Sunday, July 24, 2016

Andrew's Conversion Story

Our Stake President asked us to record our conversion story - here is mine:

Andrew Brown – Conversion Story – as recorded July 22, 2016

Recently I got to help at a girls’ camp activity where we hiked to Fossil Creek’s waterfall.  We swam and jumped through the lower portions of the waterfall and could see there was another area next to the canyon wall that looked fun to explore.  As I went to investigate I felt the current pushing the hardest along this side of the stream, I braced and dove into the current trying to get to an area I might be able to pull myself up and explore.  The splashing intensified as I tried to rise above the water to breathe while reaching under the water for a surface I could secure myself to.  I had to push fairly far into the current before my hands started discovering a secure surface.  I planted my palm down and used the little bit of leverage it offered me to pull myself out of the spray and began looking for a way to get my feet in a secure location.  Found it!  I excitedly walked through the spray of the waterfall and found I could get behind the veil of the waterfall about 20 feet above the pool, with a solid hand hold I pushed my body through the veil of the fall to see the group surrounding the waterfall.  I was so coated in the water fall spray I’m not sure anyone could see me, I ventured further out and people waived.  The water beating on me was intense but made me feel alive and excited for adventure.  I withdrew from the chaos of the waterfall back into the cave and worked my way back down to the area I had originally climbed up.  There I discovered that I could sit down in the water flow above the pool of water and the water behind me would build up until it would rush under me and float me down the rocky slide in the pool of water.  As I hit the pool of water the current would push me into the canyon wall where there was a shallow shelf to walk across and begin the adventure again.  Others watched me and soon were on their way over to participate in the adventure.  Most struggled with the process and I found I could place myself in an area to encourage them and grab their hand and give them the necessary pull or instructions to get them into this pocket of adventure.  Soon the cave was full of girls exploring the area including my daughter Allie who needed a bit of coaxing before she relented.  The more we played the more I wore my palms and finger tips nearly all the way through, it was so much fun I couldn’t stop.  Some of us jumped off the water fall after piercing the veil of the waterfall, others floated down – we all had a great time.

