Sunday, April 5, 2015

General Conference in the Conference Center: A Hallowed Place

Conference Center: A Hallowed Place
Darrel L. Hammon

The LDS Conference Center

There is something about attending General Conference in person. Despite the crowds, both on the grounds of the Conference Center and on the sidewalks, a sense of anticipation creeps upon you. A sense of awe and immense happiness permeate the entire place. Today was no different.

Los Hammon y Los Hernández
We had the grand opportunity to accompany President and Sister Hernández, former President of the Santo Domingo East Mission in the Dominican Republic. They are wonderful people with incredible testimonies. Although they are from Puerto Rico, they now live in Dallas, surrounded by their four children and their families.
                 
The Conference Center from the outside
Once inside, we encountered a mass of people, all there for the same reason: to listen to prophets, seers, and revelators teach us about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since this was Easter Sunday, we also knew we would hear much about Christ's Atonement and how important it is in our lives and in the lives of the people around us.
                 
Each person had a ticket with a section number written on it. We headed in that direction. I had to stop at a different door and check in my camera case. Numerous volunteers were standing as sentinels—everywhere—ready to answer any question you might have. They were kind and gracious and always pointed us in the right direction.
                 
Inside view of the Conference Center
Soon we were moving with the flow, up the elevator to Terrace Section. Our seats were on the far wall, stage left. No matter how many times I enter the Conference Center, I am awed with the structure and the construction and just the immenseness of the place. Over 21,000 people can enter and be comfortable. The acoustics are phenomenal.               
 
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
 At 9:30 a.m. sharp, the “Spoken Word” began with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing. No other choir in the world is like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Their sound is unique because they sing with power and authority. Each of them has been called to the Choir. This is their calling, and they sing beautifully, especially our favorite “Consider the Lilies”—so melodious and incredible. We could listen to it over and over again.
            
 At 9:57 a.m., the crowd hushed and stood. We watched our dearly beloved Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, enter the hallowed Conference Center. The humble silence hung from the ceiling and lingered long and reverent. Then, he took his seat, and the entire 21,000+ people took their seats. Within a few minutes, the conference began with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir filling the Conference Center with their awesomeness.

The Mackenson Noël Family from Haiti
After the opening prayer, President Henry B. Eyring announced that President Monson will be the first speaker. President Monson stepped up to the pulpit and began. He revealed  three new temples to be built in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire); Port-Au Prince, Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand. Joanne and I looked each other, and I had Joanne repeat: Haiti! Haiti! We were ecstatic! I immediately emailed Mackenson Noël, our good friend who lives in Haiti. His return was also immediate: “Darrel! Thank you. We are blessed. We learnt to suffer with joy; then the blessing comes!!!"

English Daisies
Soon, the morning session was over. We cried, we laughed, we leaped for joy, and we felt the spirit as we listened to President Monson, Sister Rosemary Wixom, Elder José A. Teixeira, Bishop Gérald Caussé, Elder Brent H. Nielson, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. All talks were enlightening; Elder Nielson spoke about his sister who had left the church and then returned after 15 years of being gone. His parallel life with the “Prodigal Son” was comforting to us.
                 
Outside, the people were milling about, standing and visiting about what had just gone on,  and some just observing the release of the thousands of Saints who had come today to listen to their beloved Prophet and other General Authorities. 

Garden near the Conference Center
We bid farewell to los Hernández and headed to the parking garage. We stopped and stood on the lawn that overlooked the temple. Literally hundreds of people were there: taking pictures, admiring the temple scene, smelling flowers, and just basking in the quiet reverence they had recently felt. They wanted to keep it close for a few minutes longer.
                 
The Salt Lake Temple
Yes, Conference time is an incredible time. We were so blessed to have spent it in the Conference Center and soaking up the unwavering spirit that lingers there always. It’s almost palpable. Joanne and I know the Savior lives and atoned for our sins. We love Him and our Heavenly Father. We know that to love Them means that we obey their commandments. And we will continue trying to do so. 

