Sunday, November 29, 2015

And another talk

“God is at the Helm”

I grew up, through most of my school years and until shortly after I was married, on a hill overlooking the Los Angeles Harbor.  From my front yard, on a clear day, we had a wonderful view of Catalina Island which sits about 20 miles off-shore.  Most times of the day, you could see large ocean-going vessels steaming either into the Port or out to distant lands on the other side of the ocean.
I often wondered what it would be like to sail off to sea and I grew to enjoy anything that had to do with ships of all types.  In particular, I’ve had a fascination with the old sailing ships of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Their means of propulsion were quite simple yet these ships were some of the most complex machines ever devised by man at that time.  I did have an opportunity, when I was a priest, to take a replica sailing ship to Catalina Island.  It is an experience of which I still have fond memories.
When Elder Ballard tells us to “stay on the old ship Zion,” it brings to me a memory of a particular scene from the movie “Master and Commander.”  As Captain Aubrey takes his ship from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean around Cape Horn, he encounters a ferocious storm.  During the storm, one of his masts breaks free and goes over the side along with one of the young seamen who wasn’t secured to something on the deck.  The young man grabs onto the mast but the mast is acting as a sea anchor and threatens to sink the ship as it pulls the ship sideways to the great swells that they are encountering.  The only choice is that the mast has to be cut free and the young man sacrificed for the greater good of the entire ship. There was safety in the ship but once one went overboard, in those days, one was sure to be lost at sea thus the reason to hold on tight with both hands.
The Church is our Old Ship Zion and so long as we stay on board, and hold on tight with both hands, there is safety from the storms that surround us.  When we begin to let go, there is a chance of being washed overboard and being left to drown in the rough seas.
Elder Ballard spoke of four things we should hang on to in the Old Ship Zion, one of which I would like to focus on and that is living prophets and apostles.  He stated that the church, both in ancient times and in modern times, has always been led by prophets and apostles.  They are His chosen mouth-pieces to deliver to us counsel, warnings, teachings and testimony of Him.
How blessed we are to have the knowledge today, that the rest of Christianity rejects, that there are living prophets and apostles who deliver to us the words that our Heavenly Father wants us to hear.  As is written in Amos 3:7, “Surely the Lord, God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
 We recently had an opportunity to listen to the Prophet and to all of the Apostles during General Conference.  We had an opportunity to hear from the Lord through his servants.  What did the Lord want us to hear?  Did we take the opportunity to listen and to act?  Here are just some of the things these servants had to say:
Renlund:  Only when we see through Heavenly Father’s eyes can we be filled with “the pure love of Christ.”5 Every day we should plead with God for this love. Mormon admonished, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you praying for the pure love of Christ in your life?
Stevenson:   “God is our [loving] Heavenly Father. We are His children. … He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer. …
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are your prayers more sincere?
Rasband:  Now, if I could leave one small message with you today, it would be this: the Lord has said, “Love one another; as I have loved you.”
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you striving to better love your fellow man?
Anderson:  Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe7 and as we seek it and hold on to it. Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker.
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you choosing faith and working on making it stronger?
Christopherson:  This religion is not concerned only with self; rather, we are all called to serve. We are the eyes, hands, head, feet, and other members of the body of Christ, and even “those members … which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.”16 We need these callings, and we need to serve.
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you striving to better fulfill your callings and to serve your fellow members?
Cook:  In order to overcome the challenges and temptations that each of us inevitably faces, it will require righteous preparation and the use of divinely provided protections. We must determine to be temple worthy regardless of what befalls us. If we are prepared, we shall not fear.
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you determined that you will be temple worthy despite life’s oppositions?
Bednar:  The Savior declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same”. May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you more committed to seek spiritual guidance from the Lord through his chosen servants?
Holland:  To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion,13 and like the Master you follow, your love ‘never faileth.’14 ” I can pay no higher tribute to anyone.
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Mothers, did you find comfort in these words?  Father’s and children, are you more committed to honoring your wives and your mothers?
Hales:  As a pilot in the air force, I learned this principle: never deliberately fly into a thunderstorm. Instead, fly around it, take another route, or wait for the storm to clear before landing.
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you making better efforts to avoid finding yourself in tempting situations?
Ballard:  All of us are blessed when the Sabbath is filled with love for the Lord at home and at church. When our children are taught in the ways of the Lord, they learn to feel and to respond to His Spirit. We will all desire to attend each Sunday to partake of the sacrament when we feel the Spirit of the Lord.
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you striving to make the Sabbath a better day and a delight, not only for yourself but for your family?
Oaks:  The healing and strengthening power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement is for all of us who will ask. I testify of that as I also testify of our Savior, who makes it all possible.
Did you hear the testimony of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his testimony?  Was your faith strengthened and did you feel the spirit confirm his testimony?
Nelson: I bear witness of the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His redeeming, atoning, and sanctifying power.
Did you hear the testimony of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his testimony?  Did you receive the witness from the Holy Spirit of its truthfulness?
Uchtdorf:  “Does my life have meaning?”
“Do I believe in God?”
“Do I believe that God knows and loves me?”
“Do I believe that God hears and answers my prayers?”
“Am I truly happy?”
“Are my efforts leading me to the highest spiritual goals and values in life?”

Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Have you pondered upon these questions?

Eyring:  We can, if we live worthy of it, have the blessing of the Spirit to be with us, not only now and then,
Did you hear the words of an Apostle?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you seeking to live your life such that you can have the Spirit with you always?
Monson:  Each of us came to earth having been given the Light of Christ. As we follow the example of the Savior and live as He lived and as He taught, that light will burn within us and will light the way for others.
Did you hear the words of a Prophet?  Did you grab on, with both hands, to his message?  Are you seeking to that light which will allow you to be a light unto others?
These are just a few of the things the Lord wanted us to hear; things that will guide us, lead us and bring us back into his presence.  I am positive that if any one of you received a personal letter from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, you wouldn’t toss it aside with the rest of the mail and say, “I’ll open this later when I have more time.”  You would most likely tear it open on the spot; read it, re-read it and read it again.  You would keep it near you always and cherish that letter throughout your life.  When prophets and apostles speak to us, it is a personal letter from our Savior to each of us.
Today, we are more likely to take an airplane to our destination than a sailing ship.  We travel at hundreds of miles per hour through sometimes calm and sometimes turbulent air.  I have learned through experience, over the years, to keep my seat belt on and tightened.  I have learned that when the pilot tells the flight attendants to suspend service and to strap in, to tighten my own seat belt a little more.  Through experience, I have also learned that when there is turbulence all around me and the plane is being buffeted to and fro, I can sleep on the plane in peace because I know the aircraft is designed to withstand those turbulences and others that are even worse.

We live in a turbulent world where much of the world is blown to and fro by the changes in the winds of morals and doctrines, never reaching their destination.  We are blessed to have guidance from our Heavenly Father through his servants which keeps us on course and guides us to our destination.  The Lord is at the helm.  He has appointed Captains, Lieutenants, and Mid-Shipmen to deliver his directions to us in our journey.  As we listen and obey; as we stay anchored in the gospel, we will have peace in our lives and be able to sleep peacefully through the storms, the waves and the turbulences of the world, knowing that all is well, In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Another Sunday Talk

Has it really been this long since I posted and since I gave a talk?


