About Anthony in Minneapolis

I'm a Mormon who lives in Minneapolis. I'm a father of two little kids, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, and someone who enjoys reading, running, and exploring ways to stay warm in Midwest winters! There are lots of things I love about being a Latter-day Saint, but I also enjoy learning from others how their faith informs and influences their lives. Whether you're a Catholic in California or a Baptist in Baltimore or nothing in particular, I hope we can get to know each other and share our beliefs and experiences to promote understanding and friendship. I also hope that the posts on Mormon in Minnesota will convey some insight into what it's like being a Latter-day Saint generally, and what it's like in Minnesota specifically.

A story of prayer from 1960s Germany

I recently re-read Enzio Busche’s book, Yearning for the Living God. Enzio Busche, who became a Mormon in his late twenties in his homeland of Germany, is a former general leader in the Church who had responsibilities over many areas.

The book is a collection of experiences he has had in seeking a personal relationship with God and helping others to do so as well.

Here’s an account from the 1960s he shares about a young man named Wolfgang. I particularly like this experience because it shows what can happen when we turn to God for help. Too often we think a matter is too small or simply falls outside the domain of what God can – or should – do for us.

[Wolfgang] was working as an unskilled laborer in a foundry where hot iron was poured into molds after it had been melted in huge ovens. He was working in a very hard environment among all kinds of rough and tumble people and felt most unfulfilled in his job. He suffered especially because of his young age. He was only seventeen, and he was the special target of a tall, husky co-worker who teased him whenever he could. This man would deliberately take Wolfgang’s tools, then, when confronted by Wolfgang, would gruffly defend himself saying, “Are you calling me a thief?” The man would regularly shove him around and even beat him up.

 

One day when Wolfgang was again humiliated by that man’s behavior, he remembered that he had learned that God is alive and cares to help us when we ask Him in faith. He realized he could ask God to fight his battles with him. When a hammer Wolfgang had just purchased turned up missing and the man claimed it was his, Wolfgang went into the restroom and knelt in prayer to Heavenly Father. He explained with emotions of a soul in despair, “I have this miserable situation, and I don’t know how to deal with it. What should I do?”

 

[In relating this story], Wolfgang told…how he suddenly felt a great peace come into his soul. Calmly, he went back to the man and apologized to him, saying, “I have accused you of things for which I am sorry. I do not want to accuse you. I have so many reasons to be grateful that I am permitted to work with you. You are a good man, and I look up to you as an example because I need to have an example in my life.” Wolfgang said this sincerely because he was also aware of the goodness hidden in that man.

 

The man broke down in tears and said, “I am not a good man. I am not a good example.” The man then admitted to taking Wolfgang’s tools and returned them all to him, saying, “I am not worthy to be an example to you but, from now on, I will try” That was the beginning of a solid friendship.I still remember the overwhelming happiness Wolfgang radiated as he described that first experience with the power of prayer and the Lord’s ability to help us deal with difficult circumstances, even turning around seemingly hopeless situations.

 

My personal experience with Thomas S. Monson

thomasmonsonLast night I felt a special love for Thomas S. Monson, our current President of the Church. Since he will be speaking again this morning in our general conference, I wanted to share some of my feelings about this man Latter-day Saints sustain as prophet, seer, and revelator.

As I’ve written about before, when I was 11 years old my father unexpectedly died. Because my grandparents had been friends with the Monsons for many years, Thomas Monson – who was then 1st Counselor to Church President Gordon B. Hinckley – spoke at my dad’s funeral. At the time I met him very briefly. I never expected to meet him again.

Well several years later, I did. As a young teenager I happened to meet him backstage right before he was to speak at a large gathering. He invited me to sit next to him. He then put his arm around me and for the next 10 minutes treated me like I was the reason he was even there. Without being told anything other than my name, he launched into a brief history of how he knew my family and how much he valued his friendship with my grandparents. He asked about my immediate family – how we were doing, how I was doing, and encouraged me to be good to my mom and to help her. And while I don’t remember everything we talked about, I do remember, like the cliché, how he made me feel.

By any conventional standard, I certainly should have been the least of his worries that night. I’m still amazed that he demonstrated such concern for a little teenager he happened to run into right before his big talk.

Such concern seems to be characteristic for Thomas Monson. There are many stories of his lifelong efforts to reach out to the one. (See this talk and this talk, for two examples.)

You can probably understand why, then, I think this tribute to Thomas S. Monson in 2008 by Joseph B. Wirthlin is the most fitting tribute to I’ve ever heard given to anyone:

While it is a compliment to him that many of the great and mighty of this world know and honor him, perhaps it is an even greater tribute that many of the lowly call him friend. 

Thomas S. Monson points others to Jesus Christ, by word and deed, to live and love and serve as the Savior did. I know TSM is not a perfect man, but he is a very, very good one. More than that though, I believe him to be a special witness of Jesus Christ.

