that I didn’t have to be perfect at everything I attempted, that I just needed to do my best, and trust Him to carry me the rest of the way.

I’m still learning this lesson.  I think this is a lesson, that I will continue to learn for the rest of my life.  But I can now say, without any doubt that Christ lives.  And because He lives, we can live.  Because He willingly atoned for us, we not only have the power to repent and become better, but He has given us the power to accomplish everything that is required of us.  I’m so grateful for my Savior, and the love and support that He gives me.  I know that through Him, we can do all things.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Anniversary Post: See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently---by President Ed Burgoyne

This Stake blog celebrated its four-year anniversary on the 23rd of August. Since its inception, there have been incredible posts written by the members of our community. Because this was a new endeavor, none of us on the original committee knew what would come of this blog or if it would even last. Well, here it is, still going strong and providing a message each week that is uplifting and that allows us to get to know each other's stories a little better. 

To celebrate the past four years, for four weeks, the blog will feature a post from each of the years it has been online. For week 2, enjoy a post written in 2014 by President Ed Burgoyne.

It was the summer of 1991, Eileen and I had just accepted a teaching position at Sanders Middle School. We stopped in St. Johns to look for a place to live and were sitting in our hotel room when we heard a knock at our door. We were surprised because we didn't know a soul in St. Johns. Who could it be? I opened the door and there stood a nice looking couple. They identified themselves as Ted and Julie Raban. They said they had heard we might be moving to St. Johns and wanted to welcome us to town and offered their assistance with anything we might need. We visited for awhile and then said our goodbyes. After they left, Eileen and I talked about how amazing it was to have someone come to our hotel room and make us feel so welcome our first night in St. Johns.  

We have now been in St. Johns going on 24 years, and we call St. Johns home. We love our community and the good people who live here. We have always been treated with kindness and love.

One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is found in John Chapter 13. This is the chapter where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and then teaches some very important doctrine. In verses 34 and 35 we read:

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

What a great lesson we are taught in those verses. When I read that passage, I think of the Raban's and how kind they were to us that night. But it wasn't just that night; they have always treated us with kindness and love. What great examples they have been to me in my life! There are many more wonderful people in our community who are true disciples of Christ, going about loving and caring for others.

Sometimes, however, we hear stories of people being offended, of rumors being spread or criticism being dished out. When I hear such things, I like to think that we are better than that, or that surely we can be better than that. I know it's not always easy following in Christ's footsteps because I have made mistakes by contributing to talk that wasn't always positive. There is no doubt that we can all try a little harder and be a little better in showing kindness and speaking more kindly.

One of my favorite quotes is: "I will greet this day with love in my heart. And how will I speak? I will laud my enemies and they will become friends; I will encourage my friends and they will become brothers.  Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip. When I am tempted to criticize I will bite my tongue; when I am moved to praise I will shout from the roofs.”

I need to share one last scripture. It is found in I Peter chapter 1:22, and it is where I found the title for this message. It reads: "See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."

Just think what St. Johns would be like if we all lived by this advice. We're a wonderful town now, but we can be, and should be, a town that is truly amazing, amazing because of how we love and treat each other. The town that loves with a pure heart, fervently.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Anniversary Post: By Design by Chuck Humpherys

This Stake blog celebrated its four-year anniversary on the 23rd of August. Since its inception, there have been incredible posts written by the members of our community. Because this was a new endeavor, none of us on the original committee knew what would come of this blog or if it would even last. Well, here it is, still going strong and providing a message each week that is uplifting and that allows us to get to know each other's stories a little better. 

To celebrate the past four years, for the next four weeks, the blog will feature a post from each of the years it has been online. We will begin with a post from 2013 written by Chuck Humphreys.

Sometimes my wife will catch me staring off into space with a blank look on my face and ask “rocks on the brain huh?” 95% of the time she is right. Being in the stone business I do think about rocks a lot. I notice stone everywhere. On a home or building, in a cut in on the side of the highway or off in a distant mesa - stone is everywhere. I can’t go anywhere without looking at stone. At first I thought it was a sickness now I understand it is, though it sounds silly at first, an awakening. It is an awareness of God that I never had before. I found it here in St. Johns. 