I preface my conversion with this story to communicate what seems so unglorified and simple with being the very event that opened up the understanding and joy of life for me.  My conversion story begins with my biological parents Matthew Oman Morris and Julie Ann Broderick.  Matt as a convert met mom at BYU.  They fell in love and married having first Arick Louise Morris and then me.  By the time I was born my parents’ marriage had deteriorated resulting in divorce.  Both parents remained strong in the church an ensured I was taught Gospel principles and attended church regularly.  I grew up mostly in Provo and Grantsville, Utah except when I was spending the summer with my Broderick grandparents in Phoenix, Arizona.  I was taught the Gospel everywhere I went.  I was excited when I turned eight years old to be baptized and recognized that I’d have to clean up my act since I would be accountable after I was baptized.  While I had a lot of exposure to the Gospel, I was only eight and I was limited in what I could process.  I continued to be raised with family prayer, family home evening, and scriptures being read.  I felt like when I prayed my prayers were listened to and as I needed help or answers they came.  Probably when I was ten or eleven I started realizing that I’d need to one day have my own testimony and not rely upon my parents testimony.  I remember being proud of myself for getting myself to church when my parents were both sick one weekend.  I remembered feeling I was making good decisions on my own but still I hadn’t detected if I had my own testimony.  As I aged to twelve and thirteen after moving to Phoenix, Arizona with my family I continued to have answers to my prayers asking Heavenly Father for a testimony of the Book of Mormon and if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was true.  The answers were usually something along the lines of: “Andrew, you know it is true” and I’d respond, “but I want that spiritual confirmation”.  I continued to get these types of answers as I turned fourteen.  I was blessed to have some of the most amazing leaders in Young Men’s including Douglas Baker (Doug) and William Alexander (Bill).  My Bishop was Scott Marvin Larson and his son became my best friend.  I saw greatness in the Baker, Alexander, and Larson home similar to the greatness in my own home.  The Gospel understanding in all of these homes was strong and the way they lived their lives was a living testimony to the truths they adhered to. 
When I was fourteen, our ward had begun joining Bishop Larson’s brother’s ward in doing projects in Caborca Mexico.  Jason Alexander was a Priest at the time and had arranged for a service project to occur in Caborca (painting a Catholic school).  Jason got sick and that resulted in my getting to ride with Bishop Larson and my friend Benjamin Scott Larson (Ben).  Through the service with the church members and comradery with our host family in Caborca, singing Hymns in Spanish during the Sacrament meeting all seemed to have an effect on me.  I remembered having a chance to internalize all things Spiritual that I knew at that time that didn’t seem to be bound by country or language and I began to feel like I was close to my testimony being confirmed.  The project ended and I visited with Bishop Larson and my friend Ben as we drove back home.  Bishop Larson had a business court hearing he needed to attend in Tombstone, Arizona and so we took a detour from the church caravan returning home.  In the silence of that trip I prayed again for confirmation that the Book of Mormon was true and that the Church was true – again I got the response that I already knew it was true, I sought for the spiritual confirmation…and then it came.  I had the knowledge and exposure sufficient to know that the Church was true and the Book of Mormon was true and now I had a spiritual witness to confirm what I already knew.  This gave me new confidence and allowed me to understand that the commandments were actually the laws of happiness.  I came to know that if I wanted to have lasting happiness that I had this pattern laid out before me by my family.  I knew that I needed to become better at doing what had been taught to me to truly receive the blessings available to me from my Heavenly Father.
Similar to my experience at Fossil Creek’s waterfall, I had to dive into the current of the question “is it true” and explore the possibilities.  As I received my spiritual witness it was like my hand finding that solid hand hold that allowed me to pull myself beyond the questioning currents of life and securely plant myself in a position to explore life from a higher perspective.  I’ve been able to raise my understanding of the Gospel as I explored it through different callings and service opportunities that have come my way in life.  I pierced through the veil of the waterfall and viewed the great work that was available to me because of my mission call; with a bit of anxiousness I jumped off the top of the waterfall of life into the pool of serving all of God’s children in the Canada Winnipeg Mission.  Others saw my example and worked their way over to the waterfall and firmly grabbed my hand and allowed me to assist in their progress of becoming members and confirming their own testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel that they too might have the vision and understanding that is afforded to those that rise to the challenge of asking “Is it true?”
I have been blessed to continue to have great men and women in my life as I have continued the adventure of life with the perspective the Gospel offers.  I know who I am, I know God’s plan and everything in my life is now filtered through this understanding.  This understanding has driven me to strive to serve on a higher level, to face challenges both spiritually and temporally with the confidence that I am a son of God and am worth all the blessings He has to offer if I will live my life in a way that he can bestow these gifts upon me.  We are here to have a physical experience and I feel I’m able to position myself to enjoy nature, human nature, relationships, and to love and serve in ways that are heightened because of my conversion.

Am I a life-long member?  Yes.  Am I a convert to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Yes.  My conversion is ongoing as I explore this great pool of life and live and love and serve so when the day comes for this Earthly adventure to end I’ll have worn my palms and finger prints off, I’ll have scrapes and scratches of having lived and my eyes will sparkle with excitement for the great adventure I got to be a part of.  Finally, I’ll be expecting Jesus Christ to be waiting for me as my Savior and Redeemer to return me to my Heavenly Father if I enabled him to do this by following His teachings.  I am sharing his yoke, my burdens are light and I will continue to seek to align my will with His so that I can enjoy the great blessing of this Eternal progression.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bradley had his Eagle Court of Honor about a week ago.  I am so proud of him.  My biological father Matt Morris is an Eagle Scout, I'm an Eagle Scout and now I have two boys that are Eagle Scouts.  Two of my three suits have an Eagle Scouts's Father's pin now.  Just waiting for Dillon to follow his brothers examples in a few years so I will be three for three. 

