Sunday, January 29, 2012


Received this tale in an email from my nephew Bruce Barrett just before I started to write my thought for this week and, therefore, I have no idea who to credit as the creator. However, the tale fits so well with what I was thinking about today, I just had to include it in my Thoughts for the week.

An old cowboy was riding his trusty horse followed by his faithful dog along an unfamiliar road. The man was enjoying the new scenery, when he suddenly remembered dying, and realized that the dog beside him had been dead for years, as had his horse.

Confused, he wondered what was happening, and where the trail was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall that looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch topped by a golden letter "H" that glowed in the sunlight.

Standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like gold.

He rode toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. Parched and tired out by his journey, he called out, 'Excuse me, where are we?'

'This is Heaven, sir,' the man answered.

'Wow! Would you happen to have some water?' the man asked.

'Of course sir, come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up.'

As the gate began to open, the cowboy asked, 'Can I bring my partners, too?'

'I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets.'

The cowboy thought for a moment, then turned back to the road and continued riding, his dog trotting by his side.

After another long ride, at the top of another hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a ranch gate that looked as if it had never been closed. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

'Excuse me,' he called to the man. 'Do you have any water?'

'Sure, there's a pump right over there. Help yourself.'

'How about my friends here?' the traveler gestured to the dog and his horse.

'Of course! They look thirsty, too,' said the man.

The trio went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with buckets beside it. The traveler filled a cup and the buckets with wonderfully cool water and took a long drink, as did his horse and dog.

When they were full, he walked back to the man who was still standing by the tree. 'What do you call this place?' the traveler asked.

'This is Heaven,' he answered.

'That's confusing,' the traveler said. 'The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.'

'Oh, you mean the place with the glitzy, gold street and fake pearly gates? That's hell.

'Doesn't it make you angry when they use your name like that?'

'Not at all, actually, we're happy they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.'

When I was just starting my formal educational experience (since I didn’t have the opportunity to attend kindergarten, it must have been during my first or second year of elementary school at Roy Elementary) I had the last real pet that I ever allowed myself to bond with and love.

We lived on a small bit of ground which allowed my father to enjoy a large garden. It was so large that he bought a horse to help him plow and prepare the ground for planting. We had chickens which roamed freely and occasionally met their demise on Roy road which went in front of our property. We had a family Irish setter which was my personal companion. We were constant companions as we adventured through the rows of the garden and around the small pasture playing the cowboy with his trusty companion.

One day we walked up Roy road to the Bamberger Station (a small commuter train which travelled between Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah, when we lived in Roy in the 1940’s) and my wonderful companion followed us to the station. I wanted to run him back home, but my mother and sister insisted that we didn’t have time to wait for the next Bamberger. I told my companion to go home and he started in that direction. When we returned that evening he was nowhere to be found. A few days later a good neighbor told us that he had found my buddy by the tracks and had taken him home and buried him.

While I was growing up I was never able to allow myself to become attached to another pet. This was fine with my mother since when we left Roy we always lived in houses with small yards and she didn’t believe that animals should be allowed in the house. Also, my pleadings for another dog were never very heart felt nor sincere.

As I now look back I can see that my lack of personal experiences with live pets being replaced with vicarious movie type experiences was my loss, a loss which in many ways I will always regret and which can never be recovered.

I do remember a few gold fish and maybe a turtle, but never a pet who became a buddy and a companion.


Sunday, January 22, 2012


Thankfully, the days when I have felt a bit of motivational dampening despair have been relatively few during my life. I think one of the reasons I have been fortunate enough to minimize my down times, is that in my early years, I was a constant consumer of biographies of men and women who became my heroes and at least for short bursts, my mentors.

One of the biographies I remember was that of Robert Edwin Peary, who became the first recorded man to reach the North Pole. Robert grew up in a household without a father and spent his early years finding his role models and heroes in the written word. After reading about the adventures of Elisha Kane in the Northlands, Peary set his major goal for life – he was going to reach the North Pole.

Years later his history records these events, which took place at Fort Conger during his first attempt to reach the North Pole, near the northern tip of Greenland. A capsule of these days reads like this. Peary is in an abandoned cabin lying on his back in pain. A few days before in the frozen wasteland he had eaten the last of his biscuits and beans. A dog had been killed to sustain the group. Finally, they were able to stumble back into the little cabin. Removing his boots Peary found his toes frozen. For six weeks he lay in dreary darkness in the frozen north in agonizing pain. In the midst of all this he turned on his side and wrote with his finger on the cabin wall these words of the ancient philosopher Seneca: “I shall find a way or make one.”

As it is said, the rest of the story is history. After giving seven toes and almost his life, after two unsuccessful trips, Peary at the age of fifty-two finally made a way. Using a boat with thirty inch thick walls, enduring the stench of seventy tons of whale meat, the companionship of forty-six howling and fighting dogs, Robert Edwin Peary in April of 1909 made the North Pole yield up its loneliness.

In a day when many have fallen captive to the opium of the dole, we would all do well to fill the motivational part of our memories with examples and heroes like Peary.

