Sunday, August 26, 2012


My sixth grade teacher, who was one of those who influenced my choice of careers, left a lasting impression on almost all of his students because of his rapport, enthusiasm and inventiveness in the classroom.

I remember that during one science unit we were trying to understand what caused plants to live, thrive and grow. Mister Beeson had the class set up the experiment so that we were able to watch the effect light, water and plant food would have on plants as they were exposed to various amounts of these elements. The process started with four young plants of the same variety in four different pots.

Plant A – Was named Patricia because it was to be the most spoiled plant, receiving perfectly measured amounts of light, water and plant food.

Plant B – Was named John because it was to be isolated, like some students do during recesses. It was put in the closet in the dark, but was give measured amounts of water and plant food.

Plant C – Was named Fred because it was to have nothing to do with water but was kept in the light and given plant food.

Plant D – Was eventually named Sally, as it became thinner and thinner, received light and water, but no food.

I don’t think we would have been able to name the plants in this day and age, since the names may have been attached because they resembled some characteristics of members of the class. I don’t remember for sure, but the names may have been attached by some of the insensitive boys in the class, while Mister Beeson had only labeled them with the generic A – B – C – D.

Within a very few days we were able to see the effects of the lack of even one of the essential life-giving elements upon the plants. Great sorrow came upon the class as first Fred, who dried up from thirst found his way to the garbage can. Then John, who we first saw turn from green to brownish-yellow, then became pale and wilted all alone in his dark closet was also relegated to the garbage can. Finally Sally, trying to live in soil which little by little had all the life sustaining minerals washed away, expired and was dumped. Only Patricia, who was constantly pampered with light, water and plant food, grew to become a vital plant with blooms of bright red.

Somewhere long after even Patricia had gone the way of all living things, I became aware that the Savior had taught that these three elements which are essential for all living things are also essential for the spiritual growth of those who would choose to follow Him. On different occasions He proclaimed that He was the light of the world and that from Him flowed the living waters and the bread of life.

It doesn’t take long before we observe those who absent themselves from the light, water and food of the Savior, suffer this same drying, wilting and expiring in their lives which we had seen happening to the plants in our sixth grade science experiment.

In many ways, the same sorrow I felt as I saw the demise of John, Fred and Sally, I now feel for the many I watch wandering in darkness, thirsty and hungry because they have no way to access these essential saving elements on their own. Many, like those ill-fated plants remain in this condition because those who have a bit of the Savior’s light, water and food withhold these life-giving substances. Some withhold because they lack commitment to share – others because they lack a conviction of universal brotherhood – there are those who don’t give of their light, water and food because they are selfish and don’t understand the law of heaven which declares that by giving of that which they have, much like the widow who fed Elijah, will have their own meager supply magnified.

In the experiment of life I see another group who have all the elements of life available to them, but deliberately go about, turning away from the true light, stumbling in the dimness provided by inadequate man-made artificial bulbs. They drown themselves in syrupy liquids which leave them with unquenched souls while walking along the banks of eternal rivers. They gluttonously devour the bounties of earthly harvests which blanch their bones leaving them lying upon parched deserts, bordered by waving fields of life-giving manna.

Unlike Plant A – Patricia, that ultimately came to the inevitable end of all mortal lives there is but one way to reach the full bloom of eternal lives, which comes by being illuminated by the Light of the World, by drinking deeply from the Fountain of Living Water, and by feasting upon the Bread of Life.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


One of my favorite parts of the Book of Mormon takes place between the years 279 BC and 124 BC during the reign of the three prophet-kings, Mosiah, his son Benjamin and his grandson Mosiah. We don’t have a lot of detail of those days, but we know they lived according to the Plan of Happiness, their leaders labored with their own hands so that the people would not be burdened and they universally arrived at a point where the Lord Omnipotent wrought a mighty change upon their hearts so that they no longer had any disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Book of Mormon – pages 140-157)

Many of the religions of the world share the belief that the purpose of mortality is to go through a refining process which prepares us to share an existence in God’s presence. For example, Judaism adheres to the principle that mortality is a time to live a life worthy of living in God’s presence and that this will best be achieved by making the world we live in a better place because we were here. In Christianity we consider success on the path which leads to this return to God’s presence is found by following the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.

I have often pondered, if I am to follow the example of Jesus Christ, how much time should I be spending on overcoming my disposition to do evil?