Good afternoon brothers and sisters.  I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today… Honestly!...  Giving a talk is truly a great opportunity to study a subject; to reflect upon it; to learn what the Lord wants you to learn and to share it with others.  Our subject, Waiting Upon the Lord, goes hand in hand with these thoughts because when we are sharing the gospel with others, we are “waiting upon the Lord.”  Sharing His message is what He would have us do.
The Savior, after spending some time in the Garden of Gethsemane, came unto his disciples and found them asleep.  He then said unto them “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”  When we look at the 2000 years since the Savior was born and compare that to one hour, that one hour equates to about the life expectancy of man.  In essence, the Savior is asking us to watch with Him throughout our lives.  He is asking us to wait upon Him.  He is asking us to serve Him until the end.  What a great example, is Elder Hales in waiting upon the Lord.  Elder Hales, due to health issues, was unable to speak at the April 2011 conference.  However, in his 80th year, when most of us would be retired from our labors, does what it takes to continue serving the Lord in his capacity as an Apostle.  He has spoken at the last two conferences since that time even though he has had to do it from a chair and while on oxygen.  He is a great example of how all of us should be waiting upon the Lord.
It is not always easy or even desirable from a worldly or carnal viewpoint, to wait upon the Lord but that is part of our challenge or test here on earth; to overcome the flesh and to nourish the spirit instead.  In my backyard, there are two trees.  They are called Kentucky Coffee trees.  They grow a pod with beans in them that resemble coffee beans.  As a matter of fact, I have heard that in tough times, some people have actually used them as a substitute for coffee beans although they say it is a poor substitute.  I wouldn’t know…  If the trees in my backyard could speak, I would imagine all the other trees making fun of these two trees.  You see, right now, all of my trees have leafed out and put on their green coats.  However, the coffee trees are still devoid of any greenery.  I would even imagine that Williams, Nybos, and Smoots, whose yards are next to these trees, are wondering why I haven’t cut these dead trees down.  However, soon these trees will begin to put forth their leaves.  They are always the last to do so and they will be the first shed their foliage when winter approaches.  But when these trees are fully leafed out during the hottest months of the year, they are the most beautiful and they provide the most perfect cool shade to sit beneath.  Of all the trees in my yard, they are my favorite because they serve my needs the most both visually and physically.  I love my fruit trees but they are fickle unlike the coffee trees which are constant and will be throughout their lives and most likely mine.  These two trees follow perfectly the plan that the Lord set out for them.  They appear undesirable for a good part of the year but the rewards are great when they achieve their full potential each summer.
Elder Hales explains to us that the Savior began his ministry in the premortal existence by pledging his full support to our Heavenly Father’s plan.  He told our Heavenly Father, “Thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”  He came to earth and in his youth, he “went about His Father’s business.”  At the age of 30 He forsook a worldly life and eventually He suffered, He bled, and He died for us.  Certainly not a life that most of us would choose for ourselves but today He sits on the right hand side of our Heavenly Father in glory and good part of the world calls Him their Savior and professes love and honor for Him.
Our willingness to serve the Lord, even though most of us will never be called upon to do so, should extend to giving everything we have, even our lives if necessary.  One of the most inspiring stories from my family is that of my third great grandfather and grandmother, John and Ellen Parkinson.  They were of the earliest converts to the church in England.  As I research records, I find John waiting upon the Lord through missionary work in and around Preston, leaving his family for brief periods of time to serve mini-missions; helping to spread the gospel to his fellow countrymen.  It is obvious that John and his wife wished to serve the Lord.  They also wanted to follow the prophet’s desire that the saints come to Zion.  They saved their money; they then sold their successful shoe repair business to relocate to Utah with their nine children.  Unfortunately, they linked up with the Martin Handcart Company and all but four children perished.  John and Ellen gave up their lives to follow the prophet; to wait upon the Lord and to what end?  It was not an easy task that was asked of them but I am sure that they too sit on the right hand of our Lord and today there are thousands of faithful members who have descended from their four surviving children who may not have had the chance to be raised in the gospel had John and Ellen ignored the call to come to Utah.
Elder Hales states that he has often wondered why those who faithfully try to do the will of the Father are subject to trials and tribulations.  He says that as we ask these questions, we realize that the purpose of our life on earth is to grow, develop, and be strengthened through our own experiences and we do this by waiting upon the Lord.  He knows that no matter how difficult our circumstances, “all these things shall be for our experience, and our good.”