Gorgeous tulips

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hymns: Enlivening Your Spirit



Hymns: Enlivening Your Spirit

The lesson Joanne and I gave today in our 15-year-old Sunday School class was “How can I use Church music to learn about the plan of salvation?” President Boyd K. Packer one said, "Music can set an atmosphere of worship which invites that spirit of revelation, of testimony.”

I would dare say that each of us has a particular hymn that enlivens our spirit, buoys us up, reminds us of a sacred happening or event, and creates in us a sacred feeling of doing what the Lord wills. Probably one of the most powerful hymns to me is "We Thank Thee OGod for a Prophet."  This sacred hymn struck a sensitive chord to me in 1977 in Santiago, Chile.

It was the time of Chile's area conference, and we had traveled almost 18 hours by bus to reach Santiago from southern Chile. In a huge auditorium, 10,000 people were visiting and waiting for the area conference to begin. As I sat there listening and watching and participating in conversation with my fellow missionaries, the noise sounded more like a dull roar I was accustomed to at basketball games.

Just before the appointed hour, however, something happened that I will never forget. Like a light fog on a still morning, the quietness swept over and settled on the entire congregation. To my left, President Spencer W. Kimball entered through a small door. Instantly, the entire congregation rose simultaneously while singing "We Thank Thee for a Prophet." 

Never before had I felt such a spiritual awakening as I did on that day. The words to that sacred hymn reverberated through the auditorium and entered my heart, enlarging my spiritual substance, encouraging me to do better. The spirit spoke truth to me, and, I suspect, to all those who were there: Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet of God.

Each of us needs to contemplate those sacred moments. We have all had them. And at times, we all require that sacred moment of contemplation—to remember who we are and whose we are and whose care we truly are in and who is the greatest, yea even the least among us.

In that same area conference so many years ago, a wonderful choir composed of Chileans, many of them with the blood of Lehi richly running through their veins, sang Parley P. Pratt's magnificent text put to music by John E. Tullidge, "An Angel  from on High."  Its glorious message spoke of the restoration:

An angel from on high
The long, long silence broke;
Descending from the sky,
These gracious words he spoke:
Lo! in Cumorah's lonely hill
A sacred record lies concealed.

Sealed by Moroni's hand,
It has for ages lain
To wait the Lord's command,
From dust to speak again.
It shall again to light come forth
To usher in Christ's reign on earth.

And makes the remnant known
Of nations long since dead,
Who once had dwelt alone.
The fullness of the gospel, too,
Its pages will reveal to view.

The sweetness of this hymn rose quietly and penetrated the hearts of all those who sat there—for, indeed, these were remnants of "nations long since dead."  They had "blossomed like a rose" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:24); they had accepted the gospel, and its light had empowered them to make subtle and great changes in their lives. The power of this hymn could not be mistaken.

The hymns of the church are, in essence, grandiose texts, yes even poetry, highly symbolic and unequivocal language that reverently proclaim the gospel truths. These texts have been put to music that reverberates of spirituality, of a sense of adoration to the most High God and His works.

Many sacred hymns teach about Christ's birth, His lineage, His life on earth, His miracles He performed, the importance of good works, His resurrection, His immortal attributes, His atonement for our sins, the final judgment day, His kingdom on earth and in heaven, His love for us, the second coming—all gospel truths.

The First Presidency has said: "Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns.  Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end...” (Hymns, pp. ix, x).

So sing away and learn about gospel truths and be inspired!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mini-Reunions: Time of Reflecting, Reminiscing, and Eating


Mini-Reunions: Time of Reflecting, Reminiscing, and Eating
Darrel L. Hammon

Sunday, February 1, 2015--The first day of the month and incredible Sunday. 

We had a wonderful time this evening to visit with several senior missionaries who served in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean Area Office with us. Los Dunford had invited several of to their daughter's Heather's home in Provo to share some cake, pictures, and converations with them. Those who share a few moments were los Dunford, Eickbush, Crismon, Brown, and Johnson. It was good seeing all of them. We had Hermana Hernández’s famous "Tres Leches" torta (three milk cake), which was absolutely fantastic! We had a good visit. Each of us told a little about what we were doing, and then we saw some pictures from the mission. It was great to reminisce about life in the mission and post mission.

