Sunday, September 30, 2012


Looking out over the vastness, the Ancient One paused in his journey to wonder if any other man had ever sat upon this peak and looked down through the forested canyons to the meadowlands stretching out below. Being so high, he felt no need to extend his hands in an attempt to touch the sky. Here so high on this uncharted trail he felt as if he had become one with the heavens, much like one feels when he enters the river to bathe.

Therefore, he simply entwined his fingers and silently gave a thought prayer to the Great Spirit for allowing him this precious experience.

Since the dawn of man, the quest for new experiences has driven some to expand their borders beyond the fences of their ancestors. Across a river – over a mountain – beyond the sea – ever pushing outward on this limited sphere until they were left with the desire to see the unseen to know the unknown while still shackled to a tiny ball in the vastness of the universe.

In the now of our existence only a select few are privileged to venture into the closest unchartered regions of space’s new frontier. I suspect these modern explorers often take time during their journeys to sit in awe as they take in the beauties of this world as it is viewed from a celestial perspective. Looking past this little orb their vision extends through the forest of stars and stretches to the endless galaxies. Truly having become one with the heavens, they are often silently left breathless while giving gratitude to the Creator for allowing them these precious moments.

What of those who unadventurously remain in the valleys below, behind their restrictive walls, planting, caring and harvesting the grain needed to sustain the explorations of dispensations? Have they no dreams of unknown lands? Do not they also desire to go where none have gone before? We share alike this thirst for water from virgin fountains. We also long for meat spiced with foreign savors. We also pine to place our feet on untrod grassy meadows.

Caution – go slow, oh man of the valley. Many have been deceived. Many have thought they might be able to accidentally find that moment when they sample the sublime existence by rushing headlong here and everywhere thinking perhaps that the busyness of doing would eventually result in some rapturous reward.

Remember – those moments of explorational grandeur have come to ancient and modern ones only after many years of dwelling and sweating in the valleys and a subsequent long climb. No one is born on the other side of their secure station.

Dream – if there is no thought of what might be beyond, there is no hope of breaching whatever confines us within our limited surroundings.

Plan – the goal must be clearly envisioned if it is to be recognized once we arrive at the mountain top. And when the summit is reached what will we do then?

Unshackle – if we are not willing to accept the surprises of new discoveries we will remain shackled no matter how far we might wander or what new lands we might discover.

Thankfulness – no matter how strong our desire to reach the highest peaks and how great our efforts which allow us to sit in the heavens, we must forever appreciate we were allowed to get there because of those laboring in the valleys with broken backs and blistered hands.

Patience – there are many cluttered, overgrown obscure steps between the valley floor and the clear extended vistas on the mountain tops. If we are willing to pay the price, having a clear vision of what we desire, we must still go forth with patience. One step – one line – another step – another line!

Integrity – many have been fooled into taking shortcuts and bypasses only to find all too late that they have gone astray and ended up in lands of cloudy vision, murky waters and superfluous petitions.

The day will come when valley workers and adventurous explorers will sit upon some golden dome and together become one with all. Then all will bow with reverence to give respect to Him who has made all things possible to those who truly seek.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


There were a few decades of my life where I had many opportunities to speak to youth groups several times a month. One of the strangest requests, for a subject to be addressed, was when I was asked to speak on Satan, the very Devil himself. I didn’t know whether to feel complimented or insulted that I was looked on as one who knew enough about Beelzebub, that I would be able to enlighten others
Examining just a few scriptural references we find him referred to as the slanderer, demon, adversary, spoiler, father of lies, and the wicked one. In Revelation 12:9 it is declared that he deceives the whole world. The prophet Lehi said in 2 Nephi 2:27 that the devil seeketh to use his power to make all men miserable like unto himself.

It seems the ultimate irony that the whole world could lie in a stupor of deception because of his lies while he constantly desires to propagate misery. If a person’s misery was forever on the increase one would think they would try to break the bonds of deception which authored their suffering. But alas, therein lays the secret of deception; to accomplish it in such a manner that the target is unaware of their increasing misery. In 2 Nephi 28:21 Nephi proclaims “He will pacify them, and lull them away into a carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well – and thus the devil cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

Although I never want to be an expert on the subject, I do think it is important to pause periodically to ponder a few of the powerful deceptive tools which Satan has put in play upon the whole world and which are active today.

Deception 1
It is OK to put aside strict adherence to the principle of honesty when defending one’s political, economic or religious prejudices, especially if it strengthens my case and weakens others.

Deception 2

If others would be more civil I could easily control my emotions and would never have to worry about becoming angry.

Deception 3
Devastation, destruction and death are methods which can be used to bring peace, love and joy to the inhabitants of the world.

