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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Greater Love Hath No Man Than This" Greg Gray

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On July 23rd, 2011 Greg Gray passed away, a drowning victim. He had dived into the river where his family had been fishing to save his sister. His sister survived, but Greg did not. My heart is full as I try and express my feelings about Greg, some words of inspiration he gave me, and some reflections on death, and Greg's love he showed in his death.

I regret that I only knew Greg for 4 1/2 months, while we served in Beaverton, Oregon on our LDS missions. Though I did not know him for a long time, I loved him dearly. I knew him while he was serving with Elder Duncan Tuitakau, and I was serving with Elder JJay Jensen. JJay and I were organizing a zone meeting, trying to uplift and inspire the rest of the Hillsboro zone to new heights. Our zone had been reaching new heights in terms of confidence, work, faith, and attitude. Baptisms and conversion came as a bi-product of these factors, and JJay and I wanted to make sure the trend would continue. I don't remember much about the zone meeting, other than great trainings on unity by some members of our zone, and that there was a powerful spirit in the room when the floor was opened to sharing testimonies. Elder Gray, fresh out of the MTC eventually stood and took the floor. After almost 3 years, I can't remember his exact words, but this was the gist of what he said:

"I didn't decide to serve a mission because it was the easy thing to do. I didn't come to Portland for myself. I came for every single person that I come in contact with. I came to show the love that the Savior would for each of them. I didn't come on a mission to be recognized, or patted on the back. I came here to work."

Those words deeply impacted me. I had been out almost 20 months at the time that I heard Elder Gray's timely testimony. I was reminded that I was also called on a mission to work and love, and to do my best, not to be recognized as the best.

Greg lived up to his words. Through the death of his grandfather, some alarming and scary situations in his first transfer, and hard work with his companion, Greg and Tui saw great success in their own personal growth, and in persons gaining faith in Jesus Christ and then acting upon it. Greg was a spiritual leader, and he rallied those around him to new heights.

Greg's faith and character shined when he passed away, when he dove into the river, I would guess without any hesitation. He showed the Savior's compassion, and lived the Savior's words that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) He lived the Savior's commandment that "That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

It can be easy to ask the question, "why Greg?" The answer is that we don't know. Death comes to each one of us, in the words of the author Chuck Palahniuk, "if you stretch the timeline out long enough, everyone's survival rate drops to zero." But it is in situation of the young, the good, and the loved that we oft can wonder "WHY?" The answer is that we don't know.

President Spencer W. Kimball once remarked that not everyone dies because they were called to a great work on the other side to do (although, undoubtedly Greg is very busy as a missionary on the other side). Sometimes people just die. Sometimes alarming and sad things happen, through no fault of our own. Some are "appointed unto death," but sometimes it just happens. I think, perhaps, that it is in these times that we feel our faith stretch and grow.

But I do know something. I do know that Greg would want us all to go on in faith, and love, and working hard for the good of others. I think that Greg would have wanted us to become better from this experience.

"Greater Love Hath No Man Than This" will be forever changed for me. I am so grateful that the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. I am so glad that when our spirits separate from our bodies that we return to the God who gave us life. And I am so very grateful that "because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death."

May the Lord help us all to remember Greg, his example, and the love he showed.

This may also help: Tragedy or Destiny by Spencer W. Kimball.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Link Bomb 7/16:

The newest Mormon Message from Jeffrey R. Holland

A new Paris, France?

The new temple site in Fort Collins, Colorado.

An LDS missionary was mauled by a lion in a Guatamalen zoo (and lived!).

New York Times article on the Hill Cummorah Pageant.

This is a great one to share: an historian on the most important things in the Book of Mormon.

Not really LDS related, but a BYU comedy group did a Harry Potter parody of Katy Perry's Firework."

Official Church Apps for iPhone.

The "Sister Wives" family is petitioning to make polygamy legal. Joanna Brooks asks the question, what would Mormons do if polygamy became legal?

If you're an LGBT Latter-day Saint, PLEASE participate in the survey on this page:

An interview about Mormons with the Interfaith Alliance President, who recently defended the public slander of Mormonism on Fox News.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Link Bomb #2: Catching Up on the Mormon Articles and News You Should Be Reading

A new movie on the candidacy of Joseph Smith for President of these United States is in the works.

Commentary on the Church's promise to stay out of the 2012 GOP race.

A (brief) history of the Community of Christ's version of how polygamy started.

Jimmer Fredette plays on staying active when he moves to Sacramento.

New Mission President Seminar news

Are Republicans Ready for a Mormon President? Written for the New York Times by 2 BIG names in Mormon Studies.

The new Church History and Joseph Smith Papers websites are up!!

Joanna Brooks (great blogger and Mormon feminist) on the approval ratings for Mormon candidates.

A small Washington newspaper talks about LDS Missionary work.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks talks freedom of religion.

A great flickr account by a great foundation, who works to improve the Church's image online.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

LDS Linkbomb #1/Book Suggestions

Richard Bushman gave an interview with Time magazine this week, discussing the Book of Mormon Musical.

The newest Mormon Messages

Jeffrey R. Holland testifies of the Book of Mormon.

The Church reminds its leaders that they must remain politically neutral.

CNN did a pretty good job explaining Mormon beliefs.

You can always set up your own profile!

Mormon Times is worth a read. It's an extension of the Church News (apologetic and sympathetic. Not that there's anything wrong with that.).

I'm a firm believer that faith is to be explored, and that LDS are far too quick to think that all people who leave the Church don't have a reason for it. My friend Jon Adams, at SHAFT has some great thoughts. He references John Dehlin, whose podcast I'm currently addicted to.

There are some GREAT LDS History books out there. Here's a list for those interested in the history of the Church, not necessarily Church History. Remember, if you have questions about Church History, ask someone who knows, or can find an answer for you.

1. Rough Stone Rolling: Richard Bushman
2. Brigham Young: American Moses: Leonard J. Arrington
3. The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism: Grant Underwood