Sunday, September 26, 2010


As I have gone through the passages of aging during my mortal span, one of the dramatic changes which has come in my life is the perception of what I deem to be the key to finding the path which will help me return to my Heavenly Father.
When I was very young I operated under the assumption that if I did what my earthly parents said was right I would be in pretty good shape with my Heavenly Father. The problem was I spent about as much time trying to hide wayward actions from them as I did trying to walk the path they had outlined.

As the years passed I found that there were abundant sources which were willing to define what was right and what was wrong to do in life. These willing contributors were very positive in their declarations of what was good and what was evil. Even during my hormone driven youth I was able to see that their conflicting definitions might be correct or incorrect, or both incorrect, but they could not both be correct. It didn’t really matter much who was correct or incorrect, because it seemed many decisions were being made by some mystical power beyond the control of my logical thinking.

As a measure of maturity started to kick in I decided that relationships were the most important decision making determiner. I even came up with a personal creed that stated. ‘It is better to be right than be right.’ I used this phrase as a fairly constant reminder that since we were all more or less guessing about life and the eternities (with our finite minds trying to comprehend the Infinite) it was kind of pointless to argue and fuss about stuff and it was better to just be nice. This formula worked really well except when encountering obstinate personalities who seemed determined to test the level of nice-ness, or something like that.

As the years have lengthened into multiple decades I have decided that with my remaining years I will try to be less self-righteous and try to be guided to do right-ness according to the directions my Heavenly Father might send my way by His Holy Spirit.

A few thoughts about the difference between being self-righteous and right-ness:

Do I concentrate on preparing a mansion for myself in the Heavens or am I striving to make the community I live in a little more heavenly?

Do I strive to let my light shine so brightly that others will see my saintliness or am I quietly spending my days doing saintly acts for my ever expanding circle of brothers and sisters?

Do I spend my efforts trying to become one of the exclusive few worthy to return to live eternally with Heavenly Father or am I using my feeble talents to enlarge the circle of those who will be included in the eternal family?

Do I make sure I surround myself with those who walk the narrow path of exclusivity I have defined in my mind, or am I finding ways to broaden the borders of the highway I have been blessed to wander upon so that I can assist those who are struggling to find the way Home?

Do I separate myself from those who have chosen tangent paths as a guard to my own goodness or do I trust in the shield of faith to protect me against falling into evil as I strive to help others move toward better choices?

Do I sit in my cubicle expanding my knowledge of the scriptures so that I might impress others or do I recognize that whatever gift I have received by the grace of God is given so that I might be an instrument in inviting all to come unto Christ?

Do I bask in the swelling feeling of pride that I am indeed one of the limited few who have seen the light or am I constantly reminded of how far I have yet to go and that where I am is but evidence of the gifts I have received from a loving Heavenly Father?

Do I stand on the blessings I have received from God as proof of my self- righteousness or do I rise each morning with a prayer that with His help I might do some right-ness today.

I become convinced day by day that concentration on self-righteousness is a sure way of causing a blinding darkness which will obscure my understanding of the true purpose of life, which is to be part of Heavenly Father’s army doing daily right-ness to bring to pass the immortality and eternal lives of all His children.

I wonder if I am given another decade of life what the next formula for maximizing mortality I will be governed by?



Sunday, September 19, 2010


It was an exciting but frightening time when our young family decided we could no longer put off becoming a two car family. Taking into account our meager earnings we tried to move with prudence as we sallied forth to purchase a used car which would not damage our budget too severely.

Within a few weeks of acquiring this new burden or necessity, a sentiment which changed as often as the weather, we discovered that the fan on the heater didn’t work. This turned out to be a minor problem which was quickly remedied when we replaced a fuse which had been removed from the fuse box under the dashboard. As we turned on the fan which now operated with the fuse inserted, we were quickly made aware of the reason the fuse had been removed. We were greeted with a disturbing and obnoxious noise which brought discomfort to all who were in the car. The good news was that the noise didn’t last long, since the noisy, malfunctioning fan soon blew out the fuse.

We had bought the car during the warm summer months and the fan was placed as a low priority on our ‘fix-it’ list which was governed by the restraints of our limited budget. By the time winter arrived, our ‘fix-it’ budget was down to a zero, and we were unable to generate the funds from other areas which we thought would be sufficient to cover the cost of installing a new fan motor.

