“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.”

Today I had to give a speech of commemoration in my public speaking class.

I decided to speak about the opportunity I had to visit the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany nearly four years ago. I thought I’d share my speech on here and hope that it reminds someone–as it reminded me–to be little more conscious and aware of the difference that each of us makes upon each other, and the love and compassion we can show to others.

We shuffled to the gate—a group of foreigners with a foreign perspective. The mid-July sun was sweltering—and angled in such a way that forced my eyes to battle to find the words “Arbeit Macht Frei,” cast into the iron gate that I would soon realize had constrained unconsenting casualties and shackled sore souls in a feud based upon falsehoods. “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work will set you free,” was the first of a repulsive repertoire of lies that had been served alongside unjustice and mistreatment at the very first of the World War II Nazi concentration camps in Dachau, Germany.

Our young group of American teenagers continued through the camp, naïve to the reality that what we were about to experience would age our characters significantly. Our eyes poured over statistics and photographs. We stood in solemn silence as memorials and statues became etched into our hearts and molded into our minds’ memories. These mementos paid tribute to the fallen victims of racism in its most intense form. Men, women, mothers, fathers, children, friends. These precious lives had been taken in a shamefully disgraceful way, but my overflowing heart took comfort in knowing that there would be no shame upon the countenances of these broken souls when grace would one day make them whole.

In that chilling concentration camp were traces of feelings and numbness, growth and defeat, tears, sweat, blood, dirt. Not only were those things experienced by myself and my somber schoolmates, but they had been experienced by thousands before and would be by thousands to come. One particular monument encompassed my emotions as it read, “May the example of those who were exterminated here….because they resisted Nazism… help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”

My shoes crossed over dirt paths and I thought of the thousands of bare and tattered feet that had stumbled across those same places. A group of teenagers bustled past me and I overheard their German dialect. Some were irreverent. Others observant. But, overall, their demeanor did not show the same grave ambiance that resonated from that of a contrasting group. In the distance was a group of teenagers of darker ethnicity. They were carrying an Israeli flag and a sizeable floral wreath as they quietly moved on toward another memorial in the courtyard.

All of the emotions and thoughts I had been having halted for a moment as my subconscious placed me in the experience of each of these starkly different companies. What an antithesis of experiences these two groups of students were having. It was something I couldn’t comprehend, nor imagine.

The Israeli students, the German youth, the Nazis who had traipsed the hallowed grounds, the Jews whose lives had be taken, my fellow classmates, the foreign tourists—all unique backgrounds and circumstances, but with a simple truth to bind us commonly. Each had their own battles of anguish and strife that beat down upon fatigued spirits. Some were visible. Others suppressed. But the history of the war and the accounts of individuals continues and lives on so that each may come to empathize with their fellowmen and, “Live for the defense of [their] peace and freedom.”

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“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them.”

Musings From McKann

There have been so many different things that have been on my mind in the past few months.

Of course, there’s going to be somewhat of a transition coming home from a mission. But, if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t really feel like it was hard at ALL to come home. I wasn’t awkward (any more than I just already was as a person anyway). I wasn’t freaked out by the real world. I didn’t just always want to do church stuff. I didn’t keep waking up at 6:30 am and going to bed by 10:30 pm. I just didn’t have a hard time returning back to “normal” life.

There’s probably a few reasons for this. But the two that have been the most prominent to me are that, first of all, I’ve never had a hard time with transitions. I couldn’t really tell you why that is. It’s just never been a hard thing. Change is constant, and it is inevitable. So why not enjoy it? And, second of all, I just knew that eventually, my mission would end. And whether that would be a great thing, a horrible thing, or somewhere in between… it was a fact. I accepted that fact the second that I accepted the idea that I would serve.

But, in the midst of all this “not-so-difficult-transition” period, I have had so many wonderful moments of reflection and pensiveness. I feel that one of the great blessings that came from serving a mission and dedicating such an extended period of time to any one activity (let alone such a great a work as sharing the Gospel), is that it seems as though my mind has just gained a greater capacity. It really seems like I’ve been able to think about things more clearly, and with broader perspective than ever before.

Some thoughts, for example:

>>We really don’t understand our potential a lot of the time. I have thought so much about this! We are literally sons and daughters of an omniscient being; an Almighty God. How phenomenal! Do we really believe that? Do we really understand that we have divine DNA? I think that there are moments where we understand this. For me, I feel that when I have total clarity in my mind about a specific subject or issue that I’ve been pondering. It’s almost like I feel like I can see something from beginning to end in a spiritual sense. I don’t necessarily know all the details in the situation, but I can feel peace about it and I understand my role in a situation. There is so much power when we understand our divine heritage.

