Sunday, August 29, 2010


Quetzalcoatl, Teotihuacán, Palenque, Tikal, Copan, Kaminal Juyu, and Lake Atitlan, before last summer were only names which appeared on pages beneath photos and on maps of Southern Mexico and Central America. Kathleen for years had had a heightened interest in the archeology of the Ancients of the Americas. For me it was all a desire to see with my own eyes the topography where Nephi, Alma and Moroni walked while in mortality. Either way the days of the first half of June of 2010 were spent putting color onto black and white pages of written text.

Long ago Joseph Smith declared that a testimony of the Book of Mormon would never come about because of external proofs or archeological discoveries, but would come about because of an affirmation by the Holy Spirit manifesting the truthfulness of ‘The Golden Bible’ to the God’s children individually and powerfully. Therefore, when Kathleen and I were given the opportunity to visit these wondrous sites with two of our sons, Sean and Rynn, along with a bus load of wonderful friends, it was a journey where dreams were being fulfilled rather than a quest where we were seeking for a more powerful witness of the veracity of the sacred record translated by that youthful prophet in the mid 1820’s.

Ignacio was the first local guide we had on our trip. He had been a missionary for the church and so it was expected that he would desire to demonstrate all of those discoveries which are now available, but unknown during the days when Joseph was doing the translation off of the plates, which proved without a doubt where the River Sidon or the city of Zarahemla were located. Gratefully, he was reserved and instead presented what he called ‘coincidences’ which seem multiply with the new discoveries of each passing decade. These ‘coincidences’ indicate that Joseph was either the greatest clairvoyant ever or he was indeed aided in the translation by the gift and power of God.

Michael Wilcox was the ‘educator’ on the trip which was hosted by a wonderful young couple, Christi and Brandon Towner. The three of them enhanced our experience tremendously and made sure we were well informed, safe and comfortable while we traveled. Michael filled the long bus rides with magnificent magnifications of our understanding of the teachings in the Book of Mormon along with introducing us to some of the ancient writings from the Mayan Popol Vuh. At each of the wondrous stops we made he helped us to understand that it could have been in such a setting that this or that event from the history of the Book of Mormon might have taken place. Once again I was appreciative of the fact that he wasn’t insistent that this had to be the exact location where Noah held the trials of the prophet Abinidi, but simply pointed out that it would most likely have taken place in a setting much like where we were standing at the time.

The mind pictures I had formed during the many readings of the Book of Mormon burst into clarity as I heard the sounds and viewed the denseness of the tropical areas where the progeny of Lehi had settled and struggled to find the paths through the jungle, and also the path which would bring them back into the presence of their Heavenly Father. No longer did I have to leave it to my imagination, but now I had seen the remnants of a civilization which was highly sophisticated and which had built monumental Temples and pyramids and supportive buildings. I saw compounds reserved for ancient scribes, stairways carved with historical accounts from a society which in the 1800’s was declared to have had no written language. I saw paths which stretched for hundreds of miles and enabled a lively trade between the ancient nations. I traveled on rivers which brought understanding to how hundreds of bodies could be dumped and carried out to the sea. I understood how peoples could live in those dense jungles in relative proximity and yet be unknown to each other. I saw calendars based on a great understanding of astronomy which correlated with the moon calendars of the Book of Mormon, and revealed a civilization which was obsessed with the recording of dates and the seasons of the year.

Because of some of the limitations the aging process have inflicted upon me, my sons had to do most of the climbing of the structures and the recording of the views from the tops of the Temples. In some ways this turned out to be a blessing. While I waited alone it gave me the opportunity to visit with some of the descendants of those Mayans who had built the overwhelming structures the boys were mounting. At Palenque I talked with two boys and a girl whose parents had kept them out of school that day so that they could sell calendar necklaces to the tourists. We had a delightful time where they offered to show me where I could see a girly show, then they offered to introduce me to their mother and when I told them how old I was they said their grandmother was a very fit lady! When they didn’t want me to know what they were saying they slipped easily into their particular Mayan dialect which was one of 31 to be heard in the area.

