When we moved to Highland, Utah we were excited to have a big yard. We had three daughters; Julienne was 6, Maggie had just turned 5, and Emma was almost 2. Part of the appeal of the house was a big playground in the back yard and room for a trampoline.
We bought a trampoline and me and my brother Nick spent a whole Saturday putting the thing together. It was very heavy and it had the big net that went all the way around it connected to big tall metal poles. You could not move the trampoline by yourself, and we had difficulty moving it with just two of us to where we wanted it. The day was almost over but the kids had a good couple hours to jump on it. We were all excited about the trampoline. It looked really nice. It looked safe.
We had the kids come inside, eat dinner, take baths, and read scriptures as a family. We did all the regular things on a Saturday night getting ready for church the next morning. Later that night a big storm came through.
Now we were new to Highland, and didn’t know that Highland is known for its strong wind gusts. Highland sits at the base of American Fork Canyon. Well this storm was a big one. I could hear the rain against our bedroom window and the wind howling. I had the thought, “I wonder how the trampoline is doing?” I turned on the flood lights to the back yard. I looked hard squinting and scanning the back yard, then I said to my wife Jen, “It’s gone!” She said, “What do you mean it’s gone?” and I said, “I can’t see it anywhere!” I got dressed and grabbed a flashlight. I went out to where the trampoline had been. Nothing was around. I looked over to the swing set and it had been smashed and toppled. I shined the flashlight all around the yard, on our roof, in the trees. The trampoline had vanished. Sticks, branches, and other things were flying through the air like in a tornado. I began to think that it might not be safe for me to be out in the storm. I went out to the front yard and through rain hitting my face, I could see a crumpled trampoline across the street. I crossed the street to get a closer look. As I shined the flashlight on it in unbelief, I could tell it wasn’t our trampoline. It was a different color. I later found out it was our neighbor’s who lived three houses down the street. Completely puzzled, I looked around and finally gave up. It wasn’t in Kansas any more… or at least it wasn’t in my yard.
The next morning I woke up before church to have a look again in the light. South of us on the other side of my neighbor’s barn lay a crumpled pile of broken and twisted metal trampoline poles. This thing must have taken flight, leveled our swing set, and traveled around 400 feet in the air, and then crashed down on the other side of their barn. Luckily it was nowhere near anyone or anything else that it could have harmed. On closer inspection, it was completely ruined. There was no way to salvage it and have it still be safe, at least not with my skills. Maybe someone with a welder and a lot of work could have done something, but for me, duct tape wasn’t going to fix this. So for a very brief moment we had a fun, nice looking trampoline.
Our trampoline looked similar to this. I don’t think we had it long enough to get a photo.
So why did I start thinking about this? Well this weekend is stake conference. We have a general authority, Elder Peter F. Evans visiting and he was speaking to us and told us a story of the saints in Sierra Leone. The Church was growing in Sierra Leone and they had three houses where they met for worship. They had signs outside that said, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visitors Welcome.” These members did not have much. Most had very simple homes with dirt floors. They loved their little meeting houses. They loved the gospel. Then to their surprise, President Ezra Taft Benson, the prophet at that time, sent a letter. They were to close all the churches. They were to take down the signs. They were not to gather there anymore. They were to stay home and read the scriptures and pray in their homes. This was direction from the prophet. But some were angry. “He doesn’t know our needs! He doesn’t know anything about us!” They felt that the prophet was out of touch with them. Some of the members of the church left the faith. Others were obedient and did as the prophet said. They stayed home. They read the scriptures as a family. They prayed. But they didn’t gather together. They missed their meeting houses. They missed the association with the other members. But they were obedient. Then civil war broke out. Rebels and the army fought all over the land. The civilians weren’t accidental deaths. They were the targets. Churches were targets. The rebels burned churches down and started locking churches while people were worshiping, then they could easily kill everyone inside. Every other denomination in Sierra Leone left. Many were killed in their churches while worshiping. Not one Latter-day saint lost their life during the war. They had listened to a prophet of God, when they had no idea why, when it didn’t make sense, but they had faith that the prophet of God would not lead them astray. They were blessed with their very lives.
