Wednesday, December 18, 2013

All things are created and made to bear record of Christ

Since my last entry I've been to great heights, low lows (both emotionally and physically), and endured some extremely cold weather!

In the same day we went to Qumran: where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, Masada: a mountaintop fortress, and then the Dead Sea, which is the lowest elevation point on the surface of the earth!


The Dead Sea Scrolls were found here! There were hundreds of scrolls that we recovered and translated, and much to our joyous surprise they found that the Isaiah writings from these scrolls were almost identical to the Isaiah writings we read today. What a miracle!!
At the bottom-middle of the picture is cave 4 and 5, where the biggest stash of Dead Sea Scrolls were found.


In 66 AD, the Jewish Zealots revolted against Rome under the ideology of "Freedom or death!" Unfortunately, this ended in death, because seriously, who can take on Rome? Nobody.

Masada fortress, the last stand of the Jewish Zealot rebellion in 70 AD
You may have noticed that this place is really high up. You are correct, my friend. 10 points for Gryffindor. This location was the last stand of the Jewish Zealots as they resisted Rome. The Roman army besieged it, and you can still see remains of the walls and camps around the outside. They built a ramp to the top, broke through the walls, and found everyone inside dead. This is where the Jewish Zealots committed mass suicide because, true to form, they were either going to have freedom or death, but they weren't going to choose slavery.

View from the bottom level of Herod's three-tiered palace.
Look for the next two tiers towering above, the valley below, and the Dead Sea in the distance.

Dead Sea

They say that when you get in the Dead Sea, you become very acutely aware of every open wound on your body. I didn't experience that, actually... I felt just fine. However, after I got out of the Dead Sea, I was VERY acutely aware of every part of my body I didn't properly rinse off.

Because of the high salt content in the Dead Sea, you float very easily without trying! The thing to do, then, is to take a newspaper and read it while reclining.
Kirk Jeppesen reclining feet up while reading the daily paper

Then came the other fun part of the Dead Sea! There is more than just salt in here. There's all sorts of minerals, in fact! So the other pastime here is to smear nasty-looking all over your body (and sometimes hair), which makes your skin super soft! Plus you get to be legitimately black for a little while. Tell you what, though, my hands still feel soft from that day! Love me some Dead Sea mud.
Mud ladies, left to right: Kaitlyn Miller, Amanda Vogt, Reagan Nielsen and Lauren Nielsen

Megan and I got to be black for a day! Notice how I put it in my hair, Dragon Ball Z style.

Middle East Winter Storm

Hopefully you've heard by now about the intense winter storm which hit the middle east last week. It was equivalent to one of the worse snowstorms in Utah in any given year, but this was far outside the scope of normality in Israel. They usually get one light coat of snow every few years which melts by the end of the day. This storm, however, lasted for days! We had something between 6 to 12 inches of snow, and it was COLD outside! This was the biggest snowstorm that Israel has seen for over 50, maybe 60 years! We made snowmen and took pictures.

Normally you can see the city beyond that fence. Not this day!

Last Week of the Savior's Life

During this last week of our life in Jerusalem, we commemorated the last week of the life of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. There is a church built to commemorate just about every event of the Savior's life, and so we saw many churches during this trip. These include, but aren't limited to: 
  • Bethany - Christ stayed here each night during the last week
  • Bethpage - Christ got the donkey to ride into the city
  • Dominus Flevit - The Savior wept over Jerusalem here
  • Gethsemane - Jesus suffered the great winepress of the Atonement here. Just as the oil is pressed out of olives under the weight of stone, the blood of Christ was pressed out here under the deadweight of our sins, infirmities, and afflictions.
  • The Garden Tomb - Where Christ was buried and resurrected on the third day.

There is something you should know about this place that has special meaning to me. When I was 14, I went to EFY (Especially For Youth). It was there that I rediscovered the powerful testimony of Jesus Christ that I had gained in the pre-mortal life. I didn't gain that testimony here, but it carried with me. The scripture that helped me recapture that truth was Romans 1:3-4

"Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead"
This happens to be the scripture written on the tile at the top of the staircase leading down to the tomb. What a wonderful coincidence! Of all the scriptures they could have picked, they picked that one.

I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that he lives. I don't know it because I came here. I know it because of the scriptures. But I certainly received a great reminder here that all things are made to bear witness of Christ.

"All things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me." (Moses 6:63)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Galilee is my favorite place in the world

Hey, folks!

It's been almost three weeks since I blogged last. A whole lot has happened! And yet what is there to tell? We're down to 9 days left in the Holy Land, and I've hiked so many tells and seen so many sites that I'm completely saturated with it all. We just watched the first presidency's Christmas devotional, and every time they mentioned a location such as Galilee, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Judea, etc... images flashed through our heads. We all laughed together when the story was told of the man who wrote the song, "Far Far Away on Judea's Plains" and then corrected it, saying they are more like rocky hills. Been there, seen that, blogged a picture about it! (See my last entry)

Speaking of pictures, they save me from many words. Here's some of my latest:

Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy came to visit us for district conference! The students got a special fireside with him on the night he arrived, and a Q&A session the night he left. One of his biggest points of advice was about balancing priorities in life during college. He said, "Dating first, and then the others!"

I'll get right on that, Elder Callister!
Me with Elder Tad R. Callister, of the Presidency of the Seventy

One day I went to the YMCA to play the carillon bells in their bell tower. The mechanism is like a really big piano where each key is a lever attached to a bell. Good times.
Me and MJ Boud playing the carillon bells. Look closely at that contraption we have our hands on!


Galilee is easily my favorite place in the Holy Land. In fact, it's my favorite place in the world. If anyone asks me where I could be at the drop of a hat, it would be here. There is no wonder that Jesus Christ loved to spend his time here. When the winds aren't blowing (which are pretty darn windy) the peace just permeates everything so much. It's a really stark contrast against the hustle and bustle of the Jerusalem tourist trap. 
View of Galilee from Mount Arbel

There is a lot that happened at Galilee, but much of it is personal and it wouldn't be fitting to share here. But I can tell you this much: when I sat by myself on top of Mount Arbel on our first day in Galilee, I tried to set myself a goal for what I wanted to see happen while I was there. But as I prayed and pondered, no goal came to my mind. Instead, I left that mountain with a theme in mind. That theme is the story of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus. Ever since that day on the mount, I've seen how that story applies to so much of what we go through every day.

Surely when Peter jumped off the boat onto the water, it must have been a very singular experience for him. In that first moment when he landed on the water, everything in the world must have made sense for an instant. His faith was confirmed; nothing could go wrong. He knew that his faith in Jesus Christ was sufficient, and that he truly could put his trust in him. We have experiences like this, in which we powerfully feel the spirit and it feels as if nothing could go wrong in the world because of the truth that we know. And then, just as Peter did, we all continue to walk through the storms and chaos of life and eventually sink underneath the waves. Sometimes it is because of sin, and sometimes just because of distraction. But then we get to experience the grace of God as he reaches out his hand, lifts us back up to his level, and walks with us side by side back along the top of the water to the safety of our boat. And surely like Peter, we are never the same after those experiences.

I went to Galilee hoping to learn to walk on water, as Peter did. And I think I did.