Sunday, December 25, 2011


Some five centuries before the Birth of the Blessed Babe Jesus which we commemorate on this day, Plato, that ancient philosopher, taught that since all change involves a body at rest being put into motion and must involve an actuator of that change; there must have been a prime principle actuator of change. He considered this first act of change to have been consummated by that soul he considered to be God. Two thousand years after the Birth of the Blessed Babe Jesus, scientists feel that if they can find the ultimate source of existence they will solve the mystery of existence of all things. This study has been labeled by some ‘String Theory’ and their work is an attempt to find the lowest form of existence. One branch of science feels that by colliding protons at near the speed of light they might be able to view what they are calling the God Particle or the foundation of all that exists.

While I find these approaches to finding what is behind all existence interesting, I believe that most of the time God becomes a reality in people’s lives in a much different way. For lack of a better way of expressing it, I have come to call this approach to a belief in Deity “the Law of Witnesses.”

In the following paragraphs, I will discuss some of the facets of this law which I believe influence the conversion and the strengthening of testimony of all who proclaim a belief in Jesus the Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.

There are those who lived in those wondrous meridian days whose hearts burned within because of the things they both saw and heard and whose witnesses were anciently recorded and preserved for all to read:

Mary and Joseph who were told by the angel Gabriel of Immanuel who would be born of Mary.

Elizabeth who had the embryotic John leap within her womb as a witness of the majesty of the child Mary bore.

Simeon who was at last able to depart mortality in peace because he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Shepard’s following angelic direction witnessed Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Wise men from the East who deciphered ancient signs and came to Jerusalem to proclaim the birth of a newborn King

I have often pondered on others who lived in those wondrous meridian days who likewise had confirming witnesses whose stories have been lost in the dust of the ages or who never took the time to record:

What of those who travelled in the caravan from Galilee to Bethlehem, did they not have their soul’s stirred in the presence of she who was choice above all women?

What of those who crowded the inn which housed the place of birth of the Savior of mankind, did they not feel the power which that day came to earth?

What did those who the family knew and dwelt among in Egypt see and of what marvels could they bear witness?

What would be the tales of those of Nazareth who saw him playing in the dusty streets and carrying wood and water for his Sainted Mother?

What were the words of those who were fed by the shores of the Galilee as they witnessed to their families and friends of the fishes and the loaves?

What of the masses who never lived in those wondrous times whose witnesses, even when recorded, will seldom be read by generations to come:

Whose hearts are stirred as hymns heralding His coming are sung by choirs in churches, halls and homes?

Whose heads are bowed as silent and vocal prayers of thanksgiving are said for the abundant love which came to earth when the Son of God was born?

Who when faint glimpses of times of then and there quickly cross their minds as a remembrance that they knew Him in another sphere?

Who find greater meaning in all the glitter and glitz of the holidays and each lighted storefront and Happy Holiday card helps them find a way for His light to touch their souls?

Who meet and greet their fellow sojourners in such a way that His light bears witness that they know the Blessed Babe Jesus is the Savior of the world?

All these things touch our spirits and manifest themselves in an undeniable physical reaction that makes it so that none of us can doubt that our hearts have had that Holy Witness burn within our souls.

Are we not left with a sacred commission to add our witness to those of the millenniums “That we also know that the Blessed Babe Jesus is indeed the promised Christ?”

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Some years ago a family situation found us far away from home on the 28th of September, in a suburb of Seattle, Washington named Woodenville. As we were going down the main street, we passed a large nursery called Molbaks. At first I didn’t notice, but something subconsciously made me look again; it really was true, the windows of this large store were totally decked with all the types of Christmas trees that one could imagine.

This was not November 28th (just after Thanksgiving), not even October 28th (just before Halloween) but the 28th of September (when children had just returned to classes after summer vacation). The freshness of the displays eliminated the possibility of last year’s laziness and therefore, I knew that this was a deliberate attempt to stretch the commercialization of Christmas beyond the bounds of propriety.

In the rapidity which only the processes of the mind and some monster computers can achieve , my thoughts skipped from rejection and revulsion concerning the blatant 28th of September display to a remembrance of thoughts vocalized the 28th of December last. Vividly, across the span of time through the miraculous capacity of the mind, came the words as if they were now first being spoken; “I wish the feelings and goodness and love which have abounded this Christmas season could remain with us all year long.”

Gratefully, I quickly repented of my feelings of rejection and revulsion and decided that I would determine not to fight the feeling, and even resolved to become part of the flow of Christmas Spirit which annually floods mankind no matter what the date on the calendar might be.

It may well be that if one twelfth of the year is made joyous because of the abundance of those tinsels and lights which can remind us of the Christmas Spirit, four twelfths of the year might even be better. After all, if one has seriously determined to be a disciple of the Savior Jesus Christ, they should welcome every bit of help they can get in carrying forth His message.

Therefore, if my neighbor wants to leave his outdoor lights up all year long, I will be grateful and not label him as lazy. He can even turn them on for Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July, his kids’ birthdays, his anniversary or just because he feels like it, if he so wishes. Then for a moment, I will be reminded of the birth and mission of my Savior.

If the department stores what to send out their ads for Black Friday with their Christmas specials the day after Halloween and then follow up with weekly reminders by every method of advertising known and yet to be known, it should cause my heart to rejoice about all the reminders which are flooding home about the birth of the King of Kings.

If the choir starts rehearsing for the Christmas program right after the ringing of the explosions of Independence Day have left our ears, and if Christmas carols are heard before the last cord of hymns of Thanksgiving are sounded, I’ll reverence the wondrous messages heralding the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Therefore, as one who has resolved to add his droplets to the flood of His Eternal message, I wish you happiness and joy this time and always. I pray that living Christmas trees in August will stimulate us to a remembrance of our Savior in the same way that artificial ones often do in December.

I pray that colors in May and summer scenes in June and the fresh smells of April will cause your emotions to soar and your heart to respond to the needs of your earthly companions no matter whether the date is in January or the day is in March.

We all need to spend more time pondering that it isn’t Christmas day which makes us different, but it is Jesus the Christ, his teachings, his life and his Atonement.

Without Christ, gift giving can be changed from charitable exchanges of love to concerns of commercialization and indebtedness.

Without Christ, bright decorations turn from being beacons of light into gaudy glitter.

Without Christ, gatherings turn from devoted remembrances to riotous reunions.

Without Christ, Christmas and all other days turn from Celestial contemplations to thoughts on Telestial trivialities.

It may well be that the key to maintaining feelings of goodness and love during the appointed Christmas season and throughout the whole year is not to be found in trying to keep the Christmas Spirit; but though finding Christ and keeping Him and His teachings in our lives all year long.

May the Spirit of our Savior, Jesus the Christ, come into our lives in such abundance this Christmas season that it will flow though us all unto our fellow travelers not only for a day or a week or a month, but at all times, is the prayer I offer in His Holy name at this blessed time of year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


The existence of the Eternal Universe, the birth of a baby, Lazarus coming forth, medical advancements, feelings of comfort from the God of love and peace; these things and many more are MIRACLES to me!

The placing of Isaac upon the alter, a toddler’s first step, Adam’s willing step into mortality, healings, Peter’s declaration ‘thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God’; these things and many more are ACTS OF FAITH to me !

The abundance of Job which surrounds me, a grandchild’s hand touching my cheek, the Samaritan’s kindness to a stranger, health, guidance of scriptural passages; these things and many more are BLESSINGS to me!

The annunciation of Gabriel to Mary, children kept from harms way, guidance to Jacob as he slept, a loved one’s smile, those promised to surround and administer; these things and many more are proof of ANGELS to me!

The descending of Moses from the mount, a child’s innocent testimony, spiritual stirrings as living prophets guide, anointing’s and sealings when ill, those whom the Lord has promised to be among us; these and many more are PROPHETS to me!

The metamorphous of seed to tree, the journey of babe to adult, the leavings and histories of ancestors, cells and cosmos, seeking to know a little of the mind and will of God; these things and many more are important KNOWLEDGE to me!

The regular attention to devotion, teens kneeling beside their beds, the mount of transfiguration, expressing gratitude, Wise men coming from afar; these things and many more are forms of WORSHIP to me!

The Lord’s submissions to his Father’s will, a missionary’s bowed head, thoughts which greet the rising sun, pondering for understanding, a silent thanks; these things and many more are PRAYER to me!

The Atoning Sacrifice, cooking a little extra for the widow next door, a prayer offered for another’s sake, watching more carefully over Mother Earth, the feeding of the thousands by the shore; these things and many more are SERVICE to me!

The closeness of the twelve to the Savior, eternal marriage, a phone call from a friend of long ago, caring for all of earth’s created, drawing closer to Heavenly Father; these things and many more are important RELATIONSHIPS to me!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Some years ago I enrolled in and completed a course of study on World Religions. Because of other pressures of life, family and career my efforts in the class were superficial and, therefore, the knowledge I gained was very rudimentary. In all honesty I was left relatively unchanged by the experience.