On the other hand, when we don’t wait upon the Lord by doing His will, consequences can follow.  I would like to illustrate this by comparing what happens when blueprints are not followed.  In the early 50s, a bridge was needed for the crossing of the Schoharie Creek not far from Albany, New York.  The engineering firm of Madigan-Hyland Consulting Engineers was hired to design the bridge.  Those who designed the bridged were schooled in the design of bridges and the external factors that affect them.  They had an understanding of what needed to be done to create a bridge that would last for a century or more.  One of the design features of the bridge was the foundation.  It called for excavating a hole, placing the concrete foundation in it and then backfilling that hole with large boulders called rip rap.  Rip rap will not erode away like dirt will under the forces of flowing water.  The contractor took a short-cut; he did not follow the plan and he backfilled the hole with erodible soil.  On top of that, he took out the sheet-piles that held the water out of the hole while the foundation was being built which left the erodible soil exposed to the forces of flowing water.  Rip rap was placed on the surface which for three decades helped to keep the soil beneath from eroding away however hurricane Irene caused an unusal heavy rainfall to rush down the creek.  This heavy flow was enough to get under the surface rip rap and erode away the soil that held the foundation and piers in place.  The result was that the bridge collapsed taking ten lives with it.
The Lord is the great architect or engineer of our lives here on earth and in the eternities.  We are the contractors that follow his design.  When we fail to follow the blueprints or we purposely decide to take shortcuts, we leave ourselves exposed to the elements around us.  We set ourselves up for collapse.  However, when we follow His plans, when we wait upon Him, we will not only be afforded the blessings that he has in store for us but we will also bless the lives of the many people who will cross our bridges that we have built in behalf of Him.
One of the great examples from the scriptures of obedience and of doing the Lord’s will is that of the Prophet Nephi.  After spending some time in the desert, moving away from Jerusalem, Lehi is commanded to send his sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates.  Now, this was probably not an easy journey nor was it probably a safe journey as is evidenced by Sariah’s concern for her sons “for she had supposed that (they) had perished in the wilderness.”  Perhaps there were wild beasts or poisonous critters along the way.  Perhaps there was very little water and what little there was, was difficult to find.  Perhaps there were bandits or perhaps those who Lehi was warned about endangering their lives were out looking for them.  In any case, Sariah was sufficiently worried for their safety to temporarily lose sight of trusting in the Lord and making complaint to her husband Lehi.  I am sure that you mothers, today, can sympathize with Sariah as you send your sons and daughters all over the world to serve the Lord.  You fathers are not exempt, either, from these feelings.  I remember sending our oldest daughter, Casey, on her mission to Croatia.  It was not easy to see her go and it was not always without worry especially when she would write to us to tell us that the local “mafia” guy was watching out for her and her companion by telling others that they were “off limits.”  But, I trusted in the Lord and He does work in mysterious ways.  Back to Nephi, though, we can speculate that this was neither an easy task nor an easy journey.  He knew it would be difficult and he probably knew that Laban was a danger to him and his family.  However, when Lehi, his father, told him of the Lord’s command to go get the brass plates from Laban, Nephi, without hesitation, says “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.”  Nephi is an example of someone who watched for one hour with the Savior.  He is an example to all of us.
There is one more person that I must mention who serves as a great example to me in how to wait upon the Lord and that is my dear wife, Daniele.  When she was sixteen, she entered the waters of baptism because she had gained a testimony of the gospel.  I was fortunate enough to be there for that baptism.  Being a teenager and a member of the Church in France is not always an easy path to follow.  You have very few friends who believe as you do; who have the same morals as you do; who understand you and your choices.  Some fall away and some are strengthened in these circumstances.  Daniele was one of those who found a way to strengthen herself in her testimony.  Shortly after being baptized, she made a commitment to the Lord to serve Him.  She gave up much of her social life to do so.  She trusted the in the Lord that He would take care of her and strengthen her and lead her to a future that would support her in her faith.  I suppose that that is where I entered the picture.  Since that time, I have watched her grow in the gospel.  I have watched her become a rock and a foundation to our family and to others.  The Lord has truly blessed her because of her commitment to serve Him.  I love her and look up to her as an example of this principle.
Elder Hales says: Every one of us is more beloved to the Lord than we can possibly understand or imagine.  Let us therefore be kinder to one another and kinder toward ourselves.  Let us remember that as we wait upon the Lord, we are becoming saints through His atonement … submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon us, even as a child doth submit to his father.
The other day during the Women’s Conference at BYU, … yes I go to girl’s camp every year and I attend Women’s Conference in a work capacity … Elder Anderson said that it will not be the physical trials that challenge us the most but it will be the spiritual trials that will challenge us the most.  He said there is a war going on for our souls with Satan on one side trying to claim us as his own and Christ on the other side.  We can overcome those spiritual trials by committing ourselves to the Savior; by serving Him; by waiting upon Him.  As we come unto Christ, he will come unto us.  He will lift us up.  He will stand by our side.  He will strengthen us.  He will give us the needed armor to withstand the fiery darts of the adversary.
The Savior set the perfect example for us when He, in the Garden of Gethsemane, alone and suffering, shrank not to drink the bitter cup and said unto His Father, “Thy will be done.”  I pray that we may devote our lives to Him and that we will watch with Him by waiting upon Him.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Blog

