Sunday, December 29, 2013


Now that we have explored some of the historicity of Christmas I want to put forth the case for those who feel no need to apologize for lights dangling from the eves of their houses in June or for Christmas decorations which still linger well after Boxing Day.

I feel no need to contend with those who have established a certain event or date when Christmas season is to officially begin. I believe all should have the privilege to celebrate how and when they wish. I have even heard it expressed in my own home that now that we have had the First Presidency Christmas Devotional from Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Christmas season has begun. Another might decide to start with the clearing of the Thanksgiving Feast table. Some may appoint Black Friday as the beginning. I think I repeat myself.


Let me spend some time explaining why my Christmas celebration has MANY days.

When I was very young I don't remember individual days being counted. There was just a time of anticipation where days were spent looking through the wish books, (Sears and J. C. Pennys catalogues) sneaking into closets and attics and shaking and squeezing of packages in Christmas ruining routines. The days of anticipation slowly moved to the morning of actualization when with swiftness packaging was shredded revealing previously discovered treasures and an occasional Santa surprise. The agonizing days of anticipation which quickly dissolved in moments of ripping were all too often followed by a selfish feeling of ‘is that all there is to Christmas?’

As my childhood years morphed into what I then thought of as the wonderful teen years, the last few months of the year changed into a calendar full of parties which seemed to begin sometime around Halloween and didn't end until the New Year’s Dance decorations had been taken down. Christmas became just another time to gather with friends and family enjoying food and company until one was overstuffed with both.

During the time when I was on active duty as a reservist in the United States Army and the time I spent serving a mission for my church in Northern Mexico, was when my realization and conversion to the concept that Jesus born of Mary in Bethlehem was indeed Christ the Savior and my Many Days of Christmas begin to expand dramatically.

With parenthood I found that during the days of anticipation my role had changed. I once was the hunter I and had now become the hider, on Christmas day I was now the one hoping that there was at least one present for each child which would be a surprise and when the day was over I was left with a feeling of gratefulness for the blessings we had been given.

As the days have continued to morph, to where they now leapingly bound in increasing velocity I find that it would be rather pointless to limit the celebration of birth of the Redeemer of the world to one day.


I am grateful that where once the carols, songs and hymns of Christmas could only be heard when the radio stations decided to play them, or when the chorister in church decided to select them, I now live in a day where hundreds and thousands of interpretations of Christmas music can be stored on devices not much bigger than a piece of chocolate and with a flick of the wrist I can shuffle through songs and artists every day of the year if I wish.

I am grateful that although the days when weeks were spent putting up decorations throughout our house have been minimized and in some cases eliminated because of the ravages of aging, I can put the stored pictures of those days gone by as my screen saver and once again be brightened by the remembrances every day of the year if I so desire.

I am grateful that the bounteous blessings of a loving Father in Heaven have so filled our home and our lives that it takes but a quick glance in any direction to discover and sometimes be surprised at the stuff which surrounds me and which has brought such great joy into my life. I can do this glancing every hour of every day if I wish.

I am grateful that the choices I have made in life and the blessings which have been poured down upon me have made it so that every day I can celebrate the birth, the life and the words of Jesus the Christ and learn to generously share the Lord’s abundance to others in need until that wondrous day we have ‘all things in common among us.’

There, now you have it, The Many Days of Christmas are now extended to the maximum of 365 days of every year.

And for those who feel that my fixation about Christmas robs from other holidays:

I find New Year’s Day to have greater reason to begin again because He was born on Christmas Day.

I find Valentine’s Day to be filled with greater love because He was born on Christmas Day.

I find Easter and the resurrection to have meaning because He was born on Christmas Day.

I find Patriotic and Memorial days to be more touching because He was born on Christmas day.

I find myself filled with more gratefulness on Thanksgiving because He was born on Christmas day.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Kathleen and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!

The candles had barely been snuffed in the jack-o-lantern when it started. The annual sniping by those who feel that Thanksgiving is being cheated by the early onslaught of Christmas’ commercialization. There is even chirping about how long we have to be bombarded with Christmas carols, songs and hymns. Other’s simply make us suffer with their not so silent, silent protests, as they refuse to display even a strand of tinsel until the turkey leftovers are eaten, frozen or discarded.

Even a very short investigation of the history of Christmas, whose celebration, by the way, out dates the celebration of Thanksgiving by almost two millennium, quickly brings to our attention that the elongation of Christmas celebration precedes trading posts, general stores, nickel and dime stores, department stores, malls, box stores and 99 cent stores.

We begin by ignoring such ancient calculators of days used by the Sumerians, Israelis, Mayans, Greeks, Vikings and Romans etc. We move boldly forward in our discussion of the Many Days of Christmas referencing only our present day modern calendar which is mostly a modified version of the Gregorian calendar which didn’t come into general use until 1582. It is hard to believe that even though the identification of a day has remained consistent with the sun’s rising and sinking, months and years have been defined in a variety of ways among the inhabitants of the same planet with the same sun and the same moon. Then we have the stepsister of measurements, the week, which was generally ignored on most calendars (except for Israel) until the Christian calendar Anno Domini set apart groups of seven days with the first day of each week being called Dominica or the Day of our Lord.

In the fourth century, St. Nicolas of Italy was a beloved priest who brought joy and happiness to children as an expression of his love of Christ. After his death many of his followers kept his name alive by a celebration where gifts were given to children in remembrance of his kindness. St. Nicolas’ Day eventually became universally celebrated on the 6th day of December of our modern calendar. Since St. Nicolas’ Day and Christmas fell so closely together the two celebrations were eventually merged into a day where the birth of Christ was celebrated by gifts being given on behalf of St. Nicolas and eventually by Santa Claus himself. We must hasten to say that in many nations the bearer of gifts is not St. Nicolas, but either Baby Jesus or the Christ Child or an angel sent by the Christ Child and thereby St. Nicolas is slowly losing his place in history all together. The miracle of technology which has brought the peoples of the earth closer in many ways is now making Santa Claus a more universally recognized bringer of the wonderful surprises on Christmas morning.

That should make some of you happy, we have now diminished our celebration of Christ’s birth to one day.

However, it seems that even Christmas Day comes at least twice a year depending on which calendar your Christian culture uses. There are those few nations who remain orthodox in their Christmas worship who celebrate the birth of the Savior on the 6th of January as we number the days on our modified Gregorian calendar. And then there is the rest of the Christian world who celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. There are even small denominations of Christians such as the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, but recognize the 6th day of April as the actual day of the Saviors birth. There are also many scholars who lean to spring time as the time of year of the His birth because of the Shepherd’s tending their flocks on the hill side.

Ironically, seeing that Christmas is celebrated on these two dates, the twelve days of Christmas are those days between the 25th of December and the 6th of January. If you celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December you call the 6th of January the day of Epiphany.

Now that we have historically extended the celebration of Christmas by 12 days, and if you haven't tired or rebelled against the lengthening of the days of Christmas which is taking place I will discuss how the days of Epiphany can extend our celebration even further.

The original meaning of Epiphany from the Greeks would be translated in English as ‘striking appearance.’ We use the words ‘Revelation of God’ in English as our meaning for the word Epiphany. The original Christians celebrated the Day of Epiphany as The Revelation of the Son of God as a human being in Jesus Christ. Most groups of Christianity today celebrate the Epiphany or the 6th of January as the day of the coming of the Magi to see the Baby Jesus. Eastern Christians use the day of Epiphany as a day to celebrate the baptism of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church then uses the 13th day of January or the eighth day after the Epiphany as the day to commemorate the baptism of Jesus. In the Roman Catholic Church the 13th of January, as a day to recognize the baptism of Jesus, has been changed to the first Sunday after Epiphany as the official day to celebrate His baptism.

If you are keeping score and are not completely befuddled, we have now extended celebration of Christmas day to either 13 or 20 days depending on when the first Sunday after the 6th of January falls.

Let us continue to add days to our Many Days of Christmas. In most of the Western and Mediterranean world the celebration of Christmas is preceded by the celebration of the Advent or the Celebration of First Coming of Christ and the Longing for the Second coming. Advent calendars can be seen in homes which are both humble and ornate, but there are but few who know the significance of the calendars. They come with little slip in pockets or with windows or doors which hide treasures as varied as gumdrops and diamonds. Those who are religious in their observance of the Advent using modern day Advent Calendars will celebrate each passing day with the setting of the sun by discovering a new hidden delight, starting on the 25th day before Christmas.

The Advent is also referred to as St. Martin’s Lent or Fast and for those who observe it correctly it is much like the observance of Lent in anticipation of Easter. St. Martin was the Bishop of Tours, France, in what our modern calendar dates as the mid fourth century. The fast begins with a festive fair and feast on the 11th of November and ends on the eve of the 24th of December. To save you the finger counting that’s an additional 40 days added to our remembrance of the Savior’s birth.

Our tally sheet now numbers 45, 60 or 53 days of Christmas celebration depending on when the first Sunday after the 6th of January falls and whether you use a traditional or modern Advent Calendar.