A few years later, I received the assignment to teach the basic concepts and histories of the Religions of the World to another generation. Being motivated by a strong desire to keep from being embarrassed each Tuesday and Thursday morning, I fell into a vigorous study program. Long hours were spent in reading as I tried to fill the void left by my meager efforts in my former course of study. I tried to anticipate questions which would easily stretch beyond my fundamental knowledge of Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism and all those other exotic ‘isms’ from the ages and nations of the world.

Slowly, as the weeks of the course unfolded, a new growth started to bud within my mind and soul. As I was confronted with the teachings, mores and dogmas of the world’s numerous religions I was constantly impressed that I was reading ideas which did not contradict my own deep-seated testimony of God and His purposes for man. These concepts more often than not paralleled and in some cases gave deeper understanding to those ideals which I had held so dear during the major part of my life.

I found encased in the precepts and sayings of the Shinto concepts which I memorized and tried to inculcate in my life from the teachings Moses brought from the mount and consistent with the Holy Prophets of the Old Testament.

In the teachings of Taoism I found a genuine search for eternal truths which became an example to me in my personal quest.
From Confucianism I was frequently reminded of the simple day-to-day practices which bring majesty to my own personal religious practices and make it possible to experience the true joys of life’s relationships.

Opening and exploring the teachings of Judaism brought to reality the immense influence the teachings of Israel brought to the foundations of Christianity.

As the weeks of the course drew to a conclusion I was no longer unchanged by a study of the Religions of the World. I had come to understand to a much greater degree what is meant by the universal kinship of mankind and the singular parentage we all share.

As I repeated the teaching of this course several times during my life I came to believe that it would do us all well if we were to become more conversant with the fundamental understanding our ever approaching neighbors have of the underlying meanings and purposes of life.

Rather than having an immediate defensive reflex to one of the beliefs of our neighbor’s religion we might take a moment to reflect on such things as:

How can I come to understand what you believe, so that our kinship might be strengthened?

How can I use this moment to bring joy rather that sadness by overcoming a bit of my prejudice and bias?

How can I try to stop perpetuating those parts of our lives which divide us and instill relationships which bring us closer to oneness?

How can I spend this moment with my new neighbor exploring those areas of beliefs and yearnings we share in common?

How can I more firmly dedicate my life to bringing universal joy and peace into my many varied spheres?

I don’t know where your journey will lead you, but I testify that the reward of discovering the universal goodness which lies innately in the souls of our earth mates is worth the required effort.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I suspect if there is any validity to the cliché, ‘we learn from our mistakes’, there have been some periods of my life when the learning curve was exceedingly steep, filled with intense educational moments.

For some months I had been laboring in my ‘spare time’ to build a second bathroom in our home. The eight of us had lived in our ‘getto’ home (I left the H out of the word because I was knocking the ‘H’ out of this 5000 sq. ft. monster) for seven years, making do with one bathroom. Having only one bath with all those bodies was quite an education also, but that will be a story which will have to be told in its own time.

I was very pleased that I had finally completed the second bath and all that was lacking was the laying of the linoleum. It was at that stage of the project that I finally got around to hooking up the water into the bathroom. When I turned on the faucet I was greeted with a miserly flow of water dripping from the tap. To my horror I soon discovered that I had plenty of water collecting in various locations within the finished walls. The next four days were spent in a maddening vicious cycle of discovering leaks, fixing leaks and repairing the walls and flooring in our now twice built bathroom. I hope some of you are able to appreciate the remarkable dedication I was demonstrating in the pursuit of learning.

I don’t believe it requires a very vivid imagination to conjure in your minds the numerous ‘you should haves’ which were freely expressed by family and friends who appointed themselves as sidewalk superintendents…

Having personally suffered through the frustrations and anxieties of building the ‘twice built bathroom’, I don’t feel it essential to further expose my ignorance by detailing the many places I went astray. I am sure it will be sufficient to mention that as I was driving in the last nail while replacing the floorboard, rejoicing in the fact that I had finally found and fixed the last leak, that the nail found the PVC pipe and the floorboard had to be ripped up and replaced for the third time. For some unknown reason, decades later, whenever that bathroom is spoken of by anyone in our family it is referred to as the ‘damn’ bathroom. Personally, I will continue to call it the ‘twice built bathroom’ or the ‘blue bathroom’.

Many Centuries ago a wise and righteous king in a long forgotten land in the Americas by the name of Benjamin admonished his people “that all things should be done in wisdom and in order.” (Mosiah 4:27) Hopefully, having built one bathroom twice will be enough ‘education through hard knocks’ to give me the understanding that it is wise to connect, and test a plumbing system before sealing all the pipes inside of walls and floors.

Oh, that the proper order of all of life’s lessons were so easily learned and could be repaired with only a few minor adjustments!

Oh, that we might be wise enough to glean the wisdom of the ages, so that the pangs of discovering and fixing a disordered life might not be needed to be suffered personally by all!

Oh, that we might be wise enough to stay within the bounds of the order which has been tested and proven to be true!

Oh, that the joy of the orderliness of our Father’s House might not be extinguished by unwise decisions made hastily!
I strongly feel that as it is with twice built bathrooms, so it is with life:

Pre-learning the purposes of life will give understanding as to how we should order our progressive steps.

Orderliness in life’s phases will help eliminate frustrations and anxiety and will lead us to fulfilling our appointed purposes in life.

By orderly, sequential moving though the experiences of life we can grow ever closer to our Heavenly Parents and thereby fulfill life’s main purpose which is that we might have joy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Planting, nurturing and harvesting are numbing cycles if one’s bounty is but stacked and stored.

Selecting the perfect bird would be meaningless if Thanksgiving was a ‘little red hen’ experience.

The trip over the river and through the woods would be far less joyful if grandparent’s arms weren’t outstretched.

Gratitude for the feast spread upon the table would seem hollow if the surrounding chairs were vacant.

Clearing the remnants becomes drudgery if many hands don’t make the task light.

That overstuffed feeling is somewhat alleviated by knowing that the many are well satisfied.

It didn’t come as a seismic jolt, but I am grateful that over the years a significant shift has taken place in my life that where once my gratitude was centered on stuff, it has now gravitated to being dominated by thankfulness for meaningful relationships.

Although I am thankful for the all the technical marvels which have blessed my life, I am much more grateful for the tremendous tentacles which this technology gives me to reach across decades and around the world to establish and reestablish loving friendships.

Although I am thankful for my new titanium knee joint, I am much more thankful for the medical team of doctors, surgeons, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists who have become part of my life and helped me make this piece of metal functional.

Although I am thankful for our warm and peaceful home, I am much more grateful that Kathleen is here to ad measures to the warmth and peace and for family and friends who continually surround us.

Although I am thankful for a life which has been prosperous and healthy, I am more grateful for all with whom we have been able to share our blessings and have added meaningfully to our well-being.


Sunday, November 13, 2011


When I was a young lad I used to spend hours building structures out of Lincoln logs and little red blocks. The Lincoln logs were made out of real wood and worked marvelously until they came into contact with any moisture. Since those were also the days of pre plastic Lego blocks these little red blocks were also susceptible to damage by moisture. One of the wonderful things about these earlier times was that these construction pieces didn’t come in prepackaged projects which were intended to build only one object. The only thing which limited what I was to build was my imagination and the number of logs or blocks I had in my construction chest.

After dedicating numerous hours building a pioneer complex or some futuristic tower, within just a few minutes my creations were demolished and I had all the logs and little red blocks back in the chest.

Wouldn’t we all consider ourselves to have had an amazing life if structures of Lincoln logs and little red Lego bricks were the only part of our lives which had taken a long time to build and then were torn down in just a matter of seconds?

How often do we see someone’s well-earned reputation crumble with one ill-advised choice?

How often do we see a pattern of honesty destroyed with a ‘chance of a life time’ dishonest deal?

How often do we see pains-taking well-toned bodies quickly weakened by neglect of diet, exercise or disease?

How often do we see years of savings eradicated by a budget busting spending spree?

How often do we see a life time of unifying family life scuttled by someone succumbing to a siren call?

How often do we see a talent extinguished by the cessation of practice?

How often do we see learning limited because of the termination of retention exercises?

How often do we see belief in Deity dissolve because we cease to attend to prayer and chapel?

Observing the rather frequent repetition of these passages in our personal lives and the lives of loved ones never seems to lessen the sadness which accompanies the demolition of an aptitude, acquisition or attribute which had been built with years of relentless proper placing of one bright brick upon another.

Simply because there is a frequency of these ‘life’s efforts’ eliminating activities does not mean that this is the way things should be. We should all believe strongly in the wonderful principle of repentance and perhaps we have had numerous occasions when we have had occasion to call upon the extended mercies. However, it might be well if we were to give equal awareness to the principle of enduring to the end.

