In my heart and memory, Yosemite National Park is perhaps the most naturally beautiful place in America. I have hiked through the rainbows of Vernal Fall, have soaked tired feet in the pool above Nevada Fall, and have camped under the stars at Little Yosemite Valley and awakened in the night to shoo off a bear. I have climbed the back of Half Dome in the morning fog and have stood on its “diving board” rock outcropping overlooking the Merced River flowing below in the valley. Along with Yosemite pioneer John Muir, I have declared it all “glorious.” I have also recognized God’s hand in the creation of such beauty.
Dr. Carl Sharsmith (1903-1994) was a park ranger in Yosemite for 50 years and could identify a dozen grasses and sedges under the ranger hat he tossed on the meadow ground. The story is told that a woman came to him in a hurry asking what she should see if she only had one day in Yosemite. With a tear forming in his eye, the old ranger replied, “Lady, if I only had one day in Yosemite, I guess I would just go sit by the river and cry.”
My visits to Yosemite have also been much too short and have left me with a longing to return some day.
In the same way that I long to see Yosemite again, we may naturally long to again be with our Heavenly Father, who sent us here so that we might learn to live by faith and to love God and serve one another. The Apostle Paul invited an eternal perspective on this mortal life when he declared that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Cor. 2:9).
With the poet Longfellow, we may be assured that, “Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returneth, Was not spoke of the soul” ( A Psalm of Life).
But we don’t have to wait for heaven to live a happy life. Let’s count our blessings and cherish the joys and opportunities of each new dawn. “Carpe diem!” Seize the day!
Prophets invite us to use this day of life to develop faith in Christ — faith unto repentance — so we may have peace in this life and to prepare ourselves for the next. The apostle John testified that “God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God,” wrote the ancient American prophet Alma, with the promise that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption” (Alma 34:16, 32, Book of Mormon).
How can we thank Him enough? Our faith, or trust, in Jesus Christ the Redeemer is empowering and leads us to repent, or turn away from sins that would hold us spiritually captive. In our day, the Lord has promised, “Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20). No wonder the Psalmist used the word “lovingkindness” in referring to God’s caring for His children.
My backpacking days may be over, but I long to return to Yosemite. In much the same way, our intimations of eternity — of a return to our heavenly home — are felt and realized as the Spirit testifies to the power and purposes of Christ’s enabling atonement on our behalf.