Checking In
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“Checking In,” New Era, Feb. 1998, 46

Checking In

I found out where I stood by kneeling. You can, too.

When I arrived in Rochester, New York, to serve my mission, the other missionaries in my group and I were taken directly from the airport to the Sacred Grove. Here, said my mission president, we were to “check in” with the Lord.

Although it was summer, the grove was surprisingly empty. I wandered through the grove and found a spot that seemed right. I began to think about what I was doing there. The mission president hadn’t told us exactly what “checking in” meant but left us to determine it on our own.

I thought of how I was a missionary facing two years of telling people that, not far from where they live, in a grove of trees, the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored. Could I rely on my testimony of what had happened to convincingly teach others that God himself had spoken to a young man and reestablished his gospel in this last dispensation?

Despite my feelings of insecurity, I knew that it was important to share the testimony I had gained of the restored gospel. As I knelt in the grove that day, I felt the Spirit whispering to me, telling me that I could testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that I could teach others that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ had appeared to young Joseph in this grove of trees. The impressions I felt gave me strength to go forward for the next two years.

To remember my experience, and the place where I knelt, I found a stone and placed it where I had knelt so that I would know this spot when I returned. During the next two years, I was blessed with several opportunities to return to the grove to teach discussions, to reflect on spiritual matters, and to have periodic “check-ins” with the Lord. Each time I visited the grove, I would add another stone and ponder over my previous visits and impressions. By the end of two years, the stone I had first placed to remember that place had grown to a small pile, and my testimony had solidified.

“Checking out” was a moving and sacred experience to me. Had I done what was expected? Had I served an honorable mission? Pondering these questions was a very soul-searching experience for me—the ultimate job evaluation. The Spirit again whispered to me, and I departed from that place, which had become like an old friend to me, ready for the next phase in my life. I will never forget those experiences in the Sacred Grove.

The Spirit in the Sacred Grove is strong, but no matter where I am, I can have the same kind of experience I had in the Sacred Grove. I set aside a time and place to ponder over my life, to think about my blessings and my testimony. Such experiences give me strength and support during times of trial. Having these experiences is a blessing for which I am grateful. It is a blessing we may all acquire.

[photos, illustration] Photography by Jed Clark. Painting Joseph Smith’s First Vision by Greg Olsen