During my more experienced years (euphemism for senior or old) I assembled holiday villages around the house and only removed them after numerous requests or pleas for the restoration of our home to its non-holiday state. I suspect if room had been available they would have been a year round Fung Shui part of my environment. Even though this activity did not in anyway ‘endure to the end’, never the less, I was able to get a little bit of understanding between the pleasure and excitement which comes from building with little red block or Lincoln logs and then their immediate destruction and the more continual joy and satisfaction which comes when the results of our efforts endure, if only for a season.

We might consider striving harder to keep our reputations whole through proper choices.

We might consider always making honesty the best policy.

We might consider being constant in healthy habits.

We might consider concentrating on needs and controlling wants.

We might consider faithful relationships to be of more importance that fantasies.

We might consider talents timeless and not temporary.

We might consider the ability to learn an eternal blessing.

We might consider the building of Heavenly relationships a daily responsibility.

Yes, repentance is a tremendously important, necessary and well used principle, but the principle of faithfully enduring to the end is worthy of consideration because of the constancy of joy, peace and satisfaction which will surely attend.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I guess I miss the days of attempting to gather our five sons and our little daughter on Monday evenings for Family Night. (I made an error or slip when I was typing that last sentence and typed Family Fights) I think the pain of undisciplined chaotic hours is fading, because I am now beginning to recall some special evenings when everyone was involved and it felt like the purpose of Family Home Evening was realized if only for a few fleeting moments.

I remember one of those Monday Family Home Evenings which turned out semi positive. (This was before we instituted volleyball as our regular Family Night and attempted to have our spiritual lesson on Sunday evenings, when all members of the family seemed to be a bit calmer.)

The lesson for that ‘better’ Family Home Evening instructed us to make a search of our private mounds of treasure and select that ‘one’ item which if we were called upon to evacuate our home and city, we would not be willing to leave behind. The lesson presenter was told to remain seated during the search and after each family member had shown their article and given a reason for selecting it, the family was supposed to ask where the presenter’s item was. Then, the presenter was to respond, “You are all here, my family is the one thing I would never wish to leave behind.”

This Family Home Evening lesson probably fits into the many cliché formats which have an extra amount of emotional appeal, because they are based on Finality Themes. For years speakers at BYU forums have been asked to give a ‘Last Lecture’, which was intended to stimulate all who were listening into making a dramatic change of direction in their lives. We have all been asked to think about what we would tell our parents if we knew it was the last time we would see them. All of us have probably been asked to contemplate what we would do if we knew we only had a short time to live.

Some years ago I was paying a consolation visit to a friend of mine who had recently lost his brother. Little did I know that I would leave that short visit with a very interesting twist on finality themes. Just a few months earlier his brother had been told that his illness was not one of those ‘take a pill’ things, but he was embarking on a short journey to terminality. My friend summarized the last few months of his brother and his brother’s family with the following thoughts. “There were no dramatic changes of direction needed.” “Their proper course was already a well-established pattern.” “The family was at peace because peace was the norm for the family.” “Love abounded during those months because the family relationships had always been founded on love.” “This final journey was a shared familial experience because all previous experiences had been done with oneness.”

Since that day, when I received far more consolation from my friend than I was able to give, I have remembered this, along with other experiences on that marvelous list, when the skin on the back of my upper arms prickled and the lower lids of my eyes were unable to retain the tears which welled while the Spirit was felt.

Subsequent pondering on this experience with principle has brought me to the belief that the secret to gaining a life filled with purposefulness may not come from living each day as if it were to be our last, but because we weigh each action as if we had a millennial life ahead. Living each moment as if the way I now react will have everlasting consequences for multitudes of tomorrows.

I believe it is possible that weighing decisions on eternal scales might help us become more genuine in our relationships and more sincere in our actions. We might find ourselves developing patterns of constancy of goodness. We might find the directions of our steps more consistently straight. We might find that our tomorrows seem directed to a higher level of trust and security. Not only will we be more constant in seeing the good in others, but I believe likewise, we will begin to have a greater degree of self-love with an appreciation of what we are becoming.

I pause to think about how much more speedy my progress would have been if there hadn’t been so many moments of retracing, retrieving, repenting and regretting. I can’t help but think that ‘futuring’ my thoughts, words and deeds would have saved decades of accumulated detours.

The longer I live the more I desire an epitaph which reads something like “he lived a long, peaceful good life full of love and joy” rather than, “that fellow really came through at the end.” Scrooge is to be respected for his last minute character correction, but lost forever are the decades of sweetness ‘which might have been’. Gone are the years of loving having been cankered by bitterness. Never to be retrieved are the moments of loving tenderness which dissolved in the darkness of fear and pride.

We should all hope we can be more constant in remembering that today will never be the last day of anyone’s life but will always be the first day of the rest of our eternal lives.

It might be well if a part of those prayers we send heavenward might be for help in living today in such a way that we will begin or continue a constancy of a pattern of life that will forever lead to an increase of joy and fulfillment for us and all those we encounter.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


As I drive around on Halloween evening I find myself amused at three and four foot monsters, goblins and pirates clasping empty caloried/teeth decaying loot in burdened bags. Not a second of fright overcomes me as I glance here and there at ghosts and pumpkins hanging from trees. I even catch myself laughing at headstones and skeletons half buried in browning lawns. However, there are many things that I see not only on Halloween, but also during the other 364 days of the year which really do scare me.

















I hope these thoughts will not be the cause of nightmares and loss of sleep!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


As Pierre sat looking at the fountain in the middle of the Plaza a strange thought came into his mind. A brief brightness came from his eyes as he wondered how many pairs of shoes had walked the bricks around and through the Plaza, how many pairs of pants had worn the spots on his favorite bench on the west side of the fountain, how many greetings had been exchanged over the years?

His name wasn’t really Pierre and the years had hidden the reason why everyone in the pueblo always addressed him by this strange name from a country he had only seen pictures, of but had never visited. On the faded birth certificate his name was recorded Carlos Antonio Gonzalez Riviera, but the only time he even saw that name was when he took his pension check to the bank. It had always been and was to this very day, Pierre.

The bent benches his father and grandfather had sat on in the Plaza had been replaced a few years ago with these cold cement objects which were not at all a pleasant experience. Modern they may be, but comfortable they were not.

Sitting in the Plaza as the brightness of the day started to put on the paling of the evening, Pierre gazed around. It was as if he were seeing his entire mortality parading before him as friends and family communed. Over by the old oak tree there were little children scurrying while being closely watched by attentive mothers. For a moment he saw the vision of his beautiful mother holding his hand as he tugged for freedom, wanting so badly to be with his older brother as he climbed this same oak tree which at that time was much less magnificent. His mother always called him Carlos except on those occasions when she was disappointed in his choices and then it was always Carlos Antonio! In remembrance it seemed to Pierre that it was a time filled with ‘don’ts’ and ‘some days’.

Because the work in the fields was more important than sitting in the small classroom at the school, Pierre had only attended four years. He suddenly remembered that the town’s teacher had called him Carlos the first day of school and when that was met with an uproar from the other children, it was always Pierre from that day on. During those years he passed by the Plaza each morning and each afternoon, but the buildings surrounding it were much more appealing to him than anything the Plaza itself had to offer. On Monday mornings he stepped inside the Church to ask for help with his numbers and letters. He would be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to learn to read, Pierre knew his life would have been much less had it not included the wonders found in books. On Fridays his father gave him a few cents to buy a sweet at the little corner tienda. He longed for the day when he might be able to have one of the delicious meals whose scent he was able to smell coming from the open air restaurant. There was the store where his mother had bought his first torturous pair of shoes and his first pair of pants which needed a belt. It was a time of ‘things new’ and ‘things different’.

It was a magical time when the passages of life allowed him to participate in, rather than observe, the promenade around the Plaza in the evenings. When Maria’s first smile caused him to turn and walk by her side until the day she joined the other angels she had always called him Antonio. Pierre might be what others would call him, but to her he would always be her Antonio. From that day, until Maria stood by his side before the Priest near the Alter of the Church and became his wife, they had spent every evening walking the bricks of the Plaza and sitting on the bending benches. It was a time of ‘knowing love’ and ‘knowing companionship’.

During the years of fathering and providing, Pierre seldom entered the Plaza, but usually sat outside the restaurant at the table nearest the street and looked across at the continuing of the cycle of life going on in the Plaza. It was only on Saturday evenings when the week’s work was done that he was able to join with his friends and enjoy a few moments of pleasantness. It seemed like only a closing and opening of his eye and their children had passed through the stages of the Plaza.

Maria went from living to memories way before Pierre was ready. He soon found little reason to sit at the table near the street in front of the Restaurant. It was a time filled with ‘happiness’ and ‘sorrow’.