So this got me thinking of the trampoline. From the outside, our original trampoline looked great. It was new and shiny, and seemed to be quite safe. One major problem. It was not anchored to the ground. The next year we saved up some money and bought a new trampoline much like the previous one. But I anchored it down like you wouldn’t believe. This one was not going to be blown away. I bought a bunch of heavy rebar (reinforced steel bars) that I had bent into U shapes and then anchored each leg with two of these. I hammered them with a sledge hammer over the metal legs, deep into the ground. It was over-engineered. It was overkill I know. I was told I didn’t need to anchor it down so much. I didn’t stop there. I also put big bags of rocks over each leg in addition to two U-shaped rebar poles anchored deep into the ground. Now I knew that whatever Highland winds might be thrown at us, our trampoline was not going anywhere.
Elder Neil L. Andersen spoke about this in a spiritual sense. He said, “More concerning than the prophesied earthquakes and wars are the spiritual whirlwinds that can uproot you from your spiritual foundations and land your spirit in places you never imagined possible, sometimes with your barely noticing that you have been moved.” …. “How do you prepare for your whirlwinds? “Remember … it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … his shafts in the whirlwind, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power … to drag you down … because of the rock upon which ye are built.” This is your safety in the whirlwind… Another powerful protection from the whirlwinds of life is the Book of Mormon.”
We live in interesting times to say the least. In many ways the world is upside down to what life was like growing up in Midvale, Utah in the 70s and 80s. As I also look back to the 70s and 80s and think, “Life was simpler back then.” Things have changed fast. The world is very far out of line with the teachings of God. In the Book of Mormon, Lehi had a vision of the Tree of Life which represented the gospel or the love of God. Many who ate of the fruit were being mocked by people in a great and spacious building. They were embarrassed and went away from the gospel into divers and forbidden paths. We are living Lehi’s vision today. As members of Christ’s church we’ve partaken of the fruit. It is good. It brings happiness. It makes us better people. But then the mocking starts. The mocking of those in the great and spacious building should be easy to ignore right? But what if some of them are your friends and family members? Then it is harder to ignore them. This building floated in the air. That seems weird, but actually now we have similar things floating in the air. Have you heard of “the cloud”? Facebook is a great and spacious building of sorts floating in the air or in the cloud. Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets; that is where I see most of the mocking. That is where I’m hearing the shouts trying to make me ashamed of being a faithful devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From what I can tell, this is the great and spacious building which we see the most right now. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be on Facebook, I’m simply pointing out the comparison. The great and spacious building is later explained to be the pride of the world. We see that pride in abundance on social media. There are other forms such as printed newspapers, TV, cable, satellite (which is also above the earth floating), etc.
So I’ve had some time to reflect. I don’t think we can have too much rebar anchoring our testimony. I need to put more rebar down in my testimony. I need to make sure that I’m reading the Book of Mormon every day. (Like President Thomas S. Monson counseled.) I need my foundation and the foundation of my family deeply anchored in the gospel and the love of God. In the rock of our Redeemer Jesus Christ so when the next whirlwind and shafts in the night come, I will be so well-anchored it will have no effect on me. We need to be all in and know whatever the prophet of God says, we will follow. He will not lead us astray. I will support him. Period. I will support the Apostles of Jesus Christ. Period. I’m all in. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know this. The rebars of my faith come largely from my study of this book. I know that the Prophet, President Monson, and each person in the First Presidency, and each Apostle, is a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ on earth in the last dispensation of time before the Second Coming of Christ. I will make their teachings my walk and talk. I will follow them because their teachings lead to Jesus Christ. Their teachings, along with the Book of Mormon and Bible, is the rod of iron in Lehi’s dream. It leads to the tree of life. The love of God. The gospel. Through the mists of darkness, I will hold fast to their word.
From my journal today, titled “Trampolines in the Highlands.” Nov. 8, 2015.
Here is the full talk by Elder Neil L. Andersen: