Needless to say,
I have been putting off this blog post for quite some time now.
I’ve been back from Jerusalem for over a month (and a half).
...How in the world am I expected to sum up the last month of my Jerusalem experience into one final Jerusalem blog post?!
Just like: How do I answer the question, “How was Jerusalem?!”
when people ask me in passing?
“How was Jerusalem?”
How do they expect me to put almost four months
into a simple every-day-conversation answer?
Just like I can’t write this blog post.
So I haven’t.
A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk in church with the topic:
Where Jesus Walked.
I was actually really excited about this assigned topic, but when it came time to write it...it was WAY harder than I thought it was going to be.
So, although this isn't a summary of my last month there, and many of you faithful blog followers may have read similar things in previous blog posts...I thought I would post it instead.
(When I gave the talk I was mostly just looking at bullet points, so after
I tried to write down what I remember saying...hopefully this comes close to what I actually said when I gave the talk!)
“There is a green hill far away without a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.” (LDS Hymn, 194)
Singing the words to this familiar hymn often growing up, you can imagine my surprise when I had the opportunity to go to the traditional site of the crucifixion, and find that it’s actually in the middle of the city…in a church…and there is absolutely nothing green about it!
As many of you know, I recently had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program through BYU in Jerusalem. I often heard about Jerusalem, growing up, because my parents actually were able to do a study abroad there about 31 years ago just a few months after they were married. Though the program was fairly different when my parents went, through that experience, they gained a special love for the scriptures that they tried to instill in us children.
A little background on the study abroad: There were 83 students, some from each of the BYU schools. We lived in the Jerusalem Center which is an incredible building located on Mt. Scopus, overlooking the Mt. of Olives, the Kidron Valley and the Old City. We lived there for just under four months and while we were there we studied the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Ancient Near East, Modern Israel and Judaism, and Palestine and Islam.
The topic that I was given today is “Where Jesus Walked” but before I talk about that specifically, I’m first going to share a few things that I learned while in Jerusalem.
While in Jerusalem I learned that truth can be found everywhere. There is a quote by Joseph Smith that says, “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Burton, 1977. Emphasis added). “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up…’”(Smith, 1977 pg. 316).
In Jerusalem The Western Wall is a holy place the Jews often visit that I liked to visit as well. One evening we were able to go to The Western Wall on a Friday while they were welcoming in the Sabbath. (In the Jewish culture, the Sabbath begins on Friday at sunset and goes through Saturday at sunset.) The Sabbath is taken very seriously in Judaism, and devout Jews will not use electricity or cars or even carry purses in order to “keep the Sabbath day holy.” Even the act of flipping a light switch is considered “work” and therefore “breaking the Sabbath.” Each Friday night hundreds of Jews will gather to the Western Wall to welcome in the Sabbath. They will sing and dance and pray and literally CELEBRATE the coming of a new Sabbath day. This was a great example to me and a lesson that I really took to heart. I think I am often to caught up with the things that I “can’t” do on the Sabbath day, rather than focusing on the things that I can. The Jews look forward to the Sabbath day because it is a day to spend with the family, to put off the cares of day-to-day life, rest from their labors and worship God! I think there is much truth that can be learned from that enthusiasm toward the Holy Sabbath Day.
Another truth I learned was from the Muslim faith. Each day the Muslims have what is called the “Call to prayer.” Five times each day, voices ring out from different speakers all over the city calling the Muslims to prayer. This can happen any where from five in the morning all the way to 10 or 10:30 at night. (The time changes at different times of the year because it depends on the cycle of the sun.) Obviously all of the calls and prayers are in Arabic, but we learned that in the first call to prayer each morning they say the phrase “Prayer is better than sleep.” Although that is not a concept we often think about, there is definitely divine truth in the statement!
