Sunday, September 25, 2011


As a young man when I first started to sense that mortal life was limited and physical prowess was fleeting, I pondered upon the blessings which we all might have been able to enjoy had Ponce de Leon been successful in his quest for the fountain of youth.

However, as the years have turned into decades, I have come to realize that those same emotions which drove him in his search and stimulated my youthful pondering are often detrimental to the achieving of ultimate happiness. Time and time again experience has reinforced on my consciousness that idols worshiped by unobtainable, unnecessary or undesirable quests usually turn out to be standing on feet made of clay.

If some time in the far, far away an archeologist were digging in the remains of the
cities buried beneath the present day megalopolis of Los Angeles, California, and happened to discover the film and tape vaults of that then, ancient movie and television industry they would be overwhelmed with an impression which would be very distinct from the realities of the 21st Century.

Even today advertising and program content lead most of the world to have a distorted view of what reality is in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or New York. They would lead many to believe that our world is dominated by beautiful people who are constantly involved in committing or resolving criminal activity, who drive oversized limos and live in mansions which are never inhabited by faithful mothers and fathers. As we open our eyes to the world around us we quickly realize, as we stroll the streets, we are surrounded by people who wouldn’t be considered as ‘extras’ in a Hollywood production. We walk daily with people who generally have rather plain and unsplendored countenances. We drive down streets lined with comfortable homes inhabited by families which are functional.

Magazines extolling wondrous bodies with near zero body fat levels are sold by the millions both above and below the counter. ‘Ordinary man’ observing himself in a mirror quickly finds himself on a steep path leading toward feeling like an ugly duckling as he longingly compares himself to the ‘spray tan muscle beacher’ portrayed on the glossy page. After only a few minutes on any beach laden with ‘sunners,’ reality quickly reaffirms in all our minds that the vast majority of society have bodies which contain fat cells which manifest themselves as ungainly rolls in funny places about the body.

The good life, which has been correlated with one’s possessions and purchasing power, is often propagandized upon us as the necessary key to acquiring earthly pleasantness and pleasure. One only needs a minimal exposure to the masses who reside in meager abodes, who can be seen, gratefully and happily enjoying lives minimally encumbered with possessions.

The masses are seen gaining greater pleasure in having pure water to drink than others find in fine wines.

The masses sleep better cocooned in their hammocks than those on the hill restlessly bouncing on their multi-mattressed four posters.

The gourmet with his napkin still spotted from the sauces and sweetmeats of the ‘rich and famous’ quickly downs a handful of pills to quiet his digestive system
which is seconds shy from revolting and racking his body with pain. Ironically, the fundamental diet of the grateful masses often labeled the ‘less fortunate’ results in satisfaction and health.

The blame for the damaging twisting of society’s decaying value system should not be placed solely on the shoulders of those who through the process of birth have been blessed with certain attributes; being blessed with beauty, being well framed or in circumstances of abundance, but with those pseudo-priests who practice their priest craft of unrelenting commercials, spewing forth their propaganda, postulating these attributes as the only standards which are to be accepted and valued.

I really hope we are not jogging ourselves toward a day when Jack Sprat and his wife may be forced to closet their shameful bodies hidden away from the beautiful people.

In our relentless pursuit of the mythical ‘American Dream’ we may have already relegated the middle class to the other side of the tracks.

As we frequent the gourmet section of the frozen foods in the giant box store, (not hard to find contradictions in that statement) filling our oversized cart to overflowing, do we even casually yearn for the little corner store where fresh produce was never sold if it was more than two days old.

Reason and our grappling natures will never allow us to encourage the development of society content with mediocrity, but I often wonder if it might be well if we were to move toward a measure of balance. Would it be so bad if we were to become a little more rational and much less susceptible to what others consider to be of most importance in life.

If we were capable of seeing with vision unclouded by the propagandizers and were able to understand with greater clarity I believe we would be far less prone to desire those things in life which, in spite of all our efforts, will ultimately wrinkle, sag or decay. Would it really hurt us if we were more prone to set our goals and thus use our precious moments of life in the pursuit of those attributes which are lasting, stabilizing and comforting.

Just a last note to the Ponce de Leon which still lingers within:

Rainbows are for viewing and enjoying not for chasing!

