Most experiences I have in a day or a week or a month are not life-changing. In a day, the most moving thing that can happen to me is the opportunity to help an old woman find potato rolls at the grocery store. Not really life-changing. But some things, some events, some moments change everything
. You don't think they change everything until you realize that you haven't stopped thinking about them for weeks and months. They become you, and you become them.
My life can be defined by a few great things, but what may well be the greatest is what forced me to wear this dorky hat and this couch of a dress:
The Hill Cumorah Pageant changed everything,
evidenced by the first thing I wrote upon returning:
Words short of sacred cannot describe my Hill Cumorah Pageant experience, but these words can put to light how it's impacted me: I know absolutely that the Book of Mormon is a true book and that the people it documents lived upon this earth. I also know that Joseph Smith was no liar, no false prophet, as some would say he is, but a boy who was chosen to do something and become someone that no other person on this earth could ever have the courage to do or become. I know what Zion is, I know what heaven's like, and I know that every person has the power in them to do good and the distinction of being beautiful in ways that they cannot comprehend, though those ways are openly displayed in every quiet action they take and kind word they say to those around them.
I know all of this because I have stood in sacred places, read sacred words, and felt the warmth of the spirit surrounding my heart in confirmation.
God is good, and I am so grateful to have walked where prophets walked and to have seen what I imagine God sees in His children.
Again, it changed everything.
Every single day I feel a pang of loss because I'm not in Manchester, New York, practicing for opening night and preparing to spread the gospel to those in attendance. I still feel the need to share my experiences, and it hurts me when no one notices or cares. My heart is in New York all of the time.
Ever since getting home, I've desired to replicate my experience, or at least, how I felt. It's been nearly impossible to do. But today I took some time to write down all of the things that made the Hill Cumorah Pageant what it was for me, and these are the experiences I took away that can help each of us build our own Cumorahs.
At the Hill:
1. Everyone was willing to share their talents and did it frequently to bear their testimonies.
No one was shy. Like, ever. They volunteered to sing, they volunteered to pray, they volunteered to dance. They volunteered to do everything. Everything that could and should be done was done because of youth and adults who wanted nothing more than to share their abilities with others. It was incredible to see. Everyone had something they could contribute, and they did contribute. My contribution, for example, was the ability to knit hats for newborns, so I was able to make a few. Such involvement brought unparalleled satisfaction, and I am convinced that building our own Cumorahs starts when we share what God has given us.
2. Obedience came first.
We did what we were told and we did it always. No ifs, ands, or buts. There were rules and we kept them. There were policies and we observed them. There were service projects to be done and we did them. It was the most exact exact obedience I have ever witnessed in my life, and it brought us great blessings. There is no way we would have known our blocking and our lines in four days without exact obedience, even to the little rules.
3. We ate healthy food and had organized time/schedules.
This didn't seem like such a huge thing at the time, but it really impacted everything. We made sure that we ate a well-balanced meal for every mealtime and that we drank lots and lots of water. Mealtimes were always at the same time, as was curfew and morning devotional. Nothing was chaotic or in disarray, but we knew where we were going, where we had to be, and what we needed to do at all times. Everything was organized and balanced, and because it was, we didn't have to worry, nor did we have to feel deficient in the moments where we needed to be our best.
4. The spirit was invited to all of our activities.
I can't think of one thing we did where the spirit wasn't invited. He was with us always and we were always inviting him to stay. We first had to find activities where he could stay. Then we could keep him. Because we invited the spirit to be with us so frequently, he was, and I was able to feel an increase of joy and love in consequence.
5. We asked the Lord to help us and acknowledged His hand in all things.
So many Pageant miracles happened that I couldn't even tell them all. One was that our sound systems worked perfectly fine in one show, despite maintenance discovering that they had been messed with badly enough that they shouldn't have worked. This was because the Lord was there with us. We plead for good weather and to touch lives and to make sure our message was clear, and He pulled through. He always pulls through. By asking Him, we were able to experience miracles and see His hand in everything.
6. No one fought.
This was the strangest part of the whole experience, but contention was practically nonexistent. Everyone played and talked together and got along. They didn't start fights or argue. It was the closest to Zion I feel I have ever been because of that.
7. I stopped to ponder about important scenes and events.
I remember standing aside to watch Moroni bemoan the destruction of his people every night, and every night, I cried a little. In those moments where the lights were flashing above me and people were rushing around me and the speakers were blasting scriptures, I felt like the only person in the whole world, and those moments taught me things. I learned that I knew Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I learned that I knew that the Book of Mormon was true. I learned that these weren't just stories, but real experiences of real people. In those quiet moments, I thought, and my testimony grew substantially because of it.
8. We shared our testimonies often.
The scariest thing I had to do was talk to people and invite the spirit to be with them through testimony. It's pretty nerve-wracking to share the gospel in such a setting, at least for me. But every opportunity that we took to share our testimonies was an opportunity to feel God's love and peace settle upon us. I never feel God's love so strongly until I bear testimony of Him and His son.
9. I put my whole heart into sharing our message the way it needed to be.
I didn't just sit around, apathetic and boring. No. I put all of my passion and all of my soul into my role, even though I at first thought it was an unimportant one. I realized that I had a part to play, and I did everything in my power to make it mean something. There's no neutral ground. You either put your heart and soul in or you don't. But nothing feels as sweet as knowing you gave it all.
10. I wrote down my experiences.
How can I remember things if I don't write them down? Writing is CRITICAL, and I wrote every minute I could. I was able to reflect and ponder and vent and praise Heavenly Father. That writing is invaluable to me because it puts me back in the moments when I felt so loved. I can remember because I documented it all.
11. We had no distractions.
No WiFi, no television. Just music, phones, and photography. That was our technological situation, and it was the best thing in the world. Being away from the business of the Internet is refreshing and invigorating. We focused on what was truly important rather than what we thought was important, and that focus brought success.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned in New York, and these are the factors that help us to build our own Cumorahs. Since I've written them down, I'm going to work on them. One day I want to say that I feel the same way I felt in New York. All it will take is discipline and obedience.