I will start with this weekend and then backtrack a bit. Yesterday, we finally had a combined youth activity with the youth of the Mullingar branch. (We started planning this activity in August!) Mullingar is almost two hours east of Sligo and they had six of their 11 youth who attended. We had four of our six. We were actually quite satisfied with those numbers because we feel that this was really a good activity and having many more people might have just gummed up the works. Here is a picture of most of the youth (on either side) and the elders in the middle.
So the activity is probably familiar to anyone who has been a member of the Church for 20 years or so. It's the one where the youth are all brought into a room which has been laid out like an airplane and they are told that they are taking a flight to Paris. We spent many hours preparing for this production, but it was so worth it. The flight gets underway, after everyone - with their individualized passports and boarding passes - have been seated in the plane. Two of the youth played the roles of flight attendants and they passed around the refreshments and then took care of the "rubbish".
About ten minutes into the flight there was an announcement that the captain had reported a problem with the engine and then within seconds we could hear the plane going down (our YM president in the Sligo branch, Sigfred Ducusin, is very techno-savvy, so he was able to create the visual and sound effects for us.
The next thing we knew the plane crashed and then Captain Smith (a.k.a. Elder Walker) came to the front of the room representing the angel who was telling everyone that the plane had crashed and there were no survivors. There was some tittering in the group for a few seconds and then they became very quiet. Elder Walker continued to explain to them that they would now be leaving this place and moving either into Spirit Prison or Paradise (based on whether they received a slip of paper or not). We split the group then and they each went in with one of the missionaries who explained to them about why they were assigned to their initial place of rest and who it was that they would see there. Even though we have all learned these things in church classes over many years, it was enlightening to see it presented this way and I was reminded of things that I had not thought about in a long time. Richard is such a faithful reader of the scriptures, but I continually struggle with it, so I have forgotten things like the fact that it was Christ who first began teaching people in Spirit Prison while he was yet a spirit Himself. I was sitting in the Spirit Prison room and was there when the people from Paradise came to teach them. Then I slipped out of the room so that I could see them come pouring out of Spirit Prison - just like those to are blessed to have their temple work done and who accept that work. There was something especially effective about this for me.
Then began the assignment of people to each of the three kingdoms of Heaven. We all went through them together, beginning with the Telestial, of course, which was lit only by white Christmas lights - imitating stars, and no heat in the room. Elder Benesch taught us about who would be assigned to this sphere, but was good to emphasize that this WAS a degree of glory, even if it was the lowest, and that we could progress in this degree. But, wouldn't it be great if we had something more?
So we moved to the Terrestrial Kingdom, where Elder Celestini (he's Italian, obviously, and his name means celestial - how cool is that?) - anyway, Elder Celestini taught us about the Terrestrial Kingdom.
There is more light in this room because the windows were not fully covered as they had been in the Telestial Room. We learned that the glory here is comparable to the moon - something much more than the stars, but not as much as the sun. Then, of course, we moved to the Celestial Room.
The young man at the pulpit is the 18-year-old president of the Young Men's Quorum in the Mullingar Branch. He gave a very impressive talk about the desirability of the Celestial Kingdom but, again, was considerate of the feelings of those who may have relatives that are never going to be there because they would not even be comfortable there.
When all was said and done, no one was in a hurry to leave. We had all enjoyed the experience and were glad we had participated. I think this is an activity that the youth will long remember, just as others of us, who have done this before, remember it so well.
So today - I'll be brief - was Sunday and the Primary Program. I am the Primary President, so I spoke, along with my one counselor, Chris Grannis. Also, the three children in our Primary each said a small part and sang a song for us. I thought it turned out just fine. And our attendance was up - we had 27 people there today, including an investigator and three visitors. Yay.
I was going to say more, but this has been a pretty long blog, so I'll let you off the hook now. Bye!