Sunday, January 26, 2014


I am sure that Neal A. Maxwell never felt virtue being drained from his body as I touched the edge of his suit coat. I never sat mesmerized at his feet on a mountain side, nor did I meander for hours on the beach while soaking up morsels of his wisdom, but I did hear him speak on numerous occasions. Ultimately, his becoming a major mentor in my life came about mainly because of the abundance of his writings I was able to digest.

My admiration of his teachings must have been pretty apparent to those with whom I was able to share my own classroom experiences, because as I glance at the bookshelves behind me while I am writing this morning, I notice that I have duplicates of many of his books which I am sure were gifts from kind and well-meaning students. Either that or the memory lapses which come with aging started long before I thought.

One of the concepts which I know Elder Maxwell introduced me to was that of provincialism. He always used the word in one of its secondary meanings identifying ‘a person of local or restricted interests or outlook.’ It was obvious that he did not regard this as a positive attribute, but felt it was something that one needed to avoid or overcome.

A summary of Brother Maxwell’s thoughts on this subject might go something like: Too often we find that the value we place on individuals and their ideas is restricted by our provincial propensities.

Some of my thoughts which stem from Maxwell’s words on PROVINCIALISM:

Acts of goodness are not limited by the origins of one’s ancestors or the hue of the pigmentation their skin.

Proclamations of truths are not solely confined to one’s place of worship or to the pundits who occupy pulpits.

Feelings of being close to Divinity are not the exclusive providence of one’s place of worship be it Temple, Mosque, Synagogue, Chapel, Cathedral, Home or Hill Top.

The Universal brotherhood of mankind must not be bound by the artificial barriers instituted by governments and lines on maps.
Another of the concepts gleaned from my exhaustive readings of Elder Maxwell’s writings were his interesting views on PERSECUTION.

Some of my thoughts which stem from Maxwell’s words on persecution:

Sadly, persecution always seems to be something that others do to me and seldom has anything to do with what I do to others.

When I am being critical of others I am trying to strengthen them, but when others are critical of me I am being persecuted.

Since what I say of others in their absence will never be known by them it cannot be considered as an unkind act.

Although cyber bullying was not a popular pastime while Elder Maxwell did his mortal walk, I am sure he would have considered it as one of the ugliest forms of persecution.

The last of the ideals of Elder Maxwell’s I will briefly cover in this Thought is on the principle of PERFECTION.
Some of my thoughts which stem from Maxwell’s words on PERFECTION:

Although the Savior admonished us to be perfect, even as He and His Father are perfect, we will leave mortality with that task largely unfulfilled.

Since our understanding is limited by our finiteness and perfection is an infinite quality, we will not be capable of perfection until the limits are lifted from our understanding.

Our task during our mortal sojourn is not to achieve perfection, but to make as many steps toward it as possible.

If we but overcome our telestial propensities toward worldliness and put on some of the terrestrial attributes of brotherly love and kindness we will have achieved a great deal during our lives.

I know it is just a sampling, and what Neal A. Maxwell has contributed to the foundations of my beliefs could once again fill the volumes he wrote I wanted to write this Thought as a thank you to him for all he said and for all he was.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


TPeriodically during our lives we witness or read about a unique person in the multitude of humanity who, with undeviating dedication, has changed the lives of the masses.

Siddhartha Gautama, born into wealth and circumstance, upon discovering the existence of poverty, with singleness of desire for the true meanings of life, spent fourteen years of starvation and devastation before he started to teach the path that today 250-500 million people follow as they revere him with the name of Buddha.

Orphaned early in life and reared by a grandfather, having a propensity towards deep thought and insights, Mohammed eventually founded a religion which today has 1,570,000,000 adherents. Although Islam recognizes Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets of God, it reveres Mohammed as the greatest prophet who ever lived. Mohammed felt it was his commission to mold a perverse and materialistic society into a manifold, human community. His instrument for accomplishing this was the absolute and final revelation which is recorded in the Koran.

Although the enlarged population of Judaism today claims only a scant two tenths of a percent of the world’s population, due largely to the many attempts to exterminate it’s followers, a large portion of the major religions of the world are founded on the writings of a babe who was snatched from the bulrushes, raised as a prince of Egypt and became Moses the law giver. The laws and teachings written by Moses have become the reasoning behind how cultures can coexist and humanity can keep from destroying itself.

Pondering upon such men’s lives often leads to the question of ‘why him?’ Is the answer always to be found in the adherent’s common belief on selection by divine destiny? Have all of them come to their quest on earth because of a foreordination of Divinity? If all are claimed to come from a common source then why do we remain divided? When the majority of their writings and teachings are held in common why do we strain to find differences?

Universally, these founding fathers have refused to accept the inequalities and abuses in society simply because of established traditions or the existing structures of power. Being labeled fanatical, peculiar and rebellious they undauntedly marched forward seeking the just answer, and once having found it, dedicated their lives in an effort to righting whatever wrong existed in their world.