I have only just begun to count the Many Days of Christmas (to be continued}

Sunday, December 15, 2013


During the last few weeks I have been reading in the Old Testament historical books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. One of the continuing themes which occurs as the Lord struggles to keep David’s posterity upon the throne, is what seems to be an overwhelming need of successors to make themselves great by destroying all traces of predecessors.

Israel does not stand alone in this practice. We see incumbent Pharaohs chiseling the names of fathers and mothers off of all monuments and obelisks in the kingdom. The Babylonians were especially skilled in the art of erasing opposition, destroying conquered nations so extensively that they were assured that that enemy would never again be able to rise from the rubble to threaten.

Today the tide of thinking one can become great by undercutting and destroying the opposition seems to be rising in an ever threatening wave in all levels of society and upon all nations of the world. Children bully children on playgrounds and computers. Gangs roam streets seeking to eliminate any who might dare to invade their territory wearing another color. Careers are founded not on ability, but by pulling down those who preside. Leaders spend their days in efforts which will undermine the position of opponents rather than advancing principles which will benefit and strengthen.

No matter how long it has been going on nor how wide has been the proliferation of the practice of rising upon another’s rubble, we should have learned long ago,that this practice will always end in the self-destruction of the destroyer.

Just as ancient as this practice of self-punitive elimination, there has always existed a counter philosophy to this human caused plague. In its simplest form it is expressed as the development of self-mastery. Although it has been long taught and recognized as an essential element in the culturalization of societies, it still remains today as one of the most difficult of life’s characteristics to conquer.

There is a special kind of self-mastery which allows us to be inwardly confident, in such a way that we have no need to build our mansions on a foundation formed from the ashes of a destroyed predecessor.

In the kingdoms of the world we see that insecurity is the basis which causes one to believe that they gain strength from making others weak. However, in the Kingdom of God it will not be those who go about snuffing out the candles of others who will triumph, but those who add illumination in the world by shining their meager light on others, calling attention to the brightness emanating from another and as much as they possibly can allowing the light of Christ to shine through them to bring greater light to a world dimmed by the insecure-ness which results from the desire for self-aggrandizement.

At times it seems difficult to remember that our small glimmer will only have significance when it is united with others’ to bring a lasting glow to a world which is “walking in darkness at noon day.” Can we not learn the simple truth that there will never be an increase in illumination if we are continually extinguishing our neighbor’s candle? In a world where stewardships and responsibilities are continually being shifted and changed from one person to another as generations quickly crowd upon one another, it should be self-evident that advancement can best be accomplished by adding upon what was built before rather than tearing down and starting anew. Can we not see that generations rise higher by building on foundations rather than rubble?

Joshua, who once stomped hay into straw to make bricks for the Pharaoh of Egypt, became a mighty warrior-leader of Israel. As he succeeded Moses, Joshua counseled his officers, “Remember the word which Moses, the servant of the Lord commanded you…” Joshua felt no need to attempt to glorify himself by diminishing the glory of Moses. Interestingly, the men of Israel responded to Joshua, “According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things so will we hearken unto thee.” Seemingly, what would seem ironic to the snuffers of light who try to lead today, Joshua won acceptance more fully and sooner by honoring the revered leader whom he succeeded.

It seems righteous self-mastery imbues us with the ability, when we are entrusted with some form of leadership, to take the time necessary to get the ‘feel’ of our new station and to allow others to get the ‘feel’ of their new guide, without having to drag the names and reputations of previous holders of the position through the quagmire or destroy them completely.

Some years ago I received the counsel of a respected shepherd who had just called me to a new stewardship. He reminded me that I wasn't called to begin a revolution and correct all the mistakes of those who had previously held this position, but I was called to be responsive to the whisperings which would augment all that had gone before.

Hard though it might be, as we find ourselves being shifted with the sands of time, I think our torches will burn more brightly if we put upon ourselves the confidence of righteous self-mastery. Hopefully, we will have our vision somewhat unclouded by the flickerings of self-mastery and thereby more frequently see ourselves as others see us, sometimes more clearly see ourselves as we really are, and catch glimpses of what we have the potential of becoming without having to apply the snuffer’s tool of destruction.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


As Tevia who felt like a Fiddler on the Roof said, “on the other hand”…

Do I sometimes feel guilt swell in my bosom:

As I wonder if I have a right to peace while witnessing others in such constant turmoil?

As I contemplate my joyful life while viewing the suffering of others?

As my heart fills with love while others taste the bitterness of hate?

On the other hand:

If peace were taken from my life would it alleviate the turmoil in another life?

If the joy found in my life were to stop would the suffering of another be terminated?

If love were taken from my heart would bitterness be removed from the heart of another?

Like all of our struggles, as we pass through the trials of this one-time-only mortal experience, the solutions probably will not come because kings suddenly walk in the righteous ways of King David. The world will not become a Camelot because we bury our heads in the sand. Hearts will not become pure because Eternal Truths have been taught by Eternal Beings.

Edward Everett Hale wrote, “I am only one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let that which I cannot do interfere with that which I can do.”

One of the Savior’s parting admonitions to his Apostles was that they feed his lambs.

Isaiah spoke of becoming publishers of peace on Mount Zion. (The ancient name for Jerusalem)

Lehi proclaimed that the purpose of mankind’s existence was to have joy.

John the beloved spoke of the power of a love which could cast out fear and torment and make one bold unto perfection.

I may not be able to feed the ninety and nine, but I can nourish the one I find who is hungered.

I may not be able to stand and shout from Mount Zion, but I can publish peace each day in all I say and do.

I may not bring joy to the world, but I can bring joy to those I meet and greet each day.

I may not be able to manifest love to all of Heavenly Father’s children, but I can love my neighbor.

Feed, publish, and love are all words of action, words of giving which only take on meaning when shared, spoken, and spread and are not to be held within or to oneself.

Are the golden thread and the silver lining often overlooked because of the abundance of the bolt of drab fabric wherein it lies, or the horizon spread cloudiness which conceals it from our view as we wearily are bombarded by the notices of our days?

Maybe we need to begin to out publish, out feed and out love the constant blare of the dismal-ness coming from the media.

Maybe we need to begin to cease being closeted Christians and boldly love, publish and feed an ever more accessible audience.

Maybe we need to better understand that it is not only a privilege to enjoy the peaceful fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also a sacred obligation to joyfully feed, love and publish the good news to others.

Maybe it is time for those who find the truth in Christ’s teachings to stop basking in the comfort which the gospel brings and venture forth from their serenity to find a lamb to feed, a mole hill to speak from, bring joy by lightening another’s burden or finding a child who wants to be loved.

Today might be the day, when every other wind of doctrine is being blown about, that those who have in some way been touched by the Master’s hand reach out to those who are walking in darkness at noon day, who seek the truth but know not where to find it. Feeding, publishing and loving according to their capacities, doing something because they can.

Tonight might be the night when I leave the trumpeting of doom to those who have become so practiced in that strain. Although their numbers are legion and their forces abound; I can resolve to take my little candle from beneath its basket and with its warm glow of love, I will begin to feed a lamb by publishing peace to my neighbor.


Sunday, December 1, 2013



Sunday, December 1, 2013

I had a colleague in Reno, Nevada who came to work one day and announced that they were no longer going to watch or listen to the news. He was just tired of hearing what a mess all the inhabitants of the world were in and that the news in no way brightened his day When he watched the news he was left with depressing feelings and shattered hope.

At various times over the years Kathleen and I have had ‘the world is in such a mess’ discussions. At times it is she who counters with words of reassurance and good cheer, pointing out a few bright spots in the dismal picture. At times I become that voice. It is probably a good thing that one of us always finds a need to shine some light in the darkness, otherwise we might sink into an abyss.

We have used the argument that it may not be all the peoples of the world who are in a mess, but only the leaders (Which is by the way a very old argument found over and over again in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament). “And King _________ (fill in the blank) sinned and did not follow in the footsteps of King David and caused Israel to sin.” The sad experiences, found in the scriptures, teach us that blaming the leaders is about as valid an argument and does about as much good in bringing about a solution to the world’s problems as blaming the Devil for our own foolishness.

Any arguments which point to the leaders as the root of our problems can quickly be put to rest by the counter argument which is also supplied by the nightly news. A murder, a couple of rapes, senseless destruction by arson or graphitic taggers quickly helps us realize that individuals among masses are also adding to the blackness of the cloud which seems to thicken with each passing day.

Frequently our discussion is brought to a temporary conclusion with the standby clincher, “I’m grateful that at least we can find peace from within and make our home a bastian of peace through the strength generated from our belief in our Savior.

The discussion may be brought to a conclusion, but often the turmoil in my mind finds no place of settling.

If belief in the Savior is indeed the answer:

Why do we find couples who claim to be believers deciding the only solution to their discorded-ness is a termination of their wedding vows?

