Sunday, May 25, 2014


During the harrowing and sometimes despondent final days of struggling toward the defense of my Dissertation and oral exams which preceded the bestowal of my Doctorate degree, I had an occasion to counsel with a dear friend who had passed though those fiery pits and dens a few years prior.

I queried him on the wisdom or lack thereof, of a person who would deliberately put themselves through such an ordeal, especially in light of all the studies which had been done that overwhelmingly indicated the modest retention rate remaining in a punished mind which had so laboriously languished over memorizing material, after only a short period of time had elapsed.

What, if any, was to be the long-lasting good which would be birthed by having gone through this laborious pain and persistent ordeal?

Didn't we all know that the hard bound volume which once having been conceived and carried forth to its full term and finally seen the light of day, was destined to join the other dust collectors on the endless shelves of the massive library?

(Yes, mothers I do realize that my pains in no way came close to those which attend the actual birthing of a child, but for some reason this is the analogy which seemed fitting as I was writing this Thought.)

Likewise, during that era we had no idea of the momentary shelf life that the evolving E books would bring about. Hardbound books would come to have nary a scant ‘15 minutes’ to collect sunlight carried specks of dust.

As proof that this conversation with my friend was one of those very impactful teaching moments in my life, I can unreservedly report I have retained his response and it has been recalled during many lesser trials of my life.

His feeling was that even with the dwindling retention of the names, dates and ideas, I would always remember that I had been able to jump all the hurdles, go over all the obstacles and negotiate all the tests and had successfully finished the race. This would be one of those self-victories which I would always be able to know I had accomplished. It would soon come to pass, that the pains would be little remembered and scars would be mostly unnoticeable, but I would always retain the knowledge of having surmounted a monumental task.

This special teaching moment has often vividly played on my consciousness as I studied and taught about:

Adam and Eve leaving Paradise and making their way in a harsh and unknown environment providing a way for Heavenly Fathers children to come to mortality

Noah building an ark on dry land in order to become a physical savior

Abraham raising the sacrificial knife over his son Isaac on his way to becoming the father of nations

Moses ascending Mt. Sinai and descending as the prophet of the Lord’s Law

David slaying Goliath on his way to becoming Israel’s most revered king

Esther paying the ultimate price of beauty for the survival of her people

Joan of Arc passing her test of fire so that a better nation could rise from the ashes

Washington crossing the Delaware as a new nation was being born

Joseph Smith suffering persecution so that gospel restoration could take place

Lincoln moving from a log cabin to the White House

Gandhi suffering the pangs of starvation so that his people could be fed from the bounties of freedom

Rosa Parks moving to the front of a bus so that a people could move forward

The list of those who have overcome in order to bring advancement and societal change goes on endlessly. I suspect if we truly understood the process of building great character in any individual, the overcoming of great obstacles would probably rank high in the curriculum of life’s secrets to success.

There are few exceptions to the rule, as we examine the lives of the history of mankind, that meaningful changes are brought about by those who became notable because they braved the hurdles of adversity and made life better for many as they grew and became greater themselves through self-victories.

For me the ultimate example will always be:

We behold a cross and worship the Savior of the world.

Jesus the Christ who stated, “suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed from every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 19: 18, 19)

Through His mission and Atonement He not only became the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, but He took upon Himself the characteristics, attributes and perfections of His Father and rose to stand by His Father’s side.

If it is by overcoming great challenges we develop greater character and better serve one another, perhaps the world as well as ourselves would be better served if we stopped ignoring and skirting the difficulties in our lives and sought with greater determination to go forth victoriously.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Like many American youth my fascination with the balls used in sports activities was a big part of my right of passage.

I don't remember my personal period of playing roly-poly. For the uninitiated, roly-poly is played by two people sitting opposite one another on the floor with their legs stretched out in front in a V-shape, forming a diamond, and gently rolling a ball back and forth. The reason I am pretty sure this was my initial introduction to the wonder of sports related balls is that I do remember playing roly-poly with my not too much younger nieces and nephews.

I can remember there was a time pretty early in my life, when all ball throwing, hitting or kicking was relegated to the out of doors. To insure this rule would be followed, my mother made a permanent move of the ball box to the garage.

By the time we had moved to Long Beach, California my proficiency of throwing, hitting or kicking balls had advanced to the point where in elementary school, I was usually chosen among the first tier of participants. I know this practice has become non-politically correct, but we were just a bunch of kids having fun and the last person chosen was just as much a friend in the group as the first.

As the years passed it was noticeable that the number of my friends who had participated in ball related activities during the elementary years continued to dwindle until only a few of them were still hitting, throwing or kicking balls by the time we graduated from high school.

I will always contend that their diminished interest had more to do with discovering their talents were greater in other pursuits of life than it did in being chosen last during their elementary years. As far as my own athletic acumen, early on I discovered that if I kept to small ponds I could be a pretty big fish, but as soon as I ventured into large bodies of water I became aware of the existence of the really big fish.

I have come to believe that those who really excel at hitting, kicking and throwing balls have been gifted with a higher level of natural hand and eye coordination, DNA inherited heightened statures and muscular physiques and an above average ability to focus attention on detail, dedication and determination. These factors coupled with many hours spent in the gym or on the field brought them to the point where they were whales in the competitive oceans of the world.

