So one of the coolest parts about living in Jerusalem is that everyone else thinks it's a pretty big deal, too... including the general authorities of our church. We were lucky enough to host both Elder and Sister Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy AND Elder and Sister Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve Apostles. These couples are just like any other couple, and yet, they bring a unique and added portion of the Spirit with them... not to mention that the cooks make especially good food when they are here!
Now before I get into everything that we got to to with them, I have to give some background first. My father attended BYU when Elder Holland was President of BYU, and he absolutely fell in love with the way Elder Holland spoke and taught. I don't remember many family home evenings, but what I do remember is that a lot of times my dad would teach us things from his favorite talks, which were often by Elder Holland. Not that we love any apostle more than another, but Elder Holland was definitely my dad's favorite. When I heard he was coming for a couple days, I knew my dad would be so jealous and I prayed that he might be able to share in the experience with me.
Every Sabbath here is just incredible, I always fill full to the brim with the Spirit. I'm like a wet sponge that has been soaking in water and is suddenly hit with a hose every Sabbath. The last two Sabbaths have been even more sacred. Two weeks ago was the Primary Program in Sacrament meeting. I don't know if it was my frame of mind, the setting we're in, the individual children, or the message... I suppose it was the perfect combination of all of these things that led to the most piercing and truly sacred Primary program I've ever experienced. I can't even describe how special it was, by I have honestly never cried during a Primary program before... Sunday School and Relief Society that followed were also just as amazing, as always. After church I went back to my room and continued my study of the Gospel of John. When it came time for dinner, God blessed me with impeccable timing, because I just happened to be standing at the very back of the line, by the stairs, when Elder and Sister Holland came walking up for dinner. It might sound corny, but they literally glowed... with love, with the Spirit, with joy. They were absolutely radiant, and instantly I knew once again that he is an apostle of God, a special witness of Jesus Christ to all the world. That night we had a District Fireside (we're in the Israel District), where both the Porters and the Hollands spoke to us. Elder Holland spoke about mercy. Sometime when I have my notes up here, I will type up some of the things he said. But it was the most wonderful experience I've had in a really long time.
Then last Saturday we had our District Conference, with the Porters and Elder Kacher of the Seventy. It is a rare experience for the whole district to get together, especially two weeks in a row. Some of these people have to fight to even get into Jerusalem. The conference was powerful. I know I keep saying that, but it's the only word remotely close to how I feel. I walk out of the meetings filled to the brim of the Spirit and I just think "Wow. It can't get any better than this." And then I go to the next meeting and it is even more incredible. After Conference I felt like I was going to burst because I just felt so FULL of the love of God and His Spirit. And the day was just getting started!
After church, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the gatekeeper let us into the "Private" part across the street... most importantly completely secluded from all of the tourists that normally videotape us as we read our scriptures or sing hymns there. It was so wonderful just to have some alone time in such a special place! What a tender mercy! And then after dinner we were filled once again during President Brown's "Lectures on Luke" that continued. And then, the most wonderful experience of all: some students organized a musical Firemony--aka a fireside/testimony meeting--off the cuff, and it turned out to be the most powerful experience we've had during the last two months. Hands down. It probably helped that we were already SO overflowing from how full we felt, and then this experience created a highly pressurized system of waterworks. The Spirit was so intense, and it just lingered in the room because we were each so full that there was no where else for it to go. I think I've done the best I can at explaining that we were just TOO FULL of the Spirit to receive anymore. haha I feel like I'm grasping at straws trying to describe these wonderful experiences that I'm having, and I know that the confines of our language are just inadequate at describing such things, but I hope what I can convey is that I still don't know more today than I did 2 months ago that Christ lives. God loves His children, and He has a plan for each of us meant to bring us the epitome of joy. One of my favorite lines in all of scripture that I have learned even more about this semester is that no matter what we do or who we are, the Lord's hand is outstretched still... ever willing and waiting to guide us back home to Him. Through the tender mercies of the Lord, I know that my dad is also there waiting for me to return, and I can't wait! There is a lot I have to do here before that day comes. But it will come. And this is knowledge that has given me the greatest amount of peace ever imaginable!