A Prophet Of God
My full name is Nathaniel Arza Sorensen. The part of that name that I hold very dear to me is my middle name, Arza.
It comes from an ancestor of mine, Arza Erastus Hinkley. He is my 3rd great grandfather. I could talk quite a bit about him, but I only wish to tell one story from his life.
Arza was one of the early saints. He came with the Mormon Battalion to the Salt Lake Valley, and was present when Brigham Young called for the rescue of the Willie and Martin Handcart companies.
There were many people who answered the call, one of the most well known being Ephraim Hanks, who, with a larger group with supplies, went out to search. Arza and his friend, Dan Johnson, went along, separately.
The two eventually met the other group, including Ephraim, who had turned back. They, seeing the harsh winter that had already started, were doubtful that they could find the Martin Company. They had assumed that the handcarts had either found a place to camp for the winter, or had altogether perished. They were now turning back to report to President Young.
The main thing I'd like you to take away from this is what Arza said. He told them, "I will make a proposition with you. There is a good place to camp just a short distance from here. You go on and camp, and wait until you hear about the carts, and Dan and I will go on to find the carts."
The other group was cynical. They wondered why Arza thought he and Dan would be able to find the carts when they had been unsuccessful. When they expressed these questions, Arza responded in a powerful way.
"Brigham Young sent me out to find the handcart folks and I will find them or give my life trying to find them."
Arza's words persuaded Ephraim Hanks to turn back around and help these two find the carts. The reason for telling this story is to talk about my ancestor's and middle-namesake's confidence in and dedication to follow a prophet of God.
I don't tell this story to say, "Hey! Look how cool my ancestors were! What did yours do?" Had I not been a descendent of Arza and had simply know of the story, I'd have still told it.
I tell it to emphasize the topic of this post. Prophets.
I have only been alive for the ministry of two prophets, Gordon B. Hinkley (whose grandfather, Ira, is coincidentally Arza's brother), and Thomas S. Monson. Although with how President Monson has been looking lately, it seems evident that I will have to add a third prophet there soon.
I was very young and ignorant when President Hinkley passed away. I hadn't yet become converted to the gospel. I had been baptized, but President Monson was the prophet of my conversion.
Of course other people influenced my conversion, but several key moments were given by President Monson.
In his opening address in the October 2011 General Conference, there were five new temples announced, including, Barranquilla, Colombia; Durban, South Africa; Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Star Valley, Wyoming. He also announced that the Provo Tabernacle, which was severely damaged in a fire, would be refurbished and rededicated, but this time, as a temple.
I've never been to any of those first three places. I'm too white. But the Star Valley Temple was recently dedicated by Elder David A. Bednar. I've been to Star Valley plenty of times. Ran races there. Beautiful place. Once during my senior year, the track bus drove right past the nearly completed temple. The exterior was complete, and it was absolutely beautiful. Small, but beautiful.
It was also the first temple in Wyoming! My state! It was a testimony to me that the Lord is hastening his work. When he needs a temple in Wyoming, things are about to get real.
The Provo Tabernacle, now dedicated as the Provo City Center Temple, is the very same building where I had gone through to receive my endowments prior to my mission. As one of my non-member friends once put it, "It looks like a castle." It totally does and it was awesome.
I've talked more about that temple in a post I wrote before I left, so feel free to go read that one.
Both those temples have deepened my conversion. And both are in locations revealed to President Thomas S. Monson.
Another key moment in my conversion occurred the very next year, in the October 2012 General Conference.
President Monson got up, said a couple jokes, announced a couple temples which I'm sure were important in someone else's conversion, and got right to the point. Missionary Work.
He then announced that the age at which young men could serve missions was now 18, and the age at which young women could serve missions was now 19.
This was monumental! I remember exactly where I was. I was sitting on the blue chair in the living room, watching the TV. (Mom, can you take a picture of it and put it up for a visual aid? Thanks)
[Elder Sorensen forgot that we got rid of the blue chair before he left on his mission, so I can't take a picture of it. This is a picture of Elder Sorensen's older brother with his mission call in the blue chair.]