Life is for living and enjoying not for mortgaging and spending.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I think it was in the sixth grade when the idea of being a teacher started to bubble through my brain. By my junior year in High School I was determined to pay the price to pursue the profession of teaching. After serving a mission in Mexico and discovering that it was possible to teach the principles of my faith while supporting life I made movements to join the Church Education System. In my twenties I was an entertainer in front of students delivering fundamental concepts. In my thirties I was beginning to understand that the real power in the classroom was with the student and not the teacher.

Instructors can spend hours in preparation, honing their lesson plans toward a state of perfection, but the reception of precepts is entirely up to the readiness of the pupil. A person’s physical self can be present and seated, but their mind can be on the football field, on last Friday’s party, preparing dinner or lost in the fog of drowsiness.

Words fly from lips which haltingly express partially understood principles
Words fall on ears which seldom receive in the same way as sent
Thoughts are expressed in utterances formulated by experience
Minds interpret through the maze of the moments of past months

As the decades at the rostrum passed I came to realize to a greater degree:

That, attentiveness gained by entertainment did not necessarily make it a great conveyor of concepts.

That, laboriously construed lesson plans were valueless when delivered to reluctant listeners.

That, many times there is little correlation between what the teacher is presenting and what the student is receiving.

That, teachers may think they are in charge of the journey to be taken during a class period, but they turn out to be little more than map makers and each learner will determine the trail they are taking.

During my life I have met students from long years past and heard them repeat something they remembered me teaching. On many occasions I cannot ever remember saying such a thing.

Words fly from prophets, princes and paupers
Words are written by cleric, crown and clerk
Words are trumpeted by tutor, titan and trainer
Yet, it is the hearer alone who determines what is learned

Some years ago Elder Richard G. Scott, and apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, moved me to think about another teacher/learner relationship. He was about to deliver a lecture on ideas either never heard or long ago forgotten, but what I still retain from his counsel, was that we should let his words be a stimulus which would open the windows of heaven and allow the Holy Spirit to direct the real lessons we needed to learn that day.

Since that day in the conference room of the Gold and Green Hotel in Quito, Ecuador I have spent many hours wondering about my receptiveness as the Master Teacher has attempted to teach me Eternal Truths from the absolute perfection of His Omni Lesson Plan.

After my goal mandated morning scripture reading did I leave my cubicle before the additional clarifying promptings were received?

After pleading for guidance, was I too preoccupied with the cares of the day to hear the directions of His still small voice?

When in deep discussions with trusted colleagues did I pause to receive guidance from Him whose counsel should be trusted most?

Did I anxiously desire sleep at the end of a long day and thereby fail to hear His response to my bed side petitions?

I wonder how many messages from the Master Teacher have been misinterpreted by me because I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear and not the instruction He was trying to send.

He lovingly sends forth words in pure simplicity
Yet, I hear mixed and muffled tones
He patiently leads me on paths of shining straightness
Yet, I walk on clouded crooked paths

Whether in mortal classroom or Eternal Halls, on my shoulders alone rests the responsibility of being the attentive ardent learner!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


When I was involved in the pursuit of a college education some of the classes in my major area of study became a springboard to a life-long interest in the area of successful communication. I had grown up with the idea that communication was a very simple thing: I talk-you hear, you talk-I hear, we understand. I was introduced to the concept that communication was more often a case of: I talk-you hear something different, you talk-I hear something different, we misunderstand.

As it turns out there is one filter or gap which causes the thoughts which I express in words to be filtered by my personal speaking patterns, the bias’ I have developed, the understandings I have reached due to personal experiences and my current emotional mood. Once I send these filtered expressions into the air they then go through a second filter or gap which causes the words I have sent out to be filtered by your personal hearing patterns, the bias’ you have developed, the understandings you have reached due to personal experiences and your current emotional mood. This miscommunication pattern can continue as long as we continue conversing.

I came away from those classes wondering if all speaking was a big waste of time. Eventually I came to believe that partially understood comments were better than not speaking at all. I finally came to understand that we are not trapped in this dilemma, but through the process of developing proper communication skills we can overcome the problems which lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications.

My eyes were opened and I came to the realization of why we so often hear such comments as:

That’s not what I said at all!

Why don’t you listen more attentively!

(After listening to a speaker) That’s not what I heard him say!

I never said such a thing!

I can’t believe he said such a thing!

