Although I’ve seen a few reports of the retreat in various Facebook groups, only one offered impressions of the opening session. I would like to share a few thoughts about what took place that night. As I write this first part on Saturday afternoon, the majority of the people attending the retreat are up on the Mesa. After prayer, I decided to not go up there with such a large group.
I was on the Mesa Friday in between storms. It was beautiful, quiet and peaceful. It felt sacred. The Mesa is under a three-day winter storm warning. As I look up there this afternoon I see dark storm clouds. I wonder if it’s snowing. The schedule called for the men to go up there to practice giving blessings to one another and, if lead, to prophecy, similar to the school of the prophets.
These are good things to do. My difficulty is with the weather. I’m an old man and am not sure I could stand in the snow for hours upon hours. I know the Mesa is a sacred place. You can read much about it on various sites, especially those that describe the Native American legends and myths of the mesa. For example, Google “Legend of Grand Mesa.” There are several good links.
Inspiring Speakers, Uplifting Music, Sacred Dance
The Friday night session was enjoyable. It was well attended. My estimate is there were well over a hundred and fifty adults present, perhaps as many as two hundred. Arrangements were made for the children to be cared for in another location. There were four speakers presenting, each one enjoyable and uplifting. There was also sacred music and yes, sacred dancing as well.
You may recall the kerfuffle about the idea of sacred dance. Marti Grobecker introduced it to us in a most delightful way. I was standing in the back of the room, next to Bret, when she began speaking. In the middle of her presentation she stopped, looked directly at me and said, “You can’t quote this on your blog, Tim.” Everyone laughed. I promised her I would not quote her.
However, I didn’t say anything about describing the dance. It was lovely. So many people came up to the stage she had to split them into two dances. It’s basically a circle dance – circles within circles, with each circle going in the opposite direction. She described the purpose of the dance is to move the angels to attend and to bless. Those in the center of the circle receive more energy.
Sacred Dance – Historical Precedence
In the packet each participant received upon arriving was a copy of Marti’s paper on dance, a copy of Bret and Samantha’s book, Unequally Yoked, the schedule, directions to venues and music we would be singing. Here is a link to a PDF of the handout. Marti was kind enough to provide the document in a PDF format for anyone to download.
From my point of view, the dancing was one of the highlights of the evening. It seems everyone wanted to participate. There were only a dozen or so left in their seats. I even went up there with the intention of dancing but it was simply too crowded. I stood by and clapped with the music, a sort of Jewish tune. It reminded me of a Jewish wedding, but the music was NOT Hava Nagila.
By the way, Rock was the first speaker. He gave a delightful talk on being born of the spirit and how it had influenced his and Connie’s lives. After Marti’s dance presentation and a wonderful rendition of Beautiful Savior, Jacqueline Olson, who had traveled from Arizona to attend my baptism last year, spoke about getting to know Christ, his personality and how he speaks with us.
Brought Together Through the Internet
Finally, Larry Winn spoke about his experiences in coming unto Christ. He sang for us and had us sing along toward the end. The feeling I got was similar to what happens in many missionary farewells as the audience sings, “God be With You.” I then offered the benediction, thanking the Lord for teaching us about sacred dance. I asked Him to bless Bret and Samantha for all they did.
At this point I’d like to refer you to Scott Stover’s account of the remainder of the conference. He came in just as we were singing Beautiful Savior. I agree with his observation that it sounded like angels, probably because of the high soprano descant. For me, the evening was a moving worship experience. The focus was Christ, hearing his voice, singing and dancing praise to Him.
I was happy to see so many familiar faces from the lectures last year or from their online profile pictures. Many of my favorite bloggers were there: Will (200 Words or Less), Joe (Just and True), Rock (Pure Mormonism), Adrian (To the Remnant), Jules (My Journey to the Fullness), Anonymous Bishop, Scott Stover (The Gospel according to Scoot) and Bret (77 Truths).
Protecting the Higher Elevations
I have to comment a bit more on the weather. Take a look at This short post on Bare Record of Truth on the weather forecast for the weekend of the retreat. A three-day winter storm warning in May on the same three exact days of the retreat seems quite the coincidence. The result was that the men were not able to go on the hike to the higher elevations of the Mesa.
Although I’ve only been up there once in my life, I felt like I was treading on sacred ground. I stopped at the visitor center, which was closed due to the snow and at the Grand Mesa lodge where I bought a gift for Carol. From what I understand, the men gathered in these two spots for their Saturday meetings up on the Mesa. They could go no higher because of the snow and mud.
I apologize to Bret for not being there Saturday. He had asked me to lead one of the groups, but in prayer that morning I had an unsettled feeling. I left early Sunday to meet Carol back in Provo but before I left I heard various reports that the meetings on the Mesa went well, even if all the participants were freezing their tail feathers off. I’m glad the experience went well for everyone.
