The Manner of Happiness Part I

It was another clear day and the sky shone an almost electric blue as the Vegas sun blazed from above in its usual attempt to cook the desert metropolis in which I had grown up. My mother drove our old, bronze Cadillac. The window was down and her curly, platinum blonde hair billowed in the parched wind. She wore her infamous cheetah print sunglasses and hot pink flip-flops combination and smelled of cucumber melon lotion and summer.

I sat shotgun and gazed out at the desert scenery as it passed before my seven year-old self like the terrain of a side scroller would. I felt like Mario as I stared out at the vast world I knew only from my vantage point from the passenger seat. Then suddenly I noticed something new, a pristine, white building with a large rod steeple atop it. I don’t know how many times Mom and I had gone down this road, and yet for some reason only today had I finally noticed the structure.

“Mom what’s that?” I asked as I pointed the ivory construction.

“A Mormon church,” she said without even a glance in my direction.

“Why don’t we go there?” When we were kids Mom had taken us to a Presbyterian Church a few times, and in my seven year-old mind they were all the same.

“Because we’re not Mormon, Keithy,” she said casually her voice full of a mother’s charm. “We’re Christian.”

“Oh,” and that was that. We were Christian, whatever that meant, and in my child’s brain, Mormons were something other than that.

A decade had passed and I now walked through the Thomas E. Ricks Gardens as a Mormon. Buds dotted the tree branches and unveiled flowers stood wrapped up in their post winter cocoons as they waited for the last chill to flee before spring. There was a quite serenity within the garden, as if it had somehow created its own bubble that kept out the sights and sounds of the university.

Around me other students passed on their way down the snaking concrete paths towards their destinations, but there was no rush in their strides, rather pleasant reflection as they, like myself, took in the simplicity manifest in nature.

My chosen path eventually lead me to a break in a line of giant pines. A gentle hum reverberated in the air as the trees danced and swayed on the breeze.  I looked down at the wrinkled and folded map I had printed out for myself and made sure I was indeed headed in the right direction. Certain now I tucked the paper into my back pocket and then as if I had passed through a portal, the college bustle and rustle unpaused itself and the game of education continued.

In the distance the bell tolled with the hymn, “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” as if to usher in the ivory building that had emerged before me. The Taylor Chapel was longer than it was wide and at its front the stones scaled in a pyramidal fashion to create a simple stone steeple.

I’ve heard two theories as to why every LDS chapel has a steeple. The first is that it’s just a pretty architectural feature. The other is that the heaven-faced structures somehow attract the attention of the sincere seeker of truth to find the true manner of happiness only found within the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Regardless if either be true, the steeple had caught my child’s eye a decade ago, and now here I stood.

The inside of the Taylor Chapel was like some sort of reverent vestibule full of the whispers of chatty students and muffled footfalls on matted carpet. Paintings of the Savior pre and post crucifixion hung beside various Biblical depictions and renditions of the Prophet Joseph Smith as he stood triumphant, or glorious, or nobly before whatever scenario he was drawn into.

I walked up a flight of steps and then down a narrow corridor until I found my destination, a small lecture hall with elevated seating. I took my chair and moments later a red faced man with silver hair entered. He wore a white dress shirt, black pants and a simple red tie. He removed a pair of glasses from his breast pocket and began to read off the roll call. Then when he finished he tucked the spectacles back into their pocket and reclined in a single chair situated front and center in the room.

“So where does our story begin?” He asked candidly.

A brown haired guy at the front of the class raised his hand.

“Yes’sir,” the professor pointed.

“Genisis,” he said confidently.

“Alright lets open up to Genesis 1. Who’s got it?”

A girl raised her hand in the back.

“Read it for us,” the professor said as he pointed at the young woman.

She began to read Genesis one and after a few versus the professor raised his hand.

“That’s good enough. So is that where our story starts?” He looked out over the silent and confused students. “Come on guys! You know this. I know you do. So where does our story start?”

Another girl raised her hand this time a blonde girl near the middle of the class. “John 1?” She wasn’t so confident in her suggestion as the guy in the front had been about Genesis.

“Ok, lets open up to St. John one,” he explained as he sat back and waited. A guy near the front raised his hand and the professor nodded.

The young man read about the Word being with God in the beginning and again after a few verses the professor raised his hand and the reading ceased.

“Come on guys. We’re getting closer. You can do this,” his voice rang with the kind of enthusiasm your mom would give you if she were on the sidelines of a triathlon cheering you on.

I raised my hand and the professor bowed his silver head. “It starts in Abraham.”

“There it is!” He leapt to his feet and shouted. The class jumped, startled that a man in his sixties could display such a fierce passion for the gospel. “Quick! Someone open up to Abraham and lets read.”

“I have it,” I continued.

“Go,” he ordered.

I read aloud the scriptures about Abraham’s vision of his Pre-Mortal existence and his ranking among the intelligences that were before the foundation of the world.

“Now I have to apologize to you guys,” the red-faced professor stuck his hand to his forehead now. “It was a trick question. Now don’t go losing trust in me, hear me out first. We think in beginnings and endings, but is that how God thinks?” he looked out over his class now.

I shook my head.

“No. Now let me ask you this. Where’s Kolob?” the class was silent. “Come on guys it’s the governing planet closest to where God resides or some craziness like that. Does knowing where Kolob really matter?”

Again I shook my head.

“No. What matters is how much you understand of the ways in which the Lord works. He works in eternal rounds and if you don’t understand the end as well as you understand the beginning then you won’t ever get the whole picture. The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. ” he leaned back and put his arms behind his head. “We can talk about Kolob all day and get no closer to God than we currently are right now. Or we can talk about the things that do matter. We can talk about the things that will bring us joy, and we can learn the true manner of happiness. Welcome to Old Testament part one. So now that I got my introduction done, who knows where the end of our story is? Who’s got THE Revelation of John?”

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