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.