Why do we find siblings who claim the scriptures to be the foundation of their beliefs who will no longer communicate with one another because of some long ago offense?

Why do we find pockets of church goers standing in chapel corners excitedly, verbally destroying the reputation of a fellow congregant?

Why do we read the words of parishioners, hidden by the veil of social media, spewing hatred upon others because of their place of birth, political party, pigmentation or social status?

We are left to conclude that one or all of the following possibilities might be true:

The Messenger (Savior) must not have been what he claimed to be.


The message he proclaimed must not be true, or does not translate into real life situations.


We find the message inconvenient, unpopular or counter to the way we choose to live our lives.

Whether watching the news or walking daily in our own shoes, we quickly become aware:

It doesn't take a very extensive search to discover those around us who have chosen to abandon the teachings of the Savior because they have accepted one or all of the forgoing possibilities as a reality for themselves.

An honest search of the days we have put behind us, or are yet to come, would probably reveal moments when we too have lapses of belief or behaviors which betray our proclamations of belief.

I suspect we have all had moments when the emotions we have had during some of the hours of our days have fallen far short of being a fulfillment of the Lord’s promises to those who would follow the Plan of Happiness.

As Tevia who felt like a Fiddler on the Roof said, “on the other hand”…

(To be continued)

Sunday, November 24, 2013


In the Scriptures the word thanksgiving is a verb, but in the modern English dictionaries its prominent usage is given as a noun, as in Thanksgiving Day.

One’s immediate reaction might be ‘so?’ Well let me tell you ‘so!’ Verbs are words alive with action. Nouns sit there identifying to the user and listener a place, person or thing. Only if we take the time to describe the noun and what it is doing does it gain life and vitality. We give life to nouns by using verbs.

We might ask ourselves, what can we do to bring verve into this Thanksgiving and cause it to come alive by becoming a glorious day of thanks-giving?

As we sit celebrating with feasting and festivity the harvest of the year’s effort, the day will start to come alive as we truly express thankfulness to all who have made the reaping a reality, who daily labor in the fields and bring the harvest to the barn.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won’t we, like Abram and Zimri, actively find a way to share our bounteousness with someone less fortunate?

We definitely show indebtedness to all those ancestors who have toiled and given that this land could bring forth riches and blessings we enjoy today by, our grateful words which we express because of their having been such wise stewards in their eras.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won't we, like grandpa and grandma, actively find a way to increase and brighten the legacy we are leaving to our posterity?

It is wonderful that we acknowledge the privilege of living in a society where we are free to express the desires of our soul and the frustrations of our temporal-ness.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won't we, like Washington and Lincoln, actively find a way to assure these fundamental rights for future generations?

It is wonderful to express how grateful we are for the comforts which bring contentedness to our daily walk.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won't we, like Franklin and Edison, actively find a way to smooth the way for those who walk behind?

We should take time to applaud the countless kindnesses which have been expressed through the deeds and words of those who lovingly surround the table of abundance.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won't we actively find a way, like Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa, to reciprocate in all ways and at all times, bestowing acts of kindness upon those wonderful ones who daily brighten our lives?

We should thankfully cheer the efforts of those who are trying to turn swords into plow shares, striving to make neighbors and nations just a little more harmonious and make our earthly home more peaceful and serene.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won't we actively find a way, like Gandhi and Gautama, to publish peace by being more in harmony with our neighbors both at home and abroad?

We should shout the praises of those who have dedicated their lives to lifting the weary and strengthening the weak by making possible a greater quality of health and curing the wounds of the world.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won't we actively find a way, like Barton and Curry, to make the physical burdens of those whose heads hang low a bit lighter?

We should always be anxious to recognize with grateful hearts He from whom all blessings flow, whose hand is constantly outstretched in love for His children.

But, if we really want to put vitality into our thanks-giving won't we actively find a way, like Moses and Joseph Smith, to put our devotion into action by showing we love Him by willingly keeping his commandments?

Thus we see that verbs give nouns life and vitality and this is how a Day of Thanksgiving is turned into a life of thanks-giving.

If we are really going to make the noun Thanksgiving Day into a verb filled life of thanks-giving, it would be well to put our verbal gratitude into action by taking the next necessary step, becoming a greater example of those things we have expressed we are thankful for.

Hopefully, as unborn generations surround bounteous tables filled with the abundance of the harvest they too will be able to add to their Thanksgiving Day by sincerely expressing gratitude to ancestors who have cared for the earth, contributed to the increase of freedom, been instruments in generating peace and harmony and left an inheritance of greater health and comfort to the world.

But if they really want to put vitality into their thanks-giving…?

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Miller Soliai was born in Samoa and raised in Oakland, California but for those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him he was a delightful cousin.

It will take a little explaining for the world to understand how a bunch of people from the Reno Nevada Institute of Religion could be considered cousins to someone from such a faraway place and such a diverse culture from the usual student population of that area.

It was impossible to be with Miller for even a few minutes without getting caught up in his enthusiasm for life, reciprocating his infectious smile and laughing at his free and humorous views of life.

One day before we knew it we were in the center of planning a trip to Hawaii because Miller had suggested that it would be the most wonderful thing in our lives. We ended up with an interesting mixture of institute students and local adults along with a couple and their family who would be wed at the pool of the Lani Loa Lodge near the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Oahu where Miller had arranged for us to stay. We actually ended up having the details of the trip arranged by a good friend, Roger Ballingham, who had a travel agency.

Anyway, since the Motel bordered the campus of what is now known as BYU Hawaii, we ate our meals in the cafeteria on campus and enjoyed some of the other offerings of the college. As a side note I must add that it was on this trip that I fell in love with macadamia nut ice cream. I digress, back to the main point of all this meandering down memory lane. While Miller was showing us around the campus one day, he wanted us to see the dramatic sculptures of people and places of Samoa which his younger brother had created. As we walked along we kept running into people who were also from Samoa and Miller would introduce them by saying ‘this is my cousin …’

After we had been introduced to about 30 cousins in just a short period of time I had to question the authenticity of the cousin relationship. Miller kindly explain that since Samoa was such a small community of islands, everyone was related in one way or another and rather than try to trace the exact line of relationship it was just easier to refer to each other as cousins or as a brother or sister.

As our brotherhood grew I eventually asked Miller if he would consider making me an adopted cousin. He was delighted and from that time forward he always introduced me as his brother or his cousin.

One of the real blessings of this relationship with Miller was that we were able to make several more trips to the beautiful Islands of Hawaii with the last of these trips being made with all our children and their mates to celebrate our 50 years of marriage. It was a very special trip since we were able to visit four of the Islands while being escorted by some Hawaiian ‘cousins’, the Kanekoa.

By now I am sure you are wondering what the point of this personal memory account might be. Well, since you are curious, I was struck with this ‘cousin’ relationship thing the other day while I was doing several hours of sealings in the Newport Beach Temple, and how we all live as if on a very small island and with very little effort can find commonality of community and relationship.

In the sessions:

There was a brother who was from Bountiful, Utah, who in just a few minutes I was connected with through common ancestral ties.
There was a sister who is the granddaughter of the family my wife was boarding with when we got married.

There was a sister who is the wife of one of the missionaries who served with us in Colombia.

There was a brother who I knew when I was a teenager going to high school in Garden Grove, California.

In the group there were people who shared common ancestry with those whose ordinances we were performing.

There were fellow ordinance workers in the Temple.

There were people whose lives had been affected by their involvement in the Seminaries and Institutes of the Church Education System.

Anyway, as Miller would remind us, on this tiny island it doesn't take but a few steps to establish common kinship.

I am sure your life and my life would be full of a lot more kindness, happiness and enthusiasm if we could remember that there really are no strangers on this beautiful blue planet, but only cousins!

Hello Cousin!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


For as long as I can remember I have found a certain fascination with the pastime of people watching.

Those rare days when I accompany my wife on a trip to the mall I find myself observing others rather than examining merchandise myself. There are even times when I just sit on a bench and watch humanity wander by.

When out for a drive I much prefer traveling on surface roads rather than freeways. Sometimes I even choose streets where traffic is heavy so that I can witness more interactions between earth’s inhabitants.

In places where great throngs gather I enjoy just hanging around, having no need to actually exchange niceties with anyone, but just enjoying the unique chance to view so many others interacting.

Prior to going through my doctorate program I always thought myself a little strange because I had this preoccupation with the observance of people and their interactions. However, this anxiety was alleviated when I learned that the majority of those I was constantly observing also enjoy watching others.

Even those with diminished curiosity about their neighbors must have observed through their casual glimpses the tremendous variations in people and their reactions to life’s situations.

Because I have discovered that so much of life’s joy and beauty are dependent upon the endless variety which surrounds us, I long ago lost the motivation to try to tell others what paths of life might be best for them to travel, or to persuade them that their likes and dislikes ought to correspond more closely with mine.

However, I have not been able to overcome the part of my nature from which emanates despair when I witness people who are burdened with an uncontrollable amount of negativism and depression, who always find their days partially cloudy rather than mostly sunny, their glasses half empty rather than half full.