I was sitting at the base of the grandeur of the ruins of Palenque and almost driven to tears by the words of these bilingual youth who seemed to be but a shadow of the mighty nation which once occupied this area. At Tikal I had a wonderful talk with a group of youth from a military high school who were out on a field trip to gain a better appreciation of their history. They were bright and capable and I could see in them the fulfillment of the promises in the Book of Mormon that the descendants of Lehi would once again become a righteous and mighty nation.

There was another occasion when I was talking with a young couple taking a few days off from their work at Wal-Mart in the capital to visit the wonders of their ancestors. They were a delightful, well-educated couple whose eyes shown with the hopes of making a better world for their posterity and for their nation. These visits and many others put flesh upon the characters of the Book of Mormon and I was filled with the understanding that those ancient nations who had been so two dimensional on the pages I read were children of Heavenly Father who struggled with the same things their descendants were now struggling with and found fulfillment making the same progress their progeny were now experiencing.


Sunday, August 22, 2010


During the summer between my third and fourth years of elementary school our family moved from American Falls, Idaho to Long Beach, California. Any fears I had of being lonely or sad were soon alleviated as I was welcomed into the neighborhood by the local boys. This, along with the acquisition of my first library card and entering into the wonderful world of biographies started a chain of marvelous summers which continued through my years in Long Beach. The demographics of my Monday through Saturday crowd changed rather dramatically. In American Falls there was no change of relationships for all seven days of the week. In Long Beach it was obvious that my Sunday buddies, who always seemed to be a plague upon those assigned to be our Sunday School teachers, were generally going to be different from the boys I would play with during the week. In Long Beach, on Sundays I was surrounded with common church boys, but during the rest of the week, except for a brief break for our weekday Primary gatherings, I was in a very ecumenical group. For the first time in my young life I was running with boys whose families either didn’t profess a religious preference or were Jewish, Presbyterian, Catholic and the new kid who was a Mormon. I suspect there were more persuasions represented, but a cloud sometimes obscures memory.

It seemed like most days we were up early, readied ourselves for the day, had a bowl of cereal, knocked out our chores and then we met and spent the day in an agenda-less pursuit of fun and excitement. There was ball playing on the vacant lot behind the drugstore at the top of the block. It was always a challenge to see if we could hit the ball off of the back wall of the store building. There was also a fig tree on the lot which we took advantage of between innings. We had little respect for boundaries or fences as our war games were filled with pursuits over fences, climbing up on garages and jumping off the roofs, running through back yards and setting up traps in everyone’s landscapes. They were wonderful days, filled with the feelings of freedom which come when one isn’t burdened with the worries of sustaining the necessities of life for oneself or others.

One day shortly after Easter Sunday we were feeling a little bored with the usual agenda-less activities and so we decided it would be fun to break in a toy corn cob pipe one of the buddies had received for in his Easter basket. Looking back it seems like a very unusual basket surprise. Anyway, it was unanimous that we needed to blacken the sparkling bowl. Since we didn’t have any tobacco to stuff into the pipe we decided that the green grass which was always placed in our Easter basket for filler would burn well in the pipe. This was before they started using that phony plastic stuff for the artificial grass and were using green paper which had been cut into thin strips and crumpled. We packed the artificial paper grass into the pipe and then by some perverted logic it was decided that the new Mormon boy should have the privilege of the first drag on the pipe. Flame was placed over the bowl of the pipe and I took a full deep drag and pulled the flames deep into my throat and down to where I was sure I had burned my lungs. The paper artificial grass rather than slowing the flame had actually enhanced its ferocity and I was sure I had rendered my lungs scarred for life.

Looking back I can now identify a lot of reasons why we were so mistaken in what we thought would be an activity which would add to the excitement and adventure of that particular agenda-less day. Stupidity would probably top the list. Lack of knowledge would make the list. Having a mentor on the art of smoking would have helped. Failure to future the consequences of our actions would be there of course. All in all the pain I am reminded of as I write these words makes me conclude that indeed it was just plain stupid.

