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On Sunday night our stake held a Life of Christ Open House in our building. Each ward was assigned a specific segment of Christ’s life to represent in displays or activities in different classrooms. Our ward was assigned Christ’s ministry in the Americas to portray. At first our ward council really struggled with what they were going to do. Despite months of lead time and plenty of attention given to the project it just wasn’t coming together.

Finally they decided they needed to bring in some outside help. Which is when they realized that in our ward we had someone who works for church headquarters designing visitor center experiences, a professional artist, and someone who owns all their own professional lighting and sound equipment. They quickly turned the project over to this team of creatives and – despite a now very shortened timeline – they came up with an amazing experience.

They separated our room into three sections. The first featured a hand painted mural of Christ’s visit to the Americas. This was really stunning to see as people walked in. Brian Hailes designed the mural digitally and then projected it onto the large format poster boards so that he could have help from his kids and other members of the ward to complete it without losing his vision. It was really cool not only to see the finished product but also to get to watch how many people were able to work together to get it made. (Brian has a really neat series of portraits of Christ that he’s been working on recently that you should definitely check out as well as many other great books and art resources.)

The third section featured artwork of the Savior done by kids in our ward. They were certainly less artistically impressive than the mural in the first room, but it was nonetheless really tender to see the testimonies of our children portrayed in artistic format. Well, perhaps with the exception of my 6 year old’s drawing. It featured Jesus on the cross… with snowballs all around. At some point he’d gotten a highlighter and wrote “pooper scooper” on the piece as well 🤦‍♀️ I’m sure the caption was not necessarily intended to go along with the subject matter, but he’s 6 so anytime he can write “pooper scooper” it probably seems like a good idea. *sigh*

The section I was in for most of the night was the middle section. Since the brother who designed the experience worked for the visitor’s center department he was able to borrow a 8 foot tall Christus statue from church headquarters. It is one that they will take when they do open houses at new temples to be part of a temporary display.

Once the statue was in place the brother who was responsible for it requested that one person be given the role of guarding the statue. As you might imagine, a statue of that size would be expensive to replace and he did not want to be on the line if something happened to it. Somehow as they looked around the room 5’2″ Brittny seemed like the best person for the job, so I was assigned for the night as Jesus’ bodyguard.

My job was basically just to stand by the statue, not let little kids climb on it and react with sufficient anxiety if someone bumped it during set up. I felt a little silly, and extremely inadequate. I mean, Jesus didn’t exactly look kindly on keeping people from coming to see him and He rebuked Peter for defending Him with a sword. Pretty sure whatever protection Jesus needs, He can handle it Himself. (Yes, I’m being a little bit silly since obviously the statue was not *actually* Jesus, but I still felt there was some interesting scriptural precedent to the role).

However silly I felt acting as bodyguard, it was actually a really neat place to be throughout the night. One of the coolest parts was to watch as little kids would come in the room. The kids were generally running around the building while their parents were working on setting up their own part of the displays. Without fail when a kid would come into the room they would run in and then stop dead in their tracks. They would look up at the statue and say, “WHOA!” Then their first reaction was always to run back out of the room to bring a friend to see the statue as well.

I loved seeing that. Isn’t that what we should all do when we find Jesus in our lives? Our first reaction should be to share Christ with others. That’s what Lehi’s first thought was after partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life. I want to be more like all of those kids and be so quick to bring those around me to Christ.

The experience also gave me pause as I stood in the room between the people who were there and Christ. I wondered, who am I keeping from knowing Christ? I may not stand in my day as a bouncer who won’t allow people to approach Him, but am I sharing the gospel? I have a knowledge of my Savior and I have a responsibility to share that knowledge with others.

I also asked myself, does the way I live my life as Christ’s follower make others want to know Him too? When I do declare the gospel those who don’t know Christ for themselves may judge Him based on my actions. I have to take care that the way that I act towards others makes others want to know Him as I do. I hope that others can feel of His love because of the love they see through me. It reminded me of this song that was part of the BYU Young Ambassador fireside when I was on their tech crew years ago.

My biggest task in protecting the statue was being conscientious of His outstretched hands. They are easily the weakest part of the statue and easily knocked into. As I was taking care that they remained in tact I wondered about whether I take the same care to keep His doctrine in tact. Am I careful in the way that I teach His doctrine so that it remains clear to others? Can I be trusted with keeping safe those in my care and the callings I’ve been entrusted with? It was a team effort, especially as the men were carrying the statue back out at the end of the night. We are all given a small part of the task of holding up the kingdom and it takes every one of us doing our part to protect the doctrine and care for God’s children here on Earth.

My favorite part of the whole night was after the open house actually began. For the first bit of the open house I was still charged with watching over the statue while visitors came in. As a couple of little girls came in I could see that they were hesitant to approach the statue. While their parents were looking at the other parts of the exhibit I quietly motioned them forward. I’d been instructed that people were permitted to touch His hands and feet so long as they didn’t stand on the base or hang on it.

So I brought these two girls forward so they could have their own moment with the Savior. Together we knelt down and lovingly touched His hands and feet as we spoke about our Savior. It was so tender and it reminded me that THAT is exactly where I want to be. I believe the kind of guarding that Christ truly wants. Not the kind of guarding that would keep people away but that will bring people TO Him with gentle care. I want to be in a position that I am bringing others to Christ so that they can have their own experiences with Him. Sharing my experiences is nice, but the ultimate goal is for everyone to experience His love directly for themselves.

Not long after that I was relieved of guard duty. I went quickly home so that I could get my four oldest children and bring them up. Of all the people that I want to help have an experience with the Savior my own precious babies are at the very top of the list. I was eager to bring them back so they too could feel the love that I know our Savior has for them.

This last picture isn’t of the statue that was in our building on Sunday, but a much larger version that lives in the visitor’s center of the Los Angeles temple. The little boy at Christ’s feet is my oldest son who is now 15 years old. I hope I’m always doing all I can to help him and his siblings find their own place at the feet of our Savior.