Conversely, I am involuntarily cheered as I witness the zestfulness of the lives of those positive Pollyannas who see a silver lining surrounding the darkest of storm clouds and enjoy every nectar filled glass to the last drop
It boggles my mind to see that in spite of the fact that we all know that happiness and joy are superior to life’s alternatives, many continue to take their daily walk wallowing in the bog of discouragement and disappointment.

All obsessed people watchers or dedicated spectators of the actuators of life’s principles soon become aware that one’s economical, educational, vocational and social caste contributes little to the level that will be reached on life’s happiness barometer. We find Tiny Tims living in poverty, Scrooges struggling with continually being out of sorts while surrounded by trappings of their economic successes. We find Gunga Dins contentedly enjoying their menial position in life, while CEO’s continually complain about their weighty lot in life.

No matter what direction we turn during our daily journeys, we observe our fellow beings reacting and interacting to the same stimuli in many divergent ways. We can read words of one scholar who pins these differences to our DNA and another to environment and an endless combination of these influences and others, but ultimately we are left with the realization that the final determination of the attitudes which lead to our misery or happiness lies within the realm of our individual agency. We have the majestic power to reign over our personal radiance (Since I am well aware of the chemical imbalances which plague some peoples lives, this Thought deals only with those who are not challenged with these afflictions).

Sooner or later each of us must come to the realization that life is not lived to its fullest by the expectations of finding a city called Camelot or being born with a silver spoon in our mouths. Happiness will come when we act upon the understanding that the true joy of life is not found in how it might have begun, where we might be headed or where we might reside, but true joy comes when we decide to enjoy the current events of the trip.

Whenever anyone would tell my mother to ‘have a good day,’ she would remark enthusiastically that we should say ‘make it a good day.’ The more I have the privilege of continuing my log of people watched, the more I become convinced that those who stay in the moment of life they are passing through most consistently are those who emit the more powerful vibes of joyfulness.

The Psalmist said, “This is the day the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” I pray we will work to make the results of our daily decisions lead us to fewer hours of pacing the floor, moments of wrinkled brows, swallowing bitter pills and guide us toward climbing more mountains, eating more ice cream, walking barefoot through grassy meadow, watching sunsets, laughing more and having eyes brim with tears of joy.

We have the power within to make our life what we choose it to be.

The next time you are out and about, look around and I am sure you will see someone looking at you.
I wonder what they will be seeing and thinking?

Sunday, November 3, 2013


During the period of history when little note was being given to the birth of The Savior of mankind in a small grotto in Bethlehem, far away Nephi and his brother were laboring in what would one day come to be known as the Americas, striving to prepare two nations of divided cousins for the not too distant future when Jesus the Christ would visit them after his resurrection.

Nephi and his brother had been in the land northward for five years preaching, exhorting and striving to bring their Lamanite cousins to lives of happiness founded on righteousness. Finally, having been rejected to the point that their lives were in danger and they could no longer stay in that land, the two lonely prophets returned to their homes in the land of Zarahemla.

Sorrowfully, they found their homeland in an awful state of wickedness. The righteous were condemned because of their righteousness. The guilty went unpunished in their wickedness because of their wealth and the high offices of government which they held. It seemed that all in the land were committed to get gain and glory in the world that they might have the means to continue in their ways of adultery, stealing and murder. Their ability to choose between good and evil was overpowered with the desire to do all things according to their own philosophies, thereby becoming gods unto themselves.

When Nephi became aware of how deeply his kindred had fallen into wickedness he retired to his garden and exclaimed: “Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father, Nephi, came out of the land of Jerusalem (about 600 years before)…then were people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God and slow to do iniquity…but behold, I am constrained that these are my days.” (The Book of Mormon – Helaman 7:7-9)

It only takes a quick glance at the history of this sorrowing Nephi’s ancestral grandfather to see that the days of old were very much like the days he was presently experiencing. In fact, from my perspective as one who has had the opportunity to spend a great deal of my life reading, studying, and teaching about the eras of the earth’s travails, I have found that only in scant places and for short periods of time have a few of the planet’s inhabitants been wise enough to live after the Lord’s plan of happiness.

Sometimes it is fun to revisit those fantasies of youth when one could discover uncharted lands, storm castles, win fair maiden’s hand; but even a quick perusal of everyman’s life in whatever era quickly brings us back to the reality of the standard of living in those days of yore. Fantasy is quickly replaced by gratefulness for the blessings of this day in which we live. Reality helps me understand that, unlike Nephi, I do not wish to have my days in another era. Reality also helps me to understand that every generation will find sufficient ways to choose to do evil instead of choosing to do good.

To have known the prophet Moses and to have gleaned of his words would have been wonderful; but a forty year diet of sandy manna and greasy quail would have been a heavy price. To have tarried on the shores of Galilee during the days of Jesus the Christ would have allowed one to know the Lord on a different level as we sat on the slope and listened to him teach upon the mount, but to lose the Light of the world to the tomb of Gethsemane would not have been a path I would have wanted to trod.

With joy I exclaim: “I am constrained that these are my days.” The perils of the cycle of the Book of Mormon where prosperity is often all to quickly followed by wickedness, hastily causes me to add: “Am I easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God and slow to do iniquity? -or- Am I desirous that I might continue to do evil and do all things according to the desires of my own heart?”

The Christians of old retreated to the cavities of the mountains in an attempt to escape the constant pursuit of those who would destroy the righteous. For millennium prophets have warned that the real danger is not the loss of mortality, but the loss of Eternal life. We must be aware of those who would destroy the righteous. We likewise must be aware of those influences which would bring down our righteousness. We must seek go to those ‘mountains’ where the words of righteousness will be rekindled and the strength of that spark can grow to become a sustaining fire of hope within us.

Nephi helps us to understand that that restorative mountain cannot be found in times we cannot dwell in or in places found only in dreams, but is to be found and climbed in the here and now and in the place where we currently reside.

As a voice of warning to all people, in all places and at all times, Nephi exhorts us to be aware of the following influences which will bring about destruction to those of all levels of society when they are tempted to move away from the Mountain of the Lord.

First – Being slow to do good and quick to hearken to the evil one.
Second – Setting hearts upon the vain things of the world
Third – Rejecting the petition of the poor and needy while consuming their own lives in gluttony.
Fourth – Not desiring that the Lord God should rule over them and setting at naught his counsels.

Nephi in his prophetic manner was especially strong in warning those who live their lives in relative prosperity. The history of the generations of his nation taught in glaring clarity, the vulnerability towards rejecting the Plan of Happiness, which comes with the self-aggrandizing euphoria of having gained the riches of the earth.

Along with this voice of warning Nephi and his ancient grandfather Nephi also identify those mountains where we can be refreshed and have our strength replenished in order to faithfully continue our climb.

First – Seek the counsel of the Lord.
Second – No longer desire to do evil but to do good continually.
Third – To be learned is good if we hearken unto the counsels of the Lord.
Fourth – Before seeking for riches, seek the kingdom of God.
Fifth – Seek riches only with the intent to do good.

The failure to heed the words of prophets in days of old, which days prophetically foreshadow our own day, brought destruction of lives and loss of happiness to many ancient generations. Hopefully, we can learn from the graphic lessons, turn to the counsel of the Lord and pass the perilous test of living in a day of varying degrees of prosperity, forsaking ourselves to get gain and glory in the world that we might have the means to continue in our ways of adultery, stealing and murder. Thus causing our ability to choose between good and evil, to become overpowered by the desire to do all things according to our own philosophies, thereby becoming gods unto ourselves.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Over the years during my teaching career, I was introduced to many different teaching systems, methods and tricks. One method which kept popping up periodically was the use of a continuum to stimulate student participation.

This was an easy method to set up since it only involved drawing a straight line on the board (I found you could do this equally well with chalk and marker boards) and then writing opposing words on either end of the line. It didn't really matter whether the positive word was on the left and the negative on the right or visa-versa, but I routinely would put the negative on the left and the positive on the right. For some reason having the positive on the right just seemed to be the way it should be for me. I have often wondered if it would have been different if my dominant hand had been the left.

Anyway, any pair of antonyms would work: evil---------------good, rich-----------------poor, selfish---------selfless, diligent-----------lazy. I think you get the idea. You can also see that the length of the line could also vary, although I usually tried to cover the width of the board with the two words and the line (obviously another personal preference). It was also helpful to put the words and line near the top of the board so that space was left to write comments below the continuum.

This last week I was thinking about and having a lively discussion with myself (I do this very quietly in my mind) which involved what was to me anyway, a very interesting continuum. You will immediately become aware this is a complicated left hand dominant continuum. The use of colored chalk or marker is optional.

Always Seeks Mentors---Occasionally Seeks Mentors---Bumps Into Mentors---Runs From Mentors


During our formative years we cry for our mentors, we crawl to our mentors and we are almost totally dependent upon our mentors and probably would have little chance of survival without our mentors. If these mentors did even an adequate job they will never be justly rewarded.

