I was once in a fireside given by a Franciscan Priest who had converted to the LDS church. The Franciscan order is apparently focused upon lifelong education. This fine gentleman had three doctorates in English alone, and many advanced degrees in History, Scripture, Ancient History and other relevant areas. His particular love was Biblical History.
He told the story of his conversion, which occurred after he had confounded a young missionary from Idaho on the first day of his mission. He had reduced this young boy to tears, pounding him with doctrine and scripture which the boy had never considered in his whole life. He was not prepared to withstand the assault on his faith. He sat there and wept, then slowly stood. He said something like, “I don’t know the answers to any of your questions. If all what you say is true, then my faith and church couldn’t be true. But, I just want you to know that it don’t matter to me. I just know it’s true anyway because God said to my heart that it is.”
The priest said that in all of his life he had never been so confounded, convicted and shamed. He knew that with all of his learning, all of his advanced degrees that God had never testified to him as powerfully as God had to this young missionary who could hardly even speak a coherent sentence. He said he did not know that the Catholic Church was “true”. He just knew that he was content with his logical conclusions, and with the benefits his membership and Priestly status afforded him. He had assumed that if anything was not true in his chosen church or belief, that all of his education would have revealed it by now. He said that scruffy and unsophisticated lad changed his life, because he suddenly had no answer. There simply is no learning that is more profound than personally revealed truth. He realized this kid had something he did not, and he desired it for himself.
This fireside was riveting. Not only was the story he told stunning, but the way he told it was as if he was speaking the tongue of angels. His language was so beautiful, so poetic and powerful, that it was actually almost divine to listen to.
After the fireside a woman stood and asked him how long it had taken him to prepare the fireside tonight. Without hesitating to think, he replied 59 years – his entire life.
This is the virtue of the journey. We can’t arrive at any righteous destination without the journey. It is the trial and struggle of the journey that changes us, so that when we actually arrive, we are worthy to enter.
I have many friends over the years, who suddenly decided to move to Missouri so that when the time to return to Zion came, they would already be there. I do not doubt that this was the Lord’s plan for them, so I’m not judging them in any way. But, I also know that “being there” isn’t the point. Even if you live one block away, you can’t avoid the spiritual journey to Zion.
Arriving in the actual Latter-day Zion which will be prepared to receive Christ when He returns is a spiritual triumph, not a hiking accomplishment. It’s very much like finally obtaining the grand blessings of the temple. I’m not referring to participating in the ordinances, but of actually realizing the blessings promised by the ordinance. The journey didn’t happen inside the temple – that was the “being there” part. The journey happened in a long course of your life, learning obedience, learning consecration, and paying the price that such things exact, so that when the veil parts before you many years later, that you are finally worthy to enter.
This is why every righteous journey includes sacrifice, struggle, pain and thousands of blows by the hammer in the Refiner’s loving hand. Because, this is the journey, not getting from point A to point B, but coming to Christ and submitting ourselves to the journey He lays before us.
This is the virtue of the journey of our lives, that it not only takes us to the places, but that through the atonement and grace of Christ all along the way, it purifies and sanctifies us so that as the veil begins to part, or as the New Jerusalem appears on the next hill, we are worthy to enter in.
© November 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.