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)