Mormon Mission Prep: Bruce R. McConkie’s Final Testimony of Jesus Christ

The last few months, I’ve taken on the sacred assignment of teaching a missionary preparation class here in the Laredo 3rd Branch. I’m currently serving as the Young Men’s President here. When I found out that the age for missionary service would be lowered from 19 to 18 for young men, I immediately had a rush of urgency hit me that was telling me that I needed to get our boys ready to go as soon as they graduate high school.

I’ve been Young Men’s President before in Alabama, and I can say that nothing makes me happier than to see one of my young men reach that point in their spirituality that they want to serve a mission. Akin to that, nothing hurts me more deeply than to see one of my current or former young men take the wrong path in their lives that leads to sin and sadness. I didn’t want that to happen here in Laredo. That’s when I started up a missionary preparation class for our young men and young single adults ages 16 and up. There was a sense of urgency that had never been felt before, and we knew we would have to go the extra mile to get these boys ready.

The other day in one of our classes, I shared the above talk. It is the last talk given by the Apostle Bruce R. McConkie before he passed away. Unlike most of the videos I’ve shared in that class, this particular talk isn’t geared toward missionary work at all. I shared it because it gives us a strong, bold witness of Jesus Christ.

Above all, missionaries must have the conviction that Jesus is the Savior of their souls. They’ve got to understand and experience for themselves the sanctifying power that the atonement can have on their souls. If our future missionaries don’t have a life-changing experience with Christ’s atonement, then they will never be effective missionaries in the field, and they are wasting their time.

I worry that many times we try to keep our youth in the church by entertaining them, socializing them, playing games with them, or doing crafts with them, but in the end, the one thing that is going to keep them coming to church throughout their entire lives is their relationship with Jesus Christ. Regardless of how many dances we haul them to, how many Boy Scout camp outs we send them on, or how many combined activities we plan for them, if as parents and leaders we aren’t offering them frequent and powerful spiritual experiences that allow them to develop a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ, (which these youth hunger and thirst for), then we are failing them. God is expecting more from them now, and that also means He is expecting more from the rest of us to help get them ready.

Joshua B. Pettus
Your Friendly Mormon Neighbor

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The Feeling’s Mutual: Speed Dating–A Get to Know You Activity

I just made up a nifty new name for this section of the blog.  Go me! I figured since I’m in the Young Women’s presidency at church, and I’m in charge of activities that I might as well post what we’ve done.  But I’ll probably only post the successful ones because I don’t want y’all to know what a loser I am sometimes.  🙂

At our last presidency meeting we all came to the conclusion that we’d lost touch with our girls.  With babies being born and holidays, we just kinda got caught up in ourselves and felt very distant.  We decided that we needed to remedy that and work at getting to know them better.  I thought about that and came up with this idea for a mutual activity…

Speed Dating. Continue reading

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Fear Factor: The Mutual Activity

Remember how my brother and I started this blog with vigor and then never updated it?  Yeah, we’re awesome like that.  So I guess I should start with an apology (or a you’re welcome?) for never updating.

With that being said, I wanted to tell everyone about a little activity I worked up for our youth group.  I was in charge of the entire month of October which included the combined activity (meaning girls AND boys) for the month.  Since it was the month of Halloween *cue scary music*, I decided it would be fun to have a Fear Factor based activity.  I scoured the internet for ideas, and my fellow leaders and I came up with some of our own.  The results were a success, and I even had some youth tell me they enjoyed it.  *gasp*

The Fearless Group!

Continue reading

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The Day I’m Gonna Die – Original Song by Joshua Pettus

The Day I’m Gonna Die – Joshua Pettus – Original Song

A few weeks ago, I learned that I have an incurable and life threatening disease, called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). At first I had some crazy thoughts and emotions going through me, that I wasn’t quite sure how to react. Now, I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on how this changes me and my life and I sat down and wrote this song this weekend. Finding out I have the same terrible disease that my mother and my grandfather died from is eye-opening. The interesting thing is that I’ve not been depressed about the news. I decided I wanted to address the latest feelings I’ve had in song, but in a “Booyah, suckas… I’m gonna live it up while I’m Here” kind of way. This may not be completely finished, but I still wanted to share in it’s current state. Sorry the camera stinks, and I make funny faces when I sing.

Here is a blog I wrote shortly after I received the diagnosis:
https://yourfriendlymormonneighbor.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/the-difference-between-life-death-and-polycystic-kidney-disease/

It’s called The Day I’m Gonna Die. Let me know what you think.

More thoughts and feelings of everything I’ve been learning during all of this will be coming soon.

Love to all,

Your Friendly Mormon Neighbor
Joshua Pettus

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The Difference Between Life, Death, and Polycystic Kidney Disease

My beautiful, 30-year old face.

My beautiful, 30-year-old face.