For those who follow my blog, I have started a new blog which is about my past memories. It can be accessed from the link on this page or at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sunday Talk

I had to give a talk this past Sunday. The following is the text of my talk.

The date was November 28th, 1942. Our nation was at war yet life still went on. Robert Horrigan and Henry Fitzgerald, both privates in the Army, were home on leave in Boston, MA. They, along with 12 of their friends, decided to spend the evening out together celebrating their homecoming. They went to a nightclub located in Boston known as the Cocoanut Grove. The main entrance to the club was through a revolving door, an ingenious device invented in Germany back in 1881, which allowed the door to always be open yet always closed. November can be quite cold in Boston and a revolving door was the perfect device to allow people to come in while keeping the cold air outside. Because it was wartime, most of the windows to the club had been boarded over in order to prevent light from escaping into the streets in the event of an air raid. Inside, the club was decorated in an island motif with highly combustible materials making up palm trees and other island decorations. The club was designed to hold about 500 people but there were a lot of people out celebrating that night, including a couple who had just been married earlier that day. There were about 1000 people in the club that night, twice its allowed capacity. As Robert and Henry were celebrating with their friends, a couple in another part of the club wanted a little privacy and unscrewed the light bulb above their table. An underage waiter was told to go put the light bulb back in. The waiter went to the table and because it was dark, he lit a match to see the socket. While putting in the light bulb, one of the palm trees caught fire from the match. At first, people in the room did not react other than to find amusement in the waiter’s frantic attempt to extinguish the fire with a seltzer bottle. Soon, however, realizing that the fire was growing, panic ensued and the crowd began to rush towards the exits. Some of the exits were locked to prevent patrons from skipping out and not paying their tab. Others had doors that swung inward against the flow of traffic. The crowd pressed against the doors making it impossible to get the inward swinging doors open. Meanwhile, at the front exit, the crowd tried to go through both sides of the revolving doors which quickly caused it to jam. The fire spread rapidly and the smoke built up even faster. It was so quick that some people never even had a chance to leave their tables before succumbing to the smoke. Within 15 minutes, the fire was over but the toll of human life was staggering. Of Robert and Henry’s group of fourteen, only Robert managed to escape with his life. 479 other people, including the newlywed couple and popular western movie star, Buck Jones, also succumbed to the smoke and flames that evening.

As a result of that terrible tragedy, officials took steps to learn from the mistakes that were made. One of the most notable steps taken is evident every time you see a revolving door on a building. You will notice that there is always a regular set of doors off to the side of the revolving doors and sometimes on both sides. Not readily evident is that the individual panels of the revolving door will collapse when enough pressure is applied so that people will be able to exit on both sides of the pivotal point of the door. Today, because of the lessons learned in this fire and some others, we have a set of fire codes that have evolved over the years which help to prevent similar incidents. Only when someone fails to learn these lessons from the past, do we see disasters such as happened in February of 2003 in Rhode Island at the Station Night Club where again highly combustible decorations this time mixed with illegal fireworks and along with inadequate exiting caused a fire which resulted in the loss of 100 lives.

In last April’s Conference, Elder Ballard said “When you are willing to listen and learn, some of life’s most meaningful teachings come from those who have gone before you. They have walked where you are walking and have experienced many of the things you are experiencing. If you listen and respond to their counsel, they can help guide you toward choices that will be for your benefit and blessing and steer you away from decisions that can destroy you. As you look to your parents and others who have gone before you, you will find examples of faith, commitment, hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that you should strive to duplicate.

