Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Prophet of God

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.

-Elder Sorensen

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Who Are We?

Who Are We?

I've kind of been stuck on updating my blog lately. Not pressed for time, but pressed for topic. The other topics I've considered, they'll likely be written eventually, but I felt as though this one was especially important.

I guess part of my choice hinged on the realization that not just me, but most people my age have a struggle with this very thing.

Most of my concerns when I first got to Las Vegas was not learning to teach or navigating the area, but of changing. I was honestly terrified of the change that would occur within me. Namely, changing into somebody I don't want to become.

And I didn't want to stay the same person I was when I left. You're supposed to change on a mission, right? As much as I enjoyed the person I was when I left, I'm supposed to change.

But I got to thinking. I'm not so much that person who I was anymore, and the person who I'll be in twenty something months is not even close to who I am.

So who am I?

Now this is a common conflict that many people right out of high school experience, and I didn't realize that until a friend of mine expressed in an email that concern to me.

And this isn't something that I want to take lightly. Finding out who we are is a very important thing to do. And the earlier we can figure it out, the earlier we can start to be that person.

The question of who we are is a really difficult one to pin down. Because everybody is so unique and so complex, it's nearly impossible to find out exactly when you know who you are. And as such, it's even more impossible to know where to start.

But let's start.

Now keep in mind I don't know who I really am at all. I'm eighteen years old, I'm fresh out of high school, I barely know what I'm doing, and I'm in Las Vegas teaching people about Jesus.

So I'm just as confused if not more confused about all this than anybody. But I'll be brainstorming throughout writing this.

Also remember that I started writing this a very long time before It gets posted. Since technically this is a letter home, and I'm only allowed to do that on P-Day, it may take a while to create enough coherent thoughts to constitute a proper blog post.

But I realized recently that who I am, isn't who I will be. Finding out who you are is the process. When you have room and time to grow as a person, you eventually express that person who you were all along.

And my concerns were mostly rooted in what other missionaries said. Things like "you won't think like this by the end of your mission" and "you're not even going to worry about that by the end of your mission". I mean, I understand their intentions, but the fact that they made assumptions about me based on their own experience was admittedly a little offensive to me.

See, one thing I've learned so far about myself is that I'm stubborn. I don't like it when people tell me what I should or will do. Something about it makes me actually less likely to do it.

But the thing that I realized was who was saying these things. 18 to 20 year olds. People who were spiritually more mature than me, true, but the people they are is not the person I will be.

Tip #1: Don't let people tell you who you should be. It won't be you, and you won't be happy.

Don't get me wrong, I really value the advise of others. Their whole reason for sharing it is to help me. But I value more a piece of advice my mom gave me. And this was after my first breakup. She told me that lots of people would try to give me advise throughout my life. Especially at that time.

She said that most of it is going to be garbage. Maybe not in those words, I'm paraphrasing here. She told me to consider the advise people give you, and use your own opinion to decide to use it.

What do most people say to define themselves? Sometimes a career, a name, a legacy, that smart-alec in the Young Men's quorum would say a child of God. All those are great. But I've noticed many people, when asked who they are, say their talents. Maybe not outright, but they say it.

"I'm a musician." That's an easy one. You're good with music. You can sing and play instruments. You can probably list every song in every one of a certain artist albums. You remember off the top of your head that Taylor Swift was born December 7, 1989 (this is other people who aren't me of course).

I consider myself a musician. I've found that I have a talent and passion for music. Singing, the piano, the saxophone, the ukulele. I also consider myself as a runner. I ran a five-minute mile, which people tell me is impressive.

I also call myself a writer. I wrote a novel for crying out loud! Does that count for something? People tell me it's good.

Tip #2: Find out what it is that you are good at.

We developed our personalities and talents in the premortal existence. So therefore, if we know we grow into that person over time, then we really never change. We just become who we always were, and who we're meant to be.

That's really the whole point of all this, isn't it? To become who we were always meant to be? That's why we came to this earth! That's why we're here on this big blue rock! To become who we were meant to be. And who is that?

Well we'll look into now, who we can become. The scriptures teach us that we are here to become like God. To become perfect.

Christ commanded that we be perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. And from Nephi's experience with the brass plates, we learn that the Lord gives no commandments unto the children of men, save he prepare a way to accomplish it.

So therefore, if being perfect is a commandment, than there has to be a way to be so, otherwise God would be a liar and cease to be God.

