Aaron Lewis Graduates from BYU During the Corornavirus Era

2020-4-20 Aaron's BYU Graduation (6)

Aaron received a package this week from Brigham Young University.  He has completed his degree in Mechanical Engineering!  What a wild and crazy last semester he and all the students across the country have had.  With just a few weeks left of his college experience, university life as he knew it ended.

BYU’s transition to remote education essentially happened over a weekend.

“We shut down classes and courses on Friday (March 13) — and on the following Wednesday (March 18), everything, with some rare exceptions, had been moved to remote education,” said President Worthen. “That was a remarkable undertaking.”

Aaron moved back home and set up his study place in John’s office.  For the next 6 weeks, learning took place isolated at home.

2020-4-24 Aaron BYU Grad (4)

This is what a “Zoom” session looked like:

2020-4-24 Aaron BYU Grad (2)

In spite of the challenges, Aaron went out with flying colors.  Here is his last final exam score:

2020-4-20 Aaron's BYU Graduation (4)

2020-4-24 Aaron BYU Grad (1)

Here’s Aaron’s take on this unusual final semester:

“Doing the last couple weeks of the semester remotely wasn’t that big of a deal for me and my schedule. I was only enrolled in 3 classes this semester: the first was a group project every day, the second was once a week, and the third was already online. That first class we already met as a team remotely 2/5 days of the week, so all we had to do was bump that up to 5/5 days a week. The second class turned into a Zoom call on Tuesdays. The third didn’t change at all (although the professor stopped taking away points for late assignments and canceled a lab, so if anything, it got easier). So I was lucky to have a very adaptable schedule!

“As far as graduation goes, I have a sense that I missed out on some emotions that I would have only felt as I joined all my fellow classmates and heard my name called out. I say “I have a sense,” because everything has felt completely normal going from non-graduate to graduate. Every day has felt just like the one prior (although maybe with a little less to worry about). I’m sure that if I had been able to walk, then perhaps there would be a happy disturbance to the normalcy; I guess I’ll never know.”

2020-4-20 Aaron's BYU Graduation (7)

Congratulations, Aaron!  You’ve excelled and you make us proud!

Aaron has accepted a job offer at Qualtrics which will begin in a couple of months (after his planned and cancelled graduation trips to Palmyra, NY, to Europe, and a cruise to the Caribbean).

2020-4-25 Aaron BYU Grad

Here’s a historical look at how campus began to close down by the end of March 2020.  In April the campus was virtually closed and all students were encouraged to return home and study from home.  Here’s how things began to unfold:

March 26: Today’s BYU Campus COVID-19 update

The BYU campus has changed drastically due to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country and the world. Find out how the campus is functioning, what’s open, what’s closed and what’s new.

Today’s campus updates:

Cougareat

The following are closed for the rest of the semester:

  • Milk and Cookies
  • Cougar Cafe
  • Wendy’s
  • Taco Bell
  • Choices
  • Papa Johns
  • Subway

Still open, Monday-Saturday:

  • Cougar Express 10 a.m. to 4 p.m
  • Chick-Fil-A 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Aloha Plate 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Open restaurants in the Cougareat are only available through “walk-thru” service. People can order through a speaker and then wait in the designated area to pick up their food.

According to the Cougareat website, all restaurants except Taco Bell and Cougar Express will be closed during the spring and summer semesters. The Taco Bell and Cougar Express hours are to be “coming soon.”

Dining Establishments

Starting today, BYU Food-To-Go will offer grocery pickup.

The Cannon Center, Legends Grille and all Creamery locations will remain open, according to an email sent by BYU. However, all other dining locations will be closed for the semester.

The Jamba Juice in the Wilkinson Center is open on Monday-Fridays from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., but the Jamba Juice at the Student Athlete Building is closed.

The Library

The Harold B. Lee Library is open during its regular hours of operation, but services are limited. Starting tomorrow, all service points will be closed and patrons will be referred to virtual platforms such as email and chat. The library hopes to eliminate as much face-to-face interaction as possible.

Equipment at the Media Center is currently unavailable for checkout, and the production rooms are also unavailable.