Stone has a way of bonding past to present. People who have gone before leave their stories behind in stone for us to discover and enjoy. In our little town of Saint Johns we are surrounded by such monuments. I feel a certain reverence when looking at these old stone edifices. I am reminded of the hard work and sacrifice of those who came before us. I want to share a couple of my favorites. 
In our Salado quarry south of town sits this old stone block. At some point long ago, someone tried to split this stone down to a workable size with a hand crank drill and steel feather wedges. Perhaps they were shaping stones to build a foundation for a new home, or perhaps they were looking for a slab with which to make a headstone. This probably took the better part of a day to get to this point, and, for whatever reason, they abandoned their purpose and left this block as it sits today.
This building sits down by the Little Colorado off Water Street. Somebody told me it was a grinding mill at one point. It may not seem like much until you think that each single stone placed in these walls literally took hours and hours to find, shape, transport, and set into place.
Once I hiked to an old site out by TEP with Wade Udall where we explored the remains of an old limestone kiln. The early settlers would haul small chunks of limestone from a nearby bluff to the kiln and heat them. The heated limestone could then be crushed by hand and mixed with sand to make the mortar which still holds the stones in place to this day.
This mini obelisk sits it the St. Johns Cemetery. It seems rough to our modern standards, but when you think of the time it took to go out, probably on foot or in wagon, miles from town, excavate a large stone with nothing more than a pry bar and shape it slowly, chip by chip, with a hammer and chisel - it changes. When you look at it through that lens, you can see it becomes a masterpiece.
Sometimes when we excavate stone from the earth I feel guilty. Sometimes it feels like we are undoing what it took an almighty creator thousands and thousands of years to beautify and position. In the process we have made many discoveries. Deep below the surface we have found layers of rippled sandstone, evidence of a sandy beach frozen in time. We have discovered small footprints of some ancient creature in between layers of sandstone - again frozen in time for us to discover. We have found impressions of ancient ferns and plants.
The colors are also amazing. Iron and other elements give each stone a unique character over time. I love to inspect each load of stone that comes in and see the unique quality. When the Nielsens drilled our well I remember watching the tailings of blue and purple sandstone emerge from hundreds of feet below. It made me think of all the beautiful things beneath our feet that we will never see. These are all testaments of an artistic and patient God who, in perfect order and natural harmony, created these for us to appreciate.
It is awesome to contemplate the ages of time that have produced every single stone. They have been beat upon relentlessly by water and wind. They have been heated and compressed, slowly shaped and perfected. There are no two exactly alike. I like to think that is the way God works with us.
Despite our increasingly godless world, stone in a simple way has shown me that divinity undeniably surrounds us. In everything, if we will take the time to notice, there is design.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ye Receive No Witness Until After the Trial of Your Faith by Ayden Overson

My attitude for Trek before it began was very indifferent. I knew it would be spiritually strengthening, but I knew it would be hard, too. I felt no burning passion to share the experiences of my ancestors. It wasn't long into the pulling that I began to feel the true desire and faith of the pioneers. Pulling a handcart is a hard, frustrating task. The smallest rock hitting a wheel just right will throw the yoke right or left, forcing big guys like Payden Nielsen and me -let alone our smaller sisters- to stumble and knock into each other and the frame. My experience was only with mildly cold rain with periods of warmth. The pioneers endured deep snow and freezing rivers. Ours was only a three day journey, theirs were months.
I make these comparisons to illustrate the very tough, strenuous, and frightening ordeal the pioneers had. I do not believe that they could have done any of it without unshakeable testimonies and enduring faith. Faith in themselves, others, and God. I had my own trial and strengthening of faith in my Trek experience.

I gained greater faith in myself on the first day. I had a wavering faith in myself when I struggled up the mountain we crossed, and when I was falling asleep while pushing the handcart late into the night. I did not know if I could keep going at times. In Ether 12:6, it says, "And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." I knew that I could do those things. With each step, I knew I could take the next. My faith in myself grew with my trials.

My faith in others definitely grew also. I learned to love my family through struggling together. Some of them I knew well before the Trek, others, I had just met. I began to have faith in them through our hard work. I knew they would push and pull right alongside me, and pick up where I faltered. In the "nature walk" activity that we had, faith was a key point of the lesson. I was led along by my trek sister Kynzie, and I pulled my brother Tanner. During the time we were blindfolded and silent. I knew that I would not let either of them go. I had to strain to an uncomfortable point quite a few times to keep both of them with me. I had faith that Kynzie would not leave me, and I would not let Tanner go to be lost or confused. My faith was once again put to light in my dependence on others.

This activity also represented faith in God. We were stopped eventually and told to do a difficult task, one which had very unlikely odds of us accomplishing. Each of us became lost at some point, unable to figure out what we should do. Eventually we were called to a spot where our leaders sat singing hymns. Our blindfolds and confusion signified how we are in daily life. Trying to go the right way, but not knowing how or where. The leaders' singing represented Jesus Christ's teachings and the teaching of his prophets. We have to look to them and have faith in their love and support for us. The pioneers had incredible faith in order to leave their homes, friends, and jobs, in order to follow the will of God. To hike and pull handcarts through plains and mountains and deserts, is a testament to their faith in Heavenly Father.

I witnessed no great miracles on Trek. I had no divine beings testify to me of the gospel. I did have small confirmations throughout the journey of Heavenly Father's and Christ's love for me and their knowledge of my worries and problems. My faith, testimony, and love for them was strengthened. I know that Heavenly Father is most deserving of my faith because he has never abandoned me. He has always been there for me when I needed him and simply asked. My trials have strengthened my faith in Him, and they will continue to do so as long as I rely on Him.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Key to a Family Connection by Spence Wilhelm

When I was in High School, my sister Nonie asked me if I wanted an old record cabinet she had stored in her shed.  It was one of the things the family had from my Great Grandmother Gibbons.  "Of course!", I said.  It took me more than thirty five years to follow through on my word and I'm glad I finally did.

