Sunday, June 30, 2013


In September of 1961 at age 22, I started on a journey which would occupy a large part of my time for the next 50 years. I was hired as an early morning teacher in the Seminary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and given a salary of $700 for the year. This wasn’t really a salary, but more of a way to defray the cost of materials which would be used during the year.

I was assigned to teach the students from the Westminster Ward in Orange County, California and we held class in the back of a Laundromat. It was actually a pretty good classroom after they brought in a teaching table, some tables and chairs and a piano. We also had a portable blackboard and I was given chalk and an eraser. I was taught how to make handouts off of a sheet of gelatin and the reverse side of carbon paper. It was a fantastic year and I knew I had discovered my career. Who would have believed that I would sign my last contract in 2005 and then teach as a volunteer until my 73rd year of life?

During that first year I was visited several times by Brother Doug Orgil who was the supervisor for the early morning seminary classes in Orange County. He always had meaningful suggestions and we usually spent some time visiting after the students had gone off to school. During one of these visits he told me the following story to help me understand that young people were struggling with problems we may not be aware of:

A single mother, struggling to safe guard her daughter through her teen years, had told her that she was not allowed to have friends, especially boys, over to the apartment after school when her mother was still at work. One day, succumbing to the pressures of young flirtatious love and the need to be liked, she invited two young brothers over for a snack, feeling secure that they would be long gone before her mother got home from work.

As those things always seem to go, this day of all days her mother had to return home early to fetch something she needed at work. Finding the three youngsters enjoying food and music, and feeling her daughter had breached an absolute rule of the home, the frustrated mother lost it. She ordered the boys out of the house and forbade them to have anything else to do with her daughter. She then put her daughter on restriction until she was 26 years old and sent her to her room.

That night the daughter left home, found her two friends and the three of them, ages 13, 14 and 15, decided to run away. They started walking out of town in the black of night, but soon grew tired of walking and decided to hi jack a car. They found a car with the doors unlocked and since in those days cars could easily be hotwired by putting a quarter on the bolts behind the ignition they soon had the motor roaring. Since the 15 year old boy was the oldest he took the wheel and their halting escape was gaining momentum.

Somewhere near Riverside, California they ran out of gas. The all night station attendant was more than happy to take the older brother’s watch for a few gallons of gas. Since gas was only 19 cents a gallon the attendant/thief was more than willing to take advantage of the runaways and was now the owner of a very nice watch.

By the time they reached Yermo and were well into the desert, as a result of the torture to the car administered by the efforts of the inexperienced driver, the transmission was jerking, the car was overheating and steam was coming from under the hood. They abandoned the car and, going over the railroad tracks near the highway, headed into the desert.

By 11 am the sun was well up and the heat was beating on the waterless group. The 13 year old brother fainted from sunstroke so they pulled him into the shade of a rock and decided that for his safety they probably needed to head back to the road and find some help.

As they came over the tracks they saw a police car parked behind the car they had hi jacked. When he waved to them, the two older children dropped the younger brother who they had been dragging back to the road and started running. They didn't go far before the officer caught up to them and eventually brought them back to safety where the long road of resolution could begin.

Brother Orgil had told me this story as an anecdote to a scripture I had used that day in class which Joseph Smith had received when the early members of the restored church were struggling with living the principles and doctrines of the gospel. The Lord told him, as he had once told Moses, that the persecution they were suffering was accountable to them because, they were walking in darkness at noonday. (Doctrine and Covenants 95:6)

My life’s journey has led me to believe that the brightness of noon day shines clearest through the lenses of the light, life and teachings of Jesus the Christ.

To those who have concluded that many of the world’s problems, wars and persecutions have been generated from the bowels of religions, I hasten to quote one of my favorite quotations from Mark Twain, “Christianity hasn’t failed, it just hasn’t been tried.”

I suspect to a large degree, to those whose journeys have been on different paths than mine, Mark Twain would also conclude that, Islamism, Shintoism, Buddhism etc. haven't failed, they just haven't been tried.

Generally speaking, we don't make wrong choices because of the lack of true and correct instruction or because there are no guides who do not suffer from blindness. We stumble and struggle because we fail to search for true paths or deliberately choose to cross into unexplored deserts.

In His parable of the Pearl, the Savior tells of a man who, having found the Pearl of Great Price, sells all that he has and makes it his.

We are only told of one seeker of the Pearl of Great price, but in the journey of life we seem to play the part of many different seekers.

There are times when we are the self-reliant seekers – who, having had varying degrees of direction on where to find the Pearl, turn their backs on proffered help and are soon lost, never even catching a glimpse of the Pearl.

At times we are like the half-way seekers – who, having been given a clear map, chose to sometimes follow the high-lighted path, but many times wander into unmarked territories and faint far short of finding the Pearl.