Now as Pierre sat on the unforgiving cold cement objects, these day breathing and thinking seemed sufficient reason to be at the Plaza. Pierre now went daily, but Tuesday afternoons had become his favorite evening. On that evening the two young men in the white shirts, who wore ties even on the hottest days, came and told him of wondrous things he had only hoped for. He marveled as they assured him that there would be continuance to being at Maria’s side and their joy would extend eternally.

He was astounded to hear that there were Plaza moments before his mortal birth and there would be Plaza moments forever. The revolutions of life went on in the Plaza, but on Tuesdays, Pierre concentrated on his conversations with the young man from Idaho who spoke with an interesting accent and the young man from Peru who was always at his side. It was a time abounding with ‘hope’ and ‘peace’.

I have written this week’s thought with two purposes in mind:

It is your life; write it down so those who follow will know!!

I would hope we would all be blessed with our personal Plaza where we can sense and contemplate the restrictions, the discoveries, the emotions and the truths of life.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Enlightenment sometimes seems brightest when soul replaces sight.

Understanding sometimes seems most profound when silence replaces sound.

Feeling sometimes seems most tender when heart replaces hand.

Communication sometimes seems clearest when thought replaces word.

Savor sometimes seems sweetest when gratitude replaces tongue.

Happiness sometimes seems most sublime when you replaces me.

Drink sometimes seems most quenching when thankfulness replaces thirst.

Humor sometimes seems funniest when honoring replaces hurting.

Bravery sometimes seems most courageous when the many replaces the one.

Kindness sometimes seems most genuine when now replaces then.

Home sometimes seems warmest when courtesy replaces wants.

Work sometimes seems most productive when loyalty replaces recompense.

Parenting sometimes seems most effective when nurturing replaces discipline.

Virtue sometimes seems purest when thee replaces me.

Worship sometimes seems most reverent when laughter replaces mourning.

Silence sometimes seems most calming when aloneness replaces the many.

Confidence sometimes seems most appealing when humility replaces pride.

Knowledge sometimes seems most profound when revelation replaces reading.

Life sometimes seems most meaningful when giving replaces getting.

Eternity sometimes seems closest when today replaces tomorrow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


As a young man when I first started to sense that mortal life was limited and physical prowess was fleeting, I pondered upon the blessings which we all might have been able to enjoy had Ponce de Leon been successful in his quest for the fountain of youth.

However, as the years have turned into decades, I have come to realize that those same emotions which drove him in his search and stimulated my youthful pondering are often detrimental to the achieving of ultimate happiness. Time and time again experience has reinforced on my consciousness that idols worshiped by unobtainable, unnecessary or undesirable quests usually turn out to be standing on feet made of clay.

If some time in the far, far away an archeologist were digging in the remains of the
cities buried beneath the present day megalopolis of Los Angeles, California, and happened to discover the film and tape vaults of that then, ancient movie and television industry they would be overwhelmed with an impression which would be very distinct from the realities of the 21st Century.

Even today advertising and program content lead most of the world to have a distorted view of what reality is in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or New York. They would lead many to believe that our world is dominated by beautiful people who are constantly involved in committing or resolving criminal activity, who drive oversized limos and live in mansions which are never inhabited by faithful mothers and fathers. As we open our eyes to the world around us we quickly realize, as we stroll the streets, we are surrounded by people who wouldn’t be considered as ‘extras’ in a Hollywood production. We walk daily with people who generally have rather plain and unsplendored countenances. We drive down streets lined with comfortable homes inhabited by families which are functional.

Magazines extolling wondrous bodies with near zero body fat levels are sold by the millions both above and below the counter. ‘Ordinary man’ observing himself in a mirror quickly finds himself on a steep path leading toward feeling like an ugly duckling as he longingly compares himself to the ‘spray tan muscle beacher’ portrayed on the glossy page. After only a few minutes on any beach laden with ‘sunners,’ reality quickly reaffirms in all our minds that the vast majority of society have bodies which contain fat cells which manifest themselves as ungainly rolls in funny places about the body.

The good life, which has been correlated with one’s possessions and purchasing power, is often propagandized upon us as the necessary key to acquiring earthly pleasantness and pleasure. One only needs a minimal exposure to the masses who reside in meager abodes, who can be seen, gratefully and happily enjoying lives minimally encumbered with possessions.

The masses are seen gaining greater pleasure in having pure water to drink than others find in fine wines.

The masses sleep better cocooned in their hammocks than those on the hill restlessly bouncing on their multi-mattressed four posters.

The gourmet with his napkin still spotted from the sauces and sweetmeats of the ‘rich and famous’ quickly downs a handful of pills to quiet his digestive system
which is seconds shy from revolting and racking his body with pain. Ironically, the fundamental diet of the grateful masses often labeled the ‘less fortunate’ results in satisfaction and health.

The blame for the damaging twisting of society’s decaying value system should not be placed solely on the shoulders of those who through the process of birth have been blessed with certain attributes; being blessed with beauty, being well framed or in circumstances of abundance, but with those pseudo-priests who practice their priest craft of unrelenting commercials, spewing forth their propaganda, postulating these attributes as the only standards which are to be accepted and valued.

I really hope we are not jogging ourselves toward a day when Jack Sprat and his wife may be forced to closet their shameful bodies hidden away from the beautiful people.

In our relentless pursuit of the mythical ‘American Dream’ we may have already relegated the middle class to the other side of the tracks.

As we frequent the gourmet section of the frozen foods in the giant box store, (not hard to find contradictions in that statement) filling our oversized cart to overflowing, do we even casually yearn for the little corner store where fresh produce was never sold if it was more than two days old.

Reason and our grappling natures will never allow us to encourage the development of society content with mediocrity, but I often wonder if it might be well if we were to move toward a measure of balance. Would it be so bad if we were to become a little more rational and much less susceptible to what others consider to be of most importance in life.

If we were capable of seeing with vision unclouded by the propagandizers and were able to understand with greater clarity I believe we would be far less prone to desire those things in life which, in spite of all our efforts, will ultimately wrinkle, sag or decay. Would it really hurt us if we were more prone to set our goals and thus use our precious moments of life in the pursuit of those attributes which are lasting, stabilizing and comforting.

Just a last note to the Ponce de Leon which still lingers within:

Rainbows are for viewing and enjoying not for chasing!

Life is for living and enjoying not for mortgaging and spending.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I think it was in the sixth grade when the idea of being a teacher started to bubble through my brain. By my junior year in High School I was determined to pay the price to pursue the profession of teaching. After serving a mission in Mexico and discovering that it was possible to teach the principles of my faith while supporting life I made movements to join the Church Education System. In my twenties I was an entertainer in front of students delivering fundamental concepts. In my thirties I was beginning to understand that the real power in the classroom was with the student and not the teacher.

Instructors can spend hours in preparation, honing their lesson plans toward a state of perfection, but the reception of precepts is entirely up to the readiness of the pupil. A person’s physical self can be present and seated, but their mind can be on the football field, on last Friday’s party, preparing dinner or lost in the fog of drowsiness.

Words fly from lips which haltingly express partially understood principles
Words fall on ears which seldom receive in the same way as sent
Thoughts are expressed in utterances formulated by experience
Minds interpret through the maze of the moments of past months

As the decades at the rostrum passed I came to realize to a greater degree:

That, attentiveness gained by entertainment did not necessarily make it a great conveyor of concepts.

That, laboriously construed lesson plans were valueless when delivered to reluctant listeners.

That, many times there is little correlation between what the teacher is presenting and what the student is receiving.

That, teachers may think they are in charge of the journey to be taken during a class period, but they turn out to be little more than map makers and each learner will determine the trail they are taking.

During my life I have met students from long years past and heard them repeat something they remembered me teaching. On many occasions I cannot ever remember saying such a thing.

Words fly from prophets, princes and paupers
Words are written by cleric, crown and clerk
Words are trumpeted by tutor, titan and trainer
Yet, it is the hearer alone who determines what is learned

Some years ago Elder Richard G. Scott, and apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, moved me to think about another teacher/learner relationship. He was about to deliver a lecture on ideas either never heard or long ago forgotten, but what I still retain from his counsel, was that we should let his words be a stimulus which would open the windows of heaven and allow the Holy Spirit to direct the real lessons we needed to learn that day.

Since that day in the conference room of the Gold and Green Hotel in Quito, Ecuador I have spent many hours wondering about my receptiveness as the Master Teacher has attempted to teach me Eternal Truths from the absolute perfection of His Omni Lesson Plan.

After my goal mandated morning scripture reading did I leave my cubicle before the additional clarifying promptings were received?

After pleading for guidance, was I too preoccupied with the cares of the day to hear the directions of His still small voice?

When in deep discussions with trusted colleagues did I pause to receive guidance from Him whose counsel should be trusted most?

Did I anxiously desire sleep at the end of a long day and thereby fail to hear His response to my bed side petitions?

I wonder how many messages from the Master Teacher have been misinterpreted by me because I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear and not the instruction He was trying to send.

