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Miracles Never Cease! (Who Was Jose Hernandez?)

TheDiscipleMD

He said his name was Jose Hernandez and he gave me his address. I knew both the name and the address were false the moment he told me, yet to be polite, I wrote both his name and residence down in my small notebook.

It was a typical day on the streets of the city for a couple of missionaries just outside La Plata, Argentina. My companion and I had been talking with people all day when I approached a middle-aged man and asked him if we could talk.  He listened for a short bit, then told me he would be happy to have us come by. He then gave me his name and his address. As he walked away I laughed to myself because the name he gave me was the same name of a small obscure town that was about 5 miles from where we lived. I dismissed the exchange and the encounter would have gone down like so many others I had experienced in the months before and after. Then several months later…

It was a rather difficult day for me and my companion and my notebook was now empty of people who had expressed interest in our message. The only name left was Jose Hernandez. I looked at my companion and said, “I know this is probably a wild goose chase, but let’s check this address out in the city of Jose Hernandez.”  We had to take a bus out to this rather obscure town, then walk a mile or so on a dirt road to get to the center of town. I had never visited that pueblo in the months I had been assigned there.  We finally found the address that had been given to me and clapped outside the humble door, rather than knock, as was the custom.  Imagine our surprise when the lady of the house who answered the door, looked at us and said, “Are you missionaries of the Mormon church?,” and then invited us in.

I was transferred out of that city that very week but within a month four members of the household accepted the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and were baptized in His name. The man who had given me this family’s address is still unknown and remains anonymous to this day. As a twenty year old missionary I finished the entry in my journal that day, dated, February 8, 1977, with these words:

“This family is fantastic and I know the Lord opened the way to find them. He helps us if only we will look hard with real desires.  Miracles never cease!”

I believe the Lord works miracles in bringing the gospel of Christ to those who are prepared and have a sincere desire to find the truth. Small miracles happen daily in our lives. Sometimes they come in strange ways, like being given a false address that turns out to be the home of someone who is searching for light and truth.  Who was Jose Hernandez? For me, he represents every tender mercy that God can give to man and that small miracles can be produced by Him, under any circumstance, place or time. “Have miracles ceased?…Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.” (Moroni 7:29)

wizard of oz

There’s No Place Like Home!

TheDiscipleMD

Dorothy said it best, “There’s no place like home.” (“Wizard of Oz”). But what is home? Is it the place where you reside, your location of birth, or perhaps where one feels safe. Maybe it is not at a geological location at all. Maybe it is a state of mind! Most of us feel that at least we could call the earth our home; but is it? I am sure the word “home” can mean many things to many people. But to me, the word “home” speaks of the “family.” I think that is what Dorothy meant when she repeatedly stated, “There’s no place like home” in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” She really didn’t mean Kansas, because if her family wasn’t in Kansas, she wouldn’t have wanted to go there. I think Dorothy meant that she wanted to go “home” to her “family.” And if her family had moved to Oklahoma while she was in Oz, Oklahoma is where Dorothy would have wanted to go.

The wonderful thing about growing older and leaving “home” is that your “home” starts to expand. When I visit my parents, no matter where they reside, I am home. When I visit my siblings, no matter what state or country, I feel I am home. As each of my children move out and are on their own, their houses become another “home” for me. And I am sure that when my grandchildren are grown and form “homes” of their own, they will provide for me yet another place that I can call my own. Indeed, “there’s no place like home” is anyplace where a loved one resides, because there I will be treated as a member of that household.

The joy of the gospel, is the knowledge that all of us are brothers and sisters. We come from the same “home” above. Sometimes we forget in this earthly life the fact that we all are brothers and sisters. The apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians regarding this principle when he wrote:

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God”. (Ephesians 2:19)

It has always been comforting to me to know that no matter where I go,  a family of saints will be there to provide a “home.”  This concept of all of us, regardless of religion, race, or creed  being ‘family’ is a divine concept that is not only wonderous, but true!   The joy of understanding that we are all  part of a loving eternal family makes living on this planet of “Oz” bearable.  Because we know that someday, when we click our heels, we will return to our celestial home above.  Some call it Heaven, others call it the Celestial Kingdom and others call it something else. But you can call it Kansas for all I care, because the name is not what is important. Because wherever our eternal family resides, there is where we want to be!

 

autograph

Can I Have Your Autograph?

TheDiscipleMD

A number of years ago my sons, brother and I attended a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies. My nephew was pitching that day and we gave him a ride home from the stadium after the game was over. He had pitched well as I recall.  We had to wait around outside the stadium where the players came out so as to meet him and then drive home.  As we were waiting a crowd formed all wanting to get a “glimpse” of one of the baseball players. What most of them wanted were the autographs of the players. As we patiently waited with the crowd from time to time a ballplayer would come out and the crowd would gather around to get the prized “autograph”. One young lady, who looked to me to be in her young twenties, wasn’t able to get close enough to get an autograph and in her frustration turned to me and said, “Are you associated with the team?” I told her no, but that one of the players was my nephew and I was waiting for him. She then said, “So you’re an uncle of one of the ball players? She didn’t even ask me which one. I nodded. She smiled, stuck out a piece of paper towards me and said, “Well, could I have your autograph?”