When I study TSM’s messages or hear him speak, I feel the Holy Ghost affirm that he is a prophet of God – a modern Moses. I sustain him as such and look forward to hearing him today at conference (morning session begins at 11am CDT). Watch the proceedings live here and follow on Twitter here, hashtag #LDSconf.

General Conference this weekend

I’d like to invite you to tune in today to our General Conference – a semiannual event for Latter-day Saints. Two weekends a year we gather to hear messages by the Church’s general leaders. Personally, conference weekend is a special time that inspires and lifts me. You can watch online at https://www.lds.org/general-conference/watch?lang=eng.

The Saturday morning session is just wrapping up. The Saturday afternoon session will begin at 3pm CDT. Please tune in.

The conference will continue tomorrow at 11am and then again at 3pm CDT.

 

Jesus Christ – The Prince of Peace

The other night I watched the 2013 Christmas Devotional and was inspired by this talk from Apostle Russell M. Nelson. I was especially inspired by his message that personal peace can be experienced by everyone, thanks to the grace, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ. He said the gift of real and personal peace can come to those:

  • whose lives have been ravaged by war
  • who are not feeling well
  • who suffer in sorrow
  • whose labors are heavy
  • who mourn
  • who earnestly seek the Prince of Peace
  • who choose to walk in the ways of the Master

This is wonderful time of year to celebrate and remember the birth and life of the Prince of Peace. If we are burdened or troubled, He can bring peace to our souls. Likewise, we should seek out opportunities to bring peace and good will to those around us.

When I began to really believe in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father

A long line of people had formed to come and pay their respects. As an 11-year old standing next to my recently widowed mother, with her standing in front of my dad’s casket, there was a lot about the situation I didn’t fully grasp. (Does anyone ever immediately grasp something like death?) I stood there in new khakis, a blue blazer, and a tie – all purchased for the occasion – not really knowing what to do as these people came and greeted us. All I knew is that standing right there next to my mom was where I was supposed to be. That was my duty.

Up until this point in the evening, I had felt amazingly strong. I didn’t feel a whole lot of sadness, nor did I feel a deep sense of loss. But to say I was numb isn’t quite right either because I remember feeling some type of strength with me. I felt capable of standing tall as I shook hands with people even though I knew why we were all there.

Then I saw my friend. My best friend, really. He was with his mom and dad, all taking small, gradual steps as the line made small, gradual movements forward. When my friend was about 20 feet away, I saw just how hard he was crying, and that he was trying – bless his little boy heart – to avoid eye contact with me in what I’m sure was a brave effort to somehow – in his little boy mind – spare me additional pain.  

Eye contact or no, when I saw his tears, something within me changed and changed fast. All of a sudden, the strength I had felt that evening immediately left. My shoulders must have physically sagged because I remember very quickly seeing the situation for what it really was – a tragic, shocking event that would change my life and the lives of my family forever. A profound sense of sadness and loss overcame me. I too began to cry – sob, really – and my mom’s sisters quickly rallied around me and took me to a nearby seat where I buried my face in my hands and bawled

I don’t remember how long I was there on that seat. I don’t remember what anyone said to me. All I remember was that after a time – maybe a few minutes, maybe up to a half-an-hour – I felt as if the strength came back. I was aware of the profound sadness I had just felt, but I was no longer bound to it. Instead, I felt my shoulders square up and I resumed my place standing next to my mother. For the rest of the night and really, for the next several months, I felt strong. I felt capable. And while I didn’t feel exactly happy or joyful, I at least felt a deep sense of peace and calm.

But something else accompanied the return of that strength that night. My 11-year old mind remembered the story of Jesus on the cross asking Heavenly Father why He had forsaken him. And suddenly I understood. I learned in my heart that night, in the smallest of ways, how it feels when God withdraws. I sensed how Jesus must have felt (even more profoundly so) on the cross. But I also felt the real strength God’s presence provides and just how incredibly powerful and uplifting it is. I felt like Heavenly Father said to me, “Anthony, now you know that I am with you and that I’m giving you strength through this.” It made a huge impression on me and awakened me to the source of that strength I had felt for several days.

I’ve since wondered if what I experienced was nothing more than a child moving through the grief cycle as he processes the many emotions he encounters with the death and funeral of a parent. I’ve wondered if I’ve superimposed a religious interpretation on a very natural, perhaps even neurological process as I witnessed my friend’s reaction to the reality of my family’s situation. I think I’ve been open to that possibility. But the feelings I had that night were more than just mere emotional strength, as important as that was. Rather, I was given a personalized message from an all-knowing, loving God that He was seeing me through this. He used a familiar experience from Christ’s last mortal day to teach me about what the Savior experienced. And I’ve always remembered it.

From that moment on, I began to more authentically believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. I could really believe in Him as my Savior. And I had greater confidence in the reality of a listening, attentive, and personal Father in Heaven, a confidence that in turn has grown throughout my life. In short, I gained a witness that night of a God who mercifully allows us to suffer but lovingly enables us to overcome.

He lives. Time to believe.