Deception 4

My decisions are my own and I alone will suffer the consequences; therefore, my life’s patterns should be of no concern to family, friends or

Deception 5
Those who accumulate the most stuff in life are the happiest and are the ultimate winners.

Deception 6
Everyone’s circumstance in life is a result of right or wrong choices; therefore, everyone has the individual responsibility to make the needed changes to rectify their positions.

Deception 7
Success in life comes as a result of being cleverer than your competition, even if that cleverness comes about through decisions bordering on deception.

Deception 8
Flattery is never bad since it makes others feel good and always results in an increased positive opinion of the flatterer.

Deception 9
Good and evil are relative to circumstances and it is an individual’s prerogative to determine their own standards.

Deception 10
Everyone’s birthright includes without a price to be paid, all rights, privileges and riches which all others enjoy.

Something to be aware of: There are some scriptural indications that once a person is added to the rolls of those who are deceived they themselves become propagators of deception.

For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, wherefore they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven – These things should be attended to with great earnestness. (Doctrine and Covenants 123: 12-14)

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The boulders in the vacant lot next to our church building in Pocatello, Idaho were so enticing to play among. The scar on the inside of my right wrist is a forever reminder that among the wonderful rocks were hazards left from carelessly tossed bottles by negligent strollers. The sound of the nearby Snake River made it easy to imagine we were exploring in a wilderness far away from home.

Climbing down the waterfall in the park across from our home in American Falls, Idaho and riding across the expanse of the park’s range on our imaginary horses as Hoot Gibson or Red Ryder filled many delightful days with my friend, Ivan Charles. Later in life it mattered little how the height of the waterfall had shrunk or the acreage of the park had diminished the fond memories remained bright.

The corner lot behind the drug store and barbershop on Willow Street in Long Beach, California became a universal field for the whole neighborhood. In season we challenged each other in games of football and baseball. Basketball was always played in one of the two driveway courts with their rickety backboards and bent rims. It was sad when our skills brought restrictions from the owners of the corner stores because of the doubles bouncing off the back walls of their establishments and we had to retreat to Lincoln elementary school down the block. There was always the core four of us to whom it mattered not at all that we went to church in congregations filled with Jews, Catholics, Methodists or Mormons.

Whether we were walking along railroad tracks or wandering the banks of the flood control we were always on our way to some far off city. Cities never reached except in our minds. When we heard them mentioned on the radio or read about them in the newspaper, they were places we had visited. Those were days when being with that special friend was always more meaningful because the joys of the moment were shared with so many.

These and many other events of my early life which happened as I grew up will never be historically significant enough to be chronicled in the archives of the great events of the American movement. Nevertheless, they are tremendously important to me and what I am today. I become increasingly convinced that what we are today is, in many ways a now statement reflecting the impact of all the then statements of our eternal yesterdays.

If today the world seems to us to be full of shut doors and critical people, it is probably due to the collection of denied opportunities from doubting and fearful stewards who have etched their prejudices upon one’s life’s journal.

However, if today’s world seems to us to be full of open doors and opportunities, it is probably due to the collection of non-preorganized opportunities provided by positive stewards who have etched their influences upon one’s life’s journal.

It is all too easy to look back on life from one’s personal perspective and say yea, thus it is – thus it should be for all. However, reality demands that there probably is no best way to grow up or one sure way to insure a life full of positive remembrances.

All of that being said, it is wonderful to look back on life with gratefulness for all the then factors which allow me now to be at peace:

Living in a time and place which provided the safety, freedom and grandeur where unsupervised memorable experiences could be enjoyed.

Blessed with parents who under-scheduled my formative years, leaving me with the free self-time which could be spent as I desired exploring the verities of my surroundings.

Having teachers who sought to stimulate minds unrestricted by mandated lesson plans, daily providing lessons which could be constantly adapted to accommodate a cornucopia of ever expanding ideas and ideals.

Attending church where values were taught which gave perimeters to life’s choices which provided the balances necessary for agency to continue and to flourish.

The world turns and the boulders, waterfalls, vacant lots and friends which are my then have hopefully become the now of another generation. I know that the world is indeed a different place than the one I grew up in when I was free to explore the hills on the west side of Pocatello, Idaho where I came to realize I had a real disdain for all snakes and most creepy crawlies.

As I watch the NOW children being rushed from league to league and lesson to lesson under the guise of giving them every opportunity to develop and advance, I can’t help but wonder when they have time to eat the figs and persimmons off the wild trees on the vacant lots of their lives. It becomes understandable why they often turn to artificial means to escape the constancy of life’s demands.

I would hope that the children of NOW might in some way find paths to explore in a land as free and grand and full of pitfalls as that of yesteryear's.