A couple of weeks ago, I was finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m thirty years old. My birthday was back in December, and watching your youth fade away with each lost hair and each added pain can be a bit overwhelming at times.  Even with all these new and strange things happening to my body, I was finally getting to accept everything about my new age.  Looking on the bright side, I realized that I am the healthiest I have ever been in years, I had lost a bit of weight, and with my blood pressure under control, I felt great!  Thirty is going to be a breeze!

Then, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening and incurable kidney disease.

This is the same, exact kidney disease that has haunted my family tree for generations.  Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) took the life of my mother and my grandfather, and is currently wreaking havoc on my sister, my uncle, and several other relatives.

Polycystic Kidneys

The threat of it has always loomed over my head, and I’ve known that any one of my brothers and sisters could have it.  But it’s me.  I’ve got it, now. I’m scared.  Scared of dying and scared to live.  I’m healthy for now, but the uncertainty of how many good years I have left before I get sick is terrifying.  Will I be able to provide for my family?  Should I send my wife to college just in case my health keeps me from working?  Should I have bought more life insurance?  Am I going to be able to afford the doctor bills that will come from my treatment?  Should my wife and I have any more kids knowing that each one has a 50% chance of having the disease?

Thanks, thirty.  Thanks a lot.  I really needed this.

Until it’s your CT scan report that reads things like “innumerable cysts” on both kidneys and the on the liver, you really don’t know how you will react.  Everyone will probably read this story today, think to themselves, “awww, poor fella”, then go on to something else and not think any more about it.  I know how that process works… I’ve reacted the same way when others have announced similar sad news.  The only problem is that this time, I’ve got to live with it for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be.  Mom died at 47… how much longer do I have?

When the sharp pains began in the left side of my back, I knew something was wrong.  The next day, upon arriving home, I sat in my truck as the realization  hit me that the problem was that I had PKD.  I wouldn’t have the confirming results from the doctor’s tests for another four days, but I knew that this time the bullet could not be dodged.  I had this distinct feeling that this was PKD, and that this would be with me for the rest of my life.  I was terrified of how this would affect not only my life, but everyone around me until the day I die.

In all of this selfish pity-party I was going through, I remembered that this was Easter weekend.  This is the time of year we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is the same Christ who Isaiah said “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

This is also the same strong and eternal being who cried out to God the Father in agony in his darkest moment saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36) Oh, how I wish this were not the cup I am called to drink.   But, surely if Jesus Christ called out to His Father in prayer and supplication, I may do the same and find help.  If Christ can overcome all things, surely I can overcome the few stumbling blocks that have been placed in my way.

One of the most tender moments in Mormon scripture is when the Prophet Joseph Smith was locked up in Liberty Jail in Missouri.  This was Joseph’s plea:

  1. O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
  2. How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
  3. Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
  4. O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
  5. Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.
  6. Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.  (Doctrine & Covenants 121:1-6)
And then we read the comforting response Joseph receives directly from the Lord:

7.   My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

8.   And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

9.   Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. (Doctrine & Covenants 121:7-9)

What a comfort it is to be reminded that when I signed up for “life”, the Lord only intended for it to be a temporary time.  That’s been His plan from the beginning for all of us.  If we stick with it…all of it… then we’ll be blessed with an eternal reward that is greater than anything this temporary life could ever give to us or take away from us.  I also couldn’t dream of any greater earthly support system than the loving family and friends that I hold so dear to my heart.

And now at the end of this beginning, I’m realizing that I have many things to be thankful for.  What lack of gratitude would I be showing God if I forgot all of those numerous blessings and only began focusing on how dreary my condition is going to be?  What a blessing to know that even though PKD may be incurable, my faith, my hope, and my spirit may be renewed and revived.  As hideous as polycystic kidneys may be, Christ has made it possible that I may one day be resurrected, perfect and disease free.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)

Joshua B. Pettus

Your Friendly Mormon Neighbor

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Just For Fun – Girls’ Camp Songs

These are some REALLY great girls!

I recently went to our local girls’ camp for the Young Women in our church.  It was my first experience of being a leader at a camp, and it was, uuhh, interesting.  🙂  Despite the fact that I (sort of) slept on the floor of a tent, and many of my girls got sick, I really did enjoy spending time with them and being reminded of the good times I had when I was a young lass at camp.

As part of the camp experience, the girls are usually supposed to put on a skit.  This year they asked us to take a song and change the words to fit the year’s theme and present it.  I, um, well, I kinda took over because I love doing stuff like that.  I ended up writing two different songs.  The first one was liked by some, but the second was liked by all, so it’s what we went with.

See the cute owls? He makes my tag say "Helowl! My name is Sister Brown."

Our theme this year was O.W.L. (Only With Love).  There were lots of cute little owls everywhere, and it was a good reminder that whatever we do, we should do with love.

I thought I’d share the songs I wrote with you.  Feel free to use them for your own camp, talent shows, whatever you like.  Or don’t.  I don’t care.  🙂 Continue reading

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Dealing With Death

I’ve been no stranger to death in my lifetime.  I remember as a child going to several funerals with my family.  I don’t remember much except running around with the other kids and lots of flowers.