Los Dunford--They hosted the event at their daughter's home. How I didn't have a picture of them at this event is amazing, but here is one from the mission. They haven't changed much--still the handsome couple they are with incredibly warm smiles for everyone.

Los Dunford
 Los Johnson--They served in the Area Office, he as Assistant General Counsel, and she as special projects coordinator for the Area Office. She produced some incredible videos about the Caribbean Area.

Los Johnson
 Los Brown--They served in the Santo Domingo West Mission Presidency and traveled thousands of miles through the West Mission, helping missions, Church leaders, and others learn about their duties. We think they had the toughest mission because at times, they didn't have running water, electricity, or air conditioned. They were definitely mission warriors. And they lived to tell about it.

Los Brown

Los Eickbush--They were incredibly loved by the missionaries in the Santo Domingo East Mission. They served in the office and were literally the parents of many, many young missionaries from around the world.


Los Eickbush
Los Crismon--They replaced us as Area Welfare Specialists. Plus, when los Haws went home, they also picked up the humanitarian projects in the Dominican Republic. They were busy, busy, but they had a good time travel around and taking advantage of the many sites in the DR, especially the gorgeous beaches.


Los Crismon


Los Hammon--Of course, we served as Area Welfare Specialists and in the Dominican Republic Missionary Training Center (MTC) Presidency.

Los Hammmon
We also had the pleasure of taking home Elder Eickbush's famous banana bread. During the mission, he frequently supplied every couple fresh banana bread. The guineos (bananas) were plentiful in the Dominican Republic, and Elder Eickbush was always baking. Even when we returned home to live in Pleasant Grove, he would drop by periodically with his fresh banana bread. We have missed having it. I know our grandchildren loved it when he would come by and bring a fresh loaf. Thanks, Elder Eickbush (Frances)!

Sacks of Elder Eickbush's famous banana bread--yum!
We had a delightful time with everyone. Soon, though, we all had to leave. We all gave each other Dominican abrazos and said our goodbyes, with the caveat that we would see each other soon. There is a better event on a Sunday evening--or any evening for that matter--than spending it with good friends y hermanos de la misión?



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Heber and Park City: Paradise, Delicious Food, and Lots of Blue Things



Heber and Park City: Paradise, Delicious Food, and Lots of Blue Things

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States, a day we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy. Thus, both Joanne and I had the day off; so we spent it doing a bit of traveling through Midway, Heber City, and Park City. What an incredible day to travel to places where cultures are so different, even though they are within a dozen or two miles apart.

First, Midway. Joanne and I had a gift certificate for a full breakfast at the Blue Boar Inn that I had received during a Heber City Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Utah Valley University (UVU)-Wasatch Campus. I was excited to go and take Joanne.

Blue Boar
We trundled to Blue Boar Inn early in the a.m. The weather was crisp, but the sun shined brightly when we arrived at the Inn. What an incredible bed and breakfast! The Swiss settled in Midway; so, many of the buildings, including the various resorts, had been designed in the Swiss look. The Blue Boar Inn is no different.

Blue Boar Inn in Midway, Utah
Joanne and I had a delicious omelet breakfast. Then, we had our picture take in front of the fireplace. Jay, the Inn Keeper, took the picture. He introduced himself as a “long-time peddler and photographer.”

Darrel and Joanne at Blue Boar Inn
After pictures, he took us on a tour of the Inn, stopping at his incredible collection of Olympic pins. The set included 1,165. According to Jay, he had another 600 at home. Impressive!

Two displays and 1,165 Olympic pins
We walked outside and took a few picture of the door and the front of the building, which is inviting to all those who come to the Inn.

Entry door to the Blue Boar Inn
We also drove up the Canyon and just looked over the valley. What is incredible view! There is something about the quietness of mountains in the middle of the winter.

Midway, Utah
Then, we were off to Park City where Joanne wanted to walk around the Tangier Mall, which is located just off Kimball Junction. We did have a good walk, which, we hoped, could be counted as part of our walking exercise. If not, we’re still counting it. The good part was we didn’t spend a lot of money. I think Joanne just bought a few socks, but we did have a good time just walking.

