Sunday, November 29, 2009


The Wonderful Season Begins

Once upon a time in the days before anything much was organized and when people were all pretty much alike and had not learned to be Doctors or Bookmakers or Husbands or Milkmen, there were never any holidays because everyone was too busy.

What they were busy doing was---taking stuff.

They spent all of their time either taking stuff or trying to take stuff or planning to take stuff from each other, or fixing the walls and fences and barbwire in their section of the jungle so no one could take stuff from them.

In those days it was considered most necessary to have a lot of stuff and taking it gave people a stimulating feeling. When they took something especially good (i.e. big) the feeling started in the back of their necks and spread down across their back and made a tingle in their left foot. This feeling was the only feeling anyone ever had except maybe being scared or being hungry.

Several techniques had been developed for taking stuff. These techniques were:

First; swiping …This was the most difficult because naturally few people were foolish enough to leave any of their stuff unguarded.

The second and most popular method was to find someone smaller than you, give him a bash and take whatever stuff he had at the time.

The third was to find someone your own size; sneak up behind him and give him an unexpected bash. Then you could grab his stuff and run. This method although dangerous, had the advantage of being healthful, as the bashing and running promoted deep breathing and kept the waistline down.

Now in time, the smaller people learned to be very clever at hiding and swiping, and the larger developed a protective layer of bone across the back of their skulls, and some of the medium sized discovered that they could tell big lies about the amount of stuff they had hidden and this was about the same as actually having stuff.

And so a status quo came to exist. It balanced out pretty well for everyone, that is, except Marvin Ouk.

Marvin Ouk lived in a rather provincial section of the jungle and his only neighbors were named Gloog, Howk, Murdleigh and Lester.

Now Gloog, Howk, Murdleigh and Lester had each accumulated exactly the same amount of stuff. They were all about the same size and they had equally excellent walls and so it became difficult for them to increase their stuff. One day Murdleigh would bash Gloog and take his shirt and eggbeater, but the next day Howk would bash Murdleigh and take his shirt and fountain pen, and so on.

They were all getting bashed a great deal and in the long run there was no percentage in it. So after awhile they all concentrated mostly on taking stuff from Marvin, which wasn't easy.

Marvin was the smallest, the most simple-minded and the least devious of all the people. He didn't even have a proper wall or fence and as a result he had no stuff. In fact, Marvin never had anything. He didn't even have a pair of pants (which slowed him down socially). He lived on a diet of toadstools (these being the only things he could depend on not being taken) and the only feeling he ever experienced was not getting hit which he considered enjoyable.

So it wasn't long before Gloog and Howk and Murdleigh and Lester even gave up trying to take stuff from Marvin. It wasn't worth the trouble it took to bash him because although he bashed easily, Marvin was concussion prone and merely fell quietly face forward and didn't yell or holler or do anything fun.

And so in this part of the jungle the status quoed more than suitable. Actually the status became over-quoed and Gloog and Howk and Murdleigh and Lester sat behind their walls and got restless.

"It is not right not to take stuff," Murdleigh said, "One should get more stuff. It is the way things are." He would go on like this until he worked himself into a state. Then he would go out and try to sneak up on 'Gloog or catch Howk or swipe something from Lester. But he never could.

Then he would go back home and fret some more. "I will forget how to take stuff," he would tell himself. "I will lose my techniques." And one day he added. "I must keep in practice or my know-how will desert me."

So he rushed out and found Marvin Ouk and in his mind he pretended that Marvin was carrying a doubled armful of stuff. He then gave Marvin an excellent bash and pretended to take the imaginary stuff away from him. But it didn't work. He didn't work. He didn't get any feeling or tingle at all.

He went back home and fretted some more. "It was not playing the game to pretend," he told himself and he began to think. After a bit he had an idea. "Umm," he said, "If I'm gong to practice on Marvin, I must play the game. He must have something to take so I will go out and" … He paused and made up a word to express the odd idea he had in mind. "Give," he said, "I will give Marvin something first. Then I can take it."

So Murdleigh searched through his stuff and picked out a spoon with a broken handle and he went out and found Marvin.

