Archive for March, 2012
Somehow, I got it in my head that I should be like Nephi and go up to the mountain to draw nearer to God, to pray and to meditate on the task that was ahead of me. Well that’s what I did.
Yesterday I woke up, gathered some things together and headed up Dry Canyon. Past the meadow I turned off onto a side trail and hiked up the shoulder of Mt. Baldy. For anybody who has ever done that, you know how incredibly steep that climb is. In some places, you’re climbing more than two feet vertically for every foot you go horizontally. What’s more, each one of these steep sections ends in a false summit, giving you a repeated sense of heartbreak when you find out that, not only are you NOT fifteen yards from the summit, but you’re not even close.
My plan was to spend several hours up on top. I brought my scriptures, my study journal, and a hymn book. I figured that if it got too windy, I could get off the summit and go down on the north side away from the wind. When I finally reached the summit, sure enough it was windier and colder than I had anticipated. It was below freezing, with 25 mph winds whipping snowflakes at me from underneath. I stayed just long enough to eat some lunch and then got down off of there before my hands went numb. I was NOT properly dressed.
Much to my disappointment, I spent too much time walking and avoiding the wind and snow to get any time to really reflect on the mission I am soon to embark upon. By the time I finally got back down into the canyon, it was dark and my legs were burning. I had not thought to wear liners and wool socks, and had simply worn cotton, which had torn my feet to shreds. I had to drain one blister and bandage it, and another on my toe had become infected.
In the morning, when I discovered that the antibiotic ointment hadn’t been effective, my mother made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to take a look at it. It was swollen and infected and probably housed an ingrown toenail. It was a little sore before the hike, but the downward climb off the mountain had exacerbation the condition, since when you walk downhill your toes jam into the front of your shoes/boots.
What was supposed to be a little checkup turned into a multiple-hour surgical ordeal. I’m more than a little resistant to numbing, so I had to grit my teeth as the good doctor cut off a significant chunk of my left toenail where it had grown into the skin. I thought it was gross. My mom thought it was a gas.
While I was kicking myself (using my good foot, of course) for my lapse in judgement, taking on such an ambitious hike, poorly prepared, this close to my MTC report date, my mother (who is much wiser and more patient than I am) insisted that this had actually been a blessing in disguise. Since the ingrown toenail had already been there, and the hike had merely brought it to our attention, it is very likely that I would have reported to the MTC without even thinking there was a problem. It might not have become a serious impediment until I was a fresh greeny out in the field – just in time to seriously impede my effectiveness as a missionary.
Instead, because I was prompted to go for a hike, I will simply gimp around for a week or two in the MTC, after which my toe will probably heal just fine, and I can go out and serve effectively. So even though I’m not excited to be gimping around today, I definitely want to express my gratitude for The Lord’s hand in my life, even when it’s not always apparent. Or comfortable. 🙂
Sometime in the late 1830’s or early 1840’s, a woman by the name of Elisabetha Schneck Stucki gathered her children around her in their family home in the mountains east of Bern, Switzerland. She told them that the Spirit of The Lord had made known unto her that the true gospel had been revealed anew as it had been in the days of Apostles and Prophets. She said that the true Priesthood of God had been bestowed again upon the heads of mortal men. She prophesied that messengers from far in the west would someday come to preach the restored gospel in that part of Switzerland. She said that she would not live to see that day, but that her children would, and that they should look forward to it with eagerness and anticipation.[i]
Elisabetha was a righteous woman who was filled with the Holy Ghost.
In Doctrine and Covenants section eight, verses two and three, we read: “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation…”[ii] The Book of Revelation chapter nineteen, verse ten states, “…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”[iii]
Elisabetha had the testimony of Jesus. She had the spirit of prophecy.