Later I laughingly told my brother about this young woman asking for my autograph.  He asked me, “What did you do?” I replied, “I gave it to her!” We both got a good laugh out of it. I guess some people’s hero-worship of famous people is so out of proportion, that they will even stoop to getting an autograph of someone who is related to a “famous” person. The problem with this “obsession” with the famous is that it implies that these people are “worthy” of our admiration and praise. It is almost as if we as a people are vicariously trying to live our lives through someone else. Consequently, the rich and famous become role models for the young without them necessarily doing any good in the world. I once recall hearing Dale Murphy, a two-time National League MVP and say something like, “I’m not any more special of a person than anyone else, I can just hit a baseball far.” He had perspective of what was important in life. For all the awards that he (Murphy)  collected during his career, none will be of more value than the service he has given to his family, his church, and the time spent speaking to youth across the country. That part of who he is, is worth emulating.

It is certainly OK to admire people for their skills and talents, but taken to excess, it can be damaging and a form of idol worshipping!

“Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made…” (Isa. 2:8)

Sometimes I wonder if our own land has not become like that of the ancient Egyptians.

“Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Ezek. 20:7).

The prophet Ezekiel was speaking to the Israelites who needed constant reminding that they should not follow after the idols of Egypt, but to worship the Lord. In our day we live in perilous times. There are many idols that can take our time and money. There are many people held up as role models that live lives contrary to the commandments of God.

I was reminded of how out of proportion idol worshiping can become when the day of death of Gordon B. Hinckley in 2008, happened to coincide with the death of a prominent actor.  The coverage here in my town was so pronounced in favor of the actor that I would never have known that President Hinckley had died without having received a phone call from one of my sons.  How odd I thought. How sad that the life of a great prophet was overshadowed by the death of an actor. One had “acted” out on stage the lives of heroic characters, while the other had actually lived it. Yet, fame and fortune and news coverage went to the “pretender”, overshadowing the humble life of a servant of Jesus Christ.

I don’t begrudge people success in their professional pursuits. But we should keep in mind who the real heroes are in this life. Let us not fall prey to “idol” worshipping.

 

sack of flour

He Knows Me By Name

TheDiscipleMD

Many years ago Boyd K. Packer repeated this story in a General Conference address:

“Let me quote from the diary of Joseph Millett, a little-known missionary of an earlier time. Called on a mission to Canada, he went alone and on foot. In Canada, during the wintertime, he said:

“I felt my weakness. A poor, ill-clothed, ignorant boy in my teens, thousands of miles from home among strangers. “The promise in my blessing and the encouraging words of President Young to me…kept me up. “Many times I would turn into the woods … in some desolate place with a heart full, wet eyes, to call on my master for strength or aid.“I believed the Gospel of Christ…”

Years later, Joseph Millett, with his large family,was suffering through very, very difficult times. He wrote in his journal:

“One of my children came in and said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks was out of bread, had none that day. “I divided our flour in a sack to send up to Brother Hall. Just then Brother Hall came. “Says I, ‘Brother Hall, are you out of flour?’ “‘Brother Millett, we have none.’ “‘Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you was out.’

“Brother Hall began to cry. He said he had tried others, but could not get any. He went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett. “‘Well Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back. If the Lord sent you for it you don’t owe me for it.’”

That night Joseph Millett recorded a remarkable sentence in his journal:

“You can’t tell me how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew there was such a person as Joseph Millett” (Diary of Joseph Millett, holograph, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City).

Elder Packer concluded the story by saying: “The Lord knew Joseph Millett. And he knows all those men and women like him, and they are many. Theirs are the lives that are most worth recording. (“A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church,” Ensign, May 1980, 62).

This story reminded me of a personal experience I had many years ago.  While serving in a priesthood leadership calling, a thought came to my mind, out of the blue, to ask a brother to participate in a church activity by giving him a small but important assignment.  I acted upon my impression and later that week called and asked him if he could fulfill the assignment. He agreed that he could.

Later,  he asked if he could speak to me. We retired to a secluded room where he told me that he had been contemplating suicide due to his extreme medical problems, but when he was asked to help out he concluded that he was needed and that the Lord had not forgotten him. We embraced and we both left the room uplifted knowing that the Lord does indeed know each of us by name.

The Lord works the same today as in the past. He works through and by each of us as we work in the kingdom.  May we keep our minds, hearts, and ears open to His inspiration.

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