When Marvin saw him he sighed and looked about for a soft spot to fall forward on. He was of course surprised, even shocked, when Murdleigh, stopped in front of him and made no bashing gestures. "Ouk," said Murdleigh, making a peculiar and frightening grimace (which men later learned to call a 'smile'), "Ouk, I have some stuff here I want to give you." He pushed the spoon toward Marvin. Marvin backed away. "Murdleigh has sprung a gasket", he thought, "I shall carefully go away as he may become dangerous."

But Murdleigh anticipated Marvin's escape and seized him by the arm. "Here." He said and placed the spoon in Marvin's hand. "I want you to have this."

Then he stepped back and prepared to give Marvin a bash and take the stuff in the approved manner, but before he could move, he felt a strange new feeling: A feeling ten times more powerful than the feeling he had when he took stuff. It started in the back of his chest and spread, not only through his back and his left foot, but all over. He began to tingle in both feet and both hands and on top of his head. The new feeling was so pleasant and so powerful that Murdleigh caught his breath and sat down on the ground.

"Ha," he said and again made the terrible grimace in Marvin's direction. Marvin turned and raced away.

"Who could have suspected" said Murdleigh. "Giving stuff is" … He searched for a noise he could use, another new word. "Ooser?" He said, and "Meepy?" Then he cried "Nisser" and then "Nicer".

Nicer sounds exactly right. "Giving stuff," Murdleigh said, "is nicer than taking stuff."

Murdleigh soon found out that part of the new feeling was a desire to tell other people about it and he did, and so another great discovery was made.

The secret of the new feeling has been passed down from century to century to now, and although sometimes we don't see too much evidence of it, people seem to remember it very clearly at Christmas time, and instead of taking and bashing, they give.

And it feels very nice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


In Kathleen's and my life we have divided our mortal passage into a pre-Colombian life, a Colombian life and a post-Colombian life. A long time ago in the later part of our pre Colombian life I was traveling through the Northern California Sierras while listening to a talk radio show on the car radio. In those days I was mostly influenced by right wing commentators and I soon found myself all caught up in how we were making the same economic decisions which led to the great depression. My mind was completely occupied with all the wrong decisions that those left wingers had made which had brought us to this near calamitous brink of economic destruction. This obviously was a long time before I became a self declared member of the Non-Political Party Party.

I hope you can appreciate the irony of my situation. Here I was driving through some of the most beautiful and scenic country on this planet and my thoughts were completely captured in this self-imposed chasm of doom and despair. One of our five sons was accompanying me on this trip and somehow broke through the dense fog I was engulfed in and re-focused my attention on the beautiful and wondrous scenes just outside of the car's windows. A recent snow storm had left this mountain wonderland with that special Christmas card appearance. It was amazing how my pulse rate slowed and the redness disappeared from my neck as I tuned out the messages blaring from the radio and conversed about the marvelous vistas.

As our conversation dwindled I pondered upon the frailty of our ability to sustain gratitude in our lives. How quickly we could move from appreciation into a mind set that all was out of balance and lost and then back again. I determined that for the rest of this trip with my son that I would try to be influenced by what Heavenly Father had provided and tune out as much as possible the situations which His children had brought about. I felt somewhat saddened that here I was, one who is privileged to live in this land blessed above all lands, to live in a time when my grandparent's wildest fantasies are now our basic needs, to have spent a life time of never feeling the pangs of hunger and in spite of all my blessings, I was all wrapped up in thoughts and ideas which somehow I knew were foreign to my true self and which I knew the eternal me would never find happiness being subdued in.

Now that my son had brought my mind's eye into focus and I was seeing things somewhat more clearly I started to think about things which fall into a category which I later labeled 'being double blessed'.

I am grateful that I have people around me who aid me in being able to concentrate on the really important and beautiful things of life.

I am grateful to live in a day when sharing seldom leaves the giver wanting.

I am grateful to live in a day when the gaining of life's necessities requires such a small portion of my daily moments that I am left with ample time to learn, to think of the meaning of life, and even to complain about the injustices of life.

I am grateful to live in a day when there is time for both the fulfillment of eating by the sweat of the brow and the re creation of mind and body through the leisure activities.

I am grateful to live in a day when I not only have the understanding of those things which must be done, but a day when a whole spectrum of diversity is spread before me to liven and gladden my days if I choose to incorporate them into my life

I am grateful to live in a day when there are many who not only attempt to coexist in their relationships, but who continually strive to deepen the depth of their relationships by striving to increase their degree of tolerance, understanding and love toward others.