In order to learn from the past, Elder Ballard insinuates that first we must be willing to listen and to learn. When King Lamoni’s father, the king over all the Lamanites, met Ammon, he wanted nothing to do with Ammon other than to have him killed because he was a Nephite despite the fact that his son was defending him. His mind was closed and he would hear nothing. One thing led to another and in defense of King Lamoni, Ammon wounded his father. When the King saw that Ammon did not want to kill him but that he had great love for his son, he changed his attitude. He opened his ears, mind and heart to hear what Ammon had to say. Eventually this led to his conversion and the conversion of many of his people to the gospel. We, like King Lamoni’s Father, sometimes, need a little prodding in order to have a willingness to listen and learn. Hopefully we don’t need to get into a sword fight in order to do so.

Once we’ve opened our hearts to learning, Elder Ballard suggests that some of the most meaningful teaching can come from those who have gone before us. Who are those who have gone before us?

I remember, as a youngster in High School, that I learned a valuable lesson from my father. I actually found out that he was a pretty smart guy. I had just bought my first car. It was a 1957 Ford Ranchero. I had plunked down my entire life savings for this car. At the time, this was a whopping $300. My pride and joy had a manual shift which I had never driven before up to this point in my life. I was anxious to get out and drive my car and my father was going to teach me to drive it. However, I had bought the car late one evening and Dad was going out on a business trip early the next morning. He told me to just park the car for a couple of days and then we’d get busy learning to drive it when he got back. He told me that these older vehicles were a little tricky and I could do some damage to it if I didn’t know what I was doing. Well, Dad went on his trip the next morning and I, being the wise teenager that I was, decided he didn’t know what he was talking about. Suffice it to say that before Dad got to where ever it was that he was going, I had stripped the gears on my car and had learned an expensive, but unnecessary lesson that my Dad was actually smarter than I. From then on, I decided that perhaps I should learn from him. He has been a great example to me in my life. I have been able to learn from him not only things of the temporal world but also from the spiritual side. Even today, I still learn from him. Here in the next few months, I will be learning some woodworking skills from him as I complete a project that involves my recent Wood Badge experience.

Over the years, I have found that I can learn from many who have gone before me including ancestors, historical figures, teachers, church leaders, ancient prophets and even those of my own generation who have had experiences in life that I hadn’t. Imagine a world where we had to duplicate the efforts of everyone else prior to being able to accomplish something instead of listening to those who had already tried and failed or succeeded. Fortunately, we do not live in such a world but instead we build upon the successes and failures of others in order to move forward. Every new missionary who goes out in the field benefits from the experience and wisdom of a senior companion. The new missionary does not have to try and figure out what parts of a city have been recently tracted. He does not have to figure out where to find necessary services such as laundry facilities. He is helped along until the knowledge and experiences of his guiding senior companion has been transferred to him.

One of the great teaching tools from the past is the scriptures. We have been immensely blessed to have had wise men record their experiences in ancient times. The value of these experiences is that we have a record that spans a large amount of time and we are able to see patterns that develop and re-occur. Elder Ballard explains, “Time and again we see the cycle of righteousness followed by … prosperity, followed by material comforts, followed by greed, followed by pride, followed by wickedness and a collapse of morality until the people brought calamities upon themselves sufficient to stir them up to humility, repentance, and change.

In my relatively short lifetime, I have been witness to this cycle or at least a large part of it. As I read the Book of Mormon, it is eerily haunting to see the similarities of the Nephites to our own situation today. The world was a very different place in the middle of last century when I was born. On the whole, we were a more righteous nation. We were industrious and prosperous. People worked hard to live the American dream. Religion was a normal part of life for most people. Since that time, however, we have seen greed take over. It used to be trying to keep up with the Joneses and now it is stay ahead of the Joneses at any cost. (No offense, Mark and Jackie.) We have become a very prideful people. Morality has gone out the window. It used to be that you dreamed of finding a mate, getting married, starting a family and building a life together. Now for a large portion of the populace, marriage and children are just inconveniences that interfere with lifestyles or tie you down. For those who do get married, divorce is no longer for good reason but it is a convenience. What we find is that we are pretty close to the end of that cycle of righteousness and if we are willing to listen and learn from the past, we can take steps in our personal lives to avoid the calamities which surely await us. Even though the events of the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament took place thousands of years ago and even though on the surface life seemed to be vastly different than ours today, we can still see that the teachings and examples found in these ancient books are still relevant today. Mormon lived during the time of calamities and even though he took steps in his personal life to be more righteous, he could not entirely avoid those calamities. However, he was comforted and shepherded by the Lord during those trials. We too can take comfort in the Lord as trials come upon us but only if we are willing to learn and to make changes in our lives.