I would hope that the parents of the NOW children might un-schedule some time in their daily activities so that this generation might also have time for some self-exploration of the earth’s verities.

I would hope that the teachers of the NOW children would seek spaces within the mandated curriculum's of today, where they can stimulate their minds with ideas and ideals which will influence future generations.

I would hope that the churches of the NOW children would provide balancing perimeters from their pulpits which will insure the continuation of agency.

Hard questions arise, which need reviewing often. Perhaps providing answers wherein might lie the responsibility and legacy of history – providing the opportunity to those who follow time to explore the positive ‘thens’ which will lead to future peaceful ‘nows.’

Sunday, September 9, 2012


While reading a talk given by Spencer W. Kimball in the summer 2012 issue of BYU Magazine I was once again stirred into thinking about the purpose of life and what are some of the really important things we should be doing while in our mortal state. Quoting the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Kimball reminded us that “Man was created to dress the earth, to cultivate his mind, and to glorify God.”

Dress the Earth

Smokey the Bear will have to get the initial credit as he boldly taught us to care for the forests we had been blessed with. He growled at us and said we should always leave our camp areas cleaner than when we arrived and never forget to put out our camp fires. My parents added to the concept with their insistence that if anything was worth doing it was worth doing well. They even applied this ditty to pulling weeds in the garden and the flower beds. Kathleen continues to try to show me that the whole earth is a campground and that where ever we are and where ever we go our traces should be erased along with those thoughtlessly left by others. Even golfers are taught that repairing your own divot on the green should be accompanied by the reparation of other divots which might have been left unattended.

Interestingly, the real impact on my mind about dressing the earth as an important part of our mortal passage came while I was reading Everyman’s Talmud (there was no way I would ever be able to make it through the Talmud on my own). Anyway, while reading in Everyman’s Talmud, I was especially moved by the section which taught that the Lord, when he created the earth, deliberately left his work unfinished and then said to Adam that it was his responsibility to dress the garden. Isn’t it interesting that even the Garden of Eden which was reportedly spectacularly beautiful needed to be tended? The teachings of Judaism include the concept that the work was left unfinished with the intention that as part of their earthly probation his children would finish the work. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of each of us to make sure that our little corner of the garden is more beautiful because we dwelt upon it. The Talmud insists that there will be an accountability regarding how well we have cared for the land the Lord God has given us.

Living in Mission Viejo, California I am daily reminded about the possibilities of making the desert blossom like a rose. As I drive down the year-round flowering, vegetation lined streets I witness the fulfillment of man’s beatifying capabilities. I think dress is a very appropriate word to use in describing our responsibility toward mother earth. I envision that the Lord intended that we should dress her in the finest available trappings.

Cultivate the Mind

Ironically, it was near the end of my formal educational process while working on my Doctorate and attending a workshop in Flint, Michigan that the importance of ‘Cradle to Grave’ education finally impacted me. I have written about that experience previously, so I won’t bore those who read it previously with the details. It is sufficient to report that it was during those two weeks I committed myself to a life of cultivating the mind. Finally, after spending the first 32 years of my life in a fairly concentrated string of formal educational experiences, I then knew I had just been being taught how to learn and that now the real excitement of cultivating the mind could begin.

I don’t know to whom to give the credit, but I am sure that like most things in life it was not an original idea. When I was left to my own devices to continue my learning, it came to me that there were some areas of the endless fields before me where I would want to spend a lot of time and there were others where I would barely walk the surface. Somehow I knew I would be aided in making the decisions of whether to linger and dig deeply into a certain field or just gaze about and move on. Louis L’Amour required only a superficial glance as I worked through 91 of his books. However, my latest task of going through the ten year course of the Great Books of the Western World has kept me constantly with a shovel in my hand. Now that I am well into the 6th year of wandering through all the volumes which make up this collection I realize that there are many of the writers who have contributed to western thought which I have placed in the Louis L’Amour camp and other whose words have become like unto scripture to me.

For me, both depth of study and breadth of exploration are important to keep the cultivation of one’s mind fresh and exciting. There are studies which we do because of personal interest and others which we do because we know they will impact us in a positive way. My monthly reading of Golf Digest is an example of the former while the Scriptures and the words of the living prophets would be examples of the latter.

One of the great blessings we have been given is the ability to process symbols and words and have them formulate ideas in our minds. Like most blessings we show our greatest appreciation when we use and magnify them.

Glorify God

I could easily brush off this part of Joseph’s trilogy of reasons for our existence by simply stating who am I that I might think I could ever add glory to Him who is all glory? I could substitute praise for glory and therefore fulfill this direction though hymns and speech. Ultimately, I must come to the conclusion that if I am even remotely to be able to Glorify God it will have to be through striving to emulate His attributes, characteristics and perfections.