I am grateful to live in a day when I am bombarded by the thoughts and ideas of others, but I am free to decide whether to accept or reject those ideas.

As I approach this year's feast of thankfulness I hope that I will be able to remember more often in the coming year to say in my mind loudly, clearly and often; "yes, son, the mountains truly are splendid".

Sunday, November 15, 2009


"This person's sincerity can not be doubted." This expression along with a few other phrases has often made my mind heave a stifled sigh and I have inwardly and silently expressed "what exactly do you mean by that?" I wonder if the level of sincerity can only take on true and full meaning when and if we are able to rightly assess and understand the motivations behind actions.

I believe that a person who is continually in pursuit of needing to be in a position of control and power over others shouldn't be thought of as 'intensely sincere' as they go about manipulating, bullying, buying, and in any other way putting themselves into a position where they usurp the agency of others in order to gain control and positions of power.

I believe that a person who is willing to pay whatever price to gain popularity among their peers could erroneously be looked at as being 'intensely sincere' as they go about with saccharine words saying those phrases which will surely endear others or who will pay any price to make sure they are in the most acceptable styles or who will meet any demands which the 'in' group might require in order to be able to expand the number of their adoring fans.

I believe that the person who feels that self appreciation and self worth are the foundation of all personal achievement is wrongly identified as being 'intensely sincere' when they go about depreciating the value of others in a confused effort to elevate themselves or endlessly list the many important people who obviously recognize their wonderfulness by wanting to be their associates or constantly expound their personal talents and attributes so that others will see how wonderful they are in order to reconfirm how wonderful and great they imagine themselves to be.

I believe that those who believe that one's efforts are only worthwhile when they hold the anticipation of some reciprocal action or future reward have a limited understanding of what it means to be 'intensely sincere' when they do their charitable acts in order to store up casseroles for a future hour of need or do good deeds in anticipation of the good feelings which will fill their bosoms when someone publicly recognizes their efforts or do good works with the anticipation of a larger mansion in the next estate.

SINCERE: marked by genuineness – free of dissimulation – detesting any form or pretense or affectation – free from adulteration – whole hearted – whole-souled – heartfelt – unfeigned.

It seems that in order for ones actions to be sincere they have to be free from any feigned, affected or dissimulated motivation. True sincerity seems to have a pureness to it which comes from some kind of wholeness of purpose which comes only when one acts with selfless intent. It seems to demand that the sole motivation for our acts is centered in the building, edifying and strengthening of the object of our actions. Is this the message behind what the Lord was saying to Moses when he was told that "the work and glory of God was to bring to pass the immortality and Eternal Lives of all His Children"? I have yet to find any way that this statement of God's work involving His children allows for any degree of selfishness. Is it any wonder that in defining sincerity the dictionary includes the statement that its pureness is extremely difficult to achieve?

The next time we might be tempted to overestimate our personal progress it might be well to couch this evaluation in the sincerity of the motivation behind our actions.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


When President Uchtdorf spoke in the Priesthood session of General Conference in October of 2009 he stated "…retirement is not part of the Lord's plan of happiness. There is no sabbatical or retirement program from priesthood responsibilities-regardless of age or physical capacity". I realized that he was trying to stir the souls of those who might have felt an urge to 'leave it to the youngsters' or 'sit on the stoop in a rocking chair.' His statement sparked in my mind a remembrance of one of the great marvels of the organization and workings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; there will never come a day when we will find ourselves without a way to serve our fellow beings.

I long ago realized that if we are lucky enough to be born to faithful parents that we are immediately put into a series of preparatory programs. The primary prepares us to become covenant makers and puts us on the preliminary paths of becoming covenant keepers. The Young Women's (based on development of an understanding of Womenhood and Motherhood and Young Men's (based on understanding and fulfilling Priesthood responsibilities) prepare us for a taste of consecration in the Missionary Work and an abundance of consecration in the arena of Eternal Marriage. We receive callings which further mold and temper our Telestialness and we begin to acquire some of the attributes of a Terrestrial being whose life becomes less founded on selfishness and more attuned to selfless service. If we continue in the preparatory programs of the Church the day may come when we awaken on nearly a daily basis not needing to be 'calling bound' having been prepared in the Lord's 'refining fire' to have a nature that is constantly guided toward building, edifying, and sustaining their brothers and sisters in and out of the mortal sphere.