Happily, I was also introduced in these classes to skills, which if applied, could help participants to increase the chances of being better understood during conversations. Interestingly, many of these skills require an active participation of the listener rather than the speaker.

Empathy: Strong attempt to understand where the speaker is coming from and why they would be saying what they are saying.

Acceptance: Allowing the speaker to be where they are on a given topic without being threatened by their current understanding of the subject.

Openness: Having an inward desire to improve relationships with others and avoidance of destructive reactionary behavior.

Leveling: Evaluating the importance of your involvement in this particular conversation.

There are also several things the speaker can do to help the communication process.

Avoid Dumping: Mortals are capable of handling only a few stress related concepts in a given period of time. We would be wise to limit our conversations to one or two such subjects.

Speak in Specifics rather than Generalities: “You bumped my cap” rather than “you are really clumsy.”

Be Tentative rather than Absolute: “You seem unconcerned” rather than “you never have cared about my needs.”

Be Informing rather than Ordering: “I wasn’t finished rather than “stop interrupting.”

Describe feeling: “That really hurts. “I feel depressed.”

Replace whenever possible Hurtful words with Helpful words: “I hope we can come to an understanding on this topic” rather than “that is just plain stupid.”

Communication will result in better relationships rather than dysfunctional relationships if both the speaker and hearer are more willing to openly recognize when helpful communication has taken place.

In a world where we are continually confronted with reports of contention and confrontation, in a world where there is so much arguing and antagonism, in a world where there is so much division and dysfunction it might be well if we all gave a little more thought to what we are saying and hearing, if we all judged each other’s words with more tolerance, if we were all more ready to respect each other and to speak kind words.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Archeologists and historians are trained to make judgments about the accomplishments of ancient and modern civilizations based on the artifacts and writings which have survived the ravishment and rusting of time. They label one very lengthy era as “Stone Age” because of a very few simple tools which have been uncovered, dated and categorized. They brand another “Industrial” to describe an era of time when humans began to desert their family farms and congregate together in cities in order to facilitate the production of goods. The premise upon which the judging and recording of the eras of our existence has been built and sustained, often brings uneasiness to many who view the accomplishments of men as more than the accumulation a few material droppings or scribbling’s upon stone or papyri.

How grateful we should be that our loving Heavenly Father is not confined to the restraints of diggers and compilers. We should give abundant thanks that He will never make sweeping generalizations of large groups of His children, but will always judge each child independently according to their understandings, efforts and accomplishments.

“Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just.” (Mosiah 29:12)

Thus, we find Lot and his family being saved even though the inhabitants of the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had reach the point of having their cup of iniquity full. The forward looking Lot escapes the fate of his wife who turned her gaze backward. This is a major component of the good news of the gospel. Even though we might spend our mortality during an era when mankind is practicing dehumanizing lifestyles, our worthiness for a place in God’s kingdom will be judged solely on how we personally have lived.

Long ago, Elijah invited the people of his day to choose between Jehovah and Baal. Likewise, we constantly find ourselves in circumstances where our priorities are demonstrated by our thoughts, words and actions. We can no more walk in two divergent paths in comfort than ancient Israel could serve both false and true gods and remain a covenant people.

We each must choose whether we are going to center our lives in the quest for gaining attributes of godliness or in inundating ourselves in worldliness.
We each must decide if “making the sale” is more important than remaining totally honest in our dealings.

We each must decide if we will allow vulgarism to become more dominant in our lives than purity.

We each must decide if we will speak the profane or the truth.

We each must decide if the social register is to become a more important gauge of our success than how well we are serving our fellows.
Joshua declared that these decisions were not to be tarried upon, but that they should be made today.

We need not fear the judgments of paupers and princes who see through darkened lenses as they stumble with us through mortality.

We need not fear that the success of our mortal passage will be determined by some future digger or compiler as they examine the plastics, polyesters and faded headlines which our generation has left in mountainous heaps throughout the land.

Our Father will never determine our level of advancement by inventorying our material belongings or by comparing us to another, but will scrutinize our souls individually to see how close we have come, given our individual circumstances, to emulating the attributes of our Celestial Parents.

One of the principles of the Good News which we should cherish most is that the judgment of our mortal passage will come from a loving Heavenly Father who will search our individual souls and be able to perfectly view the reality of what we have become.