Two cold winters, a case of hypothermia and numerous stoppings in traffic to scrape windows later, it was finally decided that the suffering and dangers of driving a car without heat or defrost could no longer be tolerated. The new fan motor and labor for installation would be expensive but the price would be paid so that the auto might be made a more useful and comfortable conveyance for the family.

The next morning I took the car to the garage, completely consigned to the fate of replacing the heating fan motor. That evening when I picked up the car I was presented with the following bill:

One half hour labor @ $8.50
Flushing heater coil @ $8.50
Total $17.00

When I asked the mechanic what had been causing the noise and blowing the fuses, he handed me a chewed up pen that had dropped down the defrost vent and told me that it had caused the fan to stick and a ground wire had come loose from the fan motor.

My mind was filled with the remembrance of all those cold mornings of scraping windows inside and outside of the car, enduring the biting pain of cold hands, feet and noses, along with the wailing and suffering of murmuring family members.

We had suffered for three Donner Party winters when the solution was so simple and harmless and well within the capacity of our limited resources. We feared a Dragon where with a little more knowledge we would have known we were facing a mouse with an ego augmented roar.

Much like the 100% reliability of hindsight we gained with the noisy fan on our first second car, it is always easy to look back into history and make strange clucking sounds in reference to the decisions of our ancestors as we read of them suffering in ignorance when with just a little knowledge they could have avoided a great deal of pain.

Sailing voyages brought ravaging, bone-twisting death to thousands of ancient mariners. Ironically, many times the hulls of their ships were laden with foods rich in the very elements which would have stilled the destroyer tormenting their bodies.

Well-meaning families stuffed paper and cloth into cracks in their homes trapping the disease polluted air of death within their homes, literally turning their homes into tombs, in a misguided attempt to seal the plague winds out of the very rooms that were stifled with the trapped fumes of those dreaded diseases.

For centuries thousand had died from eating moldy foods, not possessing that small key of knowledge which would someday unlock the life-saving elements contained within the very substance which was often the cause of their death.

Viruses reigned for millennia, attacking silently and secretly until eventually it was discovered that the power of these minute killers could be greatly curbed by using them to destroy themselves, or when administered in small amounts could even build up immunities within in the very host bodies which they once destroyed.

It would probably be impossible, even in our computer aided day, to catalogue the accounts throughout man’s history which proclaim the endless suffering brought about because of universal ignorance and the fear that is generated when one is facing an unknown foe. It is easy and dangerous to become puffed up with the enlightenment of just a little knowledge as we view these events through a glass which is just a little clearer, thinking we have now learned the lesson and will never again fall prey to the destructive effect of short-sighted reactions.

One of the peculiar twists of our current generation which has produced a Dragon which breathes out ever increasing flames of death with each passing day, is that today, unlike our forefathers, we seem to have a propensity to bring upon ourselves suffering in spite of benefiting from the enlightenment of the ages.

Our knowledge of nutrition has magnified, yet fast ‘super-sized’ gluttony and malnutrition ravage our nation and spread their fast-food tentacles over an increasing portion of the planet.

As we become increasingly aware of the harmful effects the misuse of chemicals and substances has on our bodies and minds, the abusive use of drugs, additives, over the counter pills and prescriptions continues to accelerate.

The inhabitants of the earth have sat back and witnessed the throwing of rocks being replaced by the sling, the arrow and the bullet. In spite of each generation dreaming of a peaceful life, the stock-piles of weapons are stacked higher and higher with increasingly mega destructive armaments. Despite the volumes of history which have given evidence to the fact that peace does not come by superiority of arms we continue to increase our ability to administer suffering and pain.

Long ago the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni, who had witnessed the total destruction of his nation, mournfully wrote these words to a generation yet to be:
“Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfections, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.” Mormon 9:31

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I have long been aware that the feelings we experience are a very complicated and sometimes unexplainable phenomenon. I also understand that at times we have difficulty distinguishing between those feelings which are generated by emotion and those which we claim to be a brought about by the Holy Spirit.