During the years of our formal schooling we find some mentors cool, some mentors boring, some mentors exciting and some mentors inspiring. If these mentors did even an adequate job they will never be justly rewarded.

It seems that after these two periods of life is when we begin to scatter ourselves along the Mentor Continuum.

We view those who in their minds believe that they now have a sufficient foundation upon which then can build without any reliance on any fellow workers, architects or tool makers. You can be the judge as to what end of the continuum they have migrated too. They no longer find any need to thank anyone, since no one has contributed to their wonderfulness.

We view those who prefer wandering in strange lands, as if they were some 16th century explorer, going to places where they believe no man has gone before. If they happen to bump into an indigenous person they might pause for a moment to nibble at their offerings, but shortly go on their lonely, reinventing everything ways. They have no one to thank, since they didn't really need the mentoring they had sipped and easily have forgotten the mentorer.

We view those who seem to have periods of hot and cold when they are either seekers or avoiders of any mentoring, sometimes feeling very self-sufficient and at other times feeling like wanderers in strange lands. With reluctance they will acknowledge that there have been occasional people in their lives who have contributed to their grandeur.

We also view those who find expertise in everyone they meet and who do all they possibly can to glean whatever the present mentorer might be willing to share, never having met anyone who wasn't a potential mentor. These are they whose prayers lengthen daily because their list of mentors expands continually.


To my parents who always responded to my cries, who helped me crawl over the rough spots, who fulfilled my basic needs and kept me alive and taught me the fundamental rules of survival, integrity, kindness and love.

To Mrs. Brown, Mr. Hill, Mr. Vorkink and ‘Pop’ Eidelson who represent the many wonderful teachers who taught when I was reluctant, who presented when I was prepared and who sacrificed so that I might be exposed to new and wonderful ideas.

To President Hobbs, President Bentley, President Foote and Elder Robinson who represent all those spiritual leaders who gathered me up when I was broken, helped me repair the cracks and made me feel new again.

To Leon Uris, Samuel Longhorn Clements, Amy Tan and James Clavell who represent all those whose writings have brought not only enjoyment into my life, but understanding and a broadening of my social awareness.

To Kathleen, Cevin, Sean, Troy, Brendan, Rynn and Erin who represent all those who have mentored me in the art and science of being a husband and father and brought me to the realization that building good and eternal relationships is the real purpose for our early existence.

To Tish Whitney, Don Monson, Julie Moore and Paul Maddox who represent all those who unknowingly and previously unthanked were there during critical times of my life and were examples, introducing me to additional skills and added to the fulfillment of phases of life as I passed through them.

To doctors Martin, Baker, Antonio and Lin who represent all those who have helped with the miracle of the births of children, restored health when it seemed impossible, made life’s ever extending days more enjoyable and mentored us to a broadened understanding of our physical bodies.

To Elder Dunn, Sister Dew, Elder Maxwell and Elder Holland who represent all those whose spoken and written words have enlightened me and given me the desire to climb new mountains in order to gain new vision.

To Plato, Justin Martyr, Thomas Aquinas and John Locke who represent those who have struggled to uncover the purposes of life and who have shared the results of their wrestlings.

To Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Philo Farnsworth and Konrad Zuse who represent all those who have through their inventive genius made it possible to sit in front of a screen and explore the world and bring the libraries of the world instantly to view, extending beyond imagination the number of mentors one can seek.

To Moses, Matthew, Paul and Nephi who represent all those inspired authors who have inscribed in Holy Scripture, for the eternities, the truths which help us all to follow those paths which help us to find joy and happiness in this life and forever.

To President McKay, President Hinckley, Elder Bruce McConkie and President Boyd Packer who represent all those living oracles who have identified the pitfalls and pathways of an ever changing world and enlightened the way we are traveling.

To Heavenly Father, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Ghost and all the attending angels whose willing grace looks past our frailties and tangents and are always there in our hour of need to strengthen, straighten, comfort, guide, uplift and inspire.

I am sure that your personal list of mentors and those who you would like to thank would include many people and areas I have forgotten to include or do not have space to include in this Thought. In fact, I invite you all to go to that quiet place in your minds and have a lively discussion about this left hand dominant continuum. The color of marker you choose will be according to your personal preference.

Always Seeks Mentors---Occasionally Seeks Mentors---Bumps Into Mentors---Runs From Mentors

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I have often thought that it would be well if some supreme regulatory agency was put in place to make sure all new inventions bore the same precautionary statements as we now find on medicines. I know, I know, they put warnings on toys about lead and swallowing and putting in noses and ears. I also know, that all are now screaming, yep, that is just what we need – another supreme regulatory agency.

However, even with acknowledging that we all have responsibility to monitor our choices and actions, I think it would be nice if some precautionary statements were put on the label of all new devices. No one would want to operate x-ray machines or perform heart surgery without understanding the lengthy list which outlines the risks and the proper precautionary procedures.

Therefore, why would we object to a label which warned us that reliance on keyboards, spell check and printers could result in the loss of penmanship, spelling ability and grammar? What would be wrong with calculators being labeled with the warning that, constant reliance on this machine will results in the loss of the ability to perform simple subtraction, addition, multiplication and division problems with pencil and paper. With more advanced calculators it would have to include the loss of the ability to do algebra, calculus and all those other types of higher math that 1% of the population used to be able to do on the blackboard or whatever they are called these days.

One of the areas of our combined creativeness which I believe needs to have bold words in blazing red written with the warning of PROCEED WITH CAUTION, are all those electronic devises which now fill our pockets, laps, desk tops, walls, book cases and night stands, which have come about as the printed circuits and transistors have become miniaturize and made indistinguishable from specks of dust. We are now able to be in a constant state of being plugged in. We go walking or jogging and we are plugged in for every joyfully/grueling moment. We have lost the knowledge of how to turn the noise devices off in our cars. Noise coming from the 22 speakers in the car is only interrupted when Bluetooth overrules. We go from den to kitchen to bedroom without ever losing a moment of dialogue. DVR makes it so that we never have to miss a hit, touchdown or basket. PROCEED WITH CAUTION – the constant plugging in to electronic devices may result in the loss of one’s ability to be alone with themselves. I am sure there could be additional precautions added, but for this thought I will concentrate on this one.

Isaiah may have been speaking to our day when in the fifth chapter of his writings he
lamented that there would be no place to be alone.

Along with the opposing thumb, I believe one of the great separators of humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is the ability to contemplate and try to come to understand a little bit about the meaning of life, to examine and evaluate our own position in respect to the rest of society, to be able to develop alternative solutions to life’s problems. It seems, if we were to lose the ability to be still and alone with our thoughts – a time to ponder – a time to meditate we would be losing one of the privileges and opportunities which contribute to the advancement of our species.

Before beginning his mission the Savior pondered, was tempted and discovered himself while in the desert for 40 days. Before His great Sermon on the Mount He prayed and meditated alone on a mount. Once again He who is example for all and to all, leads and the wise will follow.

This very thoughtful article was published in The Evening and Morning Star in June of 1832:

“What is called a vigorous and active mind seems, after all, to mean only a mind of which the thoughts are all subjected to the authority of its governing powers; and may therefore all be brought to bear, with their whole force, on the business in which it is occupied.

…Attention seems only another name for that state of mind, when all its thoughts are fixed and collected, and bent to a single point, and it is a power of attention much more than any original and native diversity of talents, which constitutes the intellectual difference among men.

Newton was accustomed to declare that ‘if he differed from his fellowmen he owed it to thought, intently and long, on any subject with which he was occupied.’ We must have all observed the truth of these remarks in the course of our various pursuits.

If we examine our minds at those periods when they are most vigorously and successfully exerted, we shall observe that all other objects are excluded from our minds, and that our thoughts are concentrated and engrossed by the task in which we are employed. If, on the contrary, we observe ourselves when our minds are indisposed, reluctant and inefficient, we shall find that our dominion over our thoughts is lost, that attention is dissipated and distracted by a multitude of unrelated images which float through the fancy and that all our powers are weakened and become discordant and divided…”

What a great loss we would have suffered if the creators and inventors who have brought so many enjoyable, helpful and convenient devices had been so plugged in and distracted that they would not have been able nor have taken the time to be alone, to ponder and be open to the enlightening visions of what might be.

We further ponder, what might be the loss to future generations because we didn't take the time to unplug and contemplate what might yet be.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION – the too constant use of this devise might…

Sunday, October 13, 2013


It doesn't take long when you are browsing in the self-help section of a book store. Whoops! That really dates me. As I was saying, as you are looking though the list of self-help books on your electronic reader, it doesn't take long to discover that every expert knows the ‘one and only’ right way to improve the miserable conditions of your life.