He lovingly sends forth words in pure simplicity
Yet, I hear mixed and muffled tones
He patiently leads me on paths of shining straightness
Yet, I walk on clouded crooked paths

Whether in mortal classroom or Eternal Halls, on my shoulders alone rests the responsibility of being the attentive ardent learner!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


When I was involved in the pursuit of a college education some of the classes in my major area of study became a springboard to a life-long interest in the area of successful communication. I had grown up with the idea that communication was a very simple thing: I talk-you hear, you talk-I hear, we understand. I was introduced to the concept that communication was more often a case of: I talk-you hear something different, you talk-I hear something different, we misunderstand.

As it turns out there is one filter or gap which causes the thoughts which I express in words to be filtered by my personal speaking patterns, the bias’ I have developed, the understandings I have reached due to personal experiences and my current emotional mood. Once I send these filtered expressions into the air they then go through a second filter or gap which causes the words I have sent out to be filtered by your personal hearing patterns, the bias’ you have developed, the understandings you have reached due to personal experiences and your current emotional mood. This miscommunication pattern can continue as long as we continue conversing.

I came away from those classes wondering if all speaking was a big waste of time. Eventually I came to believe that partially understood comments were better than not speaking at all. I finally came to understand that we are not trapped in this dilemma, but through the process of developing proper communication skills we can overcome the problems which lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications.

My eyes were opened and I came to the realization of why we so often hear such comments as:

That’s not what I said at all!

Why don’t you listen more attentively!

(After listening to a speaker) That’s not what I heard him say!

I never said such a thing!

I can’t believe he said such a thing!

Happily, I was also introduced in these classes to skills, which if applied, could help participants to increase the chances of being better understood during conversations. Interestingly, many of these skills require an active participation of the listener rather than the speaker.

Empathy: Strong attempt to understand where the speaker is coming from and why they would be saying what they are saying.

Acceptance: Allowing the speaker to be where they are on a given topic without being threatened by their current understanding of the subject.

Openness: Having an inward desire to improve relationships with others and avoidance of destructive reactionary behavior.

Leveling: Evaluating the importance of your involvement in this particular conversation.

There are also several things the speaker can do to help the communication process.

Avoid Dumping: Mortals are capable of handling only a few stress related concepts in a given period of time. We would be wise to limit our conversations to one or two such subjects.

Speak in Specifics rather than Generalities: “You bumped my cap” rather than “you are really clumsy.”

Be Tentative rather than Absolute: “You seem unconcerned” rather than “you never have cared about my needs.”

Be Informing rather than Ordering: “I wasn’t finished rather than “stop interrupting.”

Describe feeling: “That really hurts. “I feel depressed.”

Replace whenever possible Hurtful words with Helpful words: “I hope we can come to an understanding on this topic” rather than “that is just plain stupid.”

Communication will result in better relationships rather than dysfunctional relationships if both the speaker and hearer are more willing to openly recognize when helpful communication has taken place.

In a world where we are continually confronted with reports of contention and confrontation, in a world where there is so much arguing and antagonism, in a world where there is so much division and dysfunction it might be well if we all gave a little more thought to what we are saying and hearing, if we all judged each other’s words with more tolerance, if we were all more ready to respect each other and to speak kind words.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Archeologists and historians are trained to make judgments about the accomplishments of ancient and modern civilizations based on the artifacts and writings which have survived the ravishment and rusting of time. They label one very lengthy era as “Stone Age” because of a very few simple tools which have been uncovered, dated and categorized. They brand another “Industrial” to describe an era of time when humans began to desert their family farms and congregate together in cities in order to facilitate the production of goods. The premise upon which the judging and recording of the eras of our existence has been built and sustained, often brings uneasiness to many who view the accomplishments of men as more than the accumulation a few material droppings or scribbling’s upon stone or papyri.

How grateful we should be that our loving Heavenly Father is not confined to the restraints of diggers and compilers. We should give abundant thanks that He will never make sweeping generalizations of large groups of His children, but will always judge each child independently according to their understandings, efforts and accomplishments.

“Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just.” (Mosiah 29:12)

Thus, we find Lot and his family being saved even though the inhabitants of the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had reach the point of having their cup of iniquity full. The forward looking Lot escapes the fate of his wife who turned her gaze backward. This is a major component of the good news of the gospel. Even though we might spend our mortality during an era when mankind is practicing dehumanizing lifestyles, our worthiness for a place in God’s kingdom will be judged solely on how we personally have lived.

Long ago, Elijah invited the people of his day to choose between Jehovah and Baal. Likewise, we constantly find ourselves in circumstances where our priorities are demonstrated by our thoughts, words and actions. We can no more walk in two divergent paths in comfort than ancient Israel could serve both false and true gods and remain a covenant people.

We each must choose whether we are going to center our lives in the quest for gaining attributes of godliness or in inundating ourselves in worldliness.
We each must decide if “making the sale” is more important than remaining totally honest in our dealings.

We each must decide if we will allow vulgarism to become more dominant in our lives than purity.

We each must decide if we will speak the profane or the truth.

We each must decide if the social register is to become a more important gauge of our success than how well we are serving our fellows.
Joshua declared that these decisions were not to be tarried upon, but that they should be made today.

We need not fear the judgments of paupers and princes who see through darkened lenses as they stumble with us through mortality.

We need not fear that the success of our mortal passage will be determined by some future digger or compiler as they examine the plastics, polyesters and faded headlines which our generation has left in mountainous heaps throughout the land.

Our Father will never determine our level of advancement by inventorying our material belongings or by comparing us to another, but will scrutinize our souls individually to see how close we have come, given our individual circumstances, to emulating the attributes of our Celestial Parents.

One of the principles of the Good News which we should cherish most is that the judgment of our mortal passage will come from a loving Heavenly Father who will search our individual souls and be able to perfectly view the reality of what we have become.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


My shelf of things I don’t understand continues to be piled higher, is filled to the brim, overflowing and only occasionally am I able to take an item down, dust it off and carve a bit off of a bulky piece.

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Why is life’s curriculum so varied for the offspring of common Eternal parentage? Why do some glutton upon porcelain with golden forks while others search cans of filth for morsels to sustain? Why are some comfortably clothed with silks in mansions while others freeze upon their cardboard mattresses clothed in rags?

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Why is education abundantly provided for some and withheld from others? Why do some enjoy the production of their own hand while others consume the labors of generations past? Why are some provided with the miracles of modern-ness while others linger in darkened decades? Why is the progress of some repressed while others are propelled upon speedy tracks?

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Why do some have minds which are bright and quick while others seem to be dull and slow? Why do some have mortality long beyond their allotted three score and ten while others have their lives pass in shortened terms? Why do some enjoy freedom from pain and sorrow while others suffer throughout their sojourn?

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Why do brothers and sisters seek their own benefit at the detriment of others? Why are we who seek to have bounteous tables content to leave scraps for others? Why is my thought right, leaving all other choices to be wrong? Why do I think I see clearly and consider my brothers and sisters blind? Why do I seek to make my limited understanding dominate earth and heaven alike?

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Why do I go through life seeing only darkly through the glass? Why does the light of future events have such limited extension? Why do I not receive more obvious intermittent grades but must wait to know how I did until the Final? Why do I allow the view of others to supersede the comfortings of the Spirit?

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Why do I let the cloudiness of the future interrupt my concentration on today’s loving relationships? Why do I let a reckless thoughtless moment destroy calendars filled with joyfulness? Why do I feel such a need for being comforted and so little need to comfort? Why do I consider ‘me and I’ more powerful positions than ‘we and us?’

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Why do we refuse to find commonality in theories, philosophies and revelations choosing to concentrate on differences? Why is it so difficult for some to see the hand of a Creator and others to value knowledge beyond man’s meager attempts as naught? Why do some brush away principles with the cloak of mystery while others feel that man has the capability to understand all?

They do not come like lightning springing from the ground
They will not come because I demand it so
They come as gifts from Heaven whispering gently to my soul
Answers come in that moment when Father knows I will hear and understand

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Jose Fulano had gone through 15 cycles of dry and wet seasons of the year. Tonight he sat by his bed trying to remember the first day his mother took him to the small vegetable garden behind the humble home which Jose, his three brothers and two sisters shared with his father, mother and grandmother. Patiently, his mother had shown him how to know the difference between a plant springing into life and a weed. Joy filled his heart the year she handed him some precious seeds and sent him out on his own to put them into the freshly cultivated soil.

After 10 cycles of wet and dry seasons Jose was taken from the secure feelings he had gained when working in the small vegetable garden behind the home and followed his father and his two older brothers to work with the coffee plants on the hills which surrounded their little home and the small garden.

Jose’s years now became filled with the long process required to change the small coffee plants which had grown in the bedding area, transferring them carefully into the polycover planting bags and replanting them into the most shaded area of their land and then after six months, moving them to the coffee plantation where, if they survived, they would remain until time to go to the part of the plantation where they would finally, after three or four years, begin to flower and produce beans.