I'm really proud of Bradley and the growth he experienced from the process of earning his Eagle.  There was a man that night that was given several Eagle Mentor pins, a plaque of gratitude for all his efforts in helping the young men earn their Eagle Ranks over the years.  This man is now a counselor in the Bishopric and seeing his love for the young men and the appreciation he felt for being associated with such great youth was amazing.  Now I just hope that my boys can become such a man themselves.

Thanks to Grandma Broderick for sharing this photo with me.  The flag in the back ground filled the entire heigth of the cultural hall and was used for Chase's Eagle Court of Honor also.  Congratulations Bradley!

Andrew "so proud the buttons are popping off my shirt" Brown

Friday, September 28, 2012

Supai Rescue and Rewards

I got to hike and camp at Supai this last weekend as part of a GCC hiking class.  My first time going to Supai falls on this trip I was showing Chase around while others were going behing the fall and jumping through etc.  I noticed a man follow the group but I wasn't sure what he was doing as he didn't proceed with the same pace others had.  What I didn't know after watching him for awhile was that his adult daughter and his wife were looking for him.  I started noticing his movements were getting labored and so I shouted out if he was ok.  He gave me a thumbs up.  I immediately felt like that was not true, two more times I hollored out to him and two more times I got the thumbs up.  By then his daughter was by my side and I asked if she thought he was ok cause I wasn't convinced.  She couldn't tell.  I figured I could handle the embarassment if I swam out there and he was fine so I found a strong long stick, threw it out there and told my buddy Scott to help me.  I got out there really quick and went to his side and asked him if he wanted to make it to shore - he did.  I realized how tired he was as he tried to follow me.  I got a stick and pulled him while Scott was behind him making sure we had good progress.  I got him to recognize that there were underwater shelves to sit on to relax and regain his strength.  We then walked and swam him back to the shallow end until he could walk on his own and he said he could make it from there and his daughter helped him to a picnic table to rest.  His finger prints were gone and bleeding pretty well from getting worn off as he tried to hang on behind the fall and his walking was very labored.  Once I could tell he was ok I didn't want to hang out and cause him any discomfort so I went back to playing and did my first dive through the falls since 2007.  I kept playing and noticed my new friend was laying on the picnic table and hadn't moved and so I brought over my gatorade and told his wife and daugther to have him drink it all if he wanted to as he needed to get his energy level back.  I checked back on him a couple more times finally letting them know that while he could have all the gatorade he wanted, I only had that one bottle to last me the trip and since I was leaving to the next fall I'd need the bottle back.  The family was gracious and asked for my address. 

Now I'm home and today I got a letter from my friend, he lives in Ranchos Palos Verde, California - the note reads "Andrew, Hard to put into words when I realized you were by my side under Havasu Falls.  I couldn't hold on much longer.  Thanks for being there . . . Many Thanks".  How cool is that!  I can't say that anything could be more rewarding and I admire my friends graciousness.  I'm glad it worked out to meet this man and his family - we need more people like him in the world so I'm glad that we didn't lose him that day and I'm glad I can handle the embarassment of attempting to save someone who doesn't need it so I didn't let that stop me from checking up on him.

He did send me a gift card to REI - how appreciated that is and I must say the amount was quite generous as I was just grateful to be associated with someone as high caliber as him.

Andrew "has a new friend" Brown

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bradley - has earned his Eagle

It's been almost a month but Bradley has earned his Eagle Rank.  We will let folks know when he will have his Eagle Court of Honor.  For his Eagle Board, he had been pushed back a bit to allow older boys who were about to turn 18 and finally had his chance in September.  He felt like he had a great board that he felt quite prepared for.  I'm grateful for the opportunities that BSA provides as it prepares young men to do service, projects, and get exposed to a host of survival, first aid, and other life skills and carreers.  Congratulations on your journey Bradley and for arriving at this point of completing your Eagle Project and passing your Eagle Board.

Andrew "proud of my son" Brown

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Truck - I finally got mine . . .

