I have so many reasons to reflect with a spirit of gratitude upon the events of this summer.
To see the story of the Restoration and the story of the Church in the British Isles told with such power, it was such an incredible blessing.
We have an incredible bank of talent among the membership of the Church in the United Kingdom and everywhere in fact. We have incredible people! Incredible men! Incredible women! Incredible youth! Incredible children! And they are so willing! Those talents when directed towards the cause of building a Zion – when we consecrate ourselves and our talents – we create an affect far greater than the sum of the individual talents that are being offered. There is a Zion-synergy.
I learned again that there is a special spirit that accompanies the story and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the coming forth of The Book of Mormon. It is powerful and persuasive.
I saw that there is an incredible appetite for the things of the Kingdom among the Latter-day Saints. There is a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. There is a light in the eyes of the people of the Lord when they feel they are accomplishing the will and purposes of the Lord. I saw that in the faces of hundreds and hundreds of people over the summer. Not only among those who were participating day in and day out but also in the faces of the thousands who came to see the British Pageant and brought people they care about with them. It was the spirit of joy. It was the spirit of the Gospel. It was the spirit of service.
I also saw that there is a sacred power connected to faith and sacrifice when we come together as members of the Church – under covenant to sacrifice and serve – to accomplish the work of the Lord. Those people in the British Pageant company came forward largely not knowing what they would be expected to do. They felt something within them stir and they came forward as volunteers with a humble desire to serve. And they were called and their service was magnificent.
I learned too that there is something profound for each of us in knowing the stories of the early days of the Church in our country. Those first missionaries and those first converts have so much to teach us in the 21st-century Church in the Britain and Ireland of today. Of course, we do missionary work in a very different way today than they did it back in the 1830s and 40s. But there are so many things that are exactly the same; not least the Gospel message and the Spirit! But something of the resolution and strength and commitment and honesty of those early Saints is offered as their blessing upon us as we come to learn more of their stories. We aren’t going to be asked to leave our homes and our jobs and our country to emigrate to some foreign place or sail the Atlantic or push a handcart across the plains but in our own time and in our own ways we will face exactly the same sort of testing as those early members of the Church faced. It is a good thing to know something of their story and to see our efforts in relation to the work of salvation as a continuation of that story – the story of Heber C. Kimball, Joseph Fielding, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, George Watt, George Q. Cannon and the other great souls that we learn of through the pages of our British Church history. These were real people with the same kinds of personal challenges and weaknesses that we have as people. But they never let their circumstances, their limitations and incapacities prevent them from making an offering of love and service. In fact, it was because of their weaknesses that they were empowered to make their offering and it was all the more beautiful because of it all. We can do the same in our own way and in our own times. This is their story and now our story too.
I also felt strongly that it is possible for us to create a Zion today. I felt the British Pageant company really were striving together to live by Zion principles. And we felt it in our friendships and in our fellowship. Something special was experienced. Something it is hard to put into words because words do not really capture the feeling or do justice to the joy. But we learned something about how to create such a Zion in our own hearts and in our own families and because of that we are better equipped to play our part in building Zion in our ward and branch families and in our stakes.
I saw again that as Mormons, we love to work hard and we love to play. We are at our best when we are working together. We love to enjoy ourselves. I was reminded that if we are not enjoying what we are doing in the Church and through our service, it is likely to be because we are not doing it the way that it should be done as defined by the Lord Himself. Even in the midst of the hard work and testing and the disappointments, there is joy. There is joy in everything.