As the years have passed and the buddy parade has marched through my life, I have come to realize that the one thing which is consistent in every decision I make is that there will be consequences which accompany decisions. There seem to be painful and pleasant, faulty and fruitful, blunders and building blocks, edges and edification consequences waiting on the other side of every decision. I will never be able change the reality of hovering consequences, but I do seem to have some control over what those consequences turn out to be. The future consequences seem to come about as result of the process I have used before the moment of decision making which ultimately determines the direction of my decision. Therefore, it seems logical that the more time and effort I put into the pre-decision process the better chance I have of avoiding negative consequences and increasing my chance of enjoying positive outcomes.

When I was working as an in-store merchandiser for a major flour/cake mix company I was taught that the more quickly I could get a store owner to make a decision the more likely I was to be able to fill his shelves with products which may or may not be all that marketable in his area. When given time to decide, most store owners were more apt to make decisions which would be to their advantage and not to the advantage of the major flour/cake mix company.

I hope I am learning, even if at times it seems haltingly, that there is a force in life, which is much like the major flour/cake mix companies of the world. This force would have me make quick, unmeasured, stupid decisions which will not result in long range positive consequences, but will probably fill some of my life’s moments with pain and sadness. I also believe there is a loving Heavenly Father who would have me slow down, measure at least twice and seek counsel from those who have walked this path previously; thereby increasing the probability of positive consequences filling my future days with joy and a feeling of progression.

I wish I could report that I have experienced only one flame sucking misguided adventure in my life, but such is not the case. I do find that on those occasions when I have taken time to diligently apply pre-decision contemplation, I have been saved from many lung scarring experiences in my life.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Who is it that steals the hours of my day and causes life’s moments to speed rapidly away? Why have the wonderful spontaneous pleasures of youth become but fond memories? Who can comprehend the strange calendar compression as life rushes by? Why does life seem like a daily unfolding repetitious cycle leading to the day of relief when it is at last covered by the shroud of death?

The names of the characters change, the stage’s scenery varies, the plot is but vaguely veiled as it repeats itself in each new scene, the lines seem like echoes of those which filled yesterday’s now ancient halls, yet reality makes the setting always now.

I don’t know what happened, my goals seemed so solid…
We had planned so well so long ago for those wonderful days when…
Living will be a more wonderful experience when I finally finish…
When I no longer have to punch a time clock…
When the constancy of caring for the children…
When our ship finally comes sailing in…

When, that ever-fleeting when, which robs the dimly seen future, which steals, forgets and covers until one day we awaken to realize that that which was, never is and that which is to be, never comes. Goals and plans somehow turn into dog-eared tattered bits of paper. Finished tasks meaninglessly merged into the humdrum of regimented routine. Children sailed away in ships meant to unload their goods on our now forlorn shore.

Open your eyes look about and behold those fortunate few for whom the scenes continually vary, the plot excitingly freshens, and the lines are forever vibrantly alive. Those few who fortunately in their youth learned to follow wisely the stored up wisdom of the ages which has forever taught whoever would willingly learn, that today is life and life can only be lived in the now of each moment.

Yesterday is a vault never reentered, storing experiences full of treasures and memories.

Experiences and treasures which can be built on today but never again tangible in reality.

Tomorrow is a wispy wild wind, never controlled, filtering hopes, carrying clouds of dreams.

Hopes and dreams can become guidelines but are never tangible in reality.

Today is life – happy and sad – productive and slothful –learning and forgetting –equal and unfair – friendly and alone.

The day will soon enough be upon us when timelessness will be our continual state; a state, ironically, when all time is present. It might be wise to begin now to cultivate a sense of now-ness in my life so that then I will feel comfortable in my everlasting home when life truly becomes one eternal round. I must start today to become more diligent in my attempts for constancy in my refusal to be bound by the continual reminiscences of past glories or a captive of visions of future triumphs.

My script in the True Book of Life does not contain dialogues of oft repeated scenes of days now lost nor monologues of future intentions impossibly conquered on today’s stage, but it is being written line upon line as I live my life to the fullest moment by moment.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


The month of July usually provides me with a lot of time to reflect on such things as the contributions of the founding fathers of the United States of America, the sacrifices of the many who have given so much for the freedoms which I enjoy and those family pioneers whose struggles have paid forward to a very grateful progeny. With the passing of a very dear friend and the enjoyment of a mini family reunion with our children and grandchildren, this July has also filled my mind with another benefit which has greatly blessed my life.