Spiritual Experiences as a Group
As I finish this post it’s Monday afternoon. I’ve had some time to think about the retreat. In my estimation it was a success. It brought people together who had much in common. There was a sense of peace and unity, light and enlightenment, and a wonderful sense of worship and praise. But I keep thinking back to one of the six questions I didn’t get to ask of Denver on Wednesday.
“If an individual has met with the Lord, he will want to go out and bless his fellowman. So fellowships are important, yet it seems the actual rising up is an individual effort. Can you help me understand how the two work together?” It is similar to another question about fellowships he had answered previously so we skipped this one. What we did this weekend was a retreat.
I think Bret’s intent was to create a setting for people to have “spiritual experiences.” I put that in quotes because I have been pondering the idea of group spiritual experiences lately. Salvation is obtained from the Lord in repenting, receiving the ordinance of baptism and continuing to do all we possibly can to receive the Holy Ghost. These are individual efforts, but we serve in a group.
Individual Effort and Group Fellowship
About having asked the Lord about this and hearing Denver’s answer, I think the optimum size for a fellowship, or a church, is perhaps as few as fifty people, surely no more than one hundred. What we participated in this weekend was labeled a retreat. It was not a conference in the sense that although I heard there were some baptisms, nobody was ordained
or sustained in the priesthood.
Correction: Sustainings did indeed take place as noted in the comments. I was not there Sunday because of my desire to be with my wife, who continues to struggle with this whole movement and my involvement in it. I obviously missed some wonderful experiences. I will be reading Bret’s book for ideas on how I can deal with this lack of unity in my marriage. Thanks to several readers for the correction.
The work of salvation is both an individual effort – prayer, gospel study, repentance – as well as a group effort – service, paying tithing and meeting each other’s needs. The Retreat was good, but I kept wondering what purpose it served. Bret said it was called by Christ and I believe him but what was accomplished to build up his people? Well, we enjoyed each other’s fellowship.
I believe there were several group sacrament services – remember, I left on Sunday morning. I hope they were sacred experiences for all those who participated. If you feel inspired to share, I would like to hear how things went with the Sunday services. Did you go away filled? Was the retreat worth your time and the travel expense involved? Were you uplifted by the experience?
The Ordinance of the Sacrament
Without providing too much detail I would like to share what I feel was one of the most sacred experiences of my life. By invitation, I stayed in the home of an individual there in Cedaredge Friday and Saturday night. I started a three-day fast Friday morning so did not participate in the wonderful barbeque that was provided on Saturday. After the barbeque we had the sacrament.
I would say there were twenty to twenty-five of us present for the first round of the sacrament. Just as we were finishing, another twenty individuals showed up. We had the sacrament again. This time I was honored to perform the ordinance. After this, we had a few short testimonies from a few individuals as requested by our host. I was one of them. It was, to me, very sacred.
From many, many years of serving as a gospel doctrine teacher, a high counselor, or primary teacher, I have learned there are times the Lord can use me as a conduit to express his feelings for the individuals in the class. The same thing has happened hundreds of times when setting someone apart or giving a priesthood blessing. The love of the Lord flows through me to others.
Expressing the Love of the Lord
This was one of those occasions. We each have different gifts. Some have one. Some have many. Some come naturally. Some must be developed. Some are given without much more than asking. Others are only given after years of preparation. For me, this was one of those times where I felt the Lord had prepared me for this moment. I am grateful for the inspiration of my host in asking.
Now I don’t know if anyone else felt it, and perhaps it was the wine talking, but my heart was glad and I felt to express the love of the Lord for all present. I opened my mouth to do so and it was filled with words from the Lord in blessing all those present. Again, perhaps I was the only one who felt it, but the Lord was with me as power in the priesthood flowed through me to them.
I know it doesn’t sound like much as I read it on my computer screen, but as I thanked the Lord later that evening in personal prayer, He let me know that is why I had been invited and why He had inspired me to go to the retreat – so I could express love to those who were present for their efforts to travel and to participate in this retreat that He directed Bret to organize at this time.
The Retreat Was Pleasing to the Lord
That’s it. The post is open for discussion. You can argue what we did and what we experienced could have been felt within the confines of the LDS Church. I disagree. You can argue we are all apostates who partook of the sacrament without it being authorized by a local bishop. I also disagree with that. Say what you want. I was there. I know what I felt. It was a good thing.
Thank you Bret and Samantha, Rock and Connie, Marti, Jacqueline, Scott, Adrian and all those who helped out in the child care, the youth activities, the music, the venues, the sound system, the contributions to help those travelling from long distances and all the behind the scenes stuff. I know we didn’t get up to the higher elevations, but I believe the hand of the Lord was in that too.
Thanks Bret for letting me offer the prayer, for letting me help with the editing of the book and for helping this California native feel welcome so far from home. And to my unnamed host who allowed me to sleep on his couch, as I said privately, I don’t think I’ve had such a good night’s sleep – two nights in a row, as I did in your home. Truly, you are a man blessed of the Lord.