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Thursday, August 25, 2016

In Tribute of the Memory of my Grandma Carol Stokes

I experienced a traumatic life event this last month and I finally feel ready to blog about it. My dad's mom, Carol Stokes, has been very sick for a while but worsened in the last month. Additionally, she was really missing her husband, who had died 16 years ago this month. After a valiant struggle, she passed away on the 11th of this month. Though she died of a kidney-related condition, I believe it was a broken heart that did her in. For years now she has watched a division of her family. The family was split pretty evenly between those that kept in close contact with her and those that refused to have anything to do with her, whether those differences arose due to actual or perceived wrongs.  She commented more than once that she didn't want a funeral when she died, because she felt convinced that no one would come.

I had the distinct privilege to speak with her via Skype before she died. She was lying in a hospital bed, too weak to do much. But she  seemed to perk up as she heard my voice, and mustered enough strength to let me know that she loved me. I tried to Skype with her once more before her passing, but it didn't work. I sent her a  message of love through my mom, and Grandma whispered that she loved me too. It would be my last chance to speak with her in this life.

When I got the news of her passing, there were tears, but also an overwhelming feeling of comfort  and love from my Heavenly Father. I gain solace in the knowledge that death is not the end of life, and that I will see her again.

With the tender feelings came the memories. I remember how Grandma always told me how proud she was of whatever I was doing. I remember she and Grandpa Stokes were there for every important event of my life. I remember one year, my school did a program for Grandparent's Day. They made special efforts to be there to hear us sing. I remember the cool tools her children played with that she lovingly held onto for her grandchildren's use. I remember her loving phone calls and cards sent over the years to her little "Jamesie." I remember they were there for baptisms, priesthood ordinations, Eagle Courts of Honor. By the time I was ready to serve my mission, her husband had passed away. Grandma didn't have much material wealth, but she said to just let her know if I needed anything. I remember well the day I called Grandma and told her I had found the woman I wanted to marry. She made a special trip up for the wedding.

When I thought of this remarkable woman, I thought, "How could I not be there to honor her life?" I was grateful that my unemployed status made the trip down easy to work around. My mom drove Amy and me down there.

The mood was somber and reflective when we entered the mortuary for her viewing. It was so hard to see her lying there still and peaceful, eyes closed in death. Then I found out I was to be one of the pallbearers, which had somehow not been mentioned to me before that night. I vividly recall greeting my family, some of whom made a flying trip to be there.

The next day was the funeral. It was mostly a good experience. As much as I could, I enjoyed the proceedings and the luncheon that followed.

Grandma's one desire for her family was that there would be no empty chairs in her house on the other side. Given what I know about the family drama, I don't know just how possible that will be.

I think it is tragic that some few people were not there by conscientious choice. I know there were those who were not there because they physically could not be. But I am very distraught that in this trying time, there were those who deliberately avoided this event.

If I had one message to those family members that did not attend because of their differences, or who were there grudgingly, it would be the words of the Savior when he said:

"My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil, they were afflicted and sorely chastened.

"Wherefore, I say unto you that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord, for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

"I the Lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

"And ye ought to say in your hearts--let God judge between me and thee and reward thee according to thy deeds."

I have often wondered why the Lord has said it is a greater sin not to forgive than to forgive, and I have come to the conclusion that it is because when we fail to forgive those who have wronged us, we are only hurting ourselves. Our resenting other people does not have an adverse effect on them, as oftentimes they are unaware of any offense they have given. But it can consume our souls and waste needless effort that could be spent on more important pursuits that would be for the greater good.

Forgiveness and the lack thereof has often been compared to a rattlesnake bite. When any man is bitten by a snake, he has two basic choices; hunt down the snake and kill it in revenge, thereby allowing the poison to destroy him or take the time to get the poison out of his system and thus save his life//I think we can all agree on what the better option is.

I realize that this post may make me very unpopular with family members who have nothing against me personally, but I have long wanted to say something to those family members to this effect and felt it couldn't be put off any longer. To you family members who have been estranged from the other half of the family, in the aftermath of Grandma's death, I plead with you: Let go of your hurt and the poison of resentment before it destroys you. Let Grandma's passing be your time to come back to the family circle. Please don't let there be empty chairs anymore.

That would be the greatest gift you could give the family at this time. In the meantime, I would also encourage those in the family who didn't have a problem with Grandma but might have had resentment against some of their siblings to do the same.

