I saw Katy Robbins hobbling across the street yesterday afternoon. We had just parked our new home – cleverly disguised as a 33’ fifth wheel – on Colt Haven circle, where it is to stay for two weeks before we take it into the wilds of Boundary County, Idaho. She, in turn, was walking off the stiffness from the half-marathon she had run earlier in the day. My heart warmed at seeing her, simply because I like her and her family. She also reminded me of the relationship that we had up until a couple of months ago with all the members of the Valley View 9th Ward – a relationship that brought Diana and me great joy over the course of 17+ years.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw Katy’s father, Bruce Gundersen, riding his lawn mower down Gundersen Lane. At first, I thought it was John Gundersen (yes – it’s not called “Gundersen Lane” for nothing), but quickly realized that the lawn mower itself was much larger than John’s, so it had to be Bruce. I walked towards him, and he could probably see my smile from 50 yards away. We greeted enthusiastically, and I was genuinely glad to see him and chat for a few minutes.
We miss our friends in the Valley View 9th Ward. We really do. Even though we’ve officially left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and thus no longer attend meetings, we have not left Christ, we have not left His gospel, and we have not, in our hearts, left our friends. Yes, we’re going to be moving away very soon, rarely to return, but we will never forget you. Mary Louise Wilson is our Utah “Mom”. Kirk and Kris Gundersen will be life-long friends (hope I’m not being presumptuous). Kent and Colleen Smith, likewise – Kent, who performed our wedding ceremony, will always by “my Bishop”. I’ve probably already named too many names – for fear that someone might feel slighted because I didn’t mention them specifically. Well, the list of people in the VV 9th who have had a significant impact on our lives is too long to even try to list.
Many of those have died and left this earth, but not our hearts and memories. George and Shirley Grover were sooo kind to us when we first moved into the ward – inviting us more than once to partake of their holiday celebrations. Orson and Effie Gundersen “adopted” us into their family, and we hope to never lose that honor. (Guess that made us “Gundersens” too.) I still remember the adoption ceremony. Effie was sitting in a folding chair on Kris and Kirk’s lawn. We were introduced, and the pronouncement was made. As usual, when Effie pronounced something, it was done. (Let it be written, let it be done). Who were we to argue? Oh, how we loved that matron of the Gundersen clan!
We bought our house from Bing Jacobs, who became a respected friend. I will never forget the time that he stood on our front porch, and recounted the day that he and his wife had returned from the grocery store, and she, having grocery bags in both hands, lost her balance, falling backwards onto the sidewalk. She never came home again. The intimacy of that moment, him being 92 years old and sharing that most painful of memories with me…well, I will never forget it.
So, my friends, I want to take this opportunity to testify one last time of my love for you. I would not be the person I am today if not for you. Your kindness, encouragement, and pure love will never be forgotten. In marvelous ways you exhibited over and over again the charity of Christ. In fact, you were an instrument in the Lord’s hands in bringing me to Christ.
I know you’re probably confused about the decisions we’ve made. Mercifully for us all, all truth will be known in the Lord’s time. If I may, I’d like to bear my testimony one last time. It hasn’t changed a lot, but it has gotten so much more real – made real, perhaps, by sacrifice:
Jesus Christ lives. He not only lives, He knows you and you and you and me. He desires to abide with us – yes, abide with us. (John 14:23), and to manifest Himself to us. (John 14:21) This is not a metaphorical promise – but it is very real. For this to be possible, we must submit our will to His. The Bible testifies of this. The Book of Mormon testifies of this. The Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price testify of this. The Lectures on Faith testify of this. My own personal revelations testify of this. All are scripture– some for the world, and some more personal, but all are scripture.
Joseph Smith is the prophet of this restoration. He saw God the Father and Christ the Son. They and other heavenly beings, the very powers of heaven, came to him and taught him, that he might, in turn, teach us. What did he teach? He taught that Christ lives, that He knows us, and that it is His desire to abide with us. Furthermore, he taught that we, each and every one of us, must approach the Savior personally if we are to seek the light of truth. (1 John 2:27). He taught that we are not to trust in the arm of flesh. (2 Nephi 4:34) but we are to seek diligently the very face of the Lord (Psalms 105:4, Ether 12:39-41).
Furthermore, Joseph taught of Christ’s love, and I speak as another witness, one among so many, of that love. Even the very 2-edged sword of His word is edged in love, because if we do not live in harmony with the laws of the universe, which laws bind it together and were created, in love, by the Father Himself, we can never abide with Him, either in this life or in the next. We’ve already established that he wants us to abide with Him, and He with us. The intimacy that He desires is beyond words. It can only be felt by the spirit of revelation.
Finally, I share the following quote from the Prophet Joseph:
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! … (Teachings: Joseph Smith, Chapter 22, Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths)
Diana and I offered our love to you over the past 17+ years. You received it, and returned it in kind. We will be forever thankful for that. We continue to offer it, even if it is from a distance, both geographically and emotionally. That love is real, and I hope you will continue to receive it. May the Lord bless each of you in all that you do. May your lives blossom with joy, and may each life bring glory to our Savior – even Jesus Christ, He who alone stands worthy of such glory – and that by His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. I speak these things with a heart full of joy, testifying and witnessing of Him, of His name, and of His eternal plan for each of us, and I do so in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.