Somehow, Joseph Smith Jr. (while accompanying his family in their push westward in the United States of America, which had only existed as a nation for less than thirty years when he was born) while yet in his teens queried about how the many religions which all claimed to have Jesus Christ as their Savoir could be in a constant struggle to prove themselves right. His pondering was intensified when he realized that all of their differing claims were founded upon passages of the Bible. It didn't seem like one faith to him. His revelatory path acquainted him with heavenly messengers, a book from the dust and the understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. Those who proclaim him a prophet, and in varying degrees strive to adhere to the principles of the doctrines and teaching of this plan, less than two centuries later now number 15,000,000.

Pondering the world in which I live more than two millennia after the mortal birth of the Son of God, I have often thought about a worthy cause which should be my quest. Most often my thoughts linger upon a certain perpetuated myth, and a truth which seems so well hidden that few there be who find it.

Joshua bar Joseph was born into humble poverty and spent a scant thirty three years in a small nation under the control of a foreign dictate, suffering and dying through crucifixion with criminals, but his teachings and his divinity are recognized today by one third of the world’s population as the path which should be walked in life and the way to salvation. He was called Jesus the Christ, Savior and King. He spent three years outlining the life the children of God should live. Almost without fail, no sooner had His words left His mouth than the mongers of doubt and hate began to spread abroad the myth that His way was hard and any who undertake the burden of such a life will be heavy laden. There is an accompanying myth about how impossible it is for any of us to actually live such a life.

If I had a dream which I would like to be fulfilled, a mountain which I would desire to scale, a quest I would want to conquer and with the all the fortitude of my will blow a trump which would could be heard in every corner of the world, it would be to somehow expose these myths and espouse the truth that living the gospel brings joy and happiness to one’s life.

In my small way I proclaim charitable caring, overcoming adversity, disciplining of desires and self-mastery all lead to soul fulfilling joy.

Those souls who have firmly planted their feet upon His path, find that it is not rocky nor is the field thorny; but every new turn in their journey brings vision to overcome challenges and result in a growth of happiness.

Each adverse reality, when adventurously faced, brings new understanding of the glorious Plan of Happiness.

If I could have the wish of my heart it would be that the ancient myths or the mongers would be buried and truth spring forth.

In one way or another Gautama, Mohammed, Moses, Lehi, Joseph Smith Jr. and all who have received revelation from God have come to know and have taught that man’s purpose is to have Joy, and true joy will only come to them who firmly plant their feet upon the Savior’s clearly marked path and make His eternal principles their daily light.

Likewise, if division is to die, if strife is to stop, if hate is be hampered, I believe it will only come about because we have all decided to live after the Lord’s Plan of Happiness.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Robert Frost in his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ leads us to the conclusion that by choosing the road less traveled it will make all the difference in our lives. Although I think I understand him well, after seven decades and more of observing the scant representation of humanity that I have been blessed to be surrounded by, the paths we walk in life are as unique and individualistic as finger prints, snowflakes and as we are discovering, the stars in the heavens.

I have no record of how often someone has said to me ‘that’s exactly what I think’ or ‘that’s exactly how I think’ or ‘that’s exactly how I do that’ or ‘that’s exactly how I am’ or ‘ that’s exactly what I believe? I have often thought but never previously expressed, NO YOU DO NOT or NO YOU ARE NOT.

Looking upon the outward appearance we seem to have so very much in common, but as Samuel was instructed when he sought for a righteous king to replace Saul, ‘man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh upon the heart.’ Indeed, we commonly share many physical features which with hurried glances seem to bear a strong resemblance, but on closer examination are universally unique in every way. If we could do a similar examination upon everyman’s heart, mind and soul, my suspicion is that we would be as overwhelmed as we were when the Hubble telescope opened to our vista the individual print of the stars which seem so similar when viewed with our myopic eyes.

As the choices we make hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly divergently accumulate throughout our lives we become increasingly who we and we alone are
Think of the myriad of interpretations a microscopic examination of the simple responses of some of life’s less meaningful questions, with only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, would reveal about each of us.

Do you exercise?
Do you have a healthy diet?
Is being blond really more fun?
Is living in a small town better than a big city?

If by some Human Hubble introspection we were able to examine the true meaning behind the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ of each of 10,000 responders I am quite certain we would at the end of the examination find 10,000 human prints as individual as their eye prints.

What then would we expect to find hidden behind the simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if the questions were of weightier matters?

Do you believe in God?
Are you a person of integrity?
Are you virtuous?
Are you honest?

I think the scale of differentiation by what responders meant by their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses would be astronomically astonishing.

I have no doubt that if it were possible to examine all of historical mankind, really understanding each individual’s meaning behind their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, we would with this test alone know definitively that none of us are alike nor do we think alike.

In the third chapter of the beautiful little book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, Abraham receives the understanding of differences which exist in all of God’s creations. Whether speaking of stars in the heaven, sands of the sea or spirits of men, the Lord tells Abraham that none of His creations are the same.

