For those who don't know, our church is a lay ministry, or volunteer-based. This means that there are no hired clergy to run or administer programs. We all take turns leading meetings, teaching classes, organizing events and parties, and even cleaning the building based on what role (or "calling" in Mormon-speak) one has been asked to perform at the time. As you can imagine, this organizational model provides ample opportunities for growth and lots of quirkiness. One of the huge benefits is that children who grow up in this atmosphere are trained at an early age to speak in front of other people. Instead of the bishop (who is also a volunteer) giving a sermon every week, we all take turns giving mini sermons during our main sacramental meeting, and youth ages 12-18 are not excluded. In our ward here in Belmont, the leadership tries to get every 12 year old up to speak as soon as possible after his/her birthday. (NOTE: this is not a psychiatric ward, but rather our quirky Mormon name for a congregation. Admittedly, some of the wards I have lived in have felt more like the former than the latter, but that's another post for another day.) Madi had her first official speaking gig last Sunday. I loved her talk. She was crazy nervous, but once she got up there, she said all the nervousness went away. She did a great job. I have had a lot of people either ask for the talk or request for me to post it on the blog, so I'm going to oblige. :) I will cut and paste it below.
Again, to explain more of our lingo, "plan of salvation" is the Mormon phrase for the plan we believe God has laid out for everyone who comes to the earth. We lived in heaven with God before the earth life. We chose to come to earth with no memory of where or who we were before in order to have our faith tried and strengthened. After death, we return to God and live eternally with all of our family (both immediate and extended). We call this whole span the plan of salvation, or the plan of happiness.
Well, without further ado...
Madi's Talk on the Plan of Salvation – August 27, 2017
I was asked to speak today on the plan of salvation. When I think of the plan of salvation, I think of a number line. It goes back for infinity, then there’s a really short line where we are on earth, and then it goes on forever after our time here is done.
Elder Packer compared the plan of salvation to a three-act play, where our life before earth was Act 1. Our time in mortality is Act 2, and our time after death is Act 3. He said:
"In mortality, we are like one who enters a theater just as the curtain goes up on the second act. We have missed Act I. The production has many plots and sub-plots that interweave, making it difficult to figure out who relates to whom and what relates to what, who are the heroes and who are the villains. It is further complicated because you are not just a spectator; you are a member of the cast, on stage, in the middle of it all!"
Some of my recent experiences make me think of Elder Packer’s analogy. In April, I was diagnosed with brain cancer after an MRI showed a mass in my brain. They rushed me in an ambulance to Children’s Hospital, where I received a surgery to try and remove it. My mom asked me if I was scared in the ambulance or while we were waiting in the operating room and I told her that I wasn’t, although I do wish they had used the helicopter to fly me there instead (which they considered doing). After my surgery, I stayed in the intensive care unit for several days so they could monitor the swelling in my head. I had a hard time sleeping because there was so much going on and they woke me every hour to make sure I was ok. There was even a baby crying next door. My aunt came to the ICU and brought some things to help us relax and be able to sleep better. It was so nice to have some relief.
My mom said that my story has all the makings of a really good book. I love the Harry Potter books. One of the reasons they are so good is because there’s a lot of action. He gets into situations that seem dangerous and impossible to get out of. But every time, he manages to escape Voldemort and the book has a happy ending.
I think this is what Elder Packer is talking about when he says that this life is like a three act play. Right now, I am in act 2. Elder Packer goes on to say,
"Remember this! The line ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right."
That means that this life – Act 2 – is likely to be full of action: lots of plots and situations that seem impossible to get out of. It is a place where bad things happen to the Harry Potters of the world and sometimes it can feel unfair because we don’t know the ending yet.
I am grateful for the knowledge of the plan of salvation because I know that everything will be happy in the end. I know this because I catch glimpses of it here. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t intend for us to go through hard things alone.
After my first surgery, the doctors realized that if they attempted another (longer) brain surgery, they would likely be able to remove the remainder of the tumor. We did not realize this would be a possibility for me. The night before the second surgery, I was really, really nervous about the needle poke for the IV.
My dad, my grandpa, the bishop, our home teachers, and Brother Taylor came to give me a blessing. I felt really peaceful after they finished. I know this was Heavenly Father helping me to know He was watching out for me. The next day as we were preparing for surgery, I saw Brother Taylor again, since he was going to be my anesthesiologist and would be inserting the IV, and I thought to myself, “Ok. I know everything is going to be ok.”
Heavenly Father helps us get through Act 2 by giving us glimpses of what Act 3 feels like. I know that Heavenly Father is watching out for me during all the hard trials I am facing right now because he wants me to be comforted and come home to Him. I am grateful for a knowledge of the plan of salvation. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.