In my memory, something was dropped, and pancakes were burnt, but I also have a very film-like memory. So not sure how much of that really happened, or how much I imagined so it seems cooler than it really is.
Regardless, I do remember that I was 14 years old. Suddenly, a mission wasn't a distant thing that I'd think about when I was nearing graduation. It was getting there. Those four years went by quick. That was the first moment I had really thought to myself that I would go on a mission.
And now, here I am. I don't even need to get into how preparing for a mission assisted in my conversion. I learned so much since I wanted to get ready. And I wasn't ready at all. If I hadn't prepared from that day, I would have likely been sent home by now. That preparation was so vital to me, and so imperative that I start right then.
But because I felt the power behind President Monson's words, I prepared.
Later, when I was sixteen, the Ogden Temple was rededicated. Since I was in that temple district, and a youth, I was involved in the cultural celebration for that. Shine the Light.
It was great. Great songs, great atmosphere, and great performance.
But the crux of that moment was the presence of the presiding authority. None other than Thomas S. Monson. I recall the very moment when he entered the room. Well, it wasn't actually a room. It was a stadium. The Dee Event Center.
Actually it wasn't even when he entered into the room. It was when he entered the building. We were all chatting and waiting for him and some of the Apostles (Elders Bednar and Holland) to arrive, when suddenly, a voice spoke to me.
It was exactly how you read about in the NewEra articles. A powerful voice that I didn't hear audibly, but emotionally. It spoke to the very center of my heart. And it told me something.
"The Prophet has just entered the building."
Several minutes later, the place went dead silent. None of the 16,000 teenagers present dared to talk, or cough, or even breathe. We all could feel the same overwhelming emotion. And we watched President Monson enter, and take his place on the stand they had set up on the floor. The Jumbotron didn't show him at first, it was a bit delayed, but we all knew exactly who it was. Because those of us further back had no way of seeing who it was.
I don't speak metaphorically when I say that you could hear a pin drop. Literally, if anybody dared to drop a pin, we'd all hear it.
The silent was only physical, as the spirit was speaking to every heart and testifying of the prophetic calling of the man who had just entered, and well as the apostolic calling of his comrades.
Then somebody started to sing. We all knew the song, so slowly, more and more people joined in a solemn yet rousing impromptu arrangement of We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.
I've used a lot of big words to describe this experience, so to paraphrase for the common man, it was gnarly, dude.
That was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life, and is the most spiritual moment that I feel isn't too sacred to share. Since it was shared by 16,000 youth.
And it was all initiated by President Monson walking into a building.
On a piece of paper that I received in a tattered and torn envelope a day late, is a call to serve. The exact wording is as follows,
"Dear Elder Sorensen,
"You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...
Thomas S. Monson
Whether he physically signed it, or whether he authorized another to do it for him, I don't know. Most likely the latter. But I was called on this mission by a prophet of God. One who I know without a single shard of doubt is the Lord's appointed prophet for these days.
As such, I echo the words of my ancestor.
Thomas Monson sent me to find the lost folks. I will find them, or give my life trying to find them.
To all who may be reading this, Mormon or not, I tell you this. God has called a prophet in these days. He called Moses is his day, Noah is his. Joseph Smith was called in his day. And Thomas S. Monson has been called in our day.
Would a loving God leave us, to be guided, a book that has gotten the telephone game performed on it countless times, and nothing else? Would a loving God leave us to ourselves to figure out what to do with all these modern issues like illegal drugs and pornography, relying on the vague wording in a nearly unread section in this aforementioned book?
Would a loving God close the heavens when they were open for ages, and never open them again without sufficient instructions for the complex and delicate situations we face today?
No! No to all of the above! A loving God would open the heavens, and pour out light and truth! He would have continued revelation. He would give us clear instructions and plain doctrine.
There is a God in Heaven, who is a loving God. A loving God who has done all those things. He's called prophets to be the conduit for our reception of light and truth. There's no doubt of this truth that there is a Prophet of God on the earth today.