While at Wood Badge training this past couple of weeks, I was given a tool to help in this personal learning process. Of course, the secret, as usual, is that you still have to be willing to listen, to learn, and to follow. As Elder Ballard put it “Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and He wants them all to have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. Spiritual light is not lost because God turns His back on His children. Rather, spiritual darkness results when His children turn their collective backs on Him.” The tool we were given was called “Start, Stop, Continue.” It is just a simple self-evaluation wherein you ask yourself “What am I not doing that I need to start doing? What am I doing that I need to stop doing? What am I doing that I need to continue doing?” This is something we can all do both individually and as families. This is an excellent opportunity for children to be able to learn from their parents and sometimes for parents to be able to learn from their children.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to succeed in this life. He wants us to avoid the mistakes of the past and He wants us to profit from the successes of the past. Elder Ballard quoted the famous saying from George Santayana “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. He goes on further to say “There are great lessons to be learned from the past, and you ought to learn them so that you don’t exhaust your spiritual strength repeating past mistakes and bad choices. We have been blessed to be born during a time when there are so many resources right at our fingertips where we can learn from the past. We have libraries full of history books and biographies. We all have access to the stories and teachings of the scriptures. We have tools that allow us to search the scriptures in minute detail so that we can find and learn from a myriad of different historical experiences.

I like what Elder Ballard says and I quote: “You don’t have to spend time as a Laman or a Lemuel in order to know that it’s much better to be a Nephi or a Jacob. You don’t have to follow the path of Cain or Gadianton in order to realize that “wickedness never was happiness” And you don’t have to allow your community to become like Sodom or Gomorrah in order to understand that it isn’t a good place to raise a family. We need to learn from their past mistakes and not repeat them. We also, sometime, need to take action in order to change circumstances around us which are leading us to disaster. In this life, we metaphorically live in a forest that surrounds us. We cannot see our future or our end destination due to the trees all around us. However, we can have a pretty good sense of where we are headed simply by taking advantage of Scriptures; by reading them; and by learning from them. We can predict what will happen when certain attitudes and actions come into play. The scriptures; those sacred experiences that took place millennia ago, are a roadmap to guide us through the forest so that we will end up where it is that we want to go when we emerge from the forest’s edge.

Learning from the lessons from the past needs to be an active part of our lives. Elder Ballard counsels us “Of course, it’s not enough to learn these lessons as a matter of history and culture. Learning the names and dates and sequence of events from the printed page won’t help you very much unless the meaning and the message are written in your hearts. Nourished by testimony and watered with faith, the lessons of the past can take root in your hearts and become a vibrant part of who you are.

It is my sincere desire that each of us will study the past and that we will internalize the lessons from it. I pray that we may take those lessons and write a personal code of conduct upon our hearts; one that will guide you around the obstacles of life. I hope that the next time you see a revolving door with the regular doors to either side of it that you will remember that there are lessons to be learned from the past and that we don’t have to repeat the mistakes of the past over and over again.

This is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Delaware 2009

Rehoboth Beach

Well, I've been told that I need to update my blog with our recent trip to Delaware to visit Dustin and Tavin so here it is.

We left on Tuesday June 16th from Salt Lake and flew into Washington DC National Airport. If you have never flown into this airport, you have probably never experienced an E ticket ride. There are a lot of twists and turns to get in there in order to avoid the monuments and residential areas. Also, the skies were unsettled over the eastern U.S. and the ride was quite bumpy coming down. We made it alright and got a car then drove out to Dustin's house in Dover.

Dustin was at work so we got Tavin from the Babysitter. He was ecstatic to see us. We brought this little guitar out for him and he immediately picked it up, held it like a guitar, and began dancing all over the house with it. The babysitter said something about Guitar Hero being his favorite video game. Tavin looked good and healthy and he is still a lot of fun. Dustin lives on base and has pretty nice housing.

Tavin has a new dog. His name is Miller and he is a Pomeranian. Very hyper btw.