On the fifth day of our tour we traveled along the Usumacinta River in motorized long boats to the ruins of Yaxchilan. After we had entered the compound by a twisting tunneled entrance we seated ourselves beneath a large Ceiba tree which the Mayans call ‘the tree of life’ and Michael Wilcox gave us a wonderful lesson from the Book of Mormon. While he was speaking I noticed a young man who came near our group and sat down where he could hear without the aid of the ear phones which made it possible for us to hear with clarity for some distance from the speaker. When the group was dismissed to explore and climb the ruins I introduced myself to the young man who was on a trip with a small group of friends from the Boston area. I asked him if he had been able to hear Michael’s words and he said he had heard all the words of our preacher and then said he had felt them as well. His girlfriend stood nearby for a while, but then when she saw that our conversation was going to continue for some time she wandered off. As we conversed about what he had felt I wondered what it was exactly I was feeling during our dream fulfilling adventure.

I know I felt impressed with how Michael Wilcox was like a diamond carver as he approached his lesson preparation. I could see that over the years he had taken what was once a piece of coal hardened by the pressures of time and chipped and polished upon that rough stone until now after many settings it had become a rare and beautiful gem.

I know I felt in awe and overwhelmed at the accomplishments of the builders of these ancient edifices. It was inspiring to think about them accomplishing what they did with crude instruments and assumingly limited mathematical skills.

I felt wonder at the patience it would have taken them to discover the movements of heavenly objects and correlate them with the seasons of the year.

I felt diminished when I thought about what I would be leaving behind for future generations to measure my contributions during mortality.

I felt the magnificence of the results of the Creator of this world. There were moments when I mentally returned to those days now long gone when I was a young missionary in Mexico and all I could see was dust and all I could feel was humidity. Now I felt overwhelmed at how beautiful and vast the jungles and rivers and even the efforts of mortals can be. It really is a beautiful and glorious world we inhabit.

What I didn’t feel was an increase in my testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. My testimony was never to come to me by brick and mortar, neither by education nor instruction and never by birth or coercion. It came to me in those days when I was choking on the dust from unpaved roads and wringing my shirts of the gathered humidity of that morning’s effort. I was laboring in a small central Mexican town called Ciudad Valles which was along the Rio Verde. My companion was Elder La Mar Davis who had only one gear to walk in, and that was High gear.

One day we had crossed the Rio Verde to visit and try to teach in some small thatched roofed homes. My Spanish was in its earliest days and so I had memorized the phrase in Spanish – ‘I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.’ We had large flannel boards made out of old umbrellas which we sat in front of us while we taught. Elder Davis said he would give me a little kick when he wanted me to give my testimony. When the time came for my testimony it was as if my ability to speak had been removed from me. My companion gave me an interesting look and went on giving the lesson solo. When we were outside of the little hut he asked me what was going on. By this time speech had returned and I informed him that for the first time in my life I suddenly realized that I didn’t know if I had a testimony about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. It was one of the saddest days of my life when I realized I had been living on the borrowed light of parents, leaders and friends. I knew that the spending the next few years of my life in Mexico teaching the gospel would be impossible and hypocritical without the knowledge that these things were true.

Elder Davis set apart the first two hours of every day to try to convert his companion. We read the Book of Mormon together. I would read a verse in Spanish and then he would repeat the same verse in English. If I had questions we would stop our reading and he would explain as well as he could the passages we had just read. We would finish each session with prayer and supplication to Heavenly Father to help me gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

It was some weeks later and we had finished our dual reading of the Book of Mormon and we once again found ourselves on the other side of the Rio Verde in the small hut of the boot maker we had been in when I had frozen up when appointed to give my testimony. As Elder Davis was giving the lesson I was struck with the notion that I was understanding all that was being said and when it came time for the affirming testimony of the junior companion I boldly and clearly stated in Spanish that ‘I know Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.’ Once again I got a curious look from my companion, but this time it was filled with kindness as he saw my eyes brimming with tears. He then explained to our dear friend the boot maker what had just taken place in my life. That I no longer was living on borrowed light, but that indeed I truly knew the words I had spoken were true. Two things happened to me that day, First, I was gifted with understanding the Spanish language and second, the feeling which came upon me when I had that significant spiritual moment was so distinguishable and so much more powerful than anything I had felt before that I would never again be left to wonder whether I was having a spiritual experience or some emotional counterfeit.

Our tour of the lands of the Book of Mormon was indeed the fulfillment of a life of dreams, but my testimony of the truthfulness of Book of Mormon was cemented into my soul long ago in circumstances which were far humbler and far less dramatic than our recent tour.

I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God. I also know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.