The Story of Lexi Hansen

Given a 1% chance of survival, this college student was not only given the miracle of life – she was blessed with the miracle of forgiveness.

The Story of Lexi Hansen is an inspirational short produced and edited by Jason Flake. It was directed by Stephen Aldridge and Peter Inouye. Flake, Aldridge, and Inouye are students at Brigham Young University. Flake is a promotions editor for BYUtv.

Flake was initially drawn to the story because of his personal friendship with Hansen. “I was friends with Lexi before the accident. We worked at Brick Oven [a local Italian restaurant] together. When we found out about the accident, I was devastated. I joined the Facebook group ‘Pray for Lexi’ which had like 30,000 members. We had a special day where we all fasted for her. To see the progress that she made – it was incredible. When I found out that her and Karson were friends, it was crazy. It’s an amazing story. It needed to be heard.”

Flake wanted to make it his film official Mormon message, but he figured it would be easier to get her story out there by releasing it himself instead of waiting for others to do so.

Lexi Hansen is currently serving a mission in Des Moines, Iowa for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Vision of Alfred Douglas Young

heaven

Alfred Douglas Young, an early convert to the Church, was conversing with his brother on the morning of September 17, 1841, about the principles of the gospel, when he was constrained by the Spirit to go to some secret place to meditate. This is his story.

“On the following morning September 17th about nine o’clock my brother and myself were sitting on the trunk of a tree in front of his house talking on the principles of the gospel. While conversing a spirit came over me which created a sensation as if a quantity of blood warm water was poured over me coming onto my head first. I was filled with light, peace and joy. I was impressed to retire into some secret place. As I arose to my feet I asked my brother if he would go with me.

“As we walked he continued to speak on the principles of the gospel and the gifts that had been made manifest, but I had little to say as I was in deep meditation. When we had retired about 200 paces from the house into a piece of heavy timber I saw a light burst through the tops of the trees a little southeast of me. I was wrapped in a light which far exceeded the light of the sun. A personage appeared clothed in a white robe exceeding in brightness the light of the sun. Around his head this light gathered into a halo of brightness exceeding in intensity everything else around. He was dressed in white robes and his feet were bare. My nature could not bear the presence of this glorious person and I sank to the ground.

“My brother, walking by my side, as he afterwards stated, saw my countenance change and that I was sinking to the ground. He took hold of my clothes at the breast and let me gently down. This much I do know that my spirit went out of my body and stood just over it, and gazed at it and my brother standing by it. Whether or not my spirit was commanded to come out of my body by the personage in whose presence I was, I know not.

“The personage or angel said to me, ‘Follow thou me.’ He ascended upwards in the direction from whence he came and I followed him. He took me into the presence of God the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ, with the exception there was a rail between us; but I saw Them seated on a throne. I had in my hands many sheaves of wheat of the purest white. There was an altar on my left hand and also one directly in front of me. The one on my left appeared to be about three feet in height; the one in front about eighteen inches. I laid the sheaves of wheat that were in my hands on the altar to my left as an offering to the Lord. I bowed myself on my knees on the altar in front of me which was also in front of the throne. I prayed God the Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ to accept of the offering I had laid upon the altar.

“While I prayed, the rail was removed and I stood upon my feet. Jesus arose and stepped from the side of his Father and came near where I stood. I was in their presence and I gazed upon their glory.

“Jesus then said to me, ‘Your offering is accepted and wouldst thou know the interpretation thereof?’ I replied, ‘Yes, Lord.’ The angel, my conductor, said, ‘Look,’ and I saw as it were, an innumerable company that had come up from all nations, kindreds and peoples around the thrown[sic] of God and they fell down and worshipped him and gave glory to Him. Jesus then said, ‘These are they; thou shalt be the means of bringing into my Father’s kingdom and this is the interpretation of the offering thou hast laid upon the altar.’

“Jesus continued to speak and shewed me many things pertaining to His Father’s kingdom. One thing I am at liberty to tell; the others I am not. He told me to look. I looked and saw that there were neither sun nor moon to give light but the Father and His Son were the light that lighted all the kingdoms of the world. This is all of the vision of the celestial world that I am permitted to write.

“The angel said again to me, ‘Look.’ I looked and beheld a lesser kingdom, typified by the moon. It received its light from the celestial kingdom and the inhabitants thereof seemed to exceed those of the celestial world, but the glory was not equal to that of the celestial. I saw many angels descending and ascending between the celestial and terrestrial worlds. I saw the angels descending and ascending between the terrestrial and telestial worlds and administering to the inhabitants of the latter. The glory of the telestial seemed great but not of that of the terrestrial.

“The angel said again to me, ‘Look.’ As I looked I beheld another world in which the inhabitants appeared to be less in number than in any of the other. It was neither one of light or of glory; but one of suffering. It was shaded with darkness. It appeared to be a pit; and a thick darkness of smoke ascended upwards as far as I could see. The inhabitants appeared to be suffering beyond anything I can describe. This passed from my vision. For a short time the angel withdrew from me and I was left alone.”(Alfred Douglas Young, “Autobiographical Journal,” 1808-1842, pp. 3-13.)