It excited Jose to think that those little plants he had so carefully watered when he first was taken to the plantation by his father were now abundantly producing the beans which, when dried, brought all the wonderful things into his family’s life.

For many years he had watched his father and then his older brothers lead the three little burros down the trail away from the plantation on the way to trade at the pueblo in the valley far below. Today his father had told him that in the morning it would be Jose who would be taking the three small, heavily loaded burros to the village tomorrow.

He awakened even earlier on that special morning, with his father’s instructions revolving endlessly through his head. He felt as if he had gone down the trail many times, found the buyer of beans and then gone to the market with his certificates to trade for the needed essentials for the family. In reality this would be the first time his foot prints would be found on the narrow winding path leading down to the pueblo below.

As Jose rounded a small bend in the path he saw a bush which looked like it was filled with red berries peeking through their velvety green coverings. His breakfast potato and corn soup had long ago worn off and he quickly filled his bag with the harvested berries. He hadn’t gone much further down the path when he pulled a berry from his bag and, pulling back the velvety green covering, bit into the berry. Bitterness filled his mouth and he felt that even with its redness this berry wasn’t ripe yet. Pulling berry after berry from his bag, repeated peeling and biting only brought repeated bites of bitterness. Discouraged, Jose emptied the rest of the berries from his bag beside the trail and looking at his arms which were scratched and even bleeding in a few places, wondered why such a plant would exist. It was painful to pick and brought fourth only bitter fruit.

Two days later, after faithfully following his father’s instructions and loading the small donkeys with the goods he had traded for, Jose returned to the small path leading to his humble home and the joys he shared with his wonderful family. When he passed the brutal bitter fruit bush in the small bend Jose once again wondered about the purpose for the existence of such a plant.

At the end of the next dry season Jose was once again instructed by his father on the impending trading trip. The beans were dried, the bags were loaded on the small donkeys and Jose once again found his feet moving slowly along the winding path to the little pueblo in the valley below. When Jose rounded the small bend and saw the brutal bush with its bitter berries he felt his arms throb as if they were once again experiencing the pain of the previous year.

Jose following his father’s instruction perfectly had another successful trading trip and two days later found himself climbing the trail leading to his humble home and the joys he shared with his wonderful family. As he approached the small bend where the brutal bitter fruit bush grew, Jose’s arms began to tingle. When Jose rounded the bend a wondrous sight filled his vision. The brutal plant was now clothed with a robe of red. Jose halted the small donkeys and paused to inhale the wonderful smells which seemed to float off of the red robe of beautiful roses. The tingles of pain in his arms were now replaced with tingles of joy about the beauties of the creations of God.

That evening when the family settled outside their humble home to exchange the joys they had felt and experienced that day, Jose related his experience with the brutal bush during the trade journeys of the last two years.

After listening with great interest his father asked Jose if he might say a few things about his story. Jose was anxious to hear his father’s comments and all the family gathered just a little closer. There had been other times when their father had wanted to make additional comments and the family knew his words would be filled with great wisdom.

He started by reminding Jose about his days at his mother’s side carefully caring for the small garden behind their humble home. He asked Jose what would have happened if he pulled up a plant while weeding the garden. Jose replied that the plant would never bring fourth the bounty it was created to produce.

Jose’s father then reminded him about the long process of preparing a coffee plant before it was finally ready to flower and produce beans. He asked Jose what would have happened if they had not put the small tender plants in the bedding area or moved them directly to the part of the plantation where the mature plants were, or if they had not carefully put them into polycover planting bags or if they had not harvested or if they had lost patience with the drying of the beans.

Last of all, he asked Jose, what would have happened if he had plucked the buds from the rose bush this year as he had done the year before.

Jose’s answer was always the same. The plants in the small garden would not produce the sweet foods for our table, we would never gain the wonderful things which bring added joy to our family if we didn’t carefully and patiently take the coffee plants through the steps until they were mature enough to begin to flower and produce beans, if I had once again picked the buds before they blossomed I would never have beheld the beautiful sweet smelling red robe.

Jose’s father then addressed the whole family, remember, remember my children there are essential and important stages which all of our Heavenly Father’s children must go through. If we impatiently try to rush that process or try to experience the fruit before it ripens or pick the buds before they flower, we will not be able to experience the full purposes which we were sent to have along the trail of mortality. We will have hunger in our souls rather than being filled. We will miss experiences which would have added to our growth. We will certainly miss many of the beautiful and marvelous sights which have been created to bring us joy in mortality.

The sun dipped below the mountain and the family retired to their mats and hammocks.

Jose didn’t remember when he finally stopped looking into the brilliant night heaven. He slipped from awake to sleep with thoughts of patience, love, avoiding unnecessary painful experiences and trying not to hasten the process he was sent to earth to fulfill in preparation to return as a completed work to that Father in Heaven who had planted him in goodly soil and given clear instructions as how he
might return matured and fruitful.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


A sweet old lady forgets to turn off the water in the bathtub, which when she returns to the bathroom is running over on the floor. Not knowing what to do, she rushes to the phone and calls the plumber and is informed he will be right out.

A few minutes later she looks at her list of things to do and realizes she is supposed to go grocery shopping that morning. She immediately grabs her keys and drives to the store.

The plumber shortly arrives and knocks at the door and the sweet old lady’s parrot responds in its best parrot voice, “Who is it?” The plumber responds, “It’s the plumber!”

The parrot responds, “Who is it.” Louder the plumber responds, “It’s the plumber!!”

The parrot responds, “Who is it?” Now shouting the plumber yells, “IT’S THE PLUMBER!!”

The parrot responds, “Who is it?” The plumber now exasperated and turning red in the face, fills his lungs and is about to screech with all his might when he passes out cold on the door step.

Shortly thereafter the sweet old lady returns and seeing the plumber out cold on the step and says, “Who is it?” The parrot responds, “It’s the plumber!”

I can’t remember when or who first told me this joke (maybe Buddy Hackett), but I have used it numerous times during my life in talks and to remind myself that thoughts, words and actions constantly repeated become habitual.

We are constantly reminded in all areas of our lives about the disastrous results if those thoughts, words and actions are negative.

“As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) Besides the decay which comes to the great God-given gift of our minds, there is a great danger as we constantly think about the base behaviors of mortals, that before long these thoughts begin to be part of our vocabulary and actions. Although the final judgment has not been made, more and more data seem to indicate that predatory and violent actions are predicated on an extended exposure to deviant and destructive materials.

Vulgar and profane words repeated often enough, become lodged in our minds so firmly that our speech is soon filled with filth and it becomes almost impossible for us to engage in an intelligent conversation. It is interesting to me to listen to people who are able to moderate their speech on network television, but on cable every sentence is punctuated with garbage words.

Addictive and self-destructive behaviors do not take control of one’s life because of the first sip, but because of the ensuing gulps. There has been a lot of discussion about certain people having a greater propensity toward being controlled by stimuli. Personally, I think we are all capable of falling prey to any substance or stimulus we ingest either through our mouths, our noses, our eyes, our ears or our arms.

Luckily, this same habit forming phenomenon can be a force which will cause us to have lives filled with uplifting thoughts, words and actions.
If I carefully filter that which I allow to enter my mind, I will probably find my thoughts are becoming more elevated, and uplifting. One of the added bonuses I realize as I screen those things imputed into my mind is that I become more positive toward people, more universal in my thinking about the brotherhood of mankind, and more tolerant and forgiving in my relationships.

As I eliminate my reliance on vulgar vocal pauses in my verbiage, I find that I have less need to retract my statements and others find our conversations more engaging. One of the beautiful things that I find happening is that if I purge my words of the vulgar and profane, those with whom I am conversing soon seem to respond in kind.

Although repentance has become somewhat of a negative term in our politically correct society, I have found that quick and complete repentance is the greatest safeguard against yielding my agency to some substance or other addictive stimulus. I also firmly believe that repeated positive actions lead to character development and a more fulfilled life. Prayer becomes easier and more sincere as we become dedicated to frequently repeating the process. Scripture reading, searching and pondering results in astounding benefits as it is daily adhered too. Service fills the soul and enlarges our capacities as we frequently seek opportunities to help a brother or sister. Career and church calling success results from regular productive work in our appointed stewardship.

Successful golfers become so because they have repeated the correct movements of the fundamentals of their swing until their minds, nerves, muscles and joints have developed the memory sufficient to repeat the same swing time after time regardless of the conditions and stresses where it is to be used. If the golfer repeats unsound techniques they will never be able to have repetitious desired successful results. Although it may be true that as the mind, nerves, muscles and joints begin to deteriorate the once ingrained movements are modified and in some cases lost; nevertheless, there are moments when all seems to be restored in a blissful moment and we witness a ball flying long, straight and true.

