SHENANDOAH SINGLES WARD
WARRENTON, VA STAKE
Good morning, brothers and sisters. My name is Calvin Andrus. I am from the Sterling Park Ward, with a calling on the Stake High Council. The Stake President has assigned me to speak to you today. He loves this ward. He has great regard for the leaders of this ward. He knows that good things are happening in this ward. I commend you for your activity and acts of service to one another.
II. ROSH HASHANAH
Today at 6 pm, members of the Jewish faith begin their observance of Rosh Hashanah. There are six major Jewish Holidays, three in the spring (starting with Passover) and three in the fall. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the three fall holidays. The other two are Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. Just as Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement, so Rosh Hashanah is known as the Day of Remembrance. Rosh Hashanah also has a third name--The Feast of the Trumpets. This moniker is taken from Leviticus 23:24. Please read along with me:
Leviticus 23:22-28 - And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I [am] the LORD your God. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first [day] of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work [therein]: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth [day] of this seventh month [there shall be] a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it [is] a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
The feast on the first day of the seventh month is Rosh Hashanah and the feast on the tenth day of the month is Yom Kippur. These generally occur in our month of September.
Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of the Trumpets, has four main characteristics: First, it comes in the Fall at the beginning of the last harvest of the year. Second, it is a time when the Jews remember their covenant with God, and they pray God will remember His covenant with them. Third, after the Children of Israel returned from their captivity in Babylon, the Scribe Ezra used the Feast of Trumpets to restore the truths that had been lost while they were in exile (see Nehemiah 8:2,8). Fourth, it begins the preparation for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is 10 days later. Let me summarize these: the Feast of Trumpets 1) begins the last harvest, 2) is for remembering covenants, 3) is for restoring lost truths, and 4) begins preparation for a more Holy Day.
In the evening of the holiday, prayers are said to plead with God that he will remember His covenant people. The following morning trumpets are blown, which is symbolic of God's final warning to repent. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called the Ten Days of Penitence. Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement--is a judgment day when the repentant are reconciled with God and the unrepentant are cast off. During Yom Kippur, the repentant believe they symbolically enter the "Holy of Holies," or in other words, they symbolically enter the presence of God. So Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of Trumpets, begins the final push to be reconciled with God before Yom Kippur.
One Hundred and Seventy-one years ago, Rosh Hashanah began on the evening of 21 September 1827. That evening, prayers were said pleading that God would remember his Covenant People in exile. The following morning, on 22 September, the trumpets were blown, heralding the period of repentance and preparation for The Day of Atonement. Something else happened early in the morning of Rosh Hashanah on 22 September 1827. Some of you may already know. For those of you who don't remember, let me remind you what happened the morning of the Feast of Trumpets, 22 September 1827. Joseph received the Golden Plates from the Angel Moroni. Was it a coincidence? I think not. Think of the Statue of the Angel Moroni on top of the Washington DC Temple. He is blowing a Trumpet. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon heralds a period of repentance and preparation for the Second Coming. September 22, 1827 marked the beginning of the last harvest before the great and dreadful day of the Lord--The Second Coming--which opens up the Holy Millennium. The delivery of the Book of Mormon is evidence that God does remember his covenant people. Please turn to Mormon's preface of the Book of Mormon. Let us read from the second paragraph:
An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven--Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever-- And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations--And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
Do you remember the four things that Rosh Hashanah was about? They apply directly to the Book of Mormon. Both Rosh Hashanah and the Book of Mormon, 1) begin the last harvest, 2) are for remembering covenants, 3) are for restoring lost truths, and 4) begin preparation for a more Holy Day.
(The preceding discussion on Rosh Hashanah and the Book of Mormon is based in part on: Read, Lenet Hadley (1993). "Joseph Smith's Receipt of the Plates and the Israelite Feast of Trumpets." Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 2/2:110-120.)
III. THE HARVEST
Of those four principles, I wan to focus on one . . .the last harvest. When Mormons talk about the last harvest, what do we mean? Let us read what the Lord said in October of 1830 to Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet.
D&C 33:3 For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and it is the eleventh hour, and the last time that I shall call laborers into my vineyard.
Let's talk about harvesting for a minute or two. All through high school and even the summer after high school I worked on farms. One thing we harvested was alfalfa, sometimes called lucerne, and more commonly known as hay. When the first few purple flowers start to bloom in the field, it is time to harvest the hay. Depending on whether it is the first or second or third crop of the season, and how much water the field has had, the hay is anywhere from knee high to elbow high. Harvesting hay is a several step process.
The first part is mowing the hay. The mower cuts the hay and puts it into rows. The rows of hay are left sitting in the field for a few days to let it dry. The hay must be dry before it is baled. If it is baled wet, it will start to compost and rot. This generates heat, which can and does set nearby bales of hay on fire. This can lead to spontaneous haystack combustion That is a bad thing.
Once the hay is dry, the baler scoops up the rows of hay and compacts it into bales, which are tied and left in the field.
The next task is to haul the hay from the field to the stack. This is generally a three part process. The first is to pick up the bales and "buck" them onto a flatbed truck or trailer. The second is to "buck" the bales from the flatbed trailer onto the stack. The third is to make a good, stable stack. The hay is stacked very carefully, from the outside in toward the middle. It is stacked like a three-dimensional brick wall. The stack is tapered as it goes up. The stack must be able to stand up to storms and minor earth tremors without falling down.
It sure feels good when the 12-15 foot stack is finished. The whole crew looks on it with pride. In small farming communities, part of a young man's reputation was based on how well he could build a stack of hay. I can still see, in my mind's eye, some of the stacks I help build, as well as other stacks built by other crews that were better than mine.
When a person is baptized into this church, it is like they have just been mowed and put in a row to dry. We talk about "thrusting in our sickles" to find people who are looking to get baptized. Baptism is like the mowing part of harvesting hay. In fact, that may be the easiest part. There is a lot more to do after the baptism. It is called retention. Retention is comparable to the hauling and the stacking part of harvesting hay.
Unfortunately, too many recent converts are left out in the field, rather than being brought in and made part of the haystack of the church. How do we do that? How do we help converts become part of the haystack? For most of us the answer is simple. Be a friend to the convert. Make the convert a part of your life. Include the convert on your RSVP lists and on your Christmas lists. Whether we believe it or not, being a friend after baptism is as important as teaching the discussions before baptism. Both are essential to having the person make and keep sacred covenants. This is how we keep our own baptismal covenants. The Lord told us how important it is to be a friend to the new convert in DC 18. Please read with me verses 10 to 16.
D&C 18:10-16 - Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
The last two verses lead me to think about the punishment and rewards after this life in the following way. I imagine that for punishment, we will experience all the pain we caused other people. And for reward, we will feel all the happiness we brought to other people. By being a friend to the new convert, we will bring them the joy of a righteous life while on the earth and the happiness of Exaltation in the life to come. It seems like it is worth it to me.
Finally, let me bear you my testimony. The Book of Mormon is a direct answer to the prayers of those who seek the truth. Being a friend is a direct answer to the prayers of those who want to hold on to the truth. May we be a friend to all those in need.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.