The weather was pretty wet and rainy for most of the time we were there but we did find breaks in the weather to do a few things. We drove down to one of the beaches and just wandered around for a little bit. I found a dead horseshoe crab on the beach. This is the underside of it and it looks like something has already "cleaned" out the "edible" parts inside of it.

Tavin has his own car for getting around. It actually runs on batteries and has a real radio in it. Miller seemed to enjoy the ride too.

The next day was a little clearer and we drove down to the souther part of the state to Rehoboth beach. We spent some time watching Tavin make sand castles then we went up to the boardwalk and found an amusement park (Funland) and let Tavin ride a bunch of rides. He loved it.

While we were there, they had an air show at Dover AFB where Dustin works. For a couple of days before, we had all kinds of airplanes practicing all around us and right over the house a few times. Included in that were the Thunderbirds. Once when they went right over, Tavin squinted his eyes, plugged his ears and was saying "Noisy, noisy!" He didn't like that too much when it was that close and that loud.

On Saturday, Kellie and I went to the air show but we didn't get to stay long because of the weather. We saw some of the planes (C-5 behind me) and saw some demo flying. The next day we were at church but when we got home, we got more of the air show. We saw the Thunderbirds performing from Dusty's back porch. I was happy and satisfied.

Monday, we headed back home. We stopped in DC for a little bit. We were headed for Arlington but I took the wrong turn and ended up on the Mall so we parked and visited the Capitol and the botanical gardens for about 2 hours then headed over to the airport. Again, I took a wrong turn but this time it turned out to be a right turn and we got there. Unfortunately with all the unsettled weather back east, we were delayed, delayed, delayed. Storms in Atlanta delayed our takeoff from DC and of course that just backlogged all the flights. Anyway, we finally got home at two in the morning and I was at work only a few hours later. We had a good trip and it was good to see both Dustin and Tavin at their home. Lucky for me, I am headed back over there in about a week and a half for some business. I'll get to run back out there for a day on my way home.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fun with Isaac

My grandson, Isaac, wanted me to play Legos with him and this is what I created. Of course, he recognized Sponge-Bob-Square-Pants right off the bat. Smart kid despite the model I made. I didn't have any brown legos so he ended up with blue pants. Sponge-Bob-Blue-Pants.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Break

Well, a few days off from work is always refreshing. We headed down to Green River to spend a couple of days this week. Actually, we just used Green River as a base camp because, honestly, there isn't a whole lot in Green River. As a matter of fact, I'd almost consider it to be a ghost town in the making. However, we stayed at what I'd consider to be the one bright spot in the whole town, the Best Western River Terrace. Daniele, Kellie and I went and we had reserved a standard room. When I got there, I asked if they had a family suite and they said yes. I asked how much more would they want for it and we bartered it down to about $25 a day more than just for a standard room. It's always nice to have a little extra room. We had a balcony overlooking the river to go along with it.

Tuesday, we drove right past Green River and went to Arches National Park for the afternoon.

This photo is for Casey. She has taught me well how to pose for photos. Navajo Arch

I actually got Kellie to smile for a photo.

Daniele wishing I'd hurry up with the photo. This was Landscape Arch

The next day we were off to Goblin Valley. Here is Kellie standing on a Goblin in the Valley. It was a bit cold and very windy that day but I suppose I can't complain because Casey told us that it was snowing back home. Always look for the bright side!

Just Kellie having fun on the Goblins.

Me inside a cave with Daniele looking up towards the cave.

On Thursday, we checked out of our hotel and headed down to Canyonlands National Park. This was the first time I had been to this park and the views were absolutely stunning.

Daniele and I both decided to pose in front of Mesa Arch which overlooks one of the canyons 600 feet below carved out by Mother Nature over millions of years.

Daniele and Kellie posing in front of one of the geological formations in the park.

Six to seven hundred years ago, Anasazi Indians built these storage houses in a protected alcove for their grains.

Daniele poses at the first overlook to Upheaval Dome. One theory is that it was caused by salt deposits beneath the ground that flowed into the area and pushed the ground up. A more recent theory involves a meteor strike. Who knows?

After spending a few hours in the park, hiking and exploring, it was back in the car and back to the house where we found all to be well.

Where Have I Been