I have confidence that all those attributes and characteristics we have developed into our souls memory will be restored to the eternal us. May we be wise and strive to form that being which emulates Godliness and not devilishness.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Since ancient times, pantheists have believed that God was to be found in all living things throughout the universe. Primeval tribes deified the objects of heaven and earth. Modern man with all of his sophistication stands more often than not in awe of the many wonders of nature. This enduring reverence is easily understood when we look around at the mystically unknown and the overwhelming grandeur which are found in every glen and upon every hill.

Along with the enigmas which we continually encounter, there also seems to be something beyond the senses which binds and intertwines man’s life with his environment. If we are attentive some of our most valuable lessons can be extrapolated from an earnest exploration of the mechanism of this marvelous orb and its inhabitants.

A sincere contemplation of the wondrous evolutionary conversions which the earth and it creatures are completing will add volumes to understanding the true purposes and possibilities of our existence.

Millennia ago, deep in the folds of the earth, extreme pressures of the shifting plates of the earth were brought to bear on deposits of carbon. Centuries of squeezing and pushing followed, until finally the black lumps were transformed into stones which were no longer soft and ebony, but hardened and crystal. As decades tumbled upon each other the gentle shifting of the earth moved the crystalline pieces upward where they would eventually be discovered and chipped into brilliance.

Although coal in its original state was useful and beneficial, when it was transformed into a sparkling diamond its desirability and value increased immeasurably.

The homely oyster, when its shell is invaded by an irritating particle of sand, puts forth a comforting solution to surround the invading substance and make cohabitation possible. When the solution hardens the oyster’s world is again put into upheaval and another soothing layer is applied. Patiently and slowly a pearl of great price develops around the insignificant speck of sand.

There are times when man either inadvertently or deliberately participates in these phenomena found in nature which leads to making his surroundings more loveable and livable.

Some years ago, while visiting some friends in a rural area of Idaho, my attention was drawn to a beautiful flower garden which was in a glorious state of many colored splendor.

I exclaimed to my host my appreciation of this flamboyant and fragrant piece of ground and then asked if I had somehow missed seeing it on previous visits. He ducked his head and snickered and then informed me that this was the spot that his pig pens had occupied. My memory was pungently restored as I recalled the less pleasant fragrances emanating from this area in previous years.

By laboriously drying and tilling, planting and weeding this former eye-sore and nose-offending land had been transformed into a place of repose and beauty.

It would be wonderful if before too many candles are placed, this lesson of life could be comprehended. Sadly, we seem to demonstrate by our tardy comprehension, that we assume we are all gifted with endless eternities to learn.

We pray for placid and peaceful existence, ever forgetting that it is life’s pressures which mold and refine our characters. We are ‘ever seeking for the good life, with our feeble attempts to surround ourselves with protective shields trying to keep out irritation; not fully understanding that it is the living with and overcoming of these nuisances which help build admirable strengths and attributes.

Through diligent searching in hidden crevices for enlightenment, we may discover that even those places in life which seem most repugnant can be cultivated until they cause our countenances to blossom.

Nature seems to scream from every cavern and across every ocean: Listen and Learn. The purpose of existence is to progress. Progression can be wrought only by change.

We are here to change the rough, raw and repulsive parts of our characters into that which is polished, cultured and pleasant.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Not too long ago I was listening to someone spinning on the principle of “united.” Neither the person nor the topic is really relevant to what I am going to write about. While I was listening my mind started to wander, as it often does when mumbling from any particular quarter drones on and on. Anyway I started to think of the small changes which are needed to change the positive word United to something negative and even at time destructive.

United with a K inserted becomes Un-Knitted = frayed, unraveled, loosened etc.

United when the U is exchanged by IG become IG-nited = lighted, fired, explosive etc.

Adding the preface Dis to United and it becomes Disunited = dissolved, severed, alienated etc.

As the droning continued my mind shifted to the small things which cause so many of the social units of our lives to become, frayed, unraveled, loosened, lit and fired until they become explosive.

I start by addressing the small changes in the smallest of social units, ME. Over and over in my life it has most frequently been just a little loosening of personal standards which have resulted in the unraveling of best intentioned resolutions. Seldom have I made major leaps into destructive patterns, but the un-knitting of one little knot, which leads to the loosening of another, has caused the fraying of my life. If I tarry too long in my awakening, before long the fabric of my life becomes so tattered that repair can be so overwhelming and I may give up the challenge entirely.

Families do not become dysfunctional because they one day wake up in the morning and explode into disarray. The fuse was lit, stomped on, lit again over the years until finally one by one the members of the family no longer have the strength or the will to continue stomping and the fuse speeds like wildfire toward its determined destination. Sadly, somewhere along the line stomping out the lit fuse was replaced by fanning of the flame, as one by one members of the family lost hope of being a united unit.

Cities, counties and nations historically have brought downfall and destruction upon themselves as they allowed differences to cause alienation which led to the eventual severing of civil processes until those values which once caused them to work toward goals of common good were completely dissolved. It is sad to watch as those who should be leaders practice a destructive form of one-up-man ship. As vigorously they spew forth one bitter negative blast after another, trying to convince all who will listen about the incompetence of those, of an opposing view, who proclaim to be also working for the right solutions. The pettiness continues until civility is replaced by arrogance and the spiral steepens until union is dissolved.

I suspect some tailor in the long ago first said it, but I heard it from my mother. It seems to be fitting in the fixing of my personal life as I see the very first knot unravel. It seems to be true with families when the first unkind remark is made. It should be true with those who govern. “A stitch in time saves nine.” When comprehension finally dawned on me what she was saying I understood that the sooner I fixed things in my life the easier they would be to fix. I can’t help but think that this same principle must be true of families and nations. The sooner cessation of any negativity which could lead toward destruction and dissolution is initiated, the easier the task of reunification will be.

I long ago accepted my personal imperfection, but that admission did not relieve me from the responsibility to continue in the attempt to be better today than I was yesterday.

It is understood that all family units will have discord, but it would be well if all members of those units would strive to pour soothing waters while the flames are still small.

Political views should be debated, but never by abandoning civility and truth and always by diminishing the need to find individual prestige and power.

Like so many of the things which my mind wanders through, the principle of United-ness must begin with me!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


During those magical and miserable years of my teens, long before I started to understand, let alone take seriously the principle of repentance. I considered two weeks a sufficient period of time to erase any action my parents or the church might find undesirable. Therefore, there always seemed to be ample time, between the announcement of a Temple Trip and the interview with the Stake President, to make myself worthy to go on the bus to the Mesa, Arizona Temple. I also had that other rationalization going for me which called upon the comparing of crosses. I knew that there would be few seats on the bus filled with teens that were doing any better, in comparison to the standards, than I.

Armed with these personal interpretations of worthiness standards, I boldly met with President James Hobbs for the recommend interview. I answered each question with confidence having a solid two weeks of being good behind me. Seeing _______ (name intentionally withheld), who I knew was in a much shorter repentance cycle than myself, come out of the president’s office with a smile also gave me the assurance I needed to respond to the questions without choking on my answers.

I remember one such trip to Arizona when President Hobbs joined us as one of the chaperones. I had cleverly brought a small squirt gun concealed in the cavity of a book. Periodically I would send a small squirt onto the bag just above the president’s mostly hairless head. The water eventually accumulated enough that a pretty steady – drip – drip – drip started to descend upon the unprotected cranium of President Hobbs. Each time the bus made a rest stop I would refill and after re-boarding the bus the game would begin again. At the end of the trip our mouths were sore since we had to forcibly clap hands over mouths in order to contain our snickers and avoid discovery.

The trip was wonderful and during the following year every time my buddies and I saw President Hobbs we had a hard time keeping from busting up with laughter as we recalled how even the handkerchief he was using to wipe his pate became so moistened that he had to wring it out in the isle of the bus.

The next year’s trip was announced and the quick repentance process was initiated and I was all prepared for the night we went to the President’s house for our interviews. As I entered his home office he was wearing an unusually broad smile. In an instant I knew that he knew. Nothing was said about the previous year’s trip and the interview proceeded and I confidently answered the questions. (As confident as two weeks of abstinence allows), I felt I was home free and was preparing for him to excuse me and have me send the next interviewee in as I left his office with a smile, which would surely give _______ confidence. Then the shoe fell! In reality it felt more like a brick. In hushed tones, which I could barely hear even with my youthful ears, he said the words: “Bill, if you aren’t careful you will end up where you are headed.”

I know our time together in that interview extended well beyond the normal allotted time. I can’t bring to remembrance a lot of the rest of his calm, peaceful counsel, but I do remember the impact it had on me. The weeks and years which followed have contained long moments of introspection about where I am going and where President Hobbs thought I was headed. I don’t think it needs to be said, but on our Temple Trip that year there was no book cleverly hollowed out to conceal a squirt gun.

That year’s trip was different in other ways also. I even remember wondering about the people who I was vicariously being baptized for and how they felt about what was happening as I entered the water on their behalf. That year’s list of people I had been baptized for is now faded and worn, but remains in my collection of mementos of one of those magical teen times.