Thanks for reading this post, and may the Lord be with us all as we try to live in such a way that will allow us to be united with Grandma again after this life.

Yet Another Temple Progress Update

I am excited to share important developments I became aware of today in temple construction progress. Here is my updated report:

Temple Construction Progress Report (current as of 8/24/16)
Current Temple Status: 151 operating, 15 under construction (scheduled for dedication), 11 announced (groundbreaking announcements anticipated soon), 4 undergoing renovation (scheduled for rededication).

Dedication scheduled:
152. Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple: Public open house tours underway through September 9; dedication scheduled on Sunday September 18, 2016.
153. Fort Collins Colorado Temple: Public open house underway through September 10; dedication scheduled on Sunday October 16, 2016.
154. Star Valley Wyoming Temple: Accepting reservations for public open house, scheduled September 23-October 8; dedication scheduled on Sunday October 30, 2016.
155. Hartford Connecticut Temple: Roofing nearing completion; more scaffolding coming down; landscaping continues; president’s residence progressing; dedication scheduled on Sunday November 20, 2016.

Under Construction:
156. Paris France Temple: Exterior cladding of visitor’s center nearing completion; stained glass installation underway; courtyard pavers laid; completion estimated sometime in mid-2017.
157. Meridian Idaho Temple: Angel Moroni placed on July 20, 2016; completion estimated sometime in late 2017.
158. Cedar City Utah Temple: Monument sign installed; completion estimated sometime in late 2017.
159. Tucson Arizona Temple: Retaining walls in place; pouring parking lot curbing; completion estimated sometime in late 2017.
160. Rome Italy Temple: Interior work underway including some material replacement and rework; completion estimated sometime in the first half of 2018.
161. Concepcion Chile Temple: Pouring walls for base of tower; preparing to attach exterior panels; completion estimated sometime in 2018.
 162. Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple: Foundation poured; waterproofing applied to basement walls; completion estimated sometime between 2018 and 2019.
163. Barranquilla Colombia Temple: Foundation walls going up; Elder Renlund visits temple site in August; completion estimated sometime in 2019.
164.  Fortaleza Brazil Temple: Forms in place for pouring foundation walls; completion estimated sometime in 2019.
165. Durban South Africa Temple: Site grading and clearing underway; completion estimated sometime in 2019.
166. Lisbon Portugal Temple: Ground broken on Saturday December 5, 2015; completion estimated sometime in 2019.

Rededication scheduled:
33. Freiberg Germany Temple: Closed for renovation; open house tours underway through August 27; rededication scheduled on Sunday September 4, 2016.

Undergoing Renovation:
8. Idaho Falls Idaho Temple: Closed for renovation; rededication estimated sometime during the first quarter of 2017.
41. Frankfurt Germany Temple: Closed for renovation; rededication estimated sometime in late 2017.
20. Jordan River Utah Temple: Closed for renovation; rededication estimated sometime in late 2017.

167. Arequipa Peru Temple: General contractor selected; construction anticipated to begin sometime in October 2016.
168. Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple: Construction preparation phase; plans approved by local government; announcement of groundbreaking pending and not likely to take place until after the Summer Olympics.
169. Urdaneta Philippines Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
170. Winnipeg Manitoba Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
171. Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
172. Bangkok Thailand Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
173. Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
174. Quito Ecuador Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
175. Harare Zimbabwe Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
176. Belem Brazil Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
177. Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.

Bolded numbers and text denote temples whose number already exists (for renovations), or is certain due to a scheduled dedication, as well as information that is certain, such as dedication or groundbreaking dates.
Italicized numbers and text denote temples whose number may change based on the order in which future dedications and groundbreakings are scheduled.
Underlined numbers and text denote temples whose number may change based on theorder in which their future groundbreakings are announced.
Red text denotes changes from the last posted temple progress update.

Most Recent and Near Future Apostolic Birthdays

5 apostolic birthdays have come and gone in August, and two more are coming up in September. Our youngest apostle, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, turned 61 on August 6. Elder Neil L. Andersen marked his 65th birthday on August 9. Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Robert D. Hales turned 84 on August 12 and today respectively. President Thomas S. Monson celebrated his 89th birthday three days ago. We have two apostles celebrating birthdays in September a day apart. Elder Quentin L. Cook will turn 76 on September 8. President Russell M. Nelson, the oldest living apostle, will mark his 92nd birthday on September 9.

Thanks for your readership and support. ;