There are two miracles which attend this marvelous organization. First, we can be inserted in the process at any stage – through conversion or reactivation and the fire will still do its refining miraculous work. Second if we have learned well the lessons provided during our journey we will find abundant hours of useful service in and out of the Church. We will find that we no longer have to wait upon an 'official' call, but the stimulation and preparation which accompanies a life of striving to adhere to and strengthen our covenants will become a sustaining force in our finding 'work enough' to do during the 'golden' and 'twilight' years of our mortal passage. We will not have to go through those feelings of despair which attend a life of one who feels like a 'has been' or one whose talents are no longer needed or one who feels their usefulness was long ago used up and exhausted.

I know that I am much further along than many of you who will be reading these thoughts, but I am grateful that I see around me experienced faithful saints going the extra mile by filling their lives: making calls for no apparent reason – making calls because of apparent reason – being ready to accompany or direct any hymn in any meeting – making a child's time at those long blocks of meeting just a little better experience – doing family history work – attending the Temple – working in the Temple – serving missions from the home or as a stranger in a strange land - counseling a boy scout through a merit badge – writing to missionaries – making step benches for any one – making sure families are fed when mother is out of commission for a moment – making sure people have meaningful contacts on a regular basis. I know this is but a sampling of a very extensive list, but it is sufficient to make the point that there will never come a day when we will find ourselves without a way to serve our fellow beings. Nor will there ever come a day when the faithful saints become weary in well doing. The Lord has wisely and lovingly admonished us to work and wear out our lives in selfless service to one another because he knows that by obedience to this admonition our days, though they be long, will be full of joy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Listening to Elder Uchtdorf's talk during the 2009 General Conference on The First and Second great commandments my mind was once again stimulated to ponder, as it had done many times in the past, the significance of these words spoken by the Savior to the lawyer who had come to tempt Him, or as we would say, ensnare Him.

My thoughts have often gone along the line of thinking: "Why was there a need for two commandments when if we were to fulfill the first with all our hearts, souls and minds we would surely fulfill all the laws and the words of the prophets since one who loves God will keep his commandments". Right away I was left with the problem of why a perfect Being would give two commandments if only one were needed. Therefore I needed to concentrate my pondering upon why the necessity of the First and Second Great Commandments.

It didn't take much pondering and self introspection to realize that the task of Loving God with all ones heart, soul and mind was not an easy first step and in reality it was probably the result of many attempts and failures and a few successful mini advancements toward a quest that will probably take one well past the mortal probationary period to accomplish. I have become acquainted sufficiently with the words of the Lord and the prophets to know that to be able to have this complete and unwavering love for God one would have to have completely turned away from all selfish motivations and needs.

When the Savior told us that the Second Commandment was 'like unto' the First he thereby linked them into an eternal cycle of progression. I think the understanding of this linkage comes in the fact that in telling us to love our neighbors He gives us the key to our being able to understand how to do this by making reference to how we love ourselves. I'm certain that many who heard Him speak these words were reminded of the often repeated teachings of Moses; that to know how to love others all you had to do was identify your personal feelings and emotions when others did loving acts for you.

Isn't it interesting that the Savior links the pathway to selfless, total and complete love of God to the love of neighbors which always is based on a degree of self-satisfaction, self-recognition, or some other manifestation of selfishness? Could the Savior have really said that the road to Selflessness is over stepping stones of selfishness? Reason doesn't allow us to make much sense of the proposition. Maybe a clue to greater understanding comes from the Apostle John when he taught that the man who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar.

Could it be possible that the Lord gave us the Second Commandment as path toward achieving loving God with all our heart, soul and mind? Is it possible that in Loving others we are suppose to be learning how to discard the need for reciprocal demonstrations and be moving toward learning to love others with no expectation of something coming back to fulfill some sort of self-gratification.

As I ponder these great commandments I am left, at least for myself, to understand that my ability to love God unconditionally with all my heart, soul and mind with no selfish anticipations will only come as a result of my learning step after faltering step how to love others unconditionally with no selfish anticipations. As the Savior said the Second is indeed like unto the First of the Two Great Commandments.