The New Testament is adamant about the fact that His life was a perfect walk upon the path of doing good continually. Therefore, following His example should indicate a life, which like those Nephites of old, focuses not on overcoming evil, but on doing good continually. There is also a strong indication that mere mortals will, like He, need an abundance of divine intervention to be able to approximate His accomplishment.

Somewhere during the inevitable changes which seem to occur in the religions of the world the emphasis of repentance has drifted from a concentration on putting on good attributes and characteristics to a definite emphasis on overcoming the evil tendencies of mortals. For just a few minutes I would like to consider the original process of repentance or the striving to do good continually.

1. Rather than trying not to steal, rob and cheat I will strive to be honest in all my dealings.

2. Rather than trying not to use biting, harsh, critical words I will strive to speak words which edify and build.

3. Rather than trying to overcome hate and bigotry I will strive to develop a universal love for mankind.

4. Rather than trying not to put stumbling blocks and dig pits for my neighbor I will strive to make their pathways bright and build bridges to make their journeys easier
5. Rather than trying to overcome the lusts of the flesh I will strive to demonstrate true love to all by helping them become all they can become.

6. Rather than fighting the war against the propaganda of the world of junk food I will strive to treat my body as a temple and a gift from a loving Heavenly Father.

7. Rather than trying to control anger and its attending physical calamities I will strive to keep peace and calmness in of my life.

8. Rather than trying to eliminate coveting from my life I will strive to develop a greater degree of charity toward others.

9. Rather than cursing my brother for his differences I will strive to be grateful for the synergistic gifts which I enjoy because of those differences.

10. Rather than coercion, and compulsion I will strive to teach correct principles and allow all under my stewardships the privileges, responsibilities and accountability of agency.

11. Rather than trying to overcome pride I will strive to become humble.

Ten has always been my limit when trying to demonstrate a point, but my wonderful editor wanted me to add one more. Therefore, these eleven points should be more than sufficient to clarify what I have been thinking about.

A couple of personal observations:

As I have struggled and stumbled through the phases of my life I have come to realize that overcoming the evil I have been tempted with has been mainly an independent struggle with some help from others and some help from my loving Heavenly Father. However, in those hours which I have really concentrated on doing good continually I have come to realize that this path cannot be trod without divine intervention and guidance from the Holy Spirit. After all, this gift was wrought upon those ancient Nephites, they did not gain it by themselves.

As the phases of life have multiplied and the days remaining in mortality grow much shorter than those which are past, I realize that the Lord’s admonition from the mount to become perfect even as His Father in Heaven is perfect is a task I will be trying to fulfill well into the post mortal phases of my progression.

I realize now more than ever before that waiting for my neighbor to become saintly will in no way help my personal eligibility to dwell eternally with Heavenly Father, but if this mighty change is to bear fruit it must begin with me.

It took me a long time, but I have finally come to the realization that the positive work of trying to put on the attributes and characteristics of good is a much more pleasant and peaceful journey than when I was continually trying to overcome my disposition to do evil. It really is the very key to living according to the Plan of Happiness.

May the Lord bless us all with his sustaining grace as we strive to become as He is.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Every once in a while my thoughts drift into that marvelous idealistic land of ‘what if.’ This morning at breakfast Kathleen reported that while walking yesterday the question came up, whether Mohamed was a prophet or not. We had a short discussion on the subject, but the ‘what if’ portion of my mind went into gear and I knew I had to put what was going on in my brain down on paper.

The great Nephite prophet recorded some 2560 years ago that God had declared:

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? (2 Nephi 29:7)

‘What if’ – there is a Universal Father of all mankind? ‘What if’ – He has given His word unto all His children regardless of the spot on this small planet where they might have been born? And the big ‘what if.’ ‘What if’ – His children would adhere to and live lives in accordance to his word?

As the number of times I was privileged to teach the course on World Religions multiplied the more cemented the concept of a Universal Heavenly Father of all mankind became in my soul. The more I learned, the more I came to know that the fundamental teachings of the world’s religions contained more harmonious doctrines than conflicting ideologies.

BUDDHISM: If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him. “He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me” – in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease, - in those who do not harbor such thought hatred will cease. For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love – this is an old rule. (Man’s Religions page 136)

TAOISM: To those who are good to me I am good’ and to those who are not good to me, I am good; - and thus all get to be good. To those who are sincere with me, I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere with me, I am also sincere; - and thus all get to be sincere. (Man’s Religions page 256)

CONFUCIANISM: Tzu-Kung asked, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” (Man’s Religions Page 278)

ISLAM: There was a time, when I blamed my companion if his religion did not conform to mine; Now, however, my heart accepts every form; it is a pasture ground for gazelles, a cloister for monks, A Temple for idols and a Ka’bah for the pilgrim, that tables of the Torah and the sacred books of the Koran. Love alone is my religion. (Man’s Religion page 538)

CHRISTIANITY: “You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind.” That is the great and first command. There is a second like it: “You must love your neighbor as you do yourself.” These two commands sum up the whole of the Law and the Prophet.

