What we value forever makes a difference.
I am not a great cook. Gratefully this is one of the skills shared by my wife and daughters. Therefore, I benefit every day. Every day!
Before writing this article, I thought about whether I should reveal upfront that I am sharing my experiences about a Church history tour. Why? I imagined myself reading those words and thought how many times I have gone into auto-pilot mode when I hear people begin talking about the Church history tours they have been on. Yeah…
Despite my less-than-enthusiastic response to Church history travelogues, I have always wanted to do a Church history tour, so recently when the opportunity presented itself, we took the leap. Was it everything that I had hoped for? The answer to that question is that it was way more than I expected. Admittedly, I struggled to compose a few descriptive lines to share the impact of this experience. I suppose this is similar to trying to describe in a few words the influence for good of a full-time mission. Too much praise? You decide…
Our itinerary included many favorites. We started in New York and ended in Illinois. I have captured a few of the realizations I gained from our recent experience below:
1. Though we often hold them on pedestals, the early Church leaders experienced many of the same challenges we face today. Though we often admire and revere them, they had challenges and struggles just like we do. Yet they faced them with courage. That is worthy of our consideration and admiration.
2. I have been a Church member my entire life, but the marvelous work and wonder is even more evident to me now. What I have enjoyed and can easily take for granted was purchased in our behalf at a dear price and with great effort.
3. My appreciation has grown for our good brothers and sisters from the Community of Christ church (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or RLDS) who take care of the Kirtland temple and some of the important landmarks surrounding Joseph Smith and others. The Community of Christ church changed its name in an effort to facilitate inclusion and unity, or at least that was the sentiment of our very pleasant guide, Tom.
4. Camaraderie with others in our tour group was priceless. We instantly had many new friends with much in common. It was delightful to share our love for Jesus Christ and the gospel, and to enjoy together many of the restored Church history sites that are so important to our legacy as Latter-day Saints.
5. Walking in the same places I had discussed, studied, and pictured my whole life was a dream come true. Church history predecessors left a legacy of which we can be very pleased and grateful.
Faith Makes Us Whole
It almost never happened—the healing of the woman with an issue of blood. She was just trying to get the attention of the Savior through the crowd. Once she realized that she would never be able to speak with Him, she simply hoped to catch a glimpse, but the crowd was so large. Nevertheless, as He passed with people on every side, she reached out through the throng and was able to touch the hem of His garment. Immediately, this woman who had been suffering with an issue of blood was healed.
Similarly, our faith in Jesus Christ today makes us whole despite the challenges we face in life and the difficult obstacles in our lives. To be healed like this woman, we too need to reach out to the Savior.
“Thy faith hath made the whole.”
What I would like to discuss with you today is how this Church history tour changed me. The evidence is the same; the details have not changed. But my witness of the restoration of the gospel in our day and the essential role of Joseph Smith is strong and secure.
I have many new friends that feel similarly, and new witnesses have come to my attention and increased my understanding. Confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ is not founded based on empirical evidence, but new understanding and an increase in detail helps strengthen and solidify one’s testimony of truth. I know this sounds surreal. How can a 10-day trip change one’s witness of Christ? That’s actually an easy question to answer, which I will do with a parable of sorts…
A Music Parable
Writing music starts with notes and lyrics. We all have our preferences, but the strategy followed is essentially the same:
Chords are the fundamental measure; then, to that we add new notes and melody.
Harmony comes next and the measures include percussion, accord, and rhythm. Rhythm is not the end, and not just the beginning—yet it is essential to make the melody progress and the song complete.
That is not so different from a witness of truth. One’s testimony starts small and includes faith. As elements are added to an already blooming witness, the commitment takes shape and becomes further validation of what is known to be true.
Such is the case with the events of Church history. This tour further emboldened and heightened my knowledge and understanding.
My testimony is now further increased with a full range of notes and harmony.
This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Kirtland, Fayette, Harmony, Palmyra, the Newall K. Whitney store, and the final Hill Cumorah pageant—all are alive and well in my mind.
Revealed by the Lord, the Word of Wisdom is not just a health code—it’s a holiness code. As we refrain from certain substances, it helps us refrain from other, more difficult things later on.
I look at these things with a different perspective. My love and appreciation has grown considerably as a result. The influence of this experience is yet to be fully realized.
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
A simple Church history tour will not create a testimony from nothing, but it definitely rivets a firm testimony, making it ever so much stronger.
So toward the end of the tour, I spent a moment capturing my sentiments at the time, many of which echo sentiments I’ve written about thus far:
What I am wondering and would like to discuss is how this church history tour has changed me. The evidence is the same; the details have not changed. But my knowledge and experience has further increased. My witness of the restoration of the gospel in our day and the essential role of Joseph Smith is strong and secure.
I have many new friends that feel similarly, and new witnesses have come to my attention and increased my understanding. Confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ is not founded based on empirical evidence, but new understanding and an increase in detail helps strengthen and indemnify one’s testimony of truth. I know this sounds surreal. How can a 10-day trip change one’s witness of Christ? That’s actually an easy question to answer, which I will do with the following parable of sorts…
I mentioned that cooking is not one of my strong points. Similarly, I don’t have to rely alone on my testimony. I have many others to help embolden my witness. Gratefully this skill is also shared by my wife and family. That too is a blessing from which I benefit every day.
When we were in the upstate New York, the small town atmosphere was prevalent and inviting. As the darkness began to fall a few stars shown in the sky. Soon these few stars became dozens and then hundreds, thousands, and a milky-way of them—millions, I suppose. In actuality, the number of stars did not increase, but my ability to see and recognize them became stronger and easier to distinguish. I think in many ways that is how one’s testimony increases with further evidence of the divine.
Musical composition begins the same way. Writing music starts with notes and measure. We all have our preferences, but the strategy followed is essentially the same:
The fundamental measure of music is chord progression. To these new tunes, we add melody and song.
Harmony comes next and the measures include percussion, accord, and rhythm. Rhythm is not the end, and not just the beginning—yet it is essential to make the melody progress and the music complete. And that too is not so different from a witness of the truth. One’s testimony starts small and includes simple cords of faith. As elements are added to an already blooming witness, the commitment takes shape and becomes further validation of what is known to be true. Notes become songs, a chorus, then symphony.
Such is the case with the events of Church history. This tour further emboldened and heightened my knowledge. My testimony is now has further increased with a full range of notes and harmony.
I’m still trying to grasp this opportunity of a lifetime, which has changed the song I sing. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father. This was one more of the blessings He sends without number or end.
I am still not a great cook, but gratefully that is not required to feast at the supper of the Lord. And as a result, I benefit every day. Every single day.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.