This is my sister Katie. Yes, she is gorgeous. She lives in Canada and I miss her.
I was talking on the phone with her today and she asked me about my talk on hope that I gave a couple weeks ago in church. (By the way, thank you commentors for your help on that subject.) She wanted to read it so I'm gonna post it for her here so she can do so. You might be thinking, "Well Ellery, why don't you just e-mail her the talk rather than posting it on your blog for all to see?" To which I would say, "Well you see, this talk spoke about some pretty important things, some of which might be beneficial for someone out there to read." So that, my friends, is why I will now post my big, long talk about hope. I also had the duty of introducing BJ and myself seeing as we recently moved into this ward, so that's what the beginning's all about. Here goes...
I’d like to clear the air about a commonly asked question that I’m sure many of you yourself have wondered, “How did BJ Pugmire get a girl like that?” Well that’s what I’m here to tell ya.
I met BJ when I was a senior in high school. My three best friends and I were invited to a party with some guys they had met at EFY who had recently come to BYU. We felt pretty cool to be the only non-college going kids there. And in spite of our lack of experience in navigating ourselves around all these older people, BJ must’ve seen something he liked in the girl with the holey jeans and tiny pigtails. BJ and I talked together that night, he about soccer, me about dance, and a little flame was kindled. We dated for a month that year, having fun together at Halloween dances, and Haunted Houses. But our relationship quickly fizzled away and that was that… Or so I thought.
I went away to study dance in college at the University of Arizona and he went on his Mission to Mexico. I received a few lighthearted letters from BJ while he was in the field but didn’t expect that anything would happen between us upon his return. Boy was I wrong.
Right before I went home for Christmas break my last year of college I got a text message from BJ saying that he’d love to meet up with me sometime. I was excited to hear from him, but thought of him strictly as a friend seeing as I was waiting for a missionary of my own.
Well BJ literally had me at hello when my mom opened the door and he stood there looking so cute coming to pick me up for our date. I ended up staying out with him and his family until 4 in the morning that night. My parents were ready to kill him, and I was ready to marry him! I knew very quickly that I loved BJ and was constantly telling him, “Jump in the pool Beej!” I guess the question then should be, “How did BJ convince that girl to wait 11 months before he’d marry her?”
Finally, on November 25th, 2008 we were married in the Salt Lake Temple. We shared two and a half wonderful years of marriage together before our sweet Ellie Layne came along. And now here we are, adding to the fun at the Pugmire household.
We are happy to be here.
A few weeks ago I was in Utah visiting my parents. The second to last day I was there was a Friday; the same day that my mom works in the temple. Towards the end of her shift I drove to the temple to pick her up and parked the car right in front so she could see me when she came out. I had gotten there about twenty minutes early and had brought a book to pass the time while I waited. But before I thumbed through the pages to find my place, something else had already caught my attention. I saw a continuous stream of men and women exiting the temple doors. I noticed that among each of these men and women there was a commonality. They were each walking with their heads held high. They had smiles on their faces. There seemed to be a light in their eyes and a confidence in their step. I thought in that moment that this alone could be the new missionary effort of the church. If the world could come and sit in front of the temple like I did that Friday morning and notice the shining countenances of these temple patrons… they’d have to believe that what was going on in there was true!
This image impressed me. It softened my heart and strengthened my testimony of what I already knew… that what we are taught in the temple is true. I have continued to think about what it was that I saw in the countenances of these temple-going people that day. Originally, I thought it was peace. But as I pondered on this image again and again, I realized that what I had seen was more active, alive, and unwavering than peace alone. I came to realize that what I had seen was hope.
In Hebrews hope is described “as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.” In Alma as “firm.” In Peter as “lively.” Pres. Dieter F. Utchdorf explains, “We hope in Jesus the Christ, in the goodness of God, in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, in the knowledge that prayers are heard and answered. Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future. Hope is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.”
This is the exact description of what I had seen! These people were filled with hope. They were filled with hope because these are the very things we learn about in the temple: the goodness of God, the atonement of His son Jesus Christ, that our prayers are heard and answered, and that God has, does and will keep His promises to us. Russell M. Nelson reinforced this theory when he said, “When we know who we are and what God expects of us, we are made aware of our significant role in his great plan of happiness and we are FILLED WITH HOPE.” Again, these are the things that we learn in the temple. It’s no wonder then that the people I observed exiting the temple that bright Friday morning were beaming with hope.