The Family History Center and family study room are closed.

The library is also offering special resources for faculty as they adjust to teaching remotely. According to the library’s website, group study rooms will no longer be available to students; instead, professors can use them for online class instruction.

Re-enroll in withdrawn classes

BYU is giving students the opportunity to re-add the classes they withdrew from after March 12. The change was made because of BYU’s recent announcement about new grading policies for winter semester.

An email sent out to students who withdrew from a class said, “If you would like to have a class or classes added back to your current registration, please fill out and submit the following form no later than Friday, March 27, at 5 p.m. MDT.”

Webfest

“Webfest for winter semester has been rescheduled with an online-only format,” according to BYU’s Web Community website. For the agenda and Zoom link visit the website.

Other updates regarding COVID-19:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced all temples will be closed until further notice.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

@Ch_JesusChrist

Due to the continued concerns related to COVID-19, all remaining open temples will temporarily close by end of day Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Please see the article for the First Presidency’s full letter. https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/first-presidency-temporarily-closes-all-temples-march-25-2020 

First Presidency Temporarily Closes All Temples

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent the following letter about temple closures on March 25, 2020, to Latter-day Saints everywhere.

newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org 

Information that is still in place:

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe has temporarily made Creative Cloud available for all students. Any BYU student can access adobe.byu.edu and use their BYU Net ID to set up an account.

Bowling and Games Center

The Bowling and Games Center is closed until further notice.

Buildings

According to BYU’s website the Harris Fine Arts Center, the Tanner Building and the Engineering Building are adjusting their hours to better secure the campus. They will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Most remaining academic buildings not specifically listed here will be open from 8 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The website also states that all buildings will be closed on Sundays except to ecclesiastical leaders who will be provided with updated building assignments and other information from their ecclesiastical leadership lines.

BYU Sports

All BYU athletic events have been canceled.

All single game tickets will be automatically refunded.

Mens volleyball season ticket holders will be contacted by email regarding a refund for the final home match of the season.

Gymnastics season ticket holders will be refunded for the final match of the season.

Baseball season ticket holders will be refunded for the whole season.

For questions or concerns contact byutickets@byu.edu.

BYU Store

The BYU Store is open, but operating on new hours: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with distribution services only being open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Campus Employees

A Y News email sent out March 25 gives the following directions for working on campus:

“Employees whose work requires them to be on campus should stay home if they have symptoms of illness. Before going to work each day, employees should specifically self-assess for signs of fever, cough or difficulty breathing and report their status to their supervisor.

Managers and supervisors should also direct employees to return home if they are observed with any of these symptoms while at work. Supervisors may contact BYU’s Compensation Department for guidance regarding employees who do not have sick leave as an option.

Where possible, supervising units have the discretion to allow student, part-time and full-time employees to work from home.”

The Cannon Commons

“The Cannon Commons will be open for students with meal plans and will provide boxed meals for pick up.” according to an email from University Communications sent out to students.

Commencements and Convocations

The university has canceled all gatherings for this year’s commencements and convocations, but individual colleges can stream their convocation.

COVID-19 cases

BYU announced it’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 23.

In an email sent out to students from University Communications it stated “BYU received a notification that a student enrolled in classes on campus this semester tested positive for COVID-19. The student has returned home.”

The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies

An email was sent out to Kennedy Center students saying, “Until further notice, the Kennedy Advisement Center and student lounge in 273 HRCB will be closed.”

The email said that they will still be advising students through phone calls and the video software Zoom.

The Kennedy Center will not be streaming their convocation.

Devotionals and Forums

The April 7 Devotional with Estela Marquez will proceed as a broadcast through BYUtv. The March 24 Forum with Dambisa Moyo has been postponed. The March 31 Performance Devotional and the April 14 Unforum have both been canceled.

Enterprise CarShare

Starting on March 27, Enterprise CarShare will be unavailable until further notice.

College of Family, Home and Social Sciences

Departments and faculty are making determinations on a case-by-case basis regarding practical and lab-based requirements including things like licensing and accreditation.

There has been no final decision regarding convocation, although a delayed convocation is being considered.

