Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Ambassador to Washington D.C.

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
The first week in May our youngest daughter, Merilee will embark on her LDS mission to the Washington D.C. South Mission. There is a sweet irony in her call to serve for this father who regularly writes about politics and religion. She will likely want to discuss politics before she leaves, but what she doesn't realize is that she will have no need of it for the next eighteen months.

Instead, Merilee's mission will focus on the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All she needs is laid out for her, and for that matter, all the world to see and understand in the four works of scripture published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. She will have the glorious privilege and matchless opportunity to ignore politics, even while she is living serving others voluntarily in the "belly of the beast."

When she was born, her mother and I had no trouble selecting her name. We had a dear friend, Merilee Tanner Preece, whom we had long admired and treasured for her kind spirit, her enthusiasm, and her gentility. Our Merilee was, as they say, "well-named." She has been a constant source of joy and happiness for us as her parents. She has had many and varied experiences since her graduation from South Summit High School in our little mountain community hamlet. She's been to SUU and USU as a student, and most recently she has been living in Sunnyvale, California, with an older sister and her family while she has been working to save for her mission. She is well prepared to take this next step. My father's heart is still wrenching a bit as I think about sending her out. It never seems to get easier, especially when it's a daughter who is leaving for the mission field. Sons, no problem. But daughters? It's just harder when you're their Dad and you remember them as that helpless little infant you once held in your arms.

So what advice do I have for her? It is simple, and can be summarized in the three words my father wrote in the front of my journal: "Service to Others." Not particularly original, and probably plagiarized from many independent sources, but nevertheless still serviceable as a motto to live by. Merilee has always served well. She was a SBO in high school, she was a camp counselor at Oakcrest, she has served others in many capacities since then, but one thing has always been consistent about her - she blooms where she's planted.

Sister Merilee Goates
As she leaves to serve her mission in Washington D.C., she will be thrust into the community where politics is a way of life every day for people with whom she will rub shoulders. Even if she weren't going to Washington D.C. she would find contention, anxiety about the future, and competing ideas for what is right and wrong.

The Book of Mormon offers precious insight:

But behold, there shall be many — at that day when I shall proceed to do a marvelous work among them, that I may remember my covenants which I have made unto the children of men, that I may set my hand again the second time to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel;

And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;

And because my words shall hiss forth — many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.

But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?

O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.

Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.

For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.

For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.

And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever. (2 Nephi 29, emphasis mine).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, will be in Washington D.C. this weekend, meeting with President Obama and speaking at AIPAC tomorrow. Never before has Israel's physical existence been more threatened than it is right now with the prospects of a rogue leadership in Iran proclaiming their intentions to wipe Israel off the map. Iran is developing nuclear weaponry designed to do just that. Wars and rumors of wars, indeed! Our political interests as Americans are closely aligned with Israel's, but more importantly we are brothers in the family of Abraham, and we are brothers with all the descendants of Ishmael, including all who are of Islam, too. We are children of the same God.

Merilee will be taking the message of the restoration of the gospel in its fulness to the inhabitants of Washington D.C. at a critical time when that message has never been more timely. It is a message of peace and a promise of fulfillment, as we see in the quote cited above. It is a time of gathering, and nowhere in the United States is there a more representative melting pot for the nations than Washington D.C. and its environs.

We send her out with full confidence she will have an impact. Her message and her demeanor will change many lives for good. She is a gatherer, and she will gather many.

God promised he would not forget His promises made to father Abraham, and his descendants all these generations later who now reside in Washington D.C., whether they be Jew, Gentile, Muslim or Christian will be blessed collectively and individually by her service.

"I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever." And he's sending Sister Merilee Goates to deliver on that promise.

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