This scene is all the more incredible when you realize how many of the people are going to the temple because they filled weighed down with worry or concern. Stresses about family, work, marriage, church callings, and children are often the motivating reasons that take us to the temple. These real people with cares and concerns of their own take their troubles to the Lord because they know he can help. He has helped them in the past, and they know he will help them again. In True to the Faith it says of temples, “Sometimes you may feel that you cannot think clearly because your mind is so burdened with problems and the many things clamoring for attention. In the temple, the dust of these distractions can settle, the fog and haze can lift, and you can understand things that you have not understood before. You can find new ways to deal with the challenges you face.”
In the Book of Mormon Nephi desired greatly to “know the things that (his) father had seen.” He longed to understand the vision his father had had of the tree of life. He longed to understand that which he had not understood before. “As I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain.” It is there, on this high mountain, where Nephi gains an understanding of his father’s vision. He is visited and instructed by an angel. He learns line-upon-line what each detail of his father’s dream meant. The bible dictionary teaches us that in times of need, a mountaintop can serve as a temple. In Nephi’s case, the “exceedingly high mountain” where he gains his knowledge had served him as a temporary temple. It was here that he came to understand things that he had not understood before. Another example we find just a few chapters later. “And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me saying: Arise and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the maner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” The Lord continues, “And I will be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.”
Both of these sets of instruction from the Lord to Nephi took place while he was upon a mountaintop. Our mountaintop today is inside the Holy Temple. There we can converse with God. He will be “our light in the wilderness; and He will prepare the way before us, if it so be that we keep his commandments.” We will have hope when we go to the temple for we will know that it is by him that we are led.
People going to and from the temple have many reasons to be filled with hope. In addition to the things we are taught inside the temple, we gain hope just by preparing ourselves to enter there. As a child we are promised that when we go to the temple we will “Feel the Holy Spirit. We will learn to listen and to pray. For the temple is a house of God. A place of love and beauty.” When we are preparing ourselves to enter the temple, we learn to be morally clean, to pay our tithing, and to keep the word of wisdom. We strengthen our testimony of Heavenly Father and of His Son, Jesus Christ. We find hope through this preparation. We are hopeful that when we go to the temple it will be a fulfilling spiritual experience. We hope that we will feel close to God there, and that we will be blessed with a greater understanding of our role in God’s plan.
This week I was able to go to the Newport Beach temple with two women in the ward. While in the celestial room, Sister Katz told me how that room held special significance for her because she had helped during the open house. Before its dedication, she saw children come through the celestial room. They sat down on the seats, their feet not even touching floor and they looked around in awe. Their faces were filled with hope that one day they would be there again.
I am amazed each time I go to the temple now and consider the significance of a child’s desire to go to the temple. I remember so well singing songs about the temple in Primary, listening to lessons about the temple in Young Women and waiting patiently outside as siblings, friends, and cousins were sealed together. I remember the way I was overwhelmed with gratitude when I received my patriarchal blessing as a teenager and in accordance with going to the temple heard the words, “This you will accomplish.” I was filled with hope and trust in the Lord that in spite of my weaknesses and mistakes, one day I would make it to the temple.
The temple is a symbol of hope to saints in the latter days. In the manual, “Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple” we read, “The temple itself becomes a symbol. If you have seen one of the temples at night, fully lighted, you know what an impressive sight that can be. The house of the Lord, bathed in light, standing out in the darkness, becomes symbolic of the power and the inspiration of the gospel of Jesus Christ standing as a beacon in a world that sinks ever further into spiritual darkness.” Doesn’t that sound similar to the analogy that President Uchtdorf gives… “Hope is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us.”
Vaughn J. Featherstone, emeritus member of the first quorum of the seventy said, “The time will come when even the elect will begin to lose hope if they do not come often to the temples.” The temple strengthens our hope because it is there that we learn about what we can hope in: In Jesus Christ and His infinite atonement, in God, in our relationship to him as his sons and daughters, in the workings of the Spirit, and in the power of making and keeping sacred covenants. We also feel hope there because the adversary does not dwell there. It is the adversary who tries to rob us of hope by filling us with despair. Pres. Uchtdorf states, “The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.”
We can resist this feeling of despair when we understand that hope is a spiritual gift. Because it is a spiritual gift, it is something we can and must pray for. We can also find joy in the fact that, “We learn to cultivate hope the same way we learn to walk, one step at a time. As we study the scriptures, speak with our Heavenly Father daily, commit to keep the commandments of God, like the Word of Wisdom, and to pay a full tithing, we attain hope. We grow in our ability to “abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost,” as we more perfectly live the gospel.” We cultivate hope by setting our sights on the temple, by preparing ourselves to enter there, by living worthy of a temple recommend, and by attending the temple often.
I testify that if we live our lives so that we are worthy to enter the Holy Temple, we will be blessed. We will be filled with “confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.” Indeed, we will be filled with hope.