In a day when it is evident that there is an abundance of needs, why do we so often sit back mourning the lack of opportunity?

In a day when we see so many who are so quick to throw in the towel and yield to the dampening doldrums of despair, maybe we could all add those words of Seneca, which Peary wrote with his finger on the cabin wall in the frozen days at Fort Conger, “I will find a way or make one,” to the magnets, cartoons and children’s drawings which decorate our refrigerators.

Indeed, opportunities abound. There is a world to feed and clothe. There are tremendous social, emotional and economic problems to be solved. There are crimes which need to be eliminated and laws which need to be modified. There are heads which hang down and arms which need lifting up.

Indeed, the world is deeply in need of new discoverers – those who will pay the price to make or find a better way – those who will march to places where none have ventured before.

Once we envision our days as days of blessings and boundless opportunities – we begin to gain a vision with eyes that see unknown horizons – we begin to broaden our understanding with ears tuned to the needs of mankind – we once again begin to build with callused hands – we begin to multiply our accomplishments with backs bent toward reaching our objectives – we once again realize that goals are not unfulfilled fantasies of youth, but goals are unreached realities of individuals and nations who have determined that they “can find a way or make one.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012


The summer after going through the third grade in American Falls, Idaho, our family made the move to Long Beach, California, where in September of that year I entered into the fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary.

This move brought about many life changing experiences, one of which was that, instead of having playgrounds of grass and dirt, the playground at Lincoln Elementary was completely covered with asphalt with the exception of the little fenced off area reserved for the kindergarten kids. In American Falls even the outdoor basketball courts had been dirt with patches of grass.

Lincoln Elementary also had an afternoon activity program which was conducted by the Recreational Department of the City of Long Beach. I spent most of my afternoons enjoying the activities provided by this program. Actually, during the fourth grade I mainly spent my two hours after school playing kickball with an occasional excursion to the tether ball ring. Our afternoon kickball games always started with the laborious task of choosing up sides.

There was no way that the activity coordinators could leave this task up to the eager kickers. If they were left without supervision the ‘good kickers’ somehow always ended up on the same team. When the coordinator lined the kids up and counted 1, 2, 1, 2 … the ‘good kickers’ always somehow had an ‘average kicker’ on both sides of them in line. (The ‘bad kickers’ always sat at the picnic type tables and did crafts or played board games)

The coordinators continually had to create new ways of choosing teams in order to try to keep some sort of competitive balance. With all their creative attempts the ‘good kickers’, even when on opposite teams, found a way to keep their friends ‘safe’ by missing catches and letting balls escape them.

I don’t think these experiences permanently scarred me or any of the ‘kick ballers’, but I do know that throughout my life I have been very aware that the phenomena of ‘choosing sides’ exists in almost all facets of our lives.

Tacitus, a Roman historian, who in his Histories chronicled the tumultuous times of the Empire during the years 69 and 70 of the Common Era, said “When a ruler once becomes unpopular all his acts, be they good or bad, tell against him.”

In the political arena we find that strategic statements made by candidates as they vie to gain their party’s nomination become fodder to fuel the flames of fury which engulf them as they enter the general elections. Once a winner is determined, it will matter little whether their decisions are sound or silly, all those who were (2’s) when the choosing was finished will find nothing but fault in all that is said and done by the (1’s). If the results were reversed the negativity would still be a consuming constant.

When a long time union is dissolved by divorce or separation, sides are immediately chosen usually along the lines of common DNA. From the moment the decree is written, right and wrong are no longer matters of reality, but one of relationship. Long time friendships are ended and the rotten (2) suddenly becomes someone whose reputation should be trashed and muddied, no matter how sterling their character was previously. In areas of disputation (1) will always carry the day.

Adherents of religious beliefs, who weekly read and listen to words of love and common kinship, when encountering one of another belief will invariably seek to be right rather than righteous. In any disputed doctrine the (1’s) will always find shortcomings in the doctrines and ritual of the (2’s) and visa-versa.

Economic social groups find the sides they choose to be surrounded by are as distinct as the bottom line on their tax returns. The wealthy (1or 2) continually talk of the poor (1or 2) as if they were all lazy and indolent underachievers, while the poor (1or 2) are sure that most people of wealth (1 or 2) have what they have because of some accident of birth or because they were willing to sacrifice principle for profit.

We could go on citing examples of how we all choose sides depending on the schools we have attended, sports teams we support, the relative beauty of the dominant pigmentation of our skin, how high on the hill we live, the country of origin of our ancestors and even the correctness of the age we are currently passing through contrary to the dismalness of another’s years. It seems as if we are constantly lining up to choose sides. If I have been chosen to be a (1) I will almost always walk contrary to your (2). If you think of yourself as a (1) you will most often see me as a (2) to be walking a crooked path.

Most of us have dreams about living in a utopian society where we will all live in peace, but most of us secretly feel that this will only happen when you desert your side and make an effort to be more like me and mine.

