Sunday, March 27, 2016

Jerusalem, If I Forget You


I spent the summer of 2011 wearing a white v-neck at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Israel. It was a glorious sun-soaked summer spent roaming all over the Israeli countryside and cityscapes. I loved it, more than I could have every imagined. My fellow students and I quickly embraced the motto, "Jerusalem, if I forget you."

This little phrase is derived from a verse in Psalms. I've been thinking about this little saying a lot the last few weeks. I always think about Jerusalem around Easter time. I think it's just a natural thing for many of us to do. When this phrase first entered my vernacular, I used it in a "I'll never forget this experience" sort of way. It was surface level, meant to be taken at face value.

Over the years, however, it's taken on a very different meaning. Jerusalem was a turning point in my life, particularly my spiritual life. Jerusalem was the first time I really ever spent anytime away from my family and the first time I'd ever been out of the country for an extended period of time. It was an entirely new experience and I soaked up every second. 

The real change, however, came in my spiritual growth. For the first time, my spiritual learning and development took center stage. It was in Israel that I learned how to really study the scriptures. I learned how to take my questions to the Lord and then get to work to find the answers. I learned of the power and the importance of prayer. I learned the importance of learning the gospel with others and how to have fulfilling and meaningful discussions. Jerusalem was an incubator for my tiny spiritual self. 

There was no way for me to travel to Jerusalem and not spend significant time thinking about Christ and his life. It didn't matter if I was sitting on the wall at the Center, tucked under a tree in the Garden of Gethsemane, or just walking through the winding streets of the city. Everyday brought new opportunities to learn about and grow closer to my Savior. And that's what I did. I read books and scriptures about Christ's life and I spent the summer in Israel getting to know him. 

My time in Israel is forever linked to thoughts of my Savior. They're a package deal for me. So when I hear, "Jerusalem, if I forget you," it's no longer a pledge to remember one of the greatest summers of my life. It's a reminder not to give up the ground I gained spiritually in Israel. It's a promise to continue to remember my Savior, his life, and the gift that is his Atonement. 

I visited the Garden Tomb on my 20th birthday. It was my gift to myself. But reality, it was the physical representation of the greatest gift I have ever received. For on that June day, just like it was over 2000 years ago, the tomb was empty. Because he still lives and he is still working out my salvation and yours. 



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