Sunday, November 29, 2015
Monday, April 30, 2012
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
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
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
Friday, April 17, 2009
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.
I actually got Kellie to smile for a photo.
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.