Final Examinations

“In preparing finals for W2020 faculty may choose to employ standard examination modes, adapted to remote delivery. They might also approach final exams in novel ways and are authorized to do so,” according to BYU’s website.

Gatherings

“Until further notice, BYU is prohibiting all in-person gatherings of more than 10 people in accordance with a Utah public health order. This broadly applies to any on- or off-campus gathering of BYU employees. This also applies to any on-campus student or visitor gatherings,” according to BYU’s website.

Grading

In an email to students Academic Vice President Shane Reese addresses decisions to fairly evaluate final grades.

“At the end of this semester only, faculty will submit a letter grade for each course as per the standard grade submission protocol. After the grades are submitted by faculty, students can choose to keep the standard grade given or move to a pass/fail for each specific course.

Pass and Fail grades will not affect GPA. A ‘Pass’ will count as a passing grade and a completed academic credit. For this semester only, a ‘Fail’ will not adversely affect GPA and no credit will be given for that course,” according to the email.

International Cinema

According to the International Cinema’s website “all in-person screenings have been cancelled for Winter 2020 in response to the COVID-19 virus.”

An email sent to students said “We are currently working with film distributors to acquire permission to stream films through hummedia, the BYU Humanities Department’s content streaming platform.”

The Ira B. Fulton College of Engineering

The Engineering Building is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the Clyde Building is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. According to the college’s communications manager Jordyn Watts, Dean Michael Jensen is strongly encouraging all classes, including those with lab work and research done primarily on campus, to move online.

Lost and Found

BYU’s Lost and Found will be open 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. in the Wilkinson Student Center.

Museums

The Museum of Art, Monte L. Bean Museum and other similar venues used for gatherings will be closed until further notice according to BYU’s website.

Parking

Students can park in any Y or G lots without a paid parking pass, but A lots and specialty stalls will still be monitored as normal.

Recreation and Fitness Facilities

All recreation and fitness facilities on campus are closed. This includes the gyms, pool, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, indoor track and racquetball courts.

Research and Writing Center

The Research and Writing Center will continue to offer virtual help via Zoom or email appointments. Visit their website for details.

The writing consultant application deadline for spring, summer and fall has been extended to March 30. For more information and to apply, visit the employment page on their website.

For any other questions contact rwc@byu.edu.

Sanvello

Everyone has free access to Sanvello premium during COVID-19. Sanvello is a mental health support app that is meant to help with stress and anxiety.

School of Communications

According to an email sent to students in the School of Communications, “The School of Communications main office will remain open for the rest of the semester. School leadership and office staff will be in the office and available, during regular office operating hours.”

The Brimhall is currently closed except for those with key-card access.

Shuttles

The free campus shuttles are still running on their regular schedules.

Spring Term

Kevin J Worthen announced in an email sent out March 24 that Spring term at BYU would be held remotely.

“In all other ways, spring term will proceed according to the previously established schedule,” according to the email.

For more information about how this affects on campus housing, student jobs and grading visit the announcement BYU’s website.

Student Health Center

The Student Health Center is still open to treat students. Its hours are Monday–Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Visit BYU’s Health Center website for more information.

If you have a respiratory illness or suspect you have COVID-19, please call 801-310-0438 before coming to the clinic.

Study Abroad and Performing Tours

All study abroad programs and performing tours that were scheduled for spring and summer terms have been canceled.

Testing Center

The Testing Center is closed until further notice.

The Wall

The Wall has been closed until further notice.

Wilkinson Student Center

The Wilkinson Student will maintain its regular hours, but specific offices within the building may be closed.

Withdraw Deadline

BYU tweeted that the withdraw period will be extended by one week. The new deadline was March 24.

Women’s Services & Resources

Women’s Services & Resources sent out an email on March 18 stating that their office in the Wilkinson Student Center is closed until further notice. The email also stated that WSR Director Dixie Sevison is available during normal business hours at dixie_sevison@byu.edu or 801-422-4455 for anyone in need of immediate assistance.

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Advice from An Old Farmer

Harvey, Daniel Jr. b. 1860

Daniel Harvey Jr. b. 1860. My first cousin, three times removed. He was born in London and he died in Kaysville, Utah.