The apostle John in his first epistle gave the following counsel. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” “Herein is our love made perfect, that ye may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4: 20, 7, 8, 17)

So there it is, it matters little if thee become like me or I become like thee, it is imperative that we both choose to become like He.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A NEW YEAR – A NEW ME (part 2)

Lloyd C. Douglas, in his novel Magnificent Obsession, gave a warning to those who have felt the stirrings and yearnings from within to jump off of the sand pile and follow the path which leads to better way. “If the thing hasn’t gripped you a little by now – think no more about it – if, however, you seriously wish to proceed, let me counsel you that you are taking hold of high tension: Once you have touched it, you will never let it go – if you are of the temperament that demands self-indulgency to keep you happy and confident to do your work – and many inestimably valuable people are so built and cannot help it anymore than tall people can help being tall – leave this alone and go your way. For if you make an excursion into this, you’re bound: It will plaster a mortgage on everything you think you own and commandeer your time when you might prefer to be using it for yourself – it is very expensive – it took one man who discovered it to the cross at the age of thirty-three.”

I find it interesting, that even though the literature of the ages is proliferated with the new and everlasting doctrine which brings peace, contentment and joy to all who embrace it, each generation seems to glory in the need to redevelop and redefine how to use every tool in the shed.

Life’s greatest secrets of happiness are not buried under hills of sand, but are liberally available on the pages of the Torah, expounded in the Koran, found in the sayings of Confucius, overflow the teachings of the Dalai Lama and fill the verses of the Bible. Nevertheless, down through all the generations of time there seem to be only a relative few who are willing to pay the price to truly make these universal truths which lead to joy a reality in their lives.

Many have attempted to describe the principles of the eternal truths which have the power to remove men from the shakiness of the shifting sands of life and plant them upon the foundations of the eternities. However, He who millions have proclaimed as Master, best expressed the rallying cry of the revolution in these words, “He who shall lose his life shall surely find it.”

Somehow I must lose that part of me that demands that everything in the home must be predicated on making my life fit for a king and become one who seeks for the happiness and fulfillment of those I am privileged to call family.

Somehow I must lose that part of me that only feels fulfilled when I hear shouts and whispers of adulation and acclaim and become one who seeks to lift heads that are bowed and strengthen arms that have become weak.

Somehow I must lose that part of me that only finds satisfaction when I see my own mountain of sand grow higher and seek to become one who finds a way for my troubled neighbor to have a few grains added to his meager pile.

Somehow I must lose that part of me that only feels fulfilled when I hold the scepter and when my words are law and become one who finds value in the words of wisdom as they fall from the lips of the smallest child.

Those lucky few who follow the Savior’s counsel, that finding that their true life is dependent upon the sacrificing of their selfness, will discover that true joy in life will never come from striving to be ‘King of the Hill’ but will come from seeking the path which leads to the ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’

I hope that each of us this year will take hold of that high tension – and never let it go – becoming bound by the wonderful excursion – gripped by the magnificent obsession.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


‘Little People,’ Joseph Smith said, “are fond of using tools before they are able.” The prophet said these words after having observed the propensity of men to attempt to take upon themselves power and authority while lacking knowledge, skill and understanding of life’s true purposes.

This characteristic manifests itself in the schoolyard game of ‘King of the Hill,’ a game sometimes played by youngsters as they joyfully tumble on a pile of sand, a game which sadly is all too often played for popularity, position and power upon the sand piles of life. This game can only be won by pulling another person down.

It must be one of the world’s most exciting and thrilling games for most never lose their zeal for playing even though the school grounds have long ago been left far behind. We may set new boundaries, we may choose new teams and we may even play on a new sand pile, but the pull of the game seems to constantly intrigue us.

Two young lovers wed and almost immediately start turning their new nest into a sand box where roles, traditions, and procedures are determined by domination or cleverness.

We enter into a vocation and our dream job almost immediately becomes a perpetual growing pile of sand where daily tugging and struggling toward the top overshadows all altruistic desires which were once part of the dream.

Our periods of recreation are dominated by piles of sand which are continually made more daring and frightening where enjoyment is mocked by standardizing and regulating the quest.

We witness our political leaders maximizing their individual importance by throwing sand upon all in their arena as they clamor for a spot of importance upon the pile.

We go to places of worship because we think we find there a pile of sand we believe to be whiter and purer than the dingy pile of our neighbors.

It is a singularly sad state, that the people of the world not only tolerate, but seem to support and heap accolades upon those who become most expert in the real life game of ‘King of the Hill.’ We continually praise those who have clawed their way to the top of the pile by stomping on the lives and reputation all they had to pull down to get to the top of the heap. We cast upon them our meager grains of sand at the ballot box. We melt our meager quantity of sand and mold statues of glass to add to their self-generated loftiness. We change our bits of sand into gold and willingly add it to their mountainous mass.

Is the die so permanently cast that we can never break the chains of competition, can never loose ourselves from the slavery of success by survival, can never look beyond the restraints of relative recognition and, therefore, remain trapped in the game of ‘I can only win because you lose?’

A plan exists, which could become an active revolution, but since it decries the supremacy of the game of ‘King of the Hill,’ it seldom is recognized today as a viable alternative. We can be assured, however, the revolution is active and alive, silently manifesting itself in the lives of individuals who have come to understand how the tools of life are to be used.