David O. McKay’s Vision of the “City Eternal”

As found in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, taken from Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, pages 59–60.

Toward evening, the reflection of the afterglow of a beautiful sunset was most splendid!

…Pondering still upon this beautiful scene, I lay in my [bed] at ten o’clock that night. …I then fell asleep, and beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though it was far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe and a white headdress. Instantly my attention seemed centered upon their leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold. There was a peace about him which seemed sublime – it was divine!

The city, I understood, was his. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.

But who were they?

As if the savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared oboe them, and on which were written in gold the words:

These Are They Who Have Overcome the World – 
Who Have Truly Been Born Again!

Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Resurrection

From a discourse delivered by President Wilford Woodruff at the Weber Stake Conference in Ogden, Utah on Monday, October 19, 1896 (Deseret Weekly, 7 November 1896, 642–43).

“After laboring in that part [Memphis, Tennessee] for a length of time, I received a letter from Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, in which they requested me to stay in that country and take charge of the churches that we had built up there. The Prophet promised me many things, and said I should lose no blessings by tarrying in that country and doing as he wished me, and letting the other brethren go and get their endowments.

I was then at the house of Brother Abraham O. Smoot’s mother. I received this about sundown. I went into a little room where there was a sofa, to pray alone. I felt full of joy and rejoicings at the promises God had made to me through the Prophet. While I was upon my knees praying, my room was filled with light. I looked and a messenger stood by my side. I arose, and the personage told me he had come to instruct me. He presented before me a panorama. He told me he wanted me to see with my eyes and understand with my mind what was coming to pass in the earth before the coming of the Son of Man.

He commenced with what the revelations say about the sun being turned to darkness, the moon to blood, and the stars falling from heaven. Those things were all presented to me one after another, as they will be, I suppose, when they are manifest before the coming of the Son of Man.

Then he showed me the resurrection of the dead – what is termed the first and second resurrection. In the first resurrection I saw no graves nor anyone raised from the grave. I saw legions of celestial beings, men and women who had received the Gospel all clothed in white robes. In the form they were presented to me, they had already been raised from the grave.

After this he showed me what is termed the second resurrection. Vast fields of graves were before me, and the Spirit of God rested upon the earth like a shower of gentle rain, and when that fell upon the graves they were opened, and an immense host of human beings came forth. They were just as diversified in their dress as we are here, or as they were laid down. This personage taught me with regard to these things.

Among other things he showed me, there were seven lions like burning brass placed in the heavens. I asked the messenger what they were for. He said they were representative of the different dispensations of the Gospel of Christ to men, and they would all be seen in the heavens among the signs that would be shown.

After this passed by me, he disappeared. Now, if I had been a painter I could have drawn everything that I saw. It made an impression upon me that has never left me from that day to this. The next day we had a meeting in the academy. Brother Smoot and some others went with me; but I was a lost man. I hardly knew where I was, so enveloped was I in that which I had seen.”

A Short Stay in Hell: A Review

A Short Stay in Hell Cover
By Zachary Collier

A Short Stay in Hell by Stephen L. Peck is a landmark existential horror novel that is a must read for every Latter-day Saint. In it, Peck crafts a foreign, almost nonsensical universe that helps to strip the reader bare of preconceived social biases and to examine morality at its most basic: what does it truly mean to be good? What does it truly mean to be evil?

While a novel could be written on the character of the God portrayed in this novel, or the concept of the Library of Babel, I will choose to forgo those topics and instead focus on the individuals found within Peck’s universe. But first, a brief synopsis.

The book follows Soren Johansson, a 45-year-old Mormon with brain cancer who finds himself dead and residing in hell: not a merciful spirit prison governed by Jesus Christ and a loving Heavenly Father, but a hell run by a corporate demon with a sense of humor and actors who pretend to drown in a sea of fire to scare the newcomers. This demon does nothing to explain why Soren is in hell along with other seemingly good people. He only explains that their religion is false: they did not believe in Zoroastrianism or the true god, Ahriman, and thus must be sent to hell to learn a lesson. What that lesson is, they can’t say. But they have to learn it. Because of this, Soren is sent to a hell based on the Library of Babel, where he is given the impossible task of locating a book detailing his mortal struggle in every particular in a packed library trillions of light years both wide and deep.

A Short Stay in Hell may be uncomfortable at first to LDS readers who must put themselves in Soren’s shoes. Each reader must ask himself, “What if my religion is wrong? What if God was not merciful? What if I found myself in this hell?” While a difficult and possibly frightening question, allowing yourself to ponder this question will allow you to find the beautiful morals in this tale.

In this hell, there is no permanent pain; only temporary pain (much like earth) that is always made whole again the next day (unlike earth). In this hell, you are always fed whatever you would like to eat and can request as much of it as you like. You are always clothed. You have a warm bed to sleep in. You are in the company of people with similar interests.

The thing that is most horrifying about this hell is the seeming impossibility of the task. Initially easy sounding, the odds of completing the task prove infinitesimally small as time goes on. The sad thing is that it is entirely possible. It just takes forever to accomplish.