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.
Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Every path has a few puddles.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
The best sermons are lived, not preached.
Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good, honorable life… Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
Don ‘t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a Rain dance.
If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around..
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to fate.
Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.
Most times, it just gets down to common sense.

Lyman, Albert Alonzo with daughter

Albert Alonzo Lyman b. 1889 with his daughter Mary Ellen. He’s my second cousin twice removed. He lived in Nevada.

What advice from our day could we pass along to future generations?

Posted in Thoughts and Insights | 1 Comment

Advice From a Farmer’s Wife

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Whenever you return a borrowed pie pan, make sure it’s got a warm pie in it.
Invite lots of folks to supper. You can always add more water to the soup.
There’s no such thing as woman’s work on a farm. There’s just work.
Make home a happy place for the children. Everybody returns to their happy place.
Always keep a small light on in the kitchen window at night.
If your man gets his truck stuck in the field, don’t go in after him. Throw him a rope and pull him out with the tractor.
Keep the kerosene lamp away from the the milk cow’s leg.
It’s a whole lot easier to get breakfast from a chicken than a pig.
Always pat the chickens when you take their eggs.
It’s easy to clean an empty house, but hard to live in one.
All children spill milk. Learn to smile and wipe it up.
Homemade’s always better’n store bought.
A tongue’s like a knife. The sharper it is the deeper it cuts.
A good neighbor always knows when to visit and when to leave.
A city dog wants to run out the door, but a country dog stays on the porch ’cause he’s not fenced-in.
Always light birthday candles from the middle outward.
Nothin’ gets the frustrations out better’n splittn’ wood.
The longer dress hem, the more trusting the husband.
Enjoy doing your children’s laundry. Some day they’ll be gone.
You’ll never catch a runnin’ chicken but if you throw seed around the back door you’ll have a skillet full by supper.
Biscuits brown better with a little butter brushed on ’em.
Check your shoelaces before runnin’ to help somebody.
Visit old people who can’t get out. Some day you’ll be one.
The softer you talk, the closer folks’ll listen.
The colder the outhouse, the warmer the bed.

Effie Madeline Turley

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Breathing Life into Old Photos

Bushman Ella Isadora reading to Arthur Eugene and Lloyd Wells-Colorized

I’ve made a wonderful discovery this week.  Our friends at MyHeritage have offered their photo colorizing services free during this month of COVID-19 drama.  You can upload a black and white photo on their site and in a few seconds, it is magically turned into a color photo, just like that!

I tried a few, then went back for a few more, and then a few more.  In my spare time, I’ve pulled about 1200 black and white family and ancestral photos from my files.  But I didn’t stop there.  Then I went to FamilySearch and looked through all of the photos in my main family ancestral lines and copied any photos I didn’t already have.  I’ve colorized those too.

Some of these photos have really spoken to my heart, like the one above.  It’s a photo of Ella Isadora Bushman, my 2nd great-grandmother Charlotte’s youngest sister.  She was born in 1884 and she died in 1956.  In this photo she is reading to her 2 youngest sons, Lloyd “Wells” and Arthur Eugene “Gene” who were born in 1915 and 1917.  To see this tender moment, in color, almost 100 years later, is a gift.

Here is a random sampling of other photos that have come alive to me this week.  I am connected to each of these people in some way.  I am grateful for the lives they lived.  This week I’ve watched in photos as many of them have grown up and lived out their lives.  Almost all of them have passed on now.  I am reminded of how short our stay here on earth is and how little we leave behind to show for it.

I hope these photos will help my family members live on, feeling perhaps a little closer to us now that we can see the color in their cheeks and the light in their eyes.

I’ve just got to add one more I just worked on.  You’ve got to love these dresses!  These are the daughters of Isaac Turley, brother of my 2nd Great-grandma Charlotte.  Their names are Esther, Clara Ellen, Anna Priscilla and Frances.  I think they look amazing!

Update 22 April 2020:  Today the MyHeritage free colorization deal ended.  I have colorized 4100 ancestral and family photos.  I am so happy.