Although this sampling is small I hope it will give an idea of why I have come to believe in a Universal Father who has given his word to all his children. Although the dust of ages may have dimmed the original brightness of word, the messages to all nations continue to burn in the embers left from their foundational blaze.

For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true. (Alma 29:8)

The big ‘what if’ – What if the universal brotherhood on this earth would live in accordance with the passages quoted in this Thought? Would the relationships of the earth not be improved? Would weapons of war finally be turned into plowshares? Would the lamb finally lie down by the lion?

I know that most of my ‘what if’ moments fade in the face of reality, but forevermore I will continue to have my heart set on the fulfillment of such ‘what ifs.’

I know that as long as my personal ‘what ifs’ fall short of being ‘what is’ – the universal adherence to the word of our Heavenly Father cannot be brought to pass.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


There is a general belief that all the new stuff is better than all the old stuff.

We just bought a new refrigerator. I wonder if it will last 50 plus like the one we bought just after we got married. While we were at the store we also replaced our dishwasher which quit on us last year. I wonder if it will last the 40 plus years like the old one. We just donated our 1994 Saturn to charity. I wonder if our Prius will still be running when it is 18 years old.

I don’t intend to spend my limited thoughts on appliances and junkies, but the old stuff I really want to write about is why speaking in church has been replaced by reading, why teaching in Sunday School has been replaced by showing videos and having students read prepared statements.

I don’t know when it started; maybe it was with the advent of Teleprompters, but somewhere along the timeline of my life, eye contact and speaking what was in one’s heart got replaced by eyes glue to text resting on pulpits and reading a series of quotes which originated with someone else.

Hint # 1 – A few words spoken under the influence of the Spirit are of more value than volumes ramblingly read.

Hint # 2 – When you look into the eyes of the congregation their attention level increases dramatically.

Somewhere along the line, assigned times for speaking got lost in the necessity of reading all I have prepared as if it were my ‘last lecture.’

Hint # 1 – A double spaced type written page takes a minimum of three minutes to read. If I have 7 pages of single spaced material it will take me 42 minutes to read them.

Hint #2 – If there are three speakers assigned and only 36 minutes left in the meeting I have a maximum of 12 minutes to speak (read) my talk.

Somewhere along the line, elocution got replaced by run-on sentences, mumbling and speeding through the words on the page.

Hint # 1 – Communication only takes place if words are understood and have meaning in their context.

Hint # 2 – Speaking in church is not an intimate conversation in a car and microphones do not make up for hushed mumbled phrases.

While I have your attention let me leave the pulpit and go into the Sunday School classrooms. I don’t know when it started. Maybe it was with the mesmerizing effect of the tube or maybe it waited for flat screens. It seems that sometimes, meaningful teaching has been replaced with an attitude that baking cookies for refreshments and putting on an entertaining show were the most important attributes in the classroom.

Somewhere along the line, talented Sunday School teachers got replaced by video operators and assigners of reading from slips of paper.

Hint # 1 – Teaching is an art which when done properly will cause students to think, internalize and expand upon the original thought given by the
teacher. Without meaningful exchange between the teacher and student learning cannot exist.

Hint # 2 – Meaningful thoughtful questions about what is read or viewed are more important to the learning process than the material in the video or what is written on the slip of paper.

Somewhere along the line, audio/visual resources became time fillers rather than stimuli for learning exchanges.

Hint # 1 – Before showing any video or reading any material the teacher should ‘sign post’ what the student should look for in the video or in the written word.

Hint # 2 – After any video or reading the teacher should have follow up questions to make sure the message of the material was understood and become meaningful to the student.

Somewhere along the line, lecturing has replaced the meaningful Socratic exchanges between teachers and students.

Hint # 1 – No other method will ever replace the effect of meaningful exchange of ideas between two people.

Hint # 2 – Students will remember more about who teachers are than what they might have taught.

Well there you have it. Along with appliances and cars I believe it is strongly possible that new methodologies of speaking and teaching may not be better than the old methods.