I think we could do a like progressive profile on those who have excelled in the arts, the sciences, in business, in politics or whatever field in which the selection of the most capable and the most successful can be measured and we would find a similar winnowing taking place.

However, in the game of life, which is, when all is said and done, the only game which matters, every fish is in an individual pond, mysteriously mingling with all other fish, none of which are used to measure the advancement of each individual fish.

As in all things where Heavenly Father is involved, the judgment of our mortal probationary period can be totally perfect because of the individual standard by which each of us will be judged. The variables of our individual standards are infinite, but they surely include: the epoch when we sojourn in mortality, the place of our birth, the familial situations into which we are born, the amount of truth available, our progression in our First Estate, the educational opportunities which are available to us, the length of time we spend in mortality, the health and well being of our physical bodies, our individual levels of motivation and ability, etc., etc., etc.

As Neal A. Maxwell was fond of saying “one of the biggest deterrents to progression is the comparing of crosses.” After all, the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys of life’ may give us some comfort, as we measure our small lot against the plenty of our neighbors, but these excuses will seldom lead to an escalation of our stations in life.

Thankfully, our Heavenly Father, who brings great comfort to our lives, only expects us to progress in this life according to our particular circumstances. Our progress will always be measured by our individual daily movements as compared to where we were yesterday.

Shortly before leaving mortality Elder Maxwell taught, “None of us will leave life having accomplished all that we wanted to do.” And I quickly add, or all that can be done. When we depart from mortality, regardless of our individual ponds we will yet lack many a mile of inchworm steps before we begin to approach that perfection which the Savior encouraged us to strive for. Sizes of ponds and fish have no significance in the measuring sticks of the Lord.

Like playing roly-poly as a child, we begin this most important of all pursuits in life by trying to eliminate those things in our lives which would cause us continual damage and suffering.

We take our game outside and strive to eliminate doing or saying those things which would cause others misery and pain.

We learn through constant repetition, those skills which make the road of all the players around us more easily traveled.

We practice and practice at becoming good and honorable people.

We make feeble mortal attempts at acquiring the perfections, attributes and characteristics of Godliness.

In the ultimate game of life, our only challenge in the pond we have been given is just to become a bit better today than we were yesterday.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


I seldom spend much time envying the youth of today, but on days like today when I wanted to find out a little about the history of Mother’s day, I turn a little green just thinking about what it would have been like to have had access to the internet when I had to do those research projects in high school and college.

In what seemed like nano seconds compared to the time I used to spend finding out about California becoming a state or the development of the bicycle I was able to glean the following interesting facts about honoring Mothers.

1. Most ancient civilizations including the Persians, Greeks and Romans had at least one God who was a Mother God whom they revered and venerated. The name of the Greek Mother Goddess was Rhea, and since I had a sister who bore this name, this information was a little bonus from cyber space.

2. As early as the 17th century, England had set apart a day to celebrate Mary the Mother of Christ.

3. This day was eventually expanded to include all mothers and the 4th Sunday of Lent was set apart as Mothering Day. Wealthy landowners were encouraged to give their servants the day off so they could return home to be with their mothers.

4. Mothering day eventually was blended with another day which had been designated, with the spread of Christianity, as the day to celebrate the Mother Church.

5. With the harshness of life which existed during the settling of the Americas, the honoring of mothers was largely forgotten by the founders of this nation until after the United States civil war, when Julia Ward Howe (she who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic) started a movement for peace, appealing to womanhood to unite against war.

6. Julia Ward Howe’s movement had some international success and for about a ten year period during the latter part of the 19th century the 2nd Sunday in June was celebrated in some locations as Mother’s Day for Peace.

7. When her mother passed away in 1905 Anna Jarvis decided to dedicate her life to getting a day set apart to honor womanhood and mothers. After a spirited letter writing campaign, May 10, 1908 was set apart as the first official Mother’s Day in the United States of America.

8. By 1912 a day set apart for honoring Mothers had gone sporadically international.

9. In 1914, by presidential proclamation, the 2nd Sunday in May was set apart as the official day to honor mothers in the United States of America.

10. National Leaders started wearing white carnations on that Sunday as a sign of their support of the official Mother’s Day.
11. The customs of giving carnations to mothers on Mother’s Day lasted for almost a century, but as of late all flowers have joined in the celebration along with chocolate and eating out.

While in the speed of cyber space I was also able to find some quotes about mothers which touched a chord with me.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. (Rajneesh)

Most of all the other beautiful things in life come in twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world. (Kate Douglas Wiggin)

A mother understands what a child does not say. (Jewish proverb)

Woman knows what a man has long forgotten, that the ultimate economic and spiritual unit of any civilization is still the family. (Clare Booth Luce)

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. (Washington Irving)

When you were small and just a touch away, I covered you with blankets against the cold night air. But now that you are tall and out of reach, I fold my hands and cover you with prayer. (Dona Maddux Cooper)

Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. (Erich Fromm)

During my internet aided search of the history of Mother’s Day