Just as I honor my earthly parents by holding to the good in their lives and making it part of my own, just as I show my admiration for those who have mentored me by taking from their teachings and making my life more meaningful, in this same way, it may be possible to glorify God by trying to see through the glass darkly and behold his light and allow it to shine through me.

It might just be possible that as I treat others as He would treat them, as I publish peace, as I sing and witness of Him, as I daily try to be like Him in some small way I am moving toward what Joseph said I needed to do to Glorify God.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


In light of all the superficial interest Mitt Romney’s run for president of the United States has brought about Mormons (not an officially recognized name for the Church or its adherents), I thought it would be worthwhile to reintroduce a thought I wrote many years ago while preparing for a weekly radio show called Sabbath Day Reflections. There are a few of you who have already recognized that periodically I revisit these mini radio sermons as a basis for my Thoughts for a Sabbath Day. So if you have the time and the self-published little books, I challenge you to find this one.

Anyway, some years ago I read a publication on the early life of Joseph Smith by Ernest Taves. He titled his book Trouble Enough: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon with a subtitle of “An expose of a charismatic liar.” Taves, a psychiatrist and also a contributor to Playboy and Galaxy, came to the conclusion that Mormonism, (which I think, in this case, is a substitute word for the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ) like other Christian religions, ought to modernize its doctrines and renounce the antiquated teachings of its pioneer fathers. With deep sincerity he invites Latter-day Saints “to join the rest of the world.” I guess I should be flattered that he is willing to include Latter-day Saints as part of Christianity, but becoming what he envisioned the rest of the world should be, was far from what my understanding of what defined a person as a Christian.

As I pondered his modernization of Christianity I found that in order to comply with his request the following changes would be required in my life
1. I would need to relinquish the comfort and security which comes from the knowledge of a personal Heavenly Father, believing instead in an impersonal absentee creator or some other theory which might arise about our existence.

2. I would need to move from the belief in individual accountability where everyone is responsible through their use of agency, becoming an excuse-tion-ist joining the crowd which makes up the blaming, non-guilt, non-responsible modern world.

3. Abandoning my belief in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the universal resurrection, becoming cynical about what awaits me beyond the portals of death and live with gusto as I only go around once.

4. I would need to put aside the counsel and commandments of an Omniscience Savior which defined the life which would maximize happiness in mortality and bring eternal joy, believing instead that everyone has sufficient intellect to determine the boundaries and laws of their existence without antiquated restraints.

5. I would need to repent of the understanding that before coming to mortality I rejoiced with all of Heavenly Father’s children about the possibilities awaiting me on this beautiful planet and the eventual eternalness of my existence must be wiped away and replaced with the dismal belief in the temporariness of our three score and ten years troding along earth’s muddy paths.

6. I would need to deny the existence of living prophets who are inspired by an Eternal Lord to aid the children of the earth though revelation which continually keeps them congruent with a changing world, helping them make correct and joy-producing decisions. Instead I should be content to wander through the constant decision-making processes of life using the help of less enlightened men making educated guesses.

7. I would need to put aside the organization which teaches, inspires, entertains and strengthens my posterity so that their choice to turn to using drugs, embracing immorality, unabated rebellion and ever seeking excitement might be freely lived without any mediating influences
8. I must replace the teachings of the scriptures from which I find hope for the brotherhood of man and an admonition to become my brother’s keeper and enter the concrete jungle where all are fair prey in my quest to survive and succeed.

9. Of necessity I would need to develop a political philosophy that politics are to be used for individual aggrandizement and corporate advancement and abandon my beliefs that patriotism, honor, love of freedom and peace are a preferable alternative and that governments exist to insure these privileges for all.

10. The rights to an eternal marriage which was solemnized in the Temple of the Lord must be forgotten along with the promises which bind and solidify my spouse and our posterity. In its place I could need a pre-marital divorce contract, which would ensure that my unfaithful spouse would not rip off my temporal belongings when, not if, we divorced.

I am sure that my list could extend and become more numerous if I were to continue to ponder upon what I might have to give up if I were to join the rest of the Mr. Taves’ world, but I do have my limit of 10 to contend with and my conclusions would remain. I must with clear conscience decline Mr. Taves’ invitation to join his world and with joyfulness of heart continue in my devotion to the time-proven doctrines and teachings of my pioneer fathers.

Just a personal observation: Being a devout people watcher I want to declare that over the years, since I first read Earnest Taves book, I have witnessed that most of the people I have come into contact with have rejected his modernization invitation and generally unashamedly tread the paths their forefathers trod.