For one the solution is to be found by increasing fiber or decreasing sugar.
For another the solution is to be found by increasing exercise and decreasing couch potato time.
Yet another chimes in that only when we increase friends who give us positive feedback and decrease those who give negative feedback will we find our quality of life improving.
Then we read alternating views on oats, carbs, proteins, fruits, veggies and even the fabrics we wear.
We have even returned to the days of yore when cleansing of the dietary system was good and avoidance of such experiences would leave one unfulfilled.
We find books on the edifying effects of drugs, alcohol and whether I should increase my intake of Vitamins A, B, C and D or decrease there intake.
There is a whole section of how to improve your life by eliminating the harmful effects of the life easing inventions which surround us.

I know there has to be a little truth in some of these treatises and I suspect that there are many who have improved their emotional and physical states through the application of these writings. But, and it is a big BUT, I think that most of these efforts fall into that huge area which the apostle Paul referred to as missing the mark.
I realize that being sound of body and mind makes life’s journey healthier and happier. BUT, were we really sent here just to enjoy the trip, or were there greater purposes ordained for our mortality?

Let me suggest that we chose to come to earth to change our natures from Telestial (worldly – selfish – carnal) and move them towards becoming Terrestrial (kind – loving – gentle – good) and maybe even putting on a shade of Celestial (selfless – saving – spiritual – saints).

Less I become numbered among those who have a “one solution for all people at all times and in all places”, let me hasten to share some of my observations of human nature.

There are some who respond more rapidly to clarity and others to subtlety.
There are some who respond to sugary words and others who are moved by salty phrases.
There are some who learn by the mistakes of others and those who must try all things.
There are some who can be beat into submission and others who must be comforted into conformity.
There are some who find being good is just part of who they are and others who find it boring and must constantly fight to put on a little goodness.
There are some who will not move unless there is adventure involved and others who avoid all risk.
There are some who grasp concepts through reading while others are moved more rapidly by other senses.

We are individuals and have so been forever. The remedy to our earth-life adventure doesn't seem to be finding a universal formula, but finding a formula which universally works for each of us individually.

I am aware of the gospel principles which advocate – one faith – one baptism – one way and one truth. However, I don't think this necessarily means that there is but one way to gain that faith or one way to find truth. We, who believe in the efficacy of Temple ordinances for the dead, even accept that there is more than one way to receive the blessings of baptism.

I have found that for every positive in the gospel there is a corresponding negative.

Truth -------------- Error
Right -------------- Wrong
Believe ----------- Question
Light -------------- Darkness
Selfless ----------- Selfishness

I have also found that for some people striving to eliminate the negatives from their lives brings greater movement toward the goal of changing their natures. I have also found that there are some who advance more rapidly by concentrating on putting on the positive attributes of a higher nature. Then there are a multitude of combinations of the two spread throughout those who are attempting to become something better during their sojourn in the mortal state.

It is always interesting that the Savior in his sermon on the mount advocated that we become:

Poor in Spirit - but didn't tell us how to put on that attribute.
Meek - but didn't tell us how to put on that attribute.
Thirst after righteousness - but didn't tell us how to put on that attribute.
Merciful - but didn't tell us how to put on that attribute.
Pure in heart - but didn't tell us how to put on that attribute.
Perfect - but didn't tell us how to put on that attribute.

May I suggest that one of the real keys to our progress during this life, while we strive to gain more insights into what we should be becoming, may be in finding that formula for change which best fits our particular and peculiar nature.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Meet William L. Riley

We'd like to introduce William L. Riley, a new guest author on our blog. William Riley is a wonderful writer and a true inspiration to all those who are fortunate to hear his words. In an effort to get to know him a little better, we've asked him to tell us about his personal life, career, what inspires him to write, and more. The following are his words.

I was born in Pocatello Idaho on the 28th day of March 1939. My wife Kathleen and I were married in the Los Angeles Temple on the 6th day of July 1962. We are the parents of six sons and a daughter and the grandparents of 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

My formal education includes graduating from Garden Grove Union High School in 1957 and gaining degrees of Bachelor, Master and Doctorate from Brigham Young University. I have enjoyed a life time of personal study in a broad area of interest with an emphasis on the scriptures and ancient history.

Other than being a paper deliverer, Journeyman Lather and a salesman for Pillsbury during my youth, I have spent my entire professional life teaching in the Seminaries and Institutes of the Church Education System. I started teaching for CES in 1961 and other than the time Kathleen and I spent in Bogota, Colombia my teaching career with CES was uninterrupted for the next 45years. My assignments included teaching Early Morning classes in Westminster, Buena Park, Garden Grove, California and Reno, Nevada. My full time Seminary assignments were in Kearns and Tooele, Utah. MY assignments in the Institute were in Reno, Nevada and in Mission Viejo, California where he retired in 2006. After retiring I taught an adult education class in the Mission Viejo Stake Center for the next 5 years as a volunteer.

I have had the opportunity and privilege to serve in many callings in the Church which include, missionary in the Northern Mexican Mission, Stake Mission President, High Councilor and Bishop in the Reno North Nevada Stake. High Councilor and Stake President of the Reno Nevada Stake and Mission President in Colombia Bogota North Mission. While serving in other capacities I was also a regional advisor to the Young Single Adults in the Reno Nevada and South Orange County regions. I am currently serving as a Sealer in the Newport Beach Temple.

When I returned from my mission in Mexico my Stake President James Hobbs counseled me that every week of my life, whenever I didn't have a lesson to prepare, I should write a talk. He told me whether I would ever give that talk or not was not important, but that I should write it. During most my life there were not many weeks when I wasn't either teaching or speaking in church or at firesides, so the assignment was fairly easy to complete. When I was asked to give the spoken word for the radio show Sabbath Day Reflections which Carl Chamberlain produced in Reno, Nevada I was able to write a short talk most weeks of the year while also teaching several classes each day.

When I retired several things happened to aid me in being faithful to the challenge President Hobbs had given me 50 years earlier. First I joined Face Book and rapidly was reconnected with many of the wonderful missionaries we had served with in Colombia and with many former students. I also was joined on Face Book with most all of my children and several of my grandchildren. I thought writing these weekly talks would give me something to say to the wonderful people I had reconnected with, a way of keeping the creative part of my brain alive and it would enable me to be able to share with those I love some of the things I believe and hold precious. Since I was writing to my weekly talk, which I now was calling Thoughts for a Sabbath Day and which were being translated into the Spanish version called Pensamientos Para un Dia de Reposo, I decided to start emailing these thoughts each week to all my friends on Face Book and to others who avoid social media. This little project has now grown to where my weekly personal emails number over 3000 and are posted on my Face Book blog pages as well as my personal blogs. It is fun to see that the potential weekly readers of my Thoughts which came as a result of following the counsel of President Hobbs now has spread to many parts of the world including such places as India, Russia and Indonesia.

I was blessed with a questioning spirit unlike my wife who was blessed with a believing spirit. I have come to believe that either spirit can be a great aid as long as we are moved on a continual quest to come to understand truth. Those things which I know to be true include the understanding and knowledge that: we are offspring of Heavenly Parents, that Jesus the Christ is the Savior or the world, Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration, we are led by living apostles and prophets today and The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price contain the Plan of Happiness, Salvation and Exaltation. The truth I know most firmly is that what we know is far less than what we can eventually know if we continue faithful in the pursuit of coming to know the Characteristics, Attributes and Perfections of God.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since my mother was fond of this quote and always gave Heber J. Grant the credit, I grew up believing he was indeed the author of these words. Thanks to the miracle of the internet such oversights can now be quickly remedied and Ralph Waldo Emerson can now receive his deserved credit.

I have come to realize that like so many truths in life, this bit of wisdom can lead to both good and bad ends, to both blessings and cursings for us all. A blessing comes to all of us who enjoy the results of a gifted individual who toils for long hours in developing and perfecting a talent. Sadly, we are also cursed when our lives are contaminated by those who through much practice have developed a disgusting habit which has become an ingrained flaw to their character.

The U. S. News and World Report in May of 1982 reported a trend in society which has now avalanched into a plague upon us all. “The four letter word has emerged from the barrooms and barracks and can be heard and seen almost everywhere in conversation at restaurants, on bumper stickers, in cheers bellowed at sporting events, on television and in movies.” Sorrowfully, what was written as a shocking exposé on the downward movement of societal vocabulary, would today be laughed at as being very old fashioned and out of tune with the times.

I grew up believing that grandparents were examples of those who had lived lives of positive selections, having incorporated that which was good and rejected that which was repugnant. My own grandfather Riley, although he was a truck farmer and had a very temperamental old Ford truck was never heard by me to utter a foul word or make an obscene gesture. I loved the movie On Golden Pond, but hated the propagandized reality, which I was left with, that seemingly profanity was a rite of passage as one passed into ‘old’ age. It seemed to advocate that the more four letter characters a senior could add to their sentences the more character they were presumed to have.