In the True to the Faith booklet we read that, “The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22).” We also learn that he may dwell within us, and that his primary role is to testify of God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. His other roles include: to comfort the distressed soul, to reveal divine truth, to make light that which is hidden, to warn of danger, and to guide the path of the righteous.[iv]
Well, years came and went, and Elisabetha passed on. Her children grew up and started their own families. One of her daughters married a man by the name of Johannes Reber. As a young man, Reber developed a form of rheumatoid arthritis that I am not going to try to pronounce,[v] that left his spine bent and twisted. He was not able to walk straight. He was reported to have a hump on his back higher than his head. He could walk, but it caused him excruciating pain, and it could only be accomplished with the aid of two sturdy crutches.[vi]
About this time, an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by the name of Jabez Woodward came to that part of Switzerland preaching the restored gospel. All of Elisabetha’s children, having heard this prophecy growing up by their mother, eagerly accepted the gospel that Elder Woodward taught. Reber was baptized, and Elder Woodward, after the baptism, laid hands on Reber’s head and blessed him for the healing of his afflicted body. That moment, Reber stood up, and threw his crutches away and walked home. [vii]
Less than a week later, Reber’s Nephew John Stucki reported seeing him walking so straight and tall that he did not recognize him. He went into the house and asked his aunt were Reber could be found. It was explained that Reber was outside chopping wood. For the first time John Stucki realized that it had been the same man. [viii]
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. There was no cure for it in 1858, and there is no cure for it today.
This miraculous healing fulfilled Elisabetha’s prophecy that signs and wonders would follow those who accepted the restored gospel.
This same young boy, John Stucki, was ten years old when he sailed out of Europe, across the Atlantic, and up the Mississippi River to Iowa, where he pushed a handcart across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. A year later Brigham Young called his family, along with about a hundred and forty other families – mostly newcomers from Switzerland – to go settle the Saint George area.
These early saints had no reason of themselves to listen to the counsel of Brigham Young. He really wasn’t the most personable character they had ever met; he wasn’t the most attractive or the most charismatic figure. But the Spirit of God was with him. When he spoke, the Holy Ghost carried the truth of his words into the hearts of all who heard him speak. Contrary to the claims of the Church’s critics in the east, obedience to the Prophet was not blind obedience to a tyrannical theocrat. These saints listened to the words of the prophet and took them to The Lord. The Lord then confirmed, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that these words were true. Then, with unshakable faith, the saints carried out the will of The Lord as it had been revealed unto them.
In the October 2010 General Conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that Our Heavenly Father has given His children two lines of communication with Him—what we may call the personal line and the priesthood line. All should understand and be guided by both of these essential lines of communication. He said, “…the priesthood line does not supersede the need for the personal line [meaning the line of communication through the Holy Ghost]. We all need a personal testimony of truth. As our faith develops, we necessarily rely on the words and faith of others, like our parents, teachers, or priesthood leaders (see D&C 46:14). But if we are solely dependent on one particular priesthood leader or teacher for our personal testimony of the truth instead of getting that testimony through the personal line, we will be forever vulnerable to disillusionment by the action of that person.”[ix]
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people aren’t perfect. Our priesthood leaders aren’t perfect. Those who have tremendous ability to influence our lives are not perfect. But God is perfect. And because the Holy Ghost works in perfect union with God the Father and Jesus Christ, he can be counted on to help us correctly understand, interpret, and apply prophetic counsel and commandment – provided we are living upright, moral lives. These are the qualifications for living worthy of the Holy Ghost.
This pattern of receiving prophetic direction and confirming it in the Spirit of The Lord became increasingly important to John Stucki throughout his life. As a young father he was called to return to Switzerland, this time as a missionary, to preach the gospel as Elder Woodward had done. Throughout his mission, he tells several stories of heeding the counsel of the Holy Ghost, which led him out of danger and towards those who would hear the truth. These experiences on his mission changed the course of his entire life.
One such experience actually happened when he returned from his mission. Let me set the groundwork. This was an extremely tumultuous time for The Church. If you were told the same story that I was about Church History, you hear about the trials of Missouri, and then moving to Nauvoo, and the trials they experienced there. Then the Prophet Joseph Smith dies, Brigham Young is sustained the President of the Church, he leads the Church to the Salt Lake Valley. The end. Happily ever after. But that’s not how it happened.