I hold to the belief that our own unique personalities and talents will persist until the end of time (I use the term loosely because there is no end of time, just as there is no beginning of time). Who we were before we arrived on this earth is only different than who we will be in a few ways. Namely, we will be perfected, where we weren't before.

"Now hold on!" I hear you say, "My flaws are what make me me! If I wasn't imperfect, I wouldn't be who I am! If I'll be perfect, I'll be somebody else!" That's right, I can even hear you from here, Mr. Disembodied Voice.

To you I say, what flaws are there that you don't want to have gone? Yes, some people see naivety and clumsiness as endearing and as a personality trait. Just as much a part of them as anything else. To which I agree. But consider this.

Our mortal flaws, are not us at all. Who we are is often thought to be our soul, the spirit and the body together. When just the body has an imperfection, the whole should does not have that.

If you put a glove on your hand that has a hole in it, that hole is not part of your hand, nor it is part of you. Rather, it is a hole in an imperfect glove.

The hole can be mended, and therefore, the imperfection gone. After it's mended, you can still see and feel the stitching. You can still see where there used to be an imperfection. But it's been reinforced and strengthened.

Ether 12:27
"If men come unto me, I will show unto them their weaknesses...then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Our flaws, can still be part of us, but they can be mended by the Mender himself. They will then be strong.

Yes those flaws will still be part of your past. Your life is absolutely, 100% unique. Those memories will be there or who you were, as you are who you were always meant to be.

Think for a second about a sandwich. Don't worry, this is going somewhere. You take two slices of white bread, and put peanut butter and jelly on them, in whatever way you do it. What do you call what you have?

Now think you have the same two slice of bread. Or a different two slices, since you ate the first sandwich. You put tuna on this bread. What do you call that?

Now say you have the last two slices of bread. And one of them is the heel. Don't worry though, pretend you're one of the chosen ones who actually see the heel as what it is: the best piece. So you take these two slices of bread, and put bacon,lettuce, and tomato on them. Maybe some mayo, maybe some mustard. Whatever else you like. What do you call that?

Do you sense a theme here? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A tuna sandwich. A BLT. No matter what kind of bread is on the outside, you call the sandwich by what's inside.

You don't call a sandwich that's ham and cheese on wheat bread, a wheat sandwich. First, that sounds terrible. Second, why on earth would you call who you are by what's on the outside?

People don't say the very first thing about them, "I'm white" (especially if they're not white). First, we can clearly see that you are in fact, that. Second, that's not what matters. Even when you lose the bread and are resurrected with perfect slices of bread: lightly toasted Grandma Sycamore's white bread, you're still the same sandwich. Just better and perfect.

And if we can't see what kind of goodies are inside, why not ask the person who put together the sandwich? He knows. He made the sandwich. And he made it exactly how he wanted it to be. If he wanted a PB&J, he wouldn't make a turkey and swiss.

Same is true for you. If He needed you to be funnier and smarter, he would have made you funnier and smarter. But he didn't. So he needed you as you are. We just need to realize who we are, and the best way to do that is through a long process of prayer, study, and pondering.

Tip #3: Don't judge a sandwich by its bread.

Finally, we need to consider our fruits. Christ says that we'll know them by their fruits. So people will know you according to what you've accomplished in this life.

My uncle recently passed away. Sadly, I was unable to go to the funeral, but from what I hear, there were all the many children's books that he had written throughout his life displayed. That was his legacy. I don't know what people talked about at the funeral, but I'm sure they talked about his life, his accomplishments, his struggles and subsequent successes.

What legacy do you want? What do you want people to talk about at your funeral? What fruits do you want to bear? Do you want people to remember you as a kind hearted person? A fun loving person?

What would they talk about if you were to (heaven forbid) die tomorrow? Is that okay with you?

I've got it set. I die tomorrow, everybody talks about how spiritual I was because what I was doing was serving the Lord when I died.

What are the things that will be your fruits? Your fruits are you. They show others who you are, and they can show you who you are.

Tip #4: Consider your legacy.

So who are we? Why don't we ask the person who made us? And while we're at it, let's ask Him to help us become better.

I'm slowly discovering who I am. As well as who I can become. But who that is, is a thought for another time.

For the time being, just find out who you are. And be the heck out of them!

[Elder Sorensen wrote this post on October 17th.]