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


  1. Wonderful thoughts on repentance. I really like your personal experience and I am glad you got the message and you are now sharing it with us that we may also learn. I hope you and Kathleen are doing well.
    I am sending a big hug to both of you from Iowa.


    Diana Gomez-Anderson

  2. Muchas gracias por su mensaje.

    Muy bonito e inspirador.

    JULIANA Barrios

  3. Thank you Brother Riley!
    Your thoughts are perfect and helped solidify my lesson I prepared for the Young Women.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts- they get heard, pondered and truly edify my life.

    Happy Day to you!
    Kim "Bingham" Davis

  4. Click Me!
    I love personal stories. Thanks for sharing. I bet you had many mischievous experiences, but you were headed in the right direction. Look at all of us you led. I have been making several contacts about the Feb. Reunion. I hope Manti will be an ok destination. I was thinking about the 4:30 or 5:30 session. On Friday, Feb. 17th. So far I've got "yes" responses from Dale & Celeste Leavitt, Ron & Brenda Myers, Jerry Austin, Bruce & Virginia Roundy, and Orson & Lizanne Huntsman and a maybe from Mark Woodbury. If you know any addresses or emails of our clan - please let me know. I'm very excited about getting together. So much more than my 20th high school reunion this summer. I'm not planning to go to it. It's just a big drinking party at the Little Waldorf. I'd love to see some of my old classmates, but not in that atmosphere.

    Thanks again for your wonderful thoughts.

    Barbara Lee

  5. BILL, I really enjoyed this. Is this the Jimmy Hobbs who served as stake president in Garden Grove? If it was I just spoke with him several months ago in St. George. I always thought of him as a General Authority in waiting. My uncle Parley Borgquist was his best friend in Garden Grove. Best to you and your wife...

    Tom Borgquist

  6. Awesome story Bishop! Thank you

    John Swapp

  7. Gracias for the abrazos y amor. Will you mind if I use some of this possibly in my talk in sacrament meeting today, and more likely in the talks that I need to have with my son, and my other children?

    Eric R. Chambers

  8. that phrase is going to stick with me... thanks for passing it along!

    Barbara Bell

  9. That was beautiful, Bill. Would you mind if I shared your story in an upcoming Ward Conference with our Spanish ward's adults?

    Have a happy Sabbath,
    Debbie Stapley

  10. This is my favorite so far!!!


    Sister Karen Wright

  11. Hi, Bill,

    I seem to remember that there was a President James Hobbs in Garden Grove back in the 1970s time frame; would it be the same President Hobbs? Curious, Huh?

    Ralph Rall

  12. Thanks so much for your thoughts this week. It will help me with my lesson next week.

    Cevin Riley

  13. Wow Bill u get up early! Good thought. As we get experience we get insight as you did relating the story of your stake president. How often do we jump to conclusion about somebody and then find out later we had it wrong. Best Dave P.S. we are in Utah til Friday

    Dave Farr

  14. Hi you two! Thank you so much for your thoughts. I have recently forwarded these to Chris (Thompson) who has been teaching seminary going on 4 years. Paybacks are sometimes predictable! Certainly in my case.

    Susan Maestretti

  15. Despues de Muchas Pruebas, viene la calma y la risa, Mil Gracias por estos escritos maravillosos!!!
    Un Abrazo desde Colombia,

    Libia Maria Cuartas Villegas

  16. "Brother Riley - I loved your thought this week! It was so inspiring and thought provoking. I'm going to use it for FHE tomorrow night! Thank you for continuing to inspire me with your wisdom and faith! You are a blessing to many!"

    Pam Beckett Anderson

  17. Dear Brother Riley:

    Thank you for sharing your teen years. Never would thought you could be so naughty in your teens. However, you have set an example that through determination and changed of heart that you are our great TEACHER.

    I can't believe I am in your ward. I went last week for Sacrament and left for work.

    I plan to call Bishop Gunner to introduce myself. Hope to see you and your family next sunday.

    Daisy Ryan

  18. Dear Bill,

    I have so enjoyed your last few "Sunday Thoughts" and I have learned a great deal from them. They helped me to better understand some of the concepts that I didn't have a clear understanding of, so I thank you for that. Your thoughts for this week were both inspiring and fun! I must say though it's hard to believe you were ever such a "Wicked child". LOL You have been used as my best example to my children and to many of the children that have chosen to call me Mom and confide in over the years. Infact it was just a couple of weeks ago that my oldest g-daughter repeated to me in a very serious conversation one of my "Billisims" concerning a boys behavior during dating, and how to know if he has the right qualities that you're looking for. I was so pleased it had soaked in and she was actually using it. Now you can understand a tiny bit why it's so hard to picture you behaving in such a way that your experience became a turning point in your spiritual thinking on repentance. Honestly Bill, I have always thought you were and I continue to feel so, that you had all the attributes of a near perfect man. Please don't laugh, I'm deadly serious. I'm thankful to have such a wonderful friend in my life!

    I also appreciate you sharing such a personal part of your life. I found myself feeling as if I had been priveleged to read a page in your Journal, and I found myself smiling, wishing it would go on for pages instead of a few paragraphs. :>) You are a gifted writer Bill Riley !!

    Looking forward to your next writing.

    Hugs and Smiles
    Erma Neff Ward

  19. Bill, I am in tears right now. I ache inside because I miss your classes so much. This is one of the reasons why.

    Much love,

    Janice Pardonnet

  20. The introspection is a powerful reminder for me as I asses my life's path! Thank you, as always, for your insights and wise words. The real experiences we have are the teachings that stay with us and hopefully help us progress in the right direction. I hope I'm headed in the same one you are!


    Barbara Townson

  21. Well, I'm an adult convert, so I have no similar story, but boy was it funny. I was really laughing. Boys can really be naughty, but the men seem to totally understand such foolishness. Have you ever thought what he was thinking as his head got wetter and wetter? I'm imagining him, maybe even laughing himself somewhat and waiting very patiently to just let you know, he knew. I'm still smiling.

    barbara petersen

  22. "Hermano Riley es un privilegio contar con sus pensamientos y su saludo! gracias!"

    Aixa Zoraida Cañas Gómez