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.’

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The other day I was leaving the Temple after having spent an irregular and wonderful morning there. It was irregular because I had a four hour break between my two sealing assignments and it was wonderful because not only did I have the two sealing assignments, but I also was able to do the second one in Spanish.

Anyway, as I was leaving the Temple, I started to turn to my right to go down the pathway to the parking lot. I saw that the wonderful Latino family, consisting of Mother, Father and three beautiful children I had just sealed together for the eternities, were blocking the path as they were digitally recording their special day. I did a quick right turn and instead started down the entrance steps of the Temple and the sight of a perfect the little angel grabbed my attention. Maybe she had celebrated her third birthday, but I really doubt it. She was trying to be brave as she sobbed out how she couldn't go into the Temple because she didn't have a white dress and that she didn't know where her daddy and her sister and brothers were.

As we retreated back up the stairs I immediately became aware of her problem. The beautiful flowers and retaining wall treatments of the Temple grounds were hedges and walls from her diminutive view point. Even though I have never thought of myself as being very tall (with the possible exception of the time I was blessed to spend in Mexico and Colombia) my heightened vantage point gave me the ability of almost immediately spying her older sister and brother scurrying about the fountain and paths wandering through the beautifully landscaped garden.

They were obviously on an errand to look for their little lost sister, but since the older sister looked to be about 10 and her brother about 7 their rescue search was frequently interrupted by gathering snail shells and other treasures.
I quickly reunited the siblings and as I turned to head for my car I was greeted by the little angel’s father, carrying her little baby brother. The father’s anxious countenance was quickly replaced with a smile of gratitude.

I took one last glance and was warmed by the scene as I heard the father say, “I bet you were really scared,” while his daughter clung to his leg with all her might
As I drove home I was grateful for the warmth that continued to glow in my soul. During the succeeding days which have followed I have remembered the encounter with my little friend with fondness.

During the afterglow days, brightened by the experiences of that memorable Saturday morning, I have used the memory to stimulate pondering upon how often during my life I have been helped in my journeys by someone who had a heightened vantage point or by another who was willing to lift me just a bit, so that I could see what they were seeing.

The scriptures remind us of the importance of towers which allow us to see afar off. They often remind us of the importance of seeing those who would destroy us while they are still at a distance. I have often envisioned that those on the towers would also be able to indicate when it was safe to venture outside of our protective environs. For these reasons and the following I am grateful to have had in my life, viewers from towers.

Adam, who by keeping a book of remembrance of the teachings he received from his Father, helped us to see beyond the blinding selfishness of our self-planted hedges and realize that we are indeed our brother’s keepers.

Moses, who from the heights of Mount Sinai was given the vision to lead neophyte Israel to the promised land and give the fundamental laws and procedures necessary for the continuance of societies.

Abraham, who was able to see beyond the valleys of the land of promise and gave us the vision that it is not sufficient to save our own, but we must go into the wilderness and be willing to bless all nations.

Isaiah, who from his high tower not only gave vision to those of his generation, but also to those who would live in the meridian of time and to we who live in the last days; vision which would help us see the grander picture of the purposes of life and the importance the Lord would play as he became the thread which ties all generations together.

Those who struggled to see through the darkness of the ages such as Mohammed, Justin Maître, Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis and numerous others who kept the spark of gospel hope alive, when seeing afar off was impossible for most and whose light can still guide and strengthen us all on our cloudiest days.

Joseph Smith Jr., who was inspired to build a tower for those who would live in the last dispensation, that they might see above the walls and hedges which the philosophies of men and secularism would continually raise up to wall us in.

Added to this list of the noble ones standing upon the towers are the great ones who fill each of our daily lives;
parents, teachers, family, friends and angels who come to us unaware. Sometimes they shine just enough light for us to be able to venture safely forth for just one more step. Sometimes they lift us just enough, so we can see the dangers beyond the wall or shine a light on the path which leads in the right direction. Whatever magnitude their seeing or lifting might take, with their added wisdom, our ways are made warmer and brighter because of the advantages of their heightened vision.

For all of these I am grateful and will continue to be grateful as they guide me toward that day when I can walk one final time into the Eternal House of the Lord dressed in spotless white.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


It’s interesting what thoughts come into one’s mind when they sit down at the computer. I don't think I have bothered thinking about hand-made Italian shoes during the last 40 plus years. Yet here I sit pondering upon what great anticipation I had, as a recent returned missionary, as I wandered into the Men's clothing store on the corner of Garden Grove Boulevard and Euclid Avenue in Garden Grove, California, knowing I had enough money in my hand-me-down wallet to finally buy those long coveted hand-made Italian shoes.

What a wondrous luxurious felling oozed up my legs as I slipped my foot between the layers of soft leather. I slipped my over trodden worn out missionaries shoes into the hand-made Italian shoebox and exited the store sporting my hand-made Italian shoes. I was absolutely sure everyone was as aware as I was that my feet were adorned with shoes which only the rich and famous could wear.

Not even during my army basic training days, when my every action was under the watchful eye of the training sergeant, did I take such devoted care of my footwear. Polish, shoe trees, dust covers, no expense was spared in caring for those special hand-made Italian shoes.
But alas, all too soon, due to their very thin leather soles, the day came when suddenly I awoke and realized that my hand-made Italian shoes had glistening tops, but the bottoms had become gilded. My socks were now visible through the holes in the priceless leather soles.

Oh, what day of sadness, as I stood in shock as the smiling cobbler, twittering with glee, informed me that because of the unique composition of the shoes, they could not be re-soled. In a matter of a few blinding seconds my era among the rich and famous came to a crashing end.
The hand-made Italian shoes remained on my closet shelf for several years with other trophies of past imagined triumphs, but were eventually discarded with the onset of a meaningful reality check.

Today as I recall this event, my soul is filled with jocularity at the importance I had placed on that single pair of hand-made Italian shoes and now that the priorities of my life have been dramatically altered, I wonder:

What kind of husband would I be if I treated that sublime stewardship/relationship with such stalwartness?

What kind of father would I be if I approached that ultimate responsibility with the same care and tenderness?

What kind of neighbor would I be if I elevated them to the same level of price and priority?

What kind of offspring of Deity would I be if I were to strive to emulate the characteristics of Godliness to the same degree?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell has eloquently expressed what I am trying to say in the following words: “Someday when we look back on mortality, we will see that so many of the things that seemed to matter so much at the moment will be seen not to have mattered at all. And the eternal things will be seen to have mattered even more than the most faithful of the Saints imagined.”

I can enthusiastically testify that there is indeed life after hand-made Italian shoes become holey and dust covers their luster. I can also with certain knowledge testify that husbanding requires a lot of polishing to keep its sheen, that fathering requires a lot of supporting to keep things in shape, that neighboring is only of value when covered with kindness. I am also grateful to our loving Father, who when we put holes in our souls becomes the Full of Grace Cobbler who will forever provide a way to re-soul.