Sadly, some of us end up being short of the mark seekers – who, having faithfully followed all that we have been shown to do, when faced with having to pay the ultimate price, turn from the Pearl and shrink away.

Oh that we could become wise seekers – who, after earnestly seeking the knowledgeable guide who knew the way perfectly, strive with all their might to keep their feet firmly following the well-lit path and when finding the Pearl give their last farthing to make it theirs.

In the 58th chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah explains why the children of Israel are struggling and suffering. He recognizes their daily efforts to do the outward functions of religion, but calls their attention to the inner sanctifying acts of life which have been neglected.

The apostle Paul was adamant that all fall short of the goal! Eternal truth has not been tried. We stumble following after unknowing and blind guides who lead us into dark deserts.

May we all listen a little more attentively, be more diligent in our trying, until we find the Pearl of Great Price and purchase it with our all, is my prayer for each of us.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Nephi, the son of Lehi and Sariah begins his writings in the Book of Mormon in these words, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents.”

I’m not sure when I first became conscious of the blessing of ‘being born of goodly parents,’ but I am certain by the time I entered the grandparent phase and now as I am entering the great grandparent phase of my earthly estate, that though I still find myself lacking, I feel that I understand far more about this theme than I did when I was a lad in my ‘goodly parents’ home.

As the decades are retraced through the miracle of memory, I find myself quickly drawn into a series of comparisons:

Selfishness versus selflessness,

Completeness versus incompleteness,

Dedication versus slothfulness,

Caring versus carelessness,

Inclusiveness versus exclusiveness,

Loving versus indifference,

Gentleness versus grossness,

Agency versus unrighteous dominion.

All these contrasts and many more, flood upon the mind as one reviews experiences of children who have been raised by ‘goodly parents’ versus those who have negatively been involved or not involved with adults who biologically gave them birth.

The person who has entered into parenting with casualness and proceeds carelessly in this stewardship might consider pondering the Savior’s words as they were recorded by Matthew, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better that a mill stone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

Benjamin, a prophet/king, who ministered to both family and nation as a ‘goodly parent,’ included the following responsibilities as part of the stewardship of parenting: (Mosiah 4:14, 15)

Not suffer your children to go hungry or naked

Not suffer your children to transgress the law,

Not suffer your children to quarrel one with another,

Teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness,

Teach them to love one another,

Teach them to serve one another.

Pondering on joyous or sad experiences of our past and searching the scriptures, although they may be beneficial exercises, usually result in limited resolution of problems. Concrete solutions to bad parenting traits come as we pay the prices necessary to purge negative behavior from our parent/child relationships and re-enforce patterns of ‘goodly parenting.’

Making being a ‘goodly parent’ a priority in our heaven declared stewardship will surely insure positive reports from future generations; but more importantly, the lessons taught through example and proffered wisdom, will do far more to contribute towards preparing posterity to live in the prophesied Zion society.

One of the commonalities we witness in ‘goodly parents’ is a continuous commitment to the stewardship they have chosen. Once one is committed to the awesomeness of the path they have chosen and the commissioned responsibility which has ascended upon them as a consequence, all subsequent steps seem to be a series of learning and applying the endless attributes which attend their stewardship to their children as they practice being ‘goodly parents.’

Therefore, as we continue reading Nephi’s record we find that even as Lehi prepares to go the way of all the earth, having had the grandparent and great grandparent added to his stewardship of being a ‘goodly parent,’ after having spent his life striving to bring his children to an understanding of God and His Plan of Salvation, Lehi calls his posterity to his side that he might impart one last blessing and further words of guidance to his posterity. (2 Nephi 1-4)

Justifiably, Lehi declares at the end of his day words which we all might desire to be worthy of echoing as we end our mortal stewardships, having striven to walk after the pattern of ‘goodly parents. “I have had no other object save it be the everlasting welfare of (my children’s) souls.” (2 Nephi 2:30)

It takes but a small moment reflecting upon Lehi and Sariah’s example and our own observations, as we gingerly step through mortality, to realize that:

Indeed, being a ‘goodly parent involves caring for the present and future physical needs of those precious
beings that have been gifted to us and placed in our charge.

But the ‘goodly parent’ must also look beyond the temporal needs of their children and toward the Everlasting welfare of their Eternal souls.

“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watch man waketh but in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:”
(Psalm 127)

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Even though the events now seem trivial, during my youth I often felt like the world was conspiring against me. It was a feeling that was always fleeting and easily dispelled by the next time I was at bat or scored higher on the next algebra test. Quickly failure was replaced by success as I moved on to the next exhilarating adventure. It seemed like the crushing blows of life were frequent in those tumultuous teen years, but in retrospect I now know they were short-lived and of little lasting effect.

