A Mighty Medley
A Personal Narrative written for my English class about an experience at my First Especially For Youth (EFY)
In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.
The hushed sound of the resounding amen was quiet, almost silent, like it wasn’t said at all but rather breathed out in agreement. The noise about us was crisp; each swish of the grass amplified to my ears as we got up to escort each other. The wind seemed louder than usual, harsher against my skin, as I found a girl and linked arms with her. As we walked paired in lines of two, I focused on the growing feeling inside of me. There was a small ember of warmth glowing inside my chest and the scent of summer in my nostrils that July at Especially For Youth.
As we approached the over pass, I reflected on my life and the trials I had been given. At this point in my journey, my mind was consumed with fear and self loathing. My secret sin was also my greatest weakness and a choking fear. Understanding that I had attractions to other people of the same gender was not something that I was new to. I had known for a long time. That week at EFY was my first experience outside of my home ward with other youth of the church. My attractions made it difficult for me to feel close or brotherly with any of the people in my group. My hatred for myself and this trial were a wall that kept me from making friends. It was a wall that kept me from knowing my Father in Heaven as well. When you feel like a damned creature, it’s difficult to think any love exists for you from a Creator who condemns you.
I had previously walked across the over pass many times, but never like this. It was just my mind and I this time. There wasn’t anybody else to grant me comfort or distract me from the abyss of fears that rose up in my chest. Its scary being alone, even with oneself, but that glowing ember inside me kept most of the fear from bubbling out as tears. The silence had came back to my attention as I remembered that for most of us, walking over the overpass was when we would wave at passing cars, or would make pulling motions with our arms yelling “Honk if you love EFY!” The cars usually obliged our request but it seemed like tonight was different, as if the cars knew not to honk, knew not to break the growing silence which accompanied our introverted thoughts. Every step that we took brought us closer to our destination, or payday, as the counselors called it. Payday was the night that made the whole week worth it, the night where testimonies were built and individual personal truths were learned.
As I neared the Kansas University Lied Center front door, I pulled it wide and air came gushing out to meet me. It was cold and had the stinging smell of heavy sanitizer. I turned awkwardly to let the girl with me in while I still held the door. The second doors opened, easier than the first, and with that same flood of air came something sweet. Music was flowing through the grand foyer. The music didn’t have a specific origin as I turned around slowly to find it. It was ubiquitous and nearly unspoken. The sound felt almost tangible. Like a warm ray sunlight that you can feel, but not grasp. I remember wishing it was solid so I could put it in my pocket and take it home. It was a mist encompassing me, warming me, neutralizing my thoughts and allowing peaceful awareness to sink into my psyche. I had been so taken by the experience I was having that I didn’t realize the girl I escorted was already in tears. Lisa, my counselor, took her to the bathroom to get Kleenex in preparation for the coming events.
The program began when we were all seated. The lights dimmed with the exception of a small grouping of spotlights on the choir of youth. They began singing hymns while a large projector screen showed photographs and video clips. The hymns and visuals all synced together like a choreographed dance, executed with perfect precision. The lights, the slideshow; everything was smooth. The singing grew more heartfelt and intense, the visuals grew more personal. I was near tears if I wasn’t already crying, that ember blazing in my chest, when President Hinckley came on the screen. The choir stopped, the lights dimmed completely, and he appeared. He was aging, that was easy enough to see, but there was an aura about him that gave him strength and power which seemed to counter his age. His face was full and sagging, this man had truly experienced life and it was visible with every wrinkle of his smiling face.
He began speaking only for a short while before he paused. His face tightened, his eyes narrowed, and he let out a sob. He was barely able to speak as he pushed on. “The Lord loves you”, he gasped between sobs, “I love you”. Visibly trembling, his emotions over took him and I saw a Prophet of the Lord cry. Tears formed rivers over the canyons and crevices of his face. His emotions were too much for him to continue. He held fast to the podium, his lips shaking, his head nodding slightly, tears still flowing out of his soft but piercing gaze as he looked intently into that special audience from years prior. The feed faded out and I realized that I was sobbing as lights glowed back on. President Hinckley’s message created a steady stream of tears on my 14-year-old face as the audience stood for the conclusion of the program.
The girls finished singing As Sisters in Zion/ We are Daughters and I knew that my part was coming. When the men began their part of the medley, it was over. Every voice was deep and rich, everyone a Pavarotti. Each key change brought goose bumps; each musical phrase a new outpouring of tears. We sang with a beauty that could only be toped when the women sang with us. The first notes of the duet brought me to a remembrance of the love of my Heavenly Father. the trials I fight, the peace the Savior brings… everything that the gospel is came flooding back to me in that single note. Chills rocketed up my spine, branching out through every axon of my nervous system till I was covered in goose bumps. As the song and the voices around me blended together we reached the climax, one of the highest points of my spiritual existence and the highest point of the song. Fighting myself to feel accepted by these strangers was a shadow of my desire to be accepted by my Heavenly Father. The revelation that I was indeed loved by God was it. It was the moment when I broke, when every nerve caught fire with consciousness. That was the singular moment when I knew with all the surety a 14-year-old boy could muster that this church was true, that God lived, that He sent his Son, the Christ to this earth. That Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true. All this came with the climax of the evening and the song. As the song died to an end I could feel the auras of those around me. Feel the energy and spirit radiating from everyone as if a super nova had occurred and each of us were new stars, finally shining as we realized our new potential. This new conscience gave us love for one another. We were filled with determination, with an internal intent, with our eyes and hearts turned to heaven.
The night died down as we had testimony meetings and prayers with our companies. I remember kneeling in prayer that night and giving praise to my Heavenly Father, blessing his name for giving me this experience, and praying with the most sincerity and desire I possessed, that I would never forget these feelings. Praying with power that I would never forget my God’s love for me, that I would be open to the questions that still needed to be answered. To this day I still cherish the silence, the quiet the spirit brings. I have learned to take that alone time with myself to ponder and re-convict myself to trudging ahead. Forever will I be grateful, forever in the darkest of times will I remember my Creator and the program that showed me that I can be loved, EFY.