Alma had a similar talk with his son Corianton, who had made a youthful personal interpretation about how a missionary in the service of the Lord should conduct himself. Alma, in trying to help his wayward son, spoke on the same principle as President Hobbs. That the road we are on will lead us to a determined destination. Alma expounded upon the Law of Restoration as he taught his son that all things would be restored to their natural state. Alma, in referring to the stages of life after our mortal probation, said that whatever path we choose to be on during mortality, we would find ourselves walking that same path hereafter. If we follow the Plan of Happiness now we will be restored to a state of happiness. If we follow the plan of the adversary, which has as its goal to make men miserable, then after death we will be restored to a state of misery.

Evidently Corianton got the message because almost immediately Alma calls him to go forth and preach the gospel. My personal conversion wasn’t as instantaneous as Corianton’s, but over the years I have come to understand that repentance doesn’t come by a short diversion back onto the path outlined in the Plan of Happiness.

Repentance happens when we change in such a way that our daily walk is not an occasional diversion onto the path, but when our occasional diversions from the straight and narrow diminish dramatically.

Alma was there for his son Corianton at a pivotal time. President Hobbs was there at a very important time in my life. Corianton responded and made a dramatic course correction. I would hope if another interview were possible with President James Hobbs he might now say, “Bill if you are careful you will end up where you are headed.”

Scriptures: Alma 41, Alma 42:31

Sunday, July 10, 2011


In the beginning God created man in His own image. In the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And then He sent them forth to create with the following words, be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth… In his account of the creation Moses expressed two principles which he believed to be true and which those of the Christian/Judeo persuasion generally accept as truth: First, that God is a creator and second, that man was created in the image of God. Interestingly, Moses also immediately quotes God as saying that the created should also go forth and create.

As I have pondered these verses in the book of Genesis, besides the obvious need of creation in the sense of having offspring if the race of man was to perpetuate, it seems we were also intended to become creative beings in all aspects of our lives. As we pass from one stage of our lives into the next, all events during those passages indicate that it is impossible not to be in the process of creation. Even a casual examination gives one the hint that there may never be a moment during our mortal existence which finds us absent from some form of creativity. Can it be said that we exist, therefore we create and we create, therefore we exist?

We live in an endless cornucopia of variable situations: understanding that intelligences are varied, nevertheless, we each create the contents of our minds; acknowledging the vast variety of the forms which tabernacle our spirits, nevertheless, in many ways we individually create the physical well-being of the body we have been given; observing that some are born with gold spoons and others with pewter, nevertheless, we individually create our social environment; being aware of the extreme difference of familial relationships, nevertheless, we individually create the climate in our homes.

Ultimately I must accept that, as I live this moment, I am in the act of creating who I am and to some degree creating what my future will be. It seems escape is impossible. Being creators seems to be deeply etched into the spiritual and physical composition of our souls, a gift given long ago by a loving Heavenly Father, which needs to be nurtured and strengthened if we are eventually going to be worthy of inheriting all that He has prepared for us.

Like so many of those attributes which we all receive as a birthright from Heavenly and earthly parents, we seem left not with the decision of whether to be about the business of creating, but are only capable of determining the direction our creative patterns will take us.

We have the power to create our minds into questioning, learning and functioning organs, or we can let our brains atrophy through neglect or misuse. We can elevate our thoughts toward attributes of godliness or allow them to degenerate toward carnality. We are continually about the business of creating the eventual sum total of what will be recorded on our cerebral cells by what we allow or seek to implant upon them minute by minute.

We constantly make creative choices about the ability our bodies have to function at their current optimum. No matter what stage of our mortal passage we are in, we can diminish or elevate our body’s abilities by what we choose to fuel it with, by what physical and mental stresses we put it through and how we clean and maintain it and its many moving parts.

With our ability to make creative choices we constantly determine whether we will live in harmonious surroundings or whether our environment will be filled with confusion and filth. We also create our environment in part by choosing as our associates people who have chosen to spend their lives tearing others down or strengthening them.

We have the power to create in our homes a place of refuge from the harmful irritations and brutalities of the world, making it a place where horizons can be extended and wounds can be soothed. We can create family relationships which will sharpen social skills and strengthen abilities to make contributive decisions or we can turn these associations into tyrannically governed mental concentration-camps.

With the passing of each day, I become more convinced that the created cannot cease creating. Therefore, it becomes essential that we carefully control the bearings of our creative activities. Through destructive choices we can create a personal world of retrogression and decay or through constructive choices we create a personal world of growth and love.

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-28

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Children of the Bridegroom – Matthew 9:14, 15 – Mark 2:18-20 – Luke 5:33-35

Elements of parable: Reasons for fasting – Pharisees, Disciples of John, Disciples of the Bridegroom

The Savior seems to be relating this parable with the anticipation that his listeners understood two facts; First, the purpose for fasting is to help the person who is fasting to draw closer to God or feel His Spirit to a greater degree. Second, that when the bridegroom had arrived at the wedding no one would ever consider calling for a fast, but rather, would present a great feast in celebration of his presence.

Pharisees – As the Lord later states, their purpose for fasting was to be seen of men and to demonstrate how wonderful they were to put themselves through such suffering. It becomes evident to me that no matter how many things I deny myself of in the pretense of righteousness or in order to obtain the admiration of others, my fasting will serve no greater purpose than making me feel hungry or thirsty or unfulfilled. I may draw pity or critical glances or short term admiration, but I will seldom draw closer to the Lord when my motivations are self-serving.

Disciples of John – It seems that even before his birth into mortality John was imbued with the understanding that his role was that of an Elias. He taught his disciples that he was sent to be a preparer of the way. He had been sent to prepare the way for one who he would serve as the promised Messiah. Since being in the presence of John still put his followers at some distance from the presence of the Savior and Redeemer of mankind, there remained with all of them the necessity to fast often in an effort to draw closer to the Lord and as an aid in preparing them to be in his presence. It seems that no matter how many apostles and prophets we are blessed to hear and how much guidance they give us on the way to drawing closer to God, since we are not yet enjoying the wedding feast with the Bridegroom, we also remain with a great need to seek His presence and His Spirit by adhering to the principles of the fast.

Disciples of the Bridegroom – I suspect that most of us consider ourselves as disciples of the Bridegroom. The problem I see is that we have received an embossed invitation to come to the wedding feast, but for some reason the printer left the date of the event off the invitation and most of us consider it to be yet afar off. Since we are barely thinking about what clothing we will wash and have ready for the wedding, most of us find ourselves in the same need for fasting as the disciples of John. The great irony we often find ourselves living is that observing a proper fast often helps us draw closer to the Lord and feel His Spirit to a greater degree, then in that moment we seldom rejoice at being at the door of the synagogue where the wedding is to be held, but withdraw into some concern about the temporal problems of our lives. Like the Pharisees we dissolve our fast into the hope of some mortal success rather than remaining faithful to the appointed purpose of the fast. May we forevermore fast with the purpose of drawing closer to the Lord!

The Beam and the Mote – Luke 6:37-42

Elements of parable: Judging others – eyes, motes, beams

Mote – There is no doubt that the Lord deliberately used a miniscule particle to demonstrate what was in our brother’s eye. Is it possible that this minute particle represents the impossibility one faces, when they attempt to make themselves their neighbor’s judge, when even if they could see clearly they would hardly be able to make out the impurity? Somehow with our inadequacies we still think we are capable of determining what is really going on in the life of our neighbor. It also may be possible that in the Eternal scheme, what is going on in the life of our neighbor has almost nothing to do with our own personal progress or stumbling.

Beam – The extreme difference of the Savior’s examples would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that he was speaking so vehemently about how we condemn one another when our real concern should be with a diligent effort to overcome our own faults. There is little doubt about the impossibility of being able to see clearly what remains for our neighbor to do, when our vision is dramatically blocked by the immensity of what we still lack. Because the beam disenabling our ability to make a righteous judgment about our neighbor is so large, the Savior is admonishing us to be about the heavy work of removing this obstacle and leaving the mote of our neighbor to their own designs.

Eye – We spend our lives using our eyes to bring the wonders of the world into our mind so they can be interpreted and given meaning in relationship to past similar stimuli. The Lord now instructs us to use the eye in a significantly new and exciting way. Somehow this new eye is to be turned inwardly so that we can make a comparison with what we are and what we should be becoming. The Savior is adamant about our need to be over generous in our allowances and tolerances when looking at the path our neighbor is traveling upon. Evidently, the amount of mercy which attends our ultimate judgment will correspond to the mercy with which we view our neighbor’s actions. I am sure that as I begin to chip away at the monstrous beam in my eye, I will little by little be able to see more clearly what I yet lack to accomplish during my mortal sojourn. Trusting in modern revelation judgments about our neighbor is possible if we make them righteously. I guess we have permission to be judgmental when we have completely whittled the beam away.