Me, my brother Marion, and Maw Maw Green

The first death I really remember was my great-grandmother.  We called her Mawmaw.  I was only about 4 at the time, but I remember going to her house, and then we couldn’t anymore.  I also remember going to an open auction where they sold her belongings.

The next one I remember was my little cousin Kohl who drowned in a swimming pool.  That one was hard because he was just a baby.  I remember seeing my mom comfort my brother who had been looking at his picture crying. I remember going to the funeral.  I remember listening to a man speak about how we didn’t know what was going to happen to him after he died, and then I remember my Dad talking to his parents afterwards saying that they could take comfort in knowing that they actually do know what happens after he dies.  He’ll be with his Heavenly Father, and we will see him again.

Then my uncle Kenneth died.  He had cancer.  I was still small.  Maybe 10.  The memories are pretty fuzzy.  I remember sitting next to a cousin in a Catholic chapel and watching her cry.  I had never seen her cry before.

One of my favorite pictures of me and my mom

And then the really hard one came.  My mother died when I was 12.  July 10, 1997.  I’m not sure that any of what I had previously experienced prepared me for what I felt then.  Lost.  Alone.  Scared.  How could I possibly live without my mom?  Some vivid memories from that day include me seeing my mother lifeless in a hospital bed, seeing my Grandmother Pettus walk through our back door sobbing and saying, “She was always so good to me,” and the huge amount of people that were in my house with good intentions, but I really just wanted them to go away, so I could be alone to cry without feeling watched.

Me and one of the strongest women I know - Grandmother Pettus

Right before I went away to college my Grandmother Pettus got sick.  I visited her in her home, and I realized it might be the last time I get to do that.  I cried when I left.  While I was at school, she died.  That was hard, too.  I loved her so much.

Since then I’ve had more of my uncles to die, and each time it’s hard realizing that I won’t be able to see their smiling faces again.

And then I had two miscarriages.  I lost children that I didn’t even get to see–didn’t even get to hold them in my arms, and it hurt.  So much.  It was different because I didn’t have any memories to remember, just a lot of what ifs.

I’ve gone through the stages of grief just like everyone else.  I was emotionally numb for a long time–especially after my mom died.  And I did the same thing when I had my miscarriages.  I’ve asked a lot of whys and hows.  I’ve felt angry or cheated. I’ve wondered why God could take those people away from me.  I’ve cried many, many times.  I miss those I loved so much, and I think about what would’ve happened if I had those babies.

Certain dates are hard.  Anniversaries of their deaths.  Holidays. Sometimes hearing a song or smelling a certain smell brings back memories.

But through all of this–all of this huge mess of life and death–I’ve been able to find peace. One of the things I’ve learned about life is that I cannot do it alone.  I’ve always prayed.  I’ll admit that sometimes I avoid it.  I think part of grieving is wanting to hurt for awhile.  When I had my second miscarriage, I told Heavenly Father that I knew I would want peace eventually, but right then I just wanted to cry and mourn the loss of my little baby.  And he let me.

After I lost my mother, I wanted to see her so badly.  There have been so many things in my life that I wanted a mother for, and I didn’t have her.  And it hurt every time.  But the only thing that has kept me sane is the knowledge that one day I would see her again.  I remembered what my Dad told my aunt and uncle a long time ago.  I know exactly where she is, and I know that one day I will see her again.  And when I do, she won’t have a kidney disease anymore.  She won’t have to do dialysis anymore.  She won’t be in pain anymore.

As I write this, I’m not exactly sure what my whole point was.  I suppose I just wanted others who are grieving to know that you’re not alone, and there are others who have felt at least part of what you feel.  Talk about it.  Write about it.  Get the thoughts out to someone you trust, and you’ll feel a little better.  A burden will be lifted.  And it’s okay to cry years after it happened.  I cried today about my mom. It’s okay to miss them.  It’s okay to remember them.  It’s also okay to move on.   Don’t feel guilty for finally getting rid of some of their stuff. (That’s something I still struggle with.) Don’t feel guilty for not thinking about them every second of every day.

Most of all I just want others who are grieving to pray.  Really pray.  I know not everyone believes in the same God I do.  I know that.  But I have to tell you that believing in God and Jesus Christ has been the one thing that has kept me afloat through the years.  When I look at this list (and I’m not even including the illnesses and near-death experiences), I could be a very bitter and miserable person. And I have been bitter and miserable sometimes, but often when I get to that point, I take all my pain and sorrow, and I say, “Here, Lord.  I can’t take it anymore. Please, help me with this burden.” And he takes it.  He always does.  And those are the moments that I feel peace, and those are the moments when I really know that God loves me and is truly aware of me.  And if he’s aware of an insignificant person like me, then I know he will be aware of you, too.

The scripture that helps me the most:

Book of Mormon – Alma 7:11 “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.”

He can take away your pain, too.

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