That is where the beauty of A Short Stay in Hell stems from. By giving all characters in the novel an impossible task, they have nothing to do. By making the library infinitely large and bland, the characters have no reason to come, go, or stay. It is all the same. By giving them an infinite amount of time, there is no sense of urgency. By making all religions false except for an obscure, archaic Persian religion, superfluous things like clothing, diet (like the word of wisdom), customs (like being married in the temple), ritual, etc. are stripped away.

Soon, everything mortal is stripped away, and every character is left with nothing to do except to be. It is not what they say, it is not what they do, it is not who they associate with. It is who they are that matters. That is ultimately the question Peck asks in this novel.

The Mormon prophet David O. McKay expressed a similar sentiment. “Every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone, it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person, radiates what he or she is… You radiate. You can’t hide it. You may pretend something else, but that will not affect people.”

Given an almost infinite, incomprehensible amount of time, with no specific direction, and no consequences for your actions, what will you choose? Will you choose hope? Will you choose education and discovery? Will you choose to innovate despite limitations? Will you choose to reach out to others? Will you choose to love?

Or will you choose the path of anger? Will you find joy in conquest and dominance? Will you delight in shedding the blood of others? Will you seek fleeting pleasures? Will you take from others the things they love? Will you destroy everything in your sight? Will you forget your inevitable goal, impossible as it may seem, and delay the journey longer?

Who are you in the worst circumstances?

That is the ultimate question that A Short Stay in Hell asks. And that is the question that we, as human beings, need to be asked.

It is a truth that we are just as in eternity now as we will ever be.

What will we do with the almost incomprehensible span of 100 years that each of us has been given to live? Will we despair in the face of all the things we do not know? Will we choose to drown in doubt?

Peck suggests that happiness can still be attained in the worst of circumstances. Peck, through Soren’s relationship with Rachel, demonstrates that true love can last eternity. True love can make a heaven out of hell. True love never gets boring. True love expands our knowledge, fills our lives with meaning, and is worth a meager donation of our time. It lends help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless. It is the antidote to despair.

Love takes time to build. Eons. But it can be taken in an instant at the hands of one filled with hatred.

But one filled with true love is willing to sacrifice their own happiness, and to spend eternity alone in an endless hell, to prevent the continued suffering of another and to silence destructive voices and to stay malignant hands.

Everything good creates, preserves, impels, inspires, drives, sustains, builds, uplifts, heals, comforts, collaborates, unifies, harmonizes. All of these actions take great effort and an even greater deal of time.

Everything evil destroys, corrupts, damages, disorganizes, divides, and lessens. All of this can be done in an instant.

In the novel, Soren finds a sign in hell that gives a list of helpful suggestions. One of them states: “Lastly, you are here to learn something. Don’t try to figure out what it is. This can be frustrating and unproductive.”

I posit that love is the thing we are to learn not just in fictitious, Zoroastrian hell but in real Mormon, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or Zoroastrian life. All of us are given the impossible task to learn to love perfectly in an imperfect world. No amount of philosophizing or studying can teach us love. It must be learned by experience, no matter how long that takes. To quote Dean Koontz:

“Hope is the destination that we seek.
Love is the road that leads to hope.
Courage is the motor that drives us.
We travel out of darkness into faith.”

Love is the road that leads to the attainment of our hopes and dreams: whether that be a long, harmonious life with those we love; the development of a talent or skill we so covet; or the discovery of a book about our lives that ultimately frees us from hell. The chances of obtaining our hopes and dreams may be incredibly small, but if we have love, we will enjoy waiting for them to come to us.

Breath of Heaven – #ShareTheGift

To celebrate Christmas this week, we would like to showcase this video from Harrison Collier, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The video sets clips from biblevideos.org to the Amy Grant recording of “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).” The combination of the two is incredibly moving, especially as we contemplate the sense of mystery and the awful weight of responsibility residing in the heart of Mary at the time of Christ’s birth.

We invite you to like and share this video with the accompanying hashtag, #ShareTheGift. Help spread the glad tidings of our Savior’s Birth this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

BYU Men’s Chorus Releases Christmas Video

On December 5, 2014 the BYU Men’s Chorus, under the direction of Rosalind Hall, released a special Christmas single as a free gift to the world. The single, “Come, Lord Jesus,” is part of a growing catalog of free hymns that the choir refers to as Set Apart – a fluid, digital album that is updated every year. You can download it here.

“Come, Lord Jesus” was originally written and composed under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Savior of the World: His Birth and Resurrection. The version performed so beautifully by the Men’s Chorus was arranged by Daniel McDavitt. Words to this beloved Mormon Christmas Carol are available here.

On December 14, 2014 the BYU Men’s Chorus released a music video, filmed in Salt Lake City, UT on Temple Square, to accompany the single. The music video tells the story of one family’s experience with the death of their infant son. Baby Rockwell was born 15 weeks early and lived 11 hours. The family discusses their feelings about the experience and how the love of Jesus Christ saw them through an incredibly difficult time and gave them hope for the future.

We here at Odes and Oracles hope you enjoy the music video as much as we do. It can be seen below.