Blue Iguana
 We drove back through Park City and stopped on Main Street. Joanne had previously purchased a GroupOn at the Blue Iguana, a Mexican restaurant. After parking on Main, we walked up the stairs to the Blue Iguana. The food was pleasantly delicious. Neither Joanne nor I could finish our dishes. We decided we probably could have ordered just one dish and shared. Apparently, our Blue Boar Inn breakfast was still upon us even though it was four hours later. Our table overlooked the Sundance Film Festival TV headquarters. The Sundance Film Festival will begin next week, and the entire city was preparing for it.

Main Street in Park City
On the way home, we drove through Heber City and then on to home. We did stop along the way to bask in the beauty of the reservoir and Mt. Timpanogas at the end. Incredible view from our angle, one that one could bask in for a long time.

Reservoir and Mt. Timpanagas
We loved our trip to the Heber Valley and Park City. 

Still in love after 35 years!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Grandparenting: It’s what we were born to do!


Grandparenting: It’s what we were born to do!

I love being a father! Of course, being a father to two delightful children—Anna Rose and Hailey—was a fairly easy task. 
Hailey, Joanne, and Anna Rose
They were exceptional young women who grew up and became even more incredible adults, each with her own skill sets and abilities. Joanne and I still just sit back and wonder how they turned out so well.

Now, they each have two children, one girl and one boy for each of them. This past year, we have been able to spend a bit of time with our four grandchildren and have enjoyed ourselves immensely. We discovered anew that being grandparents is what we were born to do.

Emiline and William helped me plant the garden at Anna Rose’s house. We had a great harvest, too.
Emiline and William at Easter time
We had a delightful Easter with all of them, excluding our newest who wasn’t born yet. We BBQ’ed at Anna Rose’s house and had some pictures taken.
The Hammon Family sans Avonlea
We went to Rigby, Idaho, to attend Mother Boltz's funeral. We stayed with Delaina and walked up the road. Both Emiline and William saw things they had never seen before.
Emiline with a baby mule
Clark and I went to the BYU museum and looked at some of the exhibits.
Grandpa Hammon and Clark
Emiline, William, and I went on a few hikes up the road and back. Of course, we stopped every now and then to look at the birds, a twig on the side of the road, a pine cone that had fallen from one of the trees, grapes that grew on some vines along one of the neighbor’s fence line, and a variety of other things.
Anna Rose, Clark, Emiline, William, and Joanne on a walk down the Clark Highway
When we moved to our new house, the three of them have been over to swing on the swings and slide down the slide. One day, Emiline came over and said, “Did the swings miss me?” My answer was swift, “They miss you every day.”
Emiline
We were able to have Thanksgiving dinner with Anna Rose and her family.
Anna Rose, Christiaan, Emiline, and William
Then we flew on Friday to Hailey’s house and spent the weekend with them. 

We finally met our newest granddaughter—little sweet Avonlea—and spent some time with her big brother Clark. We even blessed little Avonlea in their branch—first baby to be blessed there in eight years. So, you know who’s the hit of the parade every Sunday morning.

Avonlea in her blessing dress.
Emiline and I were able to spend a sick day together earlier this fall. It touched my heart that Emiline said to me, “I love you so much, Grandpa.” Of course, this softy had tears in his eyes.

We’ve been to Emiline’s Christmas program at her school.
Emiline with Santa at her Christmas program
Plus, we have many, many experiences with these four little grandchildren. We love them very much.
Clark and Grandpa: the Dudes
I have always loved children, and children seem to like me. Perhaps, it’s because I look like some big oaf to them. There is something about grandchildren, though, something that is almost inexplicable. It seems there is an instant bond. When I met each of our grandchildren for the first time, I instantly felt they were a part of me and had been from the pre-existence. 
Clark and William at the sand dunes in Delta, Utah.
Just recently, when I took Avonlea in my arms for the first time, I literally felt the connection—a zing! We were one.
Grandpa and Avonlea, blessing day
Grandchildren are truly gifts from our Heavenly Father to enjoy and feel comfort and peace from them.