Tonight I want to share something that may come as a surprise to some, but certainly not to all. The interesting thing is, unlike the many times before when I have been constrained, I feel completely free in Christ to share what He has placed on my heart. The goodness of Christ compels me to be unashamed.
This past weekend was spent in the desert just south of Moab, Utah at what is known to some as “The Rock” or “Rockland Ranch.” The ranch is actually a unique community where some few families (diverse in religious nature) have come together to become a family of sorts. They take care of one another. They love one another. They grow together through good times and bad times. Simply put, they are a proto-Zion. A more detailed article of the ranch can be read here.
What exactly happened this weekend? Well, from Friday to Sunday, hundreds of like-minded people came together to fellowship. These people can be labeled, if you will, as seekers of truth and Jesus Christ (who is Truth itself) Diverse backgrounds were in attendance, to include: active, inactive, and excommunicated LDS, Fundamentalist’s Mormons, fathers, mothers, children, singles, couples, old, young, and I wouldn’t be too farfetched to say angels, too.
During this conference (that’s what these events are called), talks were given, prayers were lifted up, hymns were sung, and sacrament was partaken. I have to admit, I never know how these conferences are going to turn out, and this conference was no different. Nonetheless, as always, the main reason I attend is to fellowship and draw closer to my fellow seekers of truth and the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t say I am surprised that that is exactly what happened.
The conference officially began on Saturday afternoon when a shofar horn was blasted for all to hear. Following the opening prayer and remarks, we heard from the daughter and son of Rockland Ranch founder, Bob Foster. The daughter, Anna, spoke first on the holy feasts of the Old Testament. I learned quite a bit. She was followed by her brother, Enoch, who talked about how the “two churches” in 1 Nephi 14 represent humility and pride. The Church of the Lamb of God is centered, in part, on humility. The church of the devil is centered, in part, on pride. I couldn’t agree more.
Both Anna and Enoch also gave us background on how the ranch came to be by their father. They shared the dreams, visions, and visitors which he encountered to make it all possible. We were left with the impression that the formation of this community was nothing short of inspiration of God.
On Sunday, among other things, we were blessed to hear from several others, to include an amazing woman named Kim, a power-house team Brian and Jennifer, and Denver Snuffer. My memory isn’t serving me well right now, but there were others as well.
Kim spoke about her journey with God and how she got to where she is today. It was inspiring. She is kind, hospitable, and funny! I can’t wait to see her and her husband again.
Brian and Jennifer’s talks were powerful. It needed to be heard. They are the embodiment of love, forgiveness, and second chances. They have had their struggles and victories (which they shared openly and freely) which inspired us all. I like to say the greatest advertisement for Jesus Christ is a changed life. The love that emanates from a once broken vessel is palpable. It’s the real thing. This is the best way I can describe their talks.
Denver spoke on many things, to include priestcraft, Zion, servants, and patience. A transcript is coming soon which I might post if prompted.
Oh man, here’s where you get me. Over the course of the weekend, we sang songs collectively and also enjoyed hearing individual musical numbers. One song I particularly enjoyed was Hymn #6 “Redeemer of Israel.” The lyrics, which were oh so fitting for our current situation, are shown below:
1. Redeemer of Israel,
Our only delight,
On whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day
And our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliv’rer, our all!
2. We know he is coming
To gather his sheep
And lead them to Zion in love,
For why in the valley
Of death should they weep
Or in the lone wilderness rove?
3. How long we have wandered
As strangers in sin
And cried in the desert for thee!
Our foes have rejoiced
When our sorrows they’ve seen,
But Israel will shortly be free.
4. As children of Zion,
Good tidings for us.
The tokens already appear.
Fear not, and be just,
For the kingdom is ours.
The hour of redemption is near.
5. Restore, my dear Savior,
The light of thy face;
Thy soul-cheering comfort impart;
And let the sweet longing
For thy holy place
Bring hope to my desolate heart.
6. He looks! and ten thousands
Of angels rejoice,
And myriads wait for his word;
He speaks! and eternity,
Filled with his voice,
Re-echoes the praise of the Lord.
I can’t explain the Spirit we felt. My friend Joe who sat next to me would testify of this. Needless to say, it was powerful. Heaven took notice . . . .
Aside from the several private sacrament meetings which took place among the people throughout the weekend, a main sacrament was conducted Sunday morning. We were happy and at peace with the way in which we partook: The way in which the Lord instructed.
Wine and fist sized bread were prepared for all to partake (or grape juice if you preferred that.) As the sacrament was blessed, we all kneeled together (DC 20: 76)
Unnoticed by most, baptisms (and rebaptisms) were preformed on top of The Rock. This picture is somewhat deceiving, but that water hole actually goes down quite a ways. It’s bigger than the picture suggests. The climbing of the mountain to be baptized was major symbolism in and of itself.