>>In general, we have expectations for what we want. We have these “ideals” that we’ve set in place of how we want to be treated, or what we want to happen in our lives. But because of a number of different influences (self doubt, culture, social pressures, etc.), we don’t act in harmony with what those desires are. A simple example? Everyone likes to feel loved and appreciated. But for some reason it is seen as awkward or “too forward” when we tell people things we admire about them. I have had so many times where I have debated giving someone a sincere compliment because I didn’t want it to be taken the wrong way. Another example is similar but one that I’ve thought about a lot. Think about just about everyone you know who has criteria for marriage that’s anything similar to “I want to marry my best friend.” I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say this. In fact, I think this is something that most of us say ourselves! But then, when it comes down to it, we won’t date our best friends. Instead we play silly mind games that make dating difficult and discouraging. What stops us from dating our best friends? Social pressures and culture, mostly. And that can be really unfortunate, I think.

>>God answers small prayers. Seriously! That’s one of those things you kind of just have to test out. But I had the simplest experience the other day. I asked Heavenly Father for something that I even classified to Him as “silly.” It was a sincere request, but it felt silly even asking for it. In the clearest, most deliberate way, that simple,”silly” prayer was answered.

>>This world is such a beautiful one and we are so blessed to live on earth. Even the fact that we have oxygen to breathe is a miracle in and of itself. But I’ve spent some time up in the mountains skiing recently, and even if the snow conditions are less than ideal for skiing, I find myself sitting on the lift just in awe and the majesty that is all around me–the divinely handcrafted beauty that I get to intake just because. The beauties of nature aren’t really a necessity for our salvation. But they are definitely a consistent reminder to me of my Supreme Creator and His magnificence.

>>I love people. So much. I think if I could just take weeks and weeks to talk with individuals and learn more about them and what makes them tick, I would never get bored. There have been a few people recently that I’ve been blessed to get to know more personally. And like anything else, the more I know, the less I realize I know. I learn more details about their lives and what makes them who they are… and then, undoubtedly, I leave those conversations with a thirst and a desire to ask more questions and intake more information. And, quite honestly, I think that comes from really caring about those people. People are amazingly fascinating. When you find those people that you just want to learn more and more about, hold onto them for a little while. They aren’t commonplace.

>>I am so blessed. I really am. I think about that on a daily basis.

… And I honestly don’t know where that was all going too much, other than the fact that I haven’t written in a while. And I’ve had some thoughts. And I haven’t put them into formulated sentences.

I guess to sum things up, the past three months have been an adventure. I sometimes wonder if I ever served a mission because it feels like I’ve been home for a LIFETIME. I’ve learned and grown immensely in such a short time–something I definitely did not anticipate before making it home.

Life is so good, folks. Remember that. And more importantly, BELIEVE IT.

Musings From McKann

Back in the 801.

Everyone. It is so good to be back. Of course, I’m definitely missing Pennsylvania something awful. But, I have had such a great few weeks getting home and being able to spend time with family and friends. Much has changed, but there is an undeniable familiarity and sense of home that comes from being, well, home. I have felt the spirit so strongly as I have continued to seek after good things and I have been so grateful for the small, delicate witnesses of the Lord’s love and awareness for me as I have made this transition back to civilian life. There will be things that will be weird to get used to for quite some time to come, I’m sure. But I have been grateful that my transition has been about as smooth-sailing as I ever could’ve imagined. I’m excited to be back in a position where I can blog about whatever I darn well please and hopefully share some goodness in this world.

Love yinz. Keep it classy.

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Back in the 801.

Last Friday.

Well, it’s currently my last Friday night of pre-mission life. I’m supposed to be studying. Instead, Rachel and I are sitting in my living room listening to Ed Sheeran, drinking Mt. Dew, listening to ridiculous things Brenner says, and eating cupcakes. Part of me thinks that I might regret not studying when  I get a terrible grade on my marketing test. But another part of me thinks that I would regret it a whole lot more if I was to just study and not spend time with anyone before I leave because it’s going to be people not papers that matter when I’m out there.. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

I’m so grateful for everyone who has been offering to help out or who has been helping. I am so sorry if I have been neglecting anyone’s willingness to help. It’s been so busy. But I have been overwhelmed with love and support by everyone and I apologize if I haven’t been able to show it back as much! I promise that you’re all in my thoughts and prayers and I am so thankful.

It’s getting close, kids. 8:00 pm on Tuesday I’ll be set apart as a missionary. Does it feel real? Do I feel ready? No. Not really. But it’s going to come regardless. So I’m diving in. Bring it on.

Last Friday.

The First Great Commandment.

Last October’s General Conference was incredibly life changing for many reasons. The obvious one was the lowering of the mission age. But some of the talks were so moving, as usual. The talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland entitled “The First Great Commandment” has stuck with me so distinctly and has changed my life for the better. I get chills when I even just think about this talk, let alone read, listen to, or watch it. It is so powerful.

I really hope you’ll take a few minutes and watch this.

I think it could really change your life.

You can find it here:
The First Great Commandment

The First Great Commandment.