For many years I watched the adventures of Star Trek on the small screen. With elation I can report that those wondrous explorers of far off times had overcome the necessity to use vulgar verbiage. However, by the time they brought Star Trek to the big screen it was shocking to hear that those future heroes had come of age and were well practiced in the use of four letter words. One of the real ironies of Star Trek III – In Search of Space was that only the white hats (good guys in old westerns who never swore) were allowed the privilege of profanity while the dreaded bad guys (who spit and drank in old westerns) were limited to colorless colloquialisms.

As I proceeded through my training in various athletic endeavors it was stressed that one of the keys to athletic achievement was total control of my faculties, physically as well as emotionally. It is now somewhat embarrassing to attend my grandchildren’s soccer games and have to listen to what spews forth from mom’s, dad’s, coaches, and kids. It is impossible to watch sports news casts without hearing bleeps and seeing mouths and hands clouded over to cover obscene words and gestures. It has become apparent that many feel that with stardom comes the right to publicly give total vent to verbiage and gesture in whatever foul way you wish to pollute the environment.

When I was very young I experimented with some four letter words in secreted places with other children I was trying to impress, well out of the ear range of disapproving adults. In those days distasteful Lava soap was applied to mouths of children who were heard uttering such words. I find that more often than not I have to remind young people and adults who enter our home that some words which through practice have become very common to them are not used in our home. Sadly, sensitivity to using foul language went out of popularity when Lava soap went off the shelves of markets.

We who belong to an antiquated generation had emphasized to us in our youth that only an uneducated mind had to resort to using the crutch of ‘bad’ language. We were taught that a truly intellectual and educated person could come up with a ‘real’ or ‘appropriate’ word to fit the situation. Sadly, today, the use of cursing and profanity has escaped all proper societal boundaries and continually stench the sounds which surround us.

If I had a ‘four letter word’ wish, it would be, that all those who have become proficient in the use of profanity because of the frequency of practice would retire with their childishness into the alcoves with others of their kind where they can be impressive to one another, leaving the rest of us to bask in the pureness of language undefiled. Or maybe that Lava soap could once again be found on the shelves in the market place.

I love life and the wonders of this glorious creation of God, but I am somewhat disturbed by the way that which is common has become popular. Isaiah saw us clearly when he proclaimed “Woe unto them than call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I have noticed that humor can be a stimulus to the remembrance of life’s realities. I remember reading a cartoon of Frank and Earnest which provided me with just such a memory stirring humorous moment. While leaving church Frank and Earnest were confronted by their preacher who chided them with these words, “I do wish you two would quit pointing at each other and other members of the congregation during my sermons.” I chuckled appropriately, but my mind was almost immediately transported to the numerous times when I was standing at the head of a classroom or at a pulpit when my own concentration was interrupted by a spouse raising an eyebrow in the direction of their mate or placing a well-trained elbow in their ribs in response to a remark which had just been made.

In His great sermon given on the mount, the Savior has been reported to have said, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) For some reason this particular verse, along with a few others, I have fallen short of gaining a restful comprehension.

First – Even a casual glance will show us all mankind being condemned for the fracturing of this commandment. Even as I wrote that last sentence I added to my personal splintering of the command. It seems that it is not only impossible to keep from making judgments both about ourselves and others, but a large portion of life’s survival skills are dependent on the constant evaluation of ourselves and others. We watch, we listen and we start the process of rejection, acceptance and even find reasons to emulate or condemn.

Secondly – We have been told as Christians that our constant quest should be to become like our Savior. Obviously the first step towards emulation begins with some kind of judgment about how he acted or reacted in certain situations. We also are constantly judging the relevancy of every word he spoke and whether it applies to our personal situations.

Thirdly – Jesus Christ, because of His life and Atoning Mission, has become the judge of all mankind. My little mind immediately draws me to the conclusion that if I am to become as He is then I need to be about the business of developing that important attribute.

Joseph Smith, when he was doing his inspired translation of the Bible, rendered the afore mentioned verse in Matthew in the following words, “Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people, Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgments.” Sometimes the smallest of changes bring the greatest clarity and increase to our comprehension. With just a few added words we discover that the Savior’s instructions actually told us we should be about the process of judging. And how would being judgmental lead us toward becoming like Him? It seems that small steps toward that wondrous goal can be enhanced by our diligently dedicating ourselves to the task of learning how to make righteous judgments.

What a marvelous conscience relieving discovery, that if we learn to do it right, we will not only not be condemned for making judgments about ourselves and our neighbors, but in a very real way we will fail to fulfill the purpose of our mortal sojourn if we fail to judge with righteousness. After all, one of our primary reasons for being in mortality is to learn to choose or judge between good and evil by our own experiences.

With this little bit of added knowledge we learn that our task shifts dramatically from not making any judgments, (a non-probable situation) to the task of learning how to come as near as our humanness will allow us to following the example of the Savior in making righteous judgments.

First – He judges with a perfect knowledge of his neighbors and their situations. With our frailness we can only approach this knowledge through the enlightening channels of not making rash judgments, gathering all information available and relying on as much of the light of Christ that our own level of obedience allows us.

Second – He judges with perfect justice based on Eternal Laws and Everlasting Understanding. Once again, in our present state of being neophytes in the practice of judging righteously, we can be aided by withholding responses until more information is available, by not condemning by association and by being guided by promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Thirdly – He judges with perfect mercy being filled with infinite love of all. As beginners who have not as yet shed their training wheels, we can begin by showing our mercy to those who are easy to love. As opportunity presents itself we can expand our circle of love and, hopefully, with the help of the Comforter we can eventually move closer to a universal love.

My incomprehension doesn't allow me to wrap my mind around the change that would be affected upon this beautiful sphere if each of us became just a little more practiced in making righteous judgments.

How much sadness and sorrow would be avoided because we were no longer making amateurish judgments.

How much joy and gladness would be spread if everyone were being judged a little more by the Light of truth, justice and mercy available to all who are striving to make righteous judgments.

How much closer to having heaven on earth would we come if righteous judgments came not only from God, but also from his mortal children?

Frank and Earnest are still very humorous!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


As I have been plunged deeply into that time of life when sunsets follow quickly on the heels of sunrises, I find that I hear more and more quips about aging:

You must be as old as dirt! (I was even given a hat with this bright note on it)
Was Nephi your first missionary companion?
Were your missionary scriptures written on papyrus?
If you were a dog you would have been dead long ago!
Aging isn't for sissies!
You have to be tough to grow old!
Age is just a number!
Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative!
Age is a high price to pay for maturity!
I am still on this side of the grass!
It is important to have a twinkle in your wrinkle!

Since many of you have already heard these and many more and all of you will hear them sooner or later, let this small sampling of quips suffice and I will get on with my own personal thoughts about aging.

Let me begin with a few thoughts on some misconceptions I have harbored about aging over the years.

Adding candles on top of a cake will add to maturation.
Loss of sight will increase insights.
Loss of hearing will be replaced by an increased sensitivity to the whisperings of the spirit.
Loss of nimbleness will hasten kindness and goodness.
Difficulty in remembering will make you a curmudgeon.
Many years of golfing will help your score.
Repentance will be an automatic result of getting older.
There will come a time when you are able to do exactly what you want to do.
All relationships will grow stronger.
You can work your way past all obstacles.
With wrinkles comes wisdom.

I will finish these thoughts on aging with some things I have found to bring great joy as gray replaces brown on each of our crowns.

Even eyes which have dimmed seem to see more things which are beautiful surrounding them.
Even though some ranges of sounds are lost as mortality fades, an appreciation for those melodies which remain deepens.
As the pace of our steps slow the destination when arrived at is more gratefully greeted.
Peacefulness becomes more pleasant and desired than the anxiousness of adventure.
Home, however humble, brings greater happiness than castles abroad.
The relationships which are of most importance will add to your strength.
You gain comfort in the realization that some mountains do not need to be climbed, that some valleys do not need to be crossed.
You understand that the applause of the crowd was far from the purpose of life.
Commandments become hurdles bringing happiness rather than barricades bringing restrictiveness to my life.
Remembrances of veiled times return as your closeness to Heavenly Parents increases.
Wrinkles become a badge of honor.

As sunsets roll more quickly behind sunrises I am grateful that my joy continues to increase with the same rapidity.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Long ago, in the days of yore, amusement parks had very few thrill rides. I remember there was usually a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and maybe Tilt-a-Whirl. The Ferris wheel was mostly a series of stops for letting people off and on, the roller coaster was creaky but non-heart stopping and the Tilt-a-Whirl tilted but didn't really whirl.

In those days, which remain in the memories of fewer and fewer, the main attractions were ‘tossing something at something and win a prize games’ and ‘fun houses.’ The prizes for winning at the games were usually cheap little gadgets like Chinese handcuffs (I don’t think the Chinese ever used such a thing) and blocks which went up and down on their connecting bands. The really good prizes were impossible to win, so the throwing games didn't catch my attention much.

However, the fun houses for me were really a reason to go to an amusement park. All the houses, even though they had different themes like scary, funny and sick, were always full of surprises. Few of the youth will believe this, but in those days you WALKED through the fun houses. There were no little cars which looked like trains or cars to ride.