Been wanting a full size pickup since that fateful day I got canned from Az Oxides because I wouldn't stop going to school - had to sell my 5 passenger F150 and got a small blue Mazda pickup. Been buying small pickups ever since until now - I love my new 2005 F150, 6 passenger, 4.6L V8.  Want a ride? I'm always looking for an excuse to drive it . . .

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Guess who's been Elderized?

As a High Councilman I got to clear/sustain Chase recently to be presented to the stake to receive the Melchizedek priesthood and be ordained an Elder. We had stake conference yesterday and after getting sustained our Bishop was anxious to have Chase ordained . . . at the same time I had a sister in the ward that was asking for a blessing (she’s a fairly recent convert that our family was able to teach the new member discussions to and she recently obtained her endowments). I asked if she wouldn’t mind waiting for Chase to be ordained and then we could do this together and she agreed. Chase had a powerful ordination along with some of his peers that also were ordained Elders.

Afterwards, we found a room and asked the sister who she’d like to pronounce the blessing and she asked that Chase do this – how cool is that! Not even 5 minutes after being ordained he already participated in ordaining another Elder and then being the voice for a blessing. I was really excited for him and while he was pretty intimidated, he did a great job of pronouncing the blessing with the guidance of the spirit.

I don’t know about others, but I mostly anointed for the first 18 months after I was ordained an Elder before I regularly became the voice – I feel like Chase has an opportunity to jump in with both feet and in realizing the authority and the power of the priesthood.

Andrew "Excited for my Son" Brown

Friday, May 11, 2012

“Unto whom much is given” - My last ward did it better . . .

The other day I was talking to Glory telling her that I had noticed almost every interaction I had that day was initiated by me. I was approaching people I didn’t know, talking with folks I barely know, and finding that I was uncomfortable most of the time. I have lived in my ward for 4 years and I still feel like I recently moved in since I know so few people and interactions are rarely initiated by others. As I was reminiscing about my prior wards and their friendliness and missing the closeness I had with others back then I was reminded of this experience:

Many years ago we were about to have a stake road show and I was near a couple that bragged about how they used to live in California and the productions their stake put on rivaled anything that could be produced in Hollywood. As they bragged about this prior stake and the amazing things that they were a part of there, they then complained how our current stake didn’t compare.

I often reflect on this and remember thinking, “If you were part of that amazing stake, why can’t you show us how to be as amazing as they were?” Why do we always complain how amazing things used to be? To provide justification for why we complain about how horrible things are now? Why don’t we accept the role to show others the way to greatness because we were part of that greatness in the past?

Back in 1997 the Sundance ward was created. A friend joked that they took the “riff-raff” of two prominent wards and created our ward. We were a bunch of oddballs, our leadership pool was very shallow and many of us received callings that required more of us than we could currently offer. It was a great time of growth and we made the best of the situation. This small ward was so close and the members looked out for each other without prompting. I remember Dustin McCoy calling me up to say that sister X needed her weeds addressed . . . no one told him to escalate the issue to me, he just knew it needed to be done and wondered when we were going to do it – we met at her house 15 minutes later. That’s how things were done in the Sundance ward. Many of us had multiple callings. Parents would both have prominent positions that kept them at meetings and required making adjustments so the kids were not left alone. We grew close as a ward and continue to reminisce about the greatness of that time. Eventually the Sundance ward was dissolved and split down the middle. My part of Sundance ward became the Sahuaro Ranch (SR) ward. With this new infusion of people in the SR ward, we were integrated and I watched as the SR ward became even closer. When we eventually moved out of the SR ward, we left many close friends that we love to this day.

So now we are in a huge ward, it’s hard to have the same closeness and familiarity with so many people. But I look back and remember thinking “How dare I complain about how my last ward did it better . . . “, when I should be showing others the greatness that I was once a part of so we can be amazing too. I have a daunting task; I am only me and can only impact so many people at a time. I wasn’t the reason that my past wards were so great, I was just in the ward. The Sundance and SR wards were totally amazing and had many amazing qualities – I want to recreate the closeness and love that existed in my past wards.
Andrew “loves to reminisce” Brown