Sunday, February 7, 2016

Three firsts in Frankfurt: Area Presidency Mtg., Zone Conference and Städl Art Museum

Another week in Frankfurt and it turned out wonderful!  Our preparation of the prior week was not in vain.  We had an incredible meeting with our Area Presidency on Tuesday.  Our presentation went well and the Area Presidency had a lot of interest and questions.  We feel like we have made a clear step forward in understanding.  The Area Presidency asked for a one sentence summary of what we do so that they can  better respond to questions from priesthood leaders.  We have kicked this around for the last few days.  This morning, after pondering, Sister Rueckert came up with the following excellent sentence that just flowed into her mind.  It may be helpful to others that may not understand completely our role.

"The Self-Reliance initiative is Priesthood led and provides tools, materials and a group process that enables people to act towards their goal of temporal & spiritual self-reliance."

It is wonderful to know how well the Spirit helps us in our work.

In fact, we had a lot of interface with the Area Presidency this week as well as leadership from Salt Lake City.  On Monday, we had an Area wide devotional with Elder Paul Johnson, first counselor in the Area Presidency.  He shared with all of us the recent efforts of the Area Presidency in training the stake presidents throughout the Area.  It always helps us to understand their perspective and direction so that we can make sure we are supportive of these, our priesthood leaders.  For this devotional, Sister Rueckert was the pianist, including beautiful prelude music.  At the last moment I was asked to lead the music, which I did at Sister Rueckert's surprise.

As I mentioned earlier, we had a wonderful meeting with the full Area Presidency on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, we had a missionary zone conference and Elder Timothy Dyches, second counselor in the Area Presidency addressed us on D&C section 4.  On Thursday, we had our monthly meeting with  the Area Self-Reliance Committee, which is presided by Elder Dyches.  Four days and four opportunities to hear from our Area Presidency.  Add to that on Wednesday afternoon when we participated in a regional video conference with our headquarters team, which included Elder Robert C. Gay and Elder Joseph Sitati.   We always love hearing from these brethren whom we consider our friends.  So it was a full week of opportunities to learn from those who have been called by the Lord to lead us.

As noted, on Wednesday we had our first missionary zone conference.  It was with all of the senior couples who serve the Europe Area.   Elder Dyches addressed us, as did Elder and Sister Castleton, who will be finishing their mission in the next month.  We also heard from Elder Mills, who is our zone leader.  Each of them spoke on different verses from D&C Section 4.  We also had a special musical number with an ensemble of ten missionaries, including Sister Rueckert.  We were well fed spiritually and then had a wonderful lunch prepared by some Portuguese sisters that live in Frankfurt. The following is a photo taken at the zone conference.  It is a pretty amazing group, we are very much enjoying our association with these wonderful senior missionaries.

On Saturday, we decided to venture out in the city of Frankfurt.  We visited the Städl Museum, which is the largest art museum in Germany.  We ended up spending over 4 hours there and had to finish up to leave before they closed.  It was a beautiful day and a wonderful visit.  Below is Sister Rueckert in front of the museum.

We started on the top floor of the museum which included art from 1300 to 1800.  There was a clear theme, as most of these works of art were created for Churches or Castles during the renaissance period. I come to a realization that being an artist was a busy profession, as many of the magnificent pieces of art were for altar pieces int the many churches.  Each was specifically commissioned to be painted with specific content.  Most took several years to pain and are exquisite in detail and beauty.  One of the artists of this time stated that the purpose of art was to promote Christianity.  Most of the art was centered on our Savior, his virgin mother or other religious scenes.  There was a feeling of sacredness and respect on this floor.  Below you will see a few photos of art on this floor, including a couple large pieces that were painted specifically for this museum in the early 1800s.

Three pieces of art that would have been on the sides of the altars.  The first is  a lady holding the impression of the Savior on a cloth, the second is Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus, the third is the Holy Trinity, the Father and the Son and a dove representing the Holy Ghost.  The uniqueness of this artist is that he was able to make things look 3 dimensional.  The painting on the right looks very much like a sculpture, but it is not.
Samson and Delilah by Rembrandt, painted in his early career when he was only 30 years old.

Painted very specifically for this Museum, depicting the more secular community on the left and the religious community on the right, all worshipping the Virgin Mary and her infant son, the Savior.

This one was painted to offset the above photo, which was considered a Catholic view.  This one showed one of the reformers under trial and was considered a protestant painting to balance the religious preference in Germany.

As we moved from the top floor to the more recent paintings, we were able to see a clear change in the style and focus of the artists.  Religious paintings stopped being prevalent and the focus was more on portraits and landscapes and political messages.  The feeling wasn't the same.  Certainly it didn't feel sacred.   This floor included a few pieces from Picasso.

 As we ventured to the basement, we entered into the modern art display, post World War II.  Some didn't really appear to be art to us (see the left) while some did get better, albeit with questionable meaning.

This week's Scriptural Insights:

Today I finished my study of Mosiah 3:19.  I have studied this scripture  and all the chains of scriptures that come out of the references to it for the past month.  I consider it to be an amazing scripture and I have learned so much in my study.  The strength and result of this process is consistent with President Spencer W. Kimball's following statement:

"I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away.  If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns."

My notes and references go on for pages, but perhaps I can summarize with the following short reference to some of the scriptural terms:

For the natural man is an enemy to God
  • the devil has power over them
  • they receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God
  • but to be spiritually minded is life and peace
and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit
  • yielding their hearts unto God
  • where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty
and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord
  • put off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ
  • then is his grace sufficient for you
  • calling upon God he received strength
  • But I [Jesus] have prayed for thee
  • Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a might change in us
  • Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God
and becometh as a child, submissive,
  • whoso repenteth as a little child, Behold, for such I have laid down my life
  • ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along
  • I have fed you with milk, and not with meat, For ye are yet carnal
  • ponder upon the things which I have said, prepare your minds, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth
  • strong meat belongeth to them who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil
  • God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance
  • Counsel with the Lord in all they doings
  • Draw near unto me
  • God knows thy thoughts and the intents of they heart
  • Be thou humble

humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord teeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.