Another truth that I was able to discover, that also has to do with my assigned topic of “Walking where Jesus walked,” is the truth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I had the special opportunity to be in Jerusalem during what is known to much of the Christian world as “Holy Week.” During holy week, Christians (many Catholics, and others) come from all over the word to commemorate the events that took place during the final week of Jesus’ life. The week starts out with the Palm Sunday Walk, an account of which can be found in Mark 11:6-11,
“And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.”
So, on Palm Sunday, I was able to join with thousands of other Christians from throughout the world and walk from the Mt. of Olives through the Kidron Valley to the Old City. The group that I was with decided to join up with the procession partway through, so we were able to watch as hundreds and hundreds of Christians from all over the world walked this “path that Jesus walked.” (Obviously the exact path that He took is unknown, but the way we went is likely very similar to the way He would have gone.) It was really neat to see the different crowds and the different ways they worshiped. Some were excited and happy, singing and dancing. Others were solemn and treated it more like a funeral march. But we were ALL united, walking with thousands of other Christians, joint in our understanding in the Divine Being that Jesus was and is.
I realize that I was incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to go to Jerusalem. And many people here (or reading this blogpost) will likely never have that opportunity, but I think that everyone can still be able to experience the things that I did, even without having to travel all the way to Israel.
One of the most meaningful things that I was able to do while in Jerusalem was to increase my relationship with the Savior. One of the ways I was able to do this was by memorizing the document The Living Christ. This was a goal I made before even getting to Jerusalem, and as I was able to spend hours and hours reciting the words both in my head and out loud while trying to memorize it, the spirit testified to me, many times of the truthfulness of its words and the reality that Jesus IS the Living Christ.
President Monson taught, “All can walk where Jesus walked when, with His words on our lips, His spirit in our hearts, and His teachings in our lives, we journey through mortality. I would hope that we would walk as He walked, with confidence in the future, with an abiding faith in His Father, and with a genuine love for others” (Looking Back and Moving Forward, page 88).
However, I also don’t think that anyone needs to travel 8,000 miles to literally walk where Jesus walked...or rather, walks. As members of the restored gospel on the earth today, we have the knowledge that temples literally are “The House of the Lord.”
Many of you may have heard this story before, but it is one of my favorites, so I am going to share an excerpt from the Journal of Allie Young Pond, the granddaughter of Lorenzo Snow:
“One evening while I was visiting grandpa Snow in...the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the door keepers had gone and the night-watchmen had not yet come in, so grand-pa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way....After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor [near the] celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of [him] when he stopped me and said: “Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff...”
Then grandpa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: “He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.” Grand-pa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.
Then [grandpa] came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: “Now, grand-daughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grand-father, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the Temple, and talked with Him face to face.’” (House of Holiness, House of the Lord. Romney, 1987.)
I truly believe that the temple is the Lords’ House and it is a place He visits often. We can visit it often too, we just have to live worthily in order to do so.
One of my Jerusalem professors was really concerned with “epistemology”…which is pretty much a fancy way of saying what you know and how you know it.
I want you all to know that I know that Jesus is the Living Christ. That He came to earth to atone for the sins of the world. I know this because I have felt the spirit testify it to me time and time again. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet on the earth today, and I know that because I know that when I listen to and obey his council (which is council from the Lord) I am truly happy.
I know this church is the restored truth on the earth, and I am so grateful for the role it plays in my life. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thus concludes my blog posts about Jerusalem (at least for now).
I'm sorry if you feel gypped that I didn't include anything from the last month I spent there.
(But just take my word for it, it was GREAT.)
Hopefully someday soon I'll make a video of some sort capturing some of my favorite memories from the semester, and when I do that I will be sure to post it on here :)
Thank you to all of you who faithfully read my blog and made me feel like I actually had important things to say :)
(Don't worry...I plan on continuing my blog and you are more than welcome to continue reading it, but I will warn you that my life is a whole lot less exciting now than it was a few months ago..haha.)
As is said during each passover meal:
Lashanah haba'ah biy'rushalaim.
(Next year in Jerusalem.)
Lashanah haba'ah biy'rushalaim.
(Next year in Jerusalem.)
Oh what a life I live.