Episode 51. January 16, 2017. On Saturday night, our daughter Kira and her husband Brian arrived here in the Philippines to spend a week with us, so I want to give a shout out to both of them today. We love you both and are grateful you have taken the time to come and visit with us here in the Philippines before our assignment ends. Also a special shout out of appreciation to Brian’s mom, Patty Conley who agreed to fly to Texas and watch the kids so they could come. Thank you so much Patty!
Today I want to talk about the tender mercies of the Lord.
The concept of tender mercies from God gained mainstream attention in the church when Elder David A. Bednar spoke about the topic in the April 2005 General Conference, six months after being called to be a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. In that address, Elder Bednar defined tender mercies. “I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).
I am sure we have all experienced many of the Lord’s tender mercies in our lives. Given the definition above, our biggest challenge may be identifying them as they occur rather than trying to figure out whether or not they are present in our life. We all have spiritual gifts, and we have all certainly felt the consolation and support that comes through the spirit of the Lord and the Holy Ghost. Today I want to share one experience with you, though appearing minor, actually was a significant event for my wife and me.
When our oldest son Tyson asked Chelsea Wasden to marry him – and she agreed, they decided they wanted to be married in the Idaho Falls Temple. They were both attending BYU-Idaho in Rexburg and the Idaho Falls Temple was “their temple” at the time. In addition, Chelsea’s parents were from Caldwell, Idaho and LaDawn and I were married in the Idaho Falls Temple so there was good logic behind the decision.
Leading up to the wedding, we never gave a second thought to who the sealer might be. We figured the temple would assign someone and since we really didn’t know anyone working in that temple (or so we thought) it never crossed our minds.
Well on the morning of April 24, 2004 we walked into the temple and made our way to the waiting room. Once the scheduled time arrived, we were taken from the waiting room to the sealing room. On the way there we bumped into Peggy Loveland. It was so fun to see not only a friendly face that we recognized, but someone for whom I had deep admiration. It was Peggy’s son Kraig that had had such a deep impact on me as a youth. He invited me to play basketball with their ward young men’s basketball team and then would call me about attending church each month so that I would be eligible to play. We were great friends from elementary school up through high school. He stood with me when LaDawn and I got married. You can learn more about Kraig and his influence on me in episode 1 where I talk about my conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and my baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Anyway seeing Peggy was such a treat. I told her that our son was getting married that morning and she said “I know” and then we were off to the sealing room. I thought, that was interesting, how would she already know that? We had only been in the sealing room a few minutes when Tyson and Chelsea walked in and with them was Karl Loveland, Peggy’s husband and Kraig’s dad. He was to be the sealer! When Tyson and Chelsea’s name showed up on the list and my name was listed as one of the witnesses, Peggy told him that he needed to write his name on the schedule for that particular sealing. Karl was hesitant because he thought that perhaps because LaDawn’s parents had been working in the temple and knew a lot of people, that they may have recommended someone. So he waited. As the date drew nearer, Peggy continued to encourage him and when no other name showed up on the schedule a few days before the sealing, he relented and wrote his own name in. What we didn’t know until the sealing actually started was that Karl Loveland was a counselor in the Idaho Falls Temple presidency.
I cannot tell you what a flood of gratitude washed over me when it hit me that President Karl Loveland would be the man to seal our eldest son and his wife. We had traveled to Idaho from Texas, never expecting to be rewarded with such a tender mercy. The Loveland’s were like second parents to me, especially after I joined the church. It was Karl Loveland who, while serving in the Pocatello Idaho North Stake presidency in May of 1976, interviewed and then later ordained me an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. When my dad died in February of 1998, it was Kraig’s little brother Kevin who was serving as the bishop of the ward where my dad’s records were who presided and conducted my father’s funeral. As President Loveland began to counsel Tyson and Chelsea, he referred back to some of the experiences he had had with me as a new member of the church, later as a missionary and even when LaDawn and I were sealed in that same temple. Sister Loveland would write to me often while I served my mission in Germany and when LaDawn and I were married they attended the sealing. Even today they continue to send us a Christmas Card every year with an update on their family accompanied by a wonderful Christmas story.
I have to say that of all the people we have come to know over our years through our associations in the church, and even with all of the people LaDawn’s parents have known over the years, there is not a single person with the authority to seal, that I can think of that could possibly have meant more to me than Karl Loveland. We were 1500 miles away from our home and our current ward and stake church family when this tender mercy of the Lord was granted and recognized. I was so grateful and the spirit bore witness to me during that sealing, that this indeed was a sign that Heavenly Father knew us and loved us. It was a powerful day for all of us.
As I was reading the Book of Mormon last Saturday I came upon an example of a tender mercy of the Lord in the book of Alma that I had tagged earlier under the topic of “Tender Mercy”. It is recorded in the 17th chapter of Alma. I think you will recognize it immediately. It is from the first verse. “And now it came to pass that as Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon southward, away to the land of Manti, behold, to his astonishment, he met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.” Skipping over to Alma 27:16-17 and the first sentence of verse 18 we read: “And it came to pass that as Ammon was going forth into the land, that he and his brethren met Alma, over in the place of which has been spoken; and behold, this was a joyful meeting. Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth. Now was not this exceeding joy?”
Can you imagine how these men must have felt? They had been separated for 14 years and during that time all 5 of them had given themselves to serving others and becoming sanctified. They not only shared the same incredible visit by the angel, but they had all given of themselves to teach the gospel to others in an effort to bring them joy and peace. Their joy was multiplied because as Alma stated, “they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.”
I want to close by quoting one more statement from Elder Bednar’s 2005 General Conference talk. “I repeat again, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness and obedience enable us to receive these important gifts and, frequently, the Lord’s timing helps us to recognize them.”
How grateful I am for the tender mercies of the Lord in my own life and that of my family. I know that God lives and that he loves us and that these tender mercies are his way of telling us that he is aware of our circumstances and is helping us work through our mortal journey.