These baptisms were done unto the Lord alone as a sign of personal commitment to the Fathers will. I’ve been rebaptized myself. In the early days of this restoration, rebaptisms were more common than we think. If you notice in the Book of Mormon, baptisms and rebaptisms were done as the first fruit of repentance (Moroni 8: 25.) Do we not repent more than once? Do we not renew ourselves unto Christ many times throughout our lives? Something to think about . . . .
About this time last year I attended another large conference in Colorado. That conference specifically changed my life forever. The same things took place as this conference: talks, hymns, sacrament, et cetera. But that’s not what changed me. What changed me was encountering the amazing people who attended.
Most I only knew through Facebook, so it was a delight to finally meet in person. But, everyone I specifically got to know, were the most honest, genuine, courageous and loving people I have ever met in my life. I don’t say this to lift them up, but to be in awe of what God has done (and is doing) through his children upon this earth. These people were broken for the Lord. Their faces were a reflection of His evidential love in their lives. They craved raw truth, from whatever source it came from.
One specific night, I was at a certain fellows home where we all broke bread. Towards the end of the evening, I was talking with that guy for the first time one-on-one. Almost instantly, my heart connected with his and his with mine. We sensed the familiarity. It’s actually a gift God has given him, I believe.
As we talked, his testimony of Gods work in his life was exactly what I needed to hear at that time in my own life. I wept as I felt his pain and gratitude. I love that man. I love the Savior.
This weekend was a reflection of that wonderful night. My primary intention of attending, as I stated earlier, was to once again meet wonderful people and fellowship. As desired, I got to reconnect with old friends from Colorado and meet new friends in Utah. Love was present all throughout. No noticeable judgment was cast, hearts were softened, traditions were thrown down, and intelligence was gained.
I was fortunate to speak with men (now brothers) face to face, heart to heart. Some conversations lasted an hour or two, and they would have lasted much longer if not for interruptions. I believe hearts were knit and eternal bonds were formed. If these fellowships are even a sliver of what Zion will be like, then this is what I want in life.
I’m not a good news journalist, if you will, so forgive me if this write up was sorely inadequate. Maybe others who attended will chip in. Please do. But one thing is for sure: farewells are not easy.
I think most who attended this weekend would agree that we wished it went on longer than it did. It’s hard to leave when we had such a great time. It’s a tease, honestly. But that’s how it works. Until Zion blossoms, we are left with only drops of water on a thirsty tongue. We must press on. One day, I pray, we will live together everlastingly upon the earth with the Fountain of Water Himself.
Personally, just like the Colorado conference, I will soon forget all the talks, logistics, et cetera which were given and took place. Not that I am unappreciative (to be sure), but to me that wasn’t the most important thing. Again, just like the Colorado conference, I will never forget the way I felt. That was the most important thing, to me. Love is permanent. It’s an anchor of sorts.
I want to express appreciation to the family (you know who you are) who graciously hosted me this weekend. If not for them, I would not have been able to attend. My decision to attend was so last minute, and without hesitation or reservation, they took me in as one of their own. I am forever grateful. I love you.
I also wish to express appreciation to the Rockland Ranch residents who took us in onto their property. They did not originally expect so many people to attend, so I only wish the Lord to bless them double portion. God orchestrated this event and they were faithful to Him.
God is no respecter of persons. I know this. The only thing He longs for is faith unto a broken heart and contrite spirit. Not as punishment or amusement, but as a sign and token that we are ready to lay aside the world and embrace Him. For all of history, religion has been abused and used to take advantage of humanity. Slap God’s name on anything and it can be used for evil purposes.
Religion can be a source of pride and vanity. There IS, however, a pure religion with which God acknowledges, but it does not consist in what we think it does. Our best bet is to come unto Him in this mortal probation and receive promises concerning our salvation from His mouth directly. And with this knowledge, “go to” and bless your fellowman. Help them come unto the Lord as well.
This weekend was just what I needed. The fact that all kinds of faiths were present was a gift which helped enable us to cast off judgment and come together in Christ. You find this pattern in the Book of Mormon (4 Nephi 1: 1-3). This was pleasing to God, I believe.
We have just as much of an opportunity for Zion right now as has ever been presented to mankind. It’s hard to imagine that we are living in such a day, but nonetheless, it is true. We have a window of opportunity. Let us be broken for Him. Let us be faithful to Him. Let us connect to Christ so we can connect to others and become His Family together.
As a result of this past weekends conference, I feel more committed to Christ. I feel more committed to my fellowman. I feel more committed to my family. I am unashamed to practice Gods religion to the best of my current understanding.
I can’t wait for the next conference.
As my friend Nathan would say: Gratitude!