My favorite fun house was the House of Mirrors. Usually when you entered the House of Mirrors you were first met with a series of mirrors that were curved in various ways, so that when you approached them you were very fat, very thin or squiggly. After bending over laughing at how funny your friends looked you, entered into the main area of the House of Mirrors which contained a maze of mirrors set at various angles. The lights were dim so that it made it difficult to determine where there was an opening between the mirrors and where there was another mirror. You and your friends found great glee watching each other bang your heads into one mirror after another.

As I aged, one of my saddest discoveries was that life’s illusions were not only to be found in amusement parks, but were a large part of everyday life. The world became one gigantic House of Mirrors.

Most of the time when we see a reflection of ourselves we see the exact opposite of what the rest of the world sees when they look at us. I think one of the reasons that so many of us aren't really fond of our photographs is that we are looking at someone whose features are opposite from what we see daily in the mirror. Sadly, most of our friends seldom see the real us.

We grow to be skeptical of most people’s words because we learn that everyone has an agenda to promote when they open their mouths. As the joke goes - Question: ‘how do you know when a politician is lying?’ Answer ‘when he opens his mouth.’ Sadly, aging seems to make us feel like we are conversing with more and more people who sound like politicians.

When I was young hardly a week went by which didn't include reading a book about one of my sports heroes. Now the youth can't listen to or watch the news a single day without hearing of an athlete who has been hiding behind the mask of performance enhancement drugs or who has been acting like anything but a hero.

I guess I could find a level of contentment if illusion and deception were kept to the problems of this world alone, but sadly, almost daily we see an increase of the energies of evil as they seek to fulfill their declared purposes. “Verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world. And also Satan hath sought to deceive you that he might overthrow you.” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:2, 3) And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an “angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. (Book of Mormon – 2 Nephi 2:18, 19)

C. S. Lewis in his book Screwtape Letters indicates that the way to deceive men and lead them away from God is to tell them that there is no devil. It also seems that Satan is trying to be just as effective in deceiving men and leading them away from God by telling them there is no God.

In our day of technological enlightenment, Screwtape seems to have declared victory in convincing men that there is no devil and is now putting all his forces into likewise convincing men that there is no God.

Satan’s deceptive House of Mirrors always goes something along the lines of the following verbiage:
Say you that God is good?

Say you that God is all Powerful and all Knowing?

Why then does he allow so much evil in the world?

Why has so much evil been done in his various names?

Is not religion a ruse to control the masses?

Why do so many leaders of religions seek only their own gain?

As illogical as it may seem to judge the Perfectness of God by looking through the prism of imperfect men, that is exactly the argument which Satan has proffered to dissuade men of the existence of God.


I cannot judge the existence and goodness of God by the evil decisions and actions of men.

Nor can I judge the value of Religious tenets by the infidelity and inhumanity of those who say but do not do.


I am left to judge the reality of God’s existence, in my life alone, by the degree to which my belief alters my actions and decisions.

Also, I am left to judge religion by the degree that my desire to become a better and more loving neighbor is changed through living its teachings.


I will live so as to feel the promised joy associated with coming to know God.

And that I will live a life of love so that in every way all His children become my brothers and sisters.

My prayer is that we might somehow escape this devilish house of mirrors which we have entered into and as the ancient apostle Paul taught, “no longer see through the glass darkly.”


Sunday, September 1, 2013


Although King David, having spent his adult life as a man of war, was forbidden to build the House of the Lord which would shelter the sacred Ark of the Testament, he spent most of his final days gathering materials which would be used in building the monument to the Lord which would bear his son Solomon’s name. As he inventoried the spoils gained from the campaigns of his reign and just prior to anointing Solomon as King of Israel, he was not only amazed with the volume of the spoils, but was also struck with the numerous ultimate sacrifices which had been required to bring about the stockpiling of such an immense treasury.

Standing before Israel surrounded by the spoils of their efforts, while offering one last sacrifice to the Lord, David then spoke his last testament to Israel, honoring his leaders and people for their dedication and then expounded on a principle that so often we are tardy in learning, we seldom understand, and only occasionally reluctantly live.

David proclaimed, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” (I Chronicles 29:14)

“For all things come of Thee and of Thine own have we given Thee.” Searching his life and writings we find it interesting that the great Israelite King makes this proclamation at the end of his life. One wonders if the concept came as an accumulation of experiences which brought him this wisdom or whether he had long ago been enlightened by this truth. His history indicates that even though in his Psalms the son of Jesse spent many hours singing appreciation to the Lord, some of his life’s decisions leave us to question the timing of his learning, the depth of his understanding and his dedication to the principle.

Thankfully, wiser judges than we will be left to determine the when, the sincerity and depth of King David’s commitment.

However, it takes only a glance at history and at our own times to realize that precious few of the masses which make up mankind ever learn to understand that so little of life and its treasures can be personally claimed and how much of life’s spoils are but stewardships on loan. That most of what we have become is but the borrowing from others who were willing to share. That the dances we do are only possible because the Master Puppeteer shows us the steps.

Some other principles of life we may be slow to learn and are yet shallow of understanding and reticent to live:

If we are among those who are lucky enough to enjoy the gift of education, how long did it take, five, ten, fifteen years, before we realized what a blessing it was to be with those who knew a little about the paths we were about to walk upon? Teachers must learn they have a responsibility to know the way and then to teach in exciting and interesting ways, but students must someday grasp that learning only comes when they take upon themselves the responsibility to learn.

Undoubtedly the vibes were felt during the bonding years, perhaps covered up during the elementary school years, found counterfeits during adolescence, might have been stimulated at the wedding alter, had to have been stirred when standing by the crib, but for most true love remains a mystery and few learn, understand or live lives where love is expressed in acts of giving and not in getting.

Listening quietly to soft tones, sitting alone away from the glittering lights of Gotham drinking in the brilliance of the Milky Way, watching the blaze of the sun being extinguished in the waters of the Pacific; these moments and many more give us glimpses of the true treasures of life. Sadly, most tomorrows come and the busyness of gathering stuff reveals how little we have learned, how minute is our understanding and what pittance of our three score and ten we devote to the real riches of life.

Like the ancients, we too are slow to learn of life’s truths. We too stop short of understanding of the purposes of existence. We too fritter away years in pursuit of that which will never satisfy.

Worst of all, the choices of the many seem to indicate that we are slowest to learn the greatest of all truths. All that I am, all that I do, all that I know, all that I have in my storehouse exists because of a benevolent, loving Heavenly Father.

“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” (I Chronicles 29:14)

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Little could we have imagined when we got that greatest deal ever, on that number one fixer-upper, how much of our lives would be spent renovating the 4700 square foot ghetto and landscaping the half acre upon which it was constructed.

The mind is kind and shrinks life’s challenging experiences into manageable memories. However, if I allow myself, I can still visualize the back yard where there was a pile of broken boards where horses were once kept, bonfire pits, twenty plus trashy elms which had to be cut down and removed, and a barren space which we couldn't allow our children to play in because of the abundance of broken glass. I can remember having to seal off all but about 1000 square feet of the house. We spent a few years kind of camping out in the rest of the house consisting of one bedroom, a run-down old service station looking bathroom, an area we called the dorm where our 6 children slept, a kitchen which would have been condemned by every inspector and a living area where we spent most of our at home time, while I tore the insides of the rest of the house apart and rebuilt it room by room.

Standing on the front lawn looking at the freshly painted, newly roofed house which we had for 14 years lovingly called home and jokingly called the ghetto. I audibly sighed, ‘Never Again.’

If we learn by our mistakes and difficulties I am sure there was enough learning taking place during those 14 years to last me through this life time and several more.

For multiples of that 14 year period that we were entangled in our ‘Never Again’ dream house, I have been involved in the renovation of people lives, both my own and the meaningful others that my family, church and occupational contacts have made part of my life. Innumerable times I have sat in sessions discussing decisions which had made temporary and sometimes permanent shambles to lives. Almost as often I have reminisced about the joy which comes from starting anew and how it could be hastened had we all just firmly resolved and continued in a state of ‘Never Again.’

How much time, money and hurt would be saved by the addicted having firmly decided and determinedly lived lives of ‘Never Again?’

How many families would be able to enjoy harmonious happy hours together, if conflicting members had forgivenly decided, ‘Never Again?’

How much stronger would neighborhoods, communities and nations be if contentious parties decided to bring about resolution of problems by doing what is right rather than in their own self-interest and determined to live lives of ‘Never Again?’

How many scenes of blood and horror would be dissipated if nations honorably decided and determinedly lived the creed of ‘Never Again?’

Alas, and for a semblance of peace of mind, long ago I came to realize there is little that can be done by an outside influence to change the choices and activities of the inhabitants of our world.

But, wondrous glory, I also know there is a great deal each of us can do to improve the quality of our own lives.

The key to change from sadness to joy in all of our lives, transforming negatives into positives, may lie in our ability to become practitioners in the philosophy of ‘Never Again.’