The heaviness I felt as I left St. George, Utah was much different. As I joined the other cars on the freeway speeding to Las Vegas, the overwhelming weight did not dissipate. Even as I boarded the plane for my return flight to Reno, Nevada my burden seemed stifling. Touching ground and greeting my wife did little to dispel the heaviness that was pressing upon my heart. Several days would pass before the ‘lesson to be learned’ would begin to work its miracle of relief upon my agonizing soul.

Just before leaving St. George, I had gone to visit my father who was in a nursing home recovering from a recent operation. The words of warning my mother had used were inadequate to fully prepare me for what would happen as I entered my father’s room. The toll of living more than 85 years and the recent operations were immediately obvious, but the real telling blow was hidden deep within the faltering mind of this man who had been such an important and influential part of my life for over 45 years.

As I bent to give my father a hug and to greet him with a kiss it suddenly became apparent that his bright eyes had now been dimmed by time, his ears now received only silence, and his mind was clouded. There was no recognition of father/son relationship. Where had all the memories of childhood games gone? Where were the wonderful words of counsel? Where was the warmth of love exchanged? All were absent surrounded by a numbing blur, and in their place that suffocating feeling distilling upon me as I realized that my father did not know me. All had been erased and I had become a stranger to him.

Almost a month passed before circumstances allowed me to return to St. George to visit my parents again. The trauma of my last visit was still vibrant and alive in my system and caused a large amount of fear to follow me into the nursing home as my mother, my son Troy and I entered the small cavity where my father had mostly slept for the last month. The room was vacant which caused my heart to skip a few beats and a different kind of feeling flooded over me.

We found dad sitting quietly by himself in the recreation room which had been converted into a chapel for worship services which were being held that morning. It was warming to see him grasp my mother’s hand as she greeted him. Then his still dimmed eyes rose to meet mine. His silenced ears strained to hear my words and then it was there – that wonderful smile – and the words forming on his lips, “Bill, I’m so glad you have come.” He knew me once again! The memories of shared years did not return, cloudiness soon rolled back over his eyes, his world once again went silent. But for one last wonderful second the warmth of love was felt and father and son were together again.
Frederick William Riley was only to live a short while longer, but with the lesson well learned his passing was made easier.

Time may dim our senses and block our ability to recall, but deep within the soul of each of us is indelibly recorded the relationships, experiences and interchanges of life.

Reality tells us that for all of us the day will come when even our greatest sorrows of mortality will be forgotten and we have the assurance we will be moving on to brighter and more exhilarating adventures.

Eternally I will be grateful that the majority of the relationships, experiences and interchanges between me and my father were joyful and positive. I am so grateful that when we meet again both of our minds will have been quickened and the corruptible parts of our beings will have been raised incorruptible. How marvelous it will be that in the brightness of that perfect light I will once again see my father’s smile and hear the words coming from his lips, “Bill, I’m so glad you have come.”

Sunday, June 9, 2013


During the final days of his earthly sojourn the ancient prophet Lehi feebly laid his hands upon the head of Zoram, who had spent the early years of his life as a servant/slave of the unrighteous governor of Jerusalem, Laban, and blessed this true friend of his son Nephi with adoption into his family and, therefore, as a member of the House of Israel.

Although few of us are able to fully appreciate the momentousness of this blessing, we can imagine somewhat the significance to Zoram’s posterity. By being numbered with the seed of Nephi, they were freed from the bonds of servitude, they became co-heirs of the royal Priesthood and the joys of freedom could perpetually swell in their hearts.

From father Lehi, Zoram had been given an inheritance which not only had great importance during mortality of things which would mold and decay, but also a gift of those things of eternal and everlasting significance.
The rereading of this account always gives me opportunity to pause and ponder the influence those groups I may be numbered with are having on my mortal and eternal life.

Does the throng I mingle with go forth demanding an ample share of earthly riches in order to assure their continued comforts and pleasures, or is my crowd concerned with increasing the comfort of the weary and lifting the standard of the lives of the poor and needy?

Have I cast my lot with those who manipulate their fellow beings, subtly seducing them to believe their own special interpretation of ‘right’, or have I joined with the band who subscribe to the understanding that we are all but stumbling fellow seekers, trying to find light in darkness in constant need of guides who see afar off?

Do those around me have their finger rigidly outstretched pointing out the blemishes of their neighbors or am I blessed with the companionship of those concerned with self-evaluation and introspection?

Does the group I run with live life as if it were an amusement park, perpetually lining up at the gateway to the next ride, seeking some unattainable illusive pleasure, or do I enjoy the company of those who have their hearts full of joy, induced by dedication to the Lord’s labors of love?

Am I constantly surrounded by those who believe that they have been given the right to reign by administering death and destruction to obtain their destinies or do I find my friends speaking of finding ways to bring peace through showing forth an abundance of kindness and love?