Sunday Night Ponderings.

There’s been a lot on my mind as of late. All sorts of different emotions and all sorts of different things to be thinking about. It feels like sometimes we fail to take the time to just feel certain ways. We so quickly seek to change things and are constantly moving between one emotion to the next, especially when pertaining to negative things. I believe that there is so much potential for healing when we allow ourselves to truly BE a certain way, and FEEL different emotions. There is so much to be learned from experiences and earthly trials and woes, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

I was talking to some friends tonight about happiness and what it means in this life. I’m not sure how we got to it but I had a very distinct realization that there is something to be said for this earthly life. I realize that the end goal is exaltation and that essentially we are just here to be able to return back to our Father in Heaven, but I actually like earthly life. President Hinckley said “Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” I agree with that 100%. But the peculiar thing about me is that I enjoy hard things. I guess “enjoy” is kind of a generous word. But I thrive from overcoming obstacles. I am energized by knowing I can beat a hard time. I enjoy being triumphant through a dark patch.

Along with that, there is so much good in the world. I can’t even believe it. And, since I love making lists, I am going to give you a list of a few things I’ve been loving in my world lately:

-I love the weather. Rain, snow, sunshine. Bring it on. It’s all grand.
-Rachel has a cute family and I love that they include me so much. It’s such a blessing and I don’t think they will ever realize how much it has affected me!
-I know a lot of incredible people. I’m still amazed that there could possibly be more people that are as cool as the ones I currently know. People keep surprising me.
-I am so impressed with Imagine Dragons. I went to the concert on Friday and I am so proud of them for maintaining their standards and being such an example of good in this world, especially in the music industry that can be so corrupt.
-I am leaving on a mission in exactly one month. Yes, it is terrifying. But it is also very exciting and crazy and every other emotion!
-My sisters and dad are so cool and I love hanging out with them.
-My dad is awesome and has lost 20 pounds in like two weeks. Whaaaat?! Eligible bachelor right there. 😉
-I wasn’t feeling well today and like four people came to visit me and brought me food. That is so awesome. People are good.
-I love Easter candy. Mostly Cadbury mini eggs and Reese’s eggs. I don’t even like Reese’s that much, but those little eggs are just so freakin’ good.
-I love the temple. It is such an amazing place. I’m really going to miss it for 18 months.
-Life is crazy and weird and awesome and great.

Love you kids. Thanks for being stellar.

Sunday Night Ponderings.

Stand Ye in Holy Places.

This weekend was Stake Conference for my YSA stake. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the evening adult session on Saturday night, but I was able to attend the Sunday morning address. I am so glad I did. Instead of writing about it, I decided I want to share my notes exactly as I wrote them.

STAKE CONFERENCE
Sunday, March 10th

STAND YE IN HOLY PLACES AND BE NOT MOVED.

President Ford

Other places can become holy places.

“Beyond the temple the most sacred and holy places should be your dwelling places.”

MAKE WHEREVER YOU ARE A HOLY PLACE.

President Fillmore

Just because we cannot see the danger, we minimize the warning that is given to us.

“You will not make a major mistake without first being warned by the prompting of the Holy Ghost.”

I hold the keys to unlock the prison doors from the inside.

Stand in places that we can listen to the Holy Ghost.

ACCEPT the Atonement.

Elder Munday

Calls are never convenient.

You know enough. The rest will come.

When we serve, the Lord goes before us. He will be on our right hand and on our left and He will bear us up.

I want to be on the Lord’s side.

If you’re good, they become good. And if you’re bad, likewise.

Some things you learn at school, and some things you only only learn from Heaven.

Be EXEMPLARY.

“It’s not too late for you to become that man.”

If someone ever accuses you of being a return missionary, I hope there is enough evidence to convict you.

You should only marry someone when the Spirit tells you it is right. (You can be selfish in this!!)

D&C 13-Oliver Cowdery
D&C 110-His description of the Savior

Difference between FORGIVENESS and PRIVILEGE.
124: “He may act in concert with my servant Joseph…” (HYRUM)

Never do anything in your life where you lose your privilege.

Never live below your privilege.

One word more important than any other world:
REMEMBER.

Try a little harder. Be a little better. Do a little more.

Some are a little bit of scatter-brained thoughts. Impressions I had of the Spirit rather than the direct quotations of the speakers. But uplifting and edifying, nonetheless.

The Church is true. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the one true way to salvation and eternal happiness. I’m so grateful for that beautiful, perfect plan that has been given to us. And I hope than anyone reading this knows of my testimony and my firm belief in a man who sacrificed everything for each and every one of Heavenly Father’s children who has and who ever will walk upon this earth; the man who suffered and died to provide away for our sins to be made clean. Jesus Christ is my Savior, and He is yours. I am so blessed to know that and to be able to share that with those around me.

Godspeed, friends. Happy Sunday.

Stand Ye in Holy Places.