Throughout the years Nonie kept asking me and I kept saying yes but never did anything about it.  When I was in my late forties, Nonie was cleaning out her shed and showed up with it at our home in Saint Johns. It is quite unremarkable looking.  The finish is a dull and worn and it stands about two and a half feet tall.  We couldn't open the box and Nonie didn't have a key.  So it sat there for a bit longer.  One day I was talking with Mom on the phone and mentioned it would be fun to open Grandma's record cabinet.  Mom laughed and said she had a key for it somewhere.   Wow.

Two weeks later Mom and Dad came over to Saint Johns on a Saturday afternoon and brought the key.  As I remember, most of our kids were visiting that weekend.  We had decided we would make a day of it with a picnic and a ceremony to open our little time capsule.

Later that evening we huddled around Grandma's cabinet in our front room laughing and guessing what we would find.  The key was an old sliver looking skeleton key and it easily turned the lock.  Inside we found over 30 full sized 78 RPM records that Dad had listened to as a boy.  Christine and I had a record player so we started pulling records out and listening to them.  It was really fun because Dad would tell us stories about how they would listen and have fun with the records.

After pulling most of the albums out of the cabinet I found a small platter with the following written in pencil on the cover, "Grandma Gibbons".  One side of the plastic encrusted metal disc had a hand written label, "Come Come Ye Saints, Granny Gibbons 8/24/1944." - she was 85 years old. We put it on and heard Grandma Gibbons sing that wonderful old pioneer song to us.  After it was over we sat in silence for a moment, too stunned to say anything.  A few of us had tears in our eyes and all were laughing and chittering about the miracle of finding such a gem.  It is the only known recording of Grandma Gibbons voice.

To think it sat in the locked record cabinet all of those years and was still functional is amazing to me.  More than that I'm thrilled to have something to know Grandma Gibbons.  She died before I was born and until we found the record, she was someone I knew only through stories of other people.  Now I feel connected.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

BLOOM by Suzanne Hancock

Each summer, I am surprised when I see something I planted actually grow and blossom. I am especially pleased when my perennials return. It is like a gift coming up from the soil to welcome the season, and I, in turn, welcome each one with gladness and quite a bit of shock. Our soil is hard and lacks the nutrients that promote easy gardening, so we do our best with what we have, even though we aren’t anywhere close to being Richard and Ethel Hext. 

Several years ago, my favorite type of yard work used to be weed-eating. I loved getting in my anti-allergy gear and chopping down the unwanted growth. I much preferred this to trying to make anything pretty grow, as my black thumb seemed to prevent any plants or flowers from flourishing. I found a satisfaction of getting rid of what was unsavory, and that was enough. Then.

So what changed?

The answer is simple. My heart.

When my primary concern was ridding the yard of weeds, my heart was covered in its own blanket of Goatheads that choked out any hope of tulips or marigolds. I literally cut down weed after weed after weed in an attempt to figuratively rid my soul of the same. Conversely, as I made changes necessary in order to align my heart with that of my Father in Heaven and his son, Jesus Christ, calla lilies and daisies sprouted from my very being.

I was eleven, going on twelve, years old when our family moved from Clifton, Arizona to St. Johns. It was a delicate time for a young woman to move to a new town with no friends, entering 7th grade, and missing the life and home I had known for eight years. My ever-insightful and thoughtful mother gave a family home evening lesson about blooming where you are planted. I recall her having a handout of some sort that she gave to each of us, and she had a decoration in our home for many years with that phrase. 

After that time, I moved several more times as my life took me to college, to teaching in Tempe, to moving back to St. Johns, to getting married with a home of my own. Each time I have moved, I think of the mantra to bloom where I am planted.

This year, observing the sunflowers that have grown from our planting in prior years as well as from new seeds this year, I can’t stop thinking about this lesson. I had always applied it to actually moving from place to place, when it has much more far-reaching applications.

I need to BLOOM in my callings, BLOOM in my station in life, BLOOM in my relationships, BLOOM in my testimony.

This weekend has been emotional for our family. Paul’s grandpa passed away. Grandma Donna received her Temple endowments. Grandma Donna was also sealed to her parents, sealed to her deceased husband, and Aunt LaDawn, Donna’s daughter, was sealed to her mother and father.

Watching their faces, full of joy, tears of pure eternal bliss running down their cheeks, they epitomize blooming. They have taken many years of heartache, of doubts and fears, of loneliness, and they have turned those weeds into a field of geraniums. They did this the only way it is possible to do. They did it through the forgiveness, and the strength, and the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

That is the only way we can truly bloom.

I still like to weed eat and even pull a few weeds here and there to get my fix (I know… I’m weird), but I much prefer to see the things of beauty emerge from the ground in spite of the soil, in spite of the lack of rain, in spite of the heat and the humidity.

I much prefer to see things bloom.