Do those with whom I am numbered continually make choices which place them in chains of captivity or am I with those who make choices based on truths which will make them free?

Do I find my days filled with negative comments about all of the world’s ills because of the words which spew from the months of those who surround me or am I constantly reminded of the many positive and blessed conditions of life by those who accompany my daily walk?

Do my fellows still wander to and fro drifting with every breath of wind or do I walk with those who find their steps firmly planted on the pathway of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Men have ever been and will ever be both a reflection of and reflector of, the groups they have inherited or have chosen to be numbered among.

The passing of years alters the makeup of our peers, but many times present company is both a fulfillment of past associations and a foreshadowing of future acquaintances.

The understanding that we are both blessed and cursed by the associations we enjoy or suffer through, should cause us to indulge in genuine inspection of those we are presently numbered among.

The further reality that the cleaving of lives on this earth becomes a determining fore-ordination of our eternal companionships, should be sufficient cause to motivate us to choose well this day with whom we are to be numbered.

If we were to pause and consider the effect our choices of those we are numbered among will have as a lasting legacy upon our children and our children’s children, I believe we would not only choose more carefully our earthly crowd, but earnestly seek Divine guidance as we align ourselves with those with whom we are to be eternally numbered.
It well might be that we are not only saved by what we believe, but also with whom we mingle and share beliefs.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Like so many of the things we learn in life it seems impossible to remember when the delightful and insightful little story by Trina Paulus first entered my bank of knowledge. In her story, ‘Hope for the Flowers,’ we follow the life of two caterpillars named Stripe and Yellow as they struggle through one phase of existence and eventually give into the necessary events which allow them to fulfill their purpose for existence.

We read about Stripe who becomes bored with eating the same leaves from the same tree and goes exploring and finds a pillar of caterpillars crawling all over each other in their quest to get to the top with no understanding what they will find when they get there. Finding Yellow brings a brief escape for Stripe from the crawling pillar, but eventually he is drawn back into the squirming mess leaving Yellow behind in spite of her pleadings.

While Stripe spends his days pushing and shoving, crawling his way to the top, Yellow grieves his absence and one day finds a graying caterpillar weaving himself into a cocoon. In her conversation with the wizened one she is told that the goal she and Stripe are trying to find can only be found by giving up the unreachable quest of the pillar. She tries to find and convince Stripe but when her mission is unsuccessful she returns to her home tree to weave her own cocoon.

When Yellow emerges in her destined form as a beautiful yellow butterfly she flies to the pillar and after some time convinces Stripe that the pillar is not the way to find fulfillment. Stripe returns to the home tree and begins to weave his own cocoon.

In this charming and insightful tale Trina gives us reason to pause in our own squirmy lives to reflect on the pillar we are so frantically trying to climb.

How do I view the multitude of those who are on the pillar with me?

Are they just rungs to be stepped on and over in my quest?

Is anything I say or do to get past them justified because it advances my cause?

Do I mistrust all they say and do and weigh all with suspicion?

Do I distinguish ‘good’ by chosen colors of pigmentation, political preferences and social status?

Do I get so caught up in the squeamish crawling that voices of reason are but unrecognized distant echoes?


Do I view the multitude as an unending opportunity to be of service?

Do I weigh my every act and word in the balance of Eternal truths?

Do I trust my fellow travelers, in spite of their follies, recognizing that they also are struggling to find the way?

Do I love the rainbow spectrum, the varieties of understanding and the richness of cultural climates?

Do I seek out and listen to those who have gone before who perhaps know more of the better way?

What is the instrument I use to examine life; a telescope, a microscope or eternal lenses?

Do I spend so much time looking so far off that I fail to see the beauty in my unexamined present?

Do I spend so much time examining the tiny dark corners of my cubicled now that I leave the brighter tomorrows unexamined?

Am I so busy rushing back and forth from telescope to microscope that my eternal lenses are clouded with years of doubt and skepticism?

Have the marketers of the telescopes and microscopes done their job so well that the reality of the next glorious stage of life has been removed from view?


Do I balance my looking afar off and my narrowest perspectives with the exalted view from the heavens?

Do I make sure in the busyness my hithering and thithering that I find moments to refresh my life with hope and faith?

Do I make sure that I keep the propaganda of the present in perspective by frequently retuning to the messages of those whose shared life experiences keep eternal visions alive?

Trina Paulus’ message in ‘Hope for the Flowers’ is special in its simplicity and bounteous in its beatitudes and when understood should help us all to realize that the pushing and pulling of this life are not why we have come, but are merely a prelude to the beginning of our true existence. I pray that today we will all begin to spin the cocoon which will eventually release us into that glorious beginning.