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A Gift from Heaven

2020-3-20 MARGOT (3)

In the middle of all of the chaos in the world around us, a perfect little granddaughter joined our family today.   Her name is Margot.  Her father delivered her, but her mom did most of the work.

I cried when the news came in on our phones with What’s App.  Everything’s going to be OK in this world.  Margot is here now.

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The World Changed

Not cancelled

An intruder has come into our lives.  By the end of this day, 150 countries will have reported more than 150,000 cases of the Coronavirus worldwide.  And this is just the beginning.  We’ve all been watching the numbers spread and grow as each day passes.

Life as we’ve known it has changed in some pretty drastic ways.  It’s basically shutting down out there.  Travel, school, church, temples, work, businesses, and human interaction is has ended for the time being.

Not so much here in Africa.  You wouldn’t know anything has changed by the looks of things.  There is no drama here yet, just life as usual.  Some say viruses can’t live in hot climates.  Here’s what it’s looking like here:

Bamako weather March 2020

So, we carry on, grateful to be in a place that feels relatively safe right now.  We don’t know how long this will last or how bad it will get.  We are praying for our friends and family out there in a world of panic that seems to be spinning out of control.

Sweet is the peace the gospel brings.

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Each of us is a Pioneer

Today important visitors arrived in Bamako.  Brother Norbert Ounleu from Accra and Brother Matt Heiss from Salt Lake City have come to gather oral histories from our Pioneer members here in Mali.   This is an exciting time for our members here.  Their stories and experiences matter and their faith will bless others for generations to come.

2020-2-14 Matt Heiss, Norbert Onleu Visit Bamako (2)

I think about these first generation members and the significance of their conversions.  My father was the first and only member of his family to accept the restored gospel.  Because of him, my life and the lives of my children have been blessed in innumerable ways.

Because of our first members here, blessings will flow through generations and through this country.

“It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life, often in his own family, and many of us pioneer daily in trying to establish a gospel foothold in distant parts of the world.”
–President Gordon B. Hinckley

Here is the first verse of one of my favorite pioneer hymns:

They, the Builders of the Nation
Hymns, They, the Builders of the Nation, no. 36

They, the builders of the nation,
Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping-stones for generations
Were their deeds of ev’ry day.
Building new and firm foundations,
Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward,
Blessed, honored Pioneer!

Text: Ida R. Alldredge, 1892-1943. © 1948 IRI, Music: Alfred M. Durham, 1872-1957. © 1948 IRI

2020-2-17 Interview Adama Coulibaly (5)

Adama Coulibaly, Pioneer in Mountougoula, Mali

Posted in Family History, Mission, Thoughts and Insights | Leave a comment

A Gift of Christ: Often it maketh my bones to quake

jesus_and_disciples.jpg

Before leaving his disciples, Jesus promised them an incredible gift–a gift that would surpass any gift ever given. I thought about that gift in the dark pre-dawn hours on this Christmas morning as I waited in bed, listening to the prayer calls of the mosque out our window.

I thought about the reminder to pray for a long time this morning and I also thought about how LOUD that muezzin is with his microphone. We hear prayer calls several times a day, always loud and repetitive. I like being reminded, most of the time. Not so much at 4:00 a.m., but during the day it can be a nice reminder to give thanks for my blessings.

This has been an interesting Christmas season, here in Bamako. There are no Christmas lights, no Christmas trees, no decorations, no presents, and no carols being sung. The trappings of Christmas are not found here in these Muslim neighborhoods. We’ve had to create our own simple Christmas celebration.

Last night we read the Christmas Story from Luke and from Matthew. I thought about Jesus’s birth and His life and all He has done for us. I thought about how, at the end of His life he said to his disciples:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:16-18, 25-27, italics added).

He gave us this unspeakable gift, the Gift of the Holy Ghost–to teach us, to help us remember Him, to comfort us, to protect us, and to give us peace in a troubled world.
It’s the greatest Gift ever!

The scriptures describe the voice God uses. In the account of Elijah in the Old Testament, it says:

The Lord said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12, italics added.)

The prophet Nephi had brothers who would not hear. To them, he said:

Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words. (Nephi 1:45, italics added.)