Lest we hasten to use that old ruse of an excuse, ‘ah ha, I am this way because God made me this way.’ We must remind ourselves that Eternal wars have been fought over the Eternal principle of Agency which was to be given to Heavenly Father’s children so that they and they alone would be able to choose what and who they would become

If you were to examine my personal belief on this matter I would have to confess that I believe that this developmental choice making, which would result in me becoming uniquely me, started long before my mortal frame was started and will continue long after the dirt rains down upon my coffin.

I believe that during our supposedly 16 hours each day when we are generally awake and conscious there is no moment when we are not in the choice developmental process. I was about to write 24 hours each day, but then I realized I know very little about the subconscious Id and Ego stuff that happens during those appointed 8 hours of sleep nor whether or not they contribute to what we are becoming.

I believe that the gift of agency is so eternally important that everyone should be deeply concerned when they chose to relinquish the use of this gift to some mind altering substance. I wonder what the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ differentiation score would on that question?
I also believe that in this infinite process of self-becoming that there are no idle choices which have no impact upon the ultimate me.


Sunday, January 5, 2014


It’s funny what strange things one has stored in their minds. For some reason I recently thought about something which happened several decades ago. I remembered watching a young child working on his first maze.

Putting his crayon on start he soon had a dark blue trail which meandered into dead ends and out again. He eventually found his way to the end of the maze, but his efforts had left the page looking like he had been attempting to color the entire field. When his older brother came into the room he started to unveil the secrets his three added years of living and an even older brother had revealed to him about doing mazes.

Never use crayons or pens when doing mazes, but find a pencil with a good eraser and use that.
Before putting any lines on the maze look at the end of the maze and using your eyes only trace your way back to the start.
Now using only your eyes start at the beginning and retrace the path back to the end of the maze.
Now put your pencil at start and lightly draw your way to the end.
So that others will think you are really bright you are now ready to draw a single path from the start to the end of the maze with any permanent type of marker you choose.

I suspect all of our lives would be dramatically different if we used this same formula when we are faced with making decisions. If we would struggle just a little bit in order to catch a glimpse of the end we were headed towards when we stand at the beginning of one of life’s divergent paths, I am sure we would be able to choose more wisely.

Would those who get involved with mind altering and life changing substances take that first puff, swallow that first pill or snort that first line if they took the time to see all the dark dead ends, the time wasted and the meaningless mess the end of that path lead them to?

How many choices of education practices would be different if we really evaluated the scribbly lines on our maze of life we are drawing as we skip school, watch clocks, ignore homework and drop out? We discover too late the limitations we have put upon ourselves and our families.

How often would priorities in how we use our few short years and the resources available to us in mortality be altered and adjusted as we make choices which help us to avoid wasted efforts in chasing pots of gold never found at rainbow’s end and thereby add years to our productivity because we have our houses in better order?

Without a doubt, having a better view of where our choices will take us and the pitfalls or platforms our divergent paths will uncover should have a dramatic effect on determining our present course of action.

In many books of maze collections the end of the maze is marked with a picture of some treasure you are trying to discover. Likewise, the image we have of what the prize will be at the end of the journey of our choices will have an influence on the choices we make and even whether we make those choices.

That person who believes that marriage is an antiquated custom or that no marriage can survive the twists and turns of modern society and are doomed to the chambers of divorce, will go about selecting companionships in a much different fashion than one who believes in the eternalness of marriage.

One who believes that companions are much like tires and are to be discarded when the tread becomes smooth and worn, will treat their spouse much differently than one who sees the wearing as each mile is shared as an additional reason to love and appreciate what they have.

One who visualizes the grave finalizing all existence may make choices a great deal differently than one who believes mortal death is but a birth unto eternal life.

As I watched my young neophyte maze wanderer during subsequent weeks and months after his enlightening from his brother, I would see him boldly take crayon in hand and with little or no planning enjoy the adventure of trial and error mazing. A casual observation now and then as I watched the child grow toward man revealed him continuing to enjoy his mazes and eventually with pen in hand easily making his way from start to end on the one correct path with no detours and only a few pauses to visualize the path with no diversions.

There are some mazes in life where the eventual terminal is less important than the divergent paths we take on our way through unknown channels toward unknown rewards. And having arrived, realize that it was the learning along the way which was the real goal.
Sometimes finding our way through a dark tunnel and then realizing the strength we gained from having made it through on our own was more important than being on the other side of the tunnel.

Sometimes by carefully working our way along the ledges of uncertain mountain sides we are able to enjoy vistas and have edifying experiences which would have escaped us if we had remained on the well-worn paths in the valley below.

Sometimes by going the long way around, even getting lost in alley ways and one way streets we are able to multiply our decision-making abilities which will be of great aid as we encounter similar obstacles in the future.

One of the joys I saw in the life of this child grown to man, was the joy he eventually found in creating mazes of his own. They were challenging works of art which would bring joy to generations to come as they realized that this maze was just as difficult whether you started at the beginning or the end
So, when your little bird whispers in your ear and passes on a shortcutting secret, don't be too quick to apply your new found formula to every situation. Or when you become that little bird with a shortcut secret, don't be too quick to start chirping to everyone you meet.

We may discover after all, that laboriously struggling through the mazes of life from start to finish might turn out to be the best path after all.