As we huggingly greeted those who gathered at the Memorial for Joyce Woodward, I was bombarded with the accumulated joy which had been somewhat put in shadows during the 19 years since we left Reno, Nevada to serve a mission in Colombia. One of the great ironies of my employment with the Church Education System was that although I was daily studying and teaching the gospel of love, I was not allowed to embrace any of those with whom I associated either professionally or socially. It was a wonderful thing in my retirement to find myself encircled in the arms of these people who I love so dearly.

Kathleen and I were invited by George Keele, the presiding Elder, at the Memorial to say a few words about Joyce and our experience with her. From the vantage point of the pulpit as I was voicing how much she had meant to me as we worked together for several years at the Reno Institute of Religion, I was able to look into the collective faces of those with whom I had just been able to exchange a touch of love for the first time. As I was trying to concentrate on the words I was saying about how this faithful secretary had been such a strength to me on so many occasions, I was somewhat overcome by the realization of what the association with so many congregated in the chapel had meant to me in my life. Since I spent almost thirty percent of my life with these wonderful people it should be easy to understand what an impact they have had on my progress.

I will refrain from using their names, but hopefully as I innumerate their contributions to my growth they will recognize themselves and what they have meant in the life of a grateful neophyte.

I looked into the face of one who had been very successful in gaining the means of living a very good life, but I saw one who regarded integrity more than wealth. One who also taught me through example that with accumulation, we inherit the stewardship of becoming a wise, charitable distributor.

I looked into the face of one who taught me that we all must progress at our own pace and that we are all on a different part of the path at any given moment. I was taught that steady pace and direction on the path are more important than position or degree of progress.

I looked into faces of some who had brought an extra special spirit to church meetings because of the musical gifts they shared. They taught me that the spoken word is but one way to help people come closer to Christ.

I looked into faces of those who once sat in classes where I was designated as teacher who little realized in those sessions who was the real learner. Even on that day they were not completely aware of the great influence they were having on me and others.

As I looked into these faces I realized they were but a small representation of all those who had contributed so much to me during the 20 years we were privileged to live in the shadows of the Sierras. There were many others in the congregation as well as many who were not attending who also made great contributions to my passage, but I will have to record their gifts to me on some future occasion.

At the family reunion I spent time with those dear ones of my life with whom there never has been a restrictive absence or lack of hugging. In the desert northeast of Pyramid Lake I was involved with those who have made the deepest and most consistent impact on my life. Dear ones with whom I have spent all or a portion of 70 percent of my mortal sojourn. An account of their meaningfulness in my life will also have to wait for another day.

Kathleen frequently reminds me how good I am at introductions and how I often leave little time to expound on the body of my lessons, so now that you have the introduction let me get to the point.

During the whole intensively reflective month of July which, as I have said, centered on the contributions others have made in my life, never once did a negative recollection enter the stage of my mind. There were no warts, blemishes, nor frowny faces. There were no hurts, harmful sayings, nor hateful accusations. There were no mistakes, misconducts, nor malicious actions. Everyone came into my mind clean and pure with nothing in their scripts except positive words, thoughts and actions.

As I now ponder upon my pondering I wonder if for just a moment I was able to embrace in a flash-by bit of inspired thought the Mind of our all loving Heavenly Father. A Mind which fills itself with all the good and contributive acts of His children and whenever possible erases the errors which accompany their mortality.

A Mind which is preoccupied with progress toward perfection and finding ways to divert us away from destructive detours. A Mind which is continually looking at the saintliness of the inhabitants of all cities and not the sinning.

The summation of my pondering upon this fruitful month, is that I am more convinced now than ever before, that there is no scale in heaven which measures our sins against our service, but Heavenly Father looks solely upon the accumulation of our saint-like acts as he enfolds us in His ever extended arms to welcome us home and bestows upon us that degree of glory merited by the positive contributions of our lives.