The Republican Party, after the civil war, having successfully stamped out slavery in the south, turned their attention to stamping out polygamy in the west. The problem with slavery was that some people didn’t have enough rights. The problem with polygamy, as they saw it, was that the Mormons had too many rights. They really didn’t care how much of the Constitution or our rights they trampled on in their effort to stamp out polygamy. Because Utah was a territory and not a state, we weren’t able to elect our own officials. They were appointed by the federal government. The federal government appointed corrupt territorial officials who moved out here and illegally confiscated Church property, and rented it back to the Church at an extortionist’s prices. They appointed “federal marshals,” and I use that term loosely – they were really more like hired thugs, but they had the badge, which was all that mattered.[x]
A particularly infamous pair of these so-called federal marshals was down in Santa Clara, Utah, which is where John Stucki was living. They were down conducting their regular raid, where they would break into the houses of Church leaders without a warrant, typically beat the occupants to within inches of death, haul them to a federal jail without due process, and lock them up for an undetermined amount of time. John Stucki was reasonably concerned that this might happen to him. So he said a quick prayer, and asked what he must do to be protected from these two men. He did not ask Father in Heaven to protect him; he asked, “what must I do?”
Having perfect faith, he was instructed by the Holy Ghost to invite them into his home. Not even thinking twice – I would think twice; would you think twice? – not even thinking twice he invited them into his home, fed them a good meal free of charge, and then afterwards led them out into his orchard, which had a variety of different fruits, and said “take as much as you can carry for the road.” These men, asking no questions, left him in peace.[xi]
About forty years later, John Stucki baptized his young, eight-year-old grandson. That little boy was Ezra Tobler, my great-grandfather.[xii]
This narrative that I have been unfolding contains just a few examples of how following the Holy Ghost has affected my family throughout its history. Now, there is no such thing as a happy ending, because nothing ever ends. So, I won’t conclude this narrative, but I will bring you up-to-date.
Any of you that know me – and there are a few of you in here who do – know that if you are trying to find me, there is a good chance that I will be on my way to or coming from some high adventure activity with my father. It was on just one such occasion that he and I were driving somewhere out in the region of South Utah, when we got to talking. It happens on long drives.
In the course of this talk we began to speak about the possibility of whether or not I would serve a mission. I had attempted to serve a mission before, but quickly learned how difficult that really is. Due in part to my own struggles, and in part to the decisions of others (and I had my own feelings about that,) there were many obstacles placed in my path, and I was not able to serve. This was, needless to say, very discouraging! I was on the verge of giving up, when the Spirit of The Lord entered into my heart with more force and with more power than I have ever before or since felt. In that moment, I heard the voice of The Lord as clearly as you hear me now tell me that I needed to serve a mission.
Unlike the stories I have been telling, I was not particularly quick to heed the counsel of the Spirit. I wish I had been. I was still discouraged and at this point, my enthusiasm for serving had been squashed by the struggles of getting there. But I did. I went to my bishop – this was when I was in the singles ward – and said, “My mission papers have expired, but I would like to start them up again.” And he said, “Okay. Let’s get you on a mission.”
Brothers and Sisters, this gospel is true. And it’s a good thing too, because from what I hear, what I’m in for is quite the sacrifice! But the gospel is true. The Restoration was actually performed. God the Father and Jesus Christ actually appeared to Joseph Smith. And because that is true, whatever happens to me in the next two years is worth it.
I bare testimony of these things, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 14-15
[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3
[iii] Revelation 19:10
[iv] “Holy Ghost,” True to the Faith, (2004),81–84
[v] Referred to only as “Rheumatism,” probably Ankylosing Spondylitis
[vi] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 16-20
[vii] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 16-20
[viii] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 16-20
[ix] Oaks, Dallin. “Two Lines of Communication.” October 2010 General Conference
[x] See “The Mormon experience: a history of the Latter-Day Saints” by Leonard J. Arrington
[xi] Stucki, John S. Family History Journal of John S. Stucki. Second Edition ed. N.p.: Robert Gmeiner, 1932. 94-95
[xii] Tobler, Ezra. “A Brief History of the Life of Ezra Tobler.” 1989. 14