When Jesus visited the people on the American continent after his resurrection, his coming was announced in this way:

And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.
And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.  And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:  Behold my Beloved Son, bin whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. (3 Nephi 11:3-7, italics added.)

The Holy Ghost communicates to us in much the same way–quietly. He speaks to our hearts and to our minds. He causes us to feel things or remember things. He cautions or prompts us to do or not to do certain things. He is our constant companion.

I love the description of the Holy Ghost’s communication to us in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1832:

Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest. (D&C 85:6, italics added.)

This morning as I was awakened by the blaring reminder to pray, I thought about the Holy Ghost and the quiet messages I receive almost daily–Jesus’s gift to me. It’s the best gift ever. I don’t really need anything else, especially on this Christmas Day.

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Christmas in Bamako 2019 “Prayer is Better than Sleep”

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I woke in the dark pre-dawn this Christmas morning to the cries of the muezzin at the mosque across the street, calling us to prayer.   These reminders come daily, every few hours, reminding us that there is a God in heaven and that we need to remember Him and worship Him.

Muslim Prayer Times

Muslim prayer times: pre-dawn, sunrise, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall.

People here simply stop what they’re doing to pray.  And they don’t pray without first  preparing to pray.  Every day I see religious young men sitting on curbs or in store fronts or just on the side of the road, preparing for prayer.   This preparation is called Wudu.  They are taught that they must be ritually pure before praying.  (If since your last prayer you have urinated, defecated, passed gas, bled excessively, or fallen asleep while leaning against something, you need to perform wudu.)

I watch these young and old men washing for prayers. They use their little plastic water pots and wash their hands, then they pull up their pant legs and wash what they can of their legs, then their feet, being particular about every toe. Then they wash their heads, their ears–inside and out, their eyes, their noses (they snort in water, then snort it out), they wash the inside of their mouths with their fingers, going around their teeth, then spit out the water. They do all of this so they are clean to approach Allah in prayer. It’s really amazing to watch this preparation. I see it every day.  In places where they have no water, they wash with clean unused dirt.

If they are not near a mosque, these men (and women) find a clean place to kneel.  Most use a prayer mat or rug, rolled up and kept just for this sacred ritual.  Sometimes they pray in groups, sometimes alone.

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Bamako Prayer Time. Photo credit: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP via Getty Images

Muslims demonstrate their faithfulness by actively honoring the Five Pillars of Islam in their everyday lives.  Prayer happens daily and is the most visible expression of their faith.

The 5 Pillars of Faith
Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s most holy site, that all Muslims must make at least once in their lifetime.
Sawm: Ritual fasting observed during Ramadan.
Shahadah: Reciting the Islamic profession of faith, called the Kalimah (“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”).
Salat: Daily prayers, properly observed.
Zakat: Giving to charity and aiding the poor.

Islam became the state religion in Mali in the 1300s. They say ninety-five percent of this country is Muslim.  I enjoy living in a Muslim neighborhood and country.  The people around us are religious, kind and respectful.

LDS Prayer

Members of my faith also have a strong tradition of daily prayer.  We pray just as often, but in a different way.  Prayers are most often private, but families also gather to pray together, with one member of the family praying out loud with the rest.  I pray all the time, and I try to always keep a prayer in my heart.

On this Christmas morning, I listened to the muezzin reminding me to pray.  The English translation of his prayer call is this:

God is Great! God is Great! God is Great! God is Great!
I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.
I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Hurry to the prayer. Hurry to the prayer.
Hurry to salvation. Hurry to salvation.
God is Great! God is Great!
There is no god except the One God.
For the pre-dawn prayer, the following phrase is inserted prior to the final repetition of God is Great:  Prayer is better than sleep. Prayer is better than sleep.

I do not understand the Arabic sung and chanted by our local muezzin, but I understand the feelings of my heart, and the love I have for my Father in Heaven and his son, Jesus Christ, and I am thankful for them, especially on this Christmas Day, as we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’s mortal life.  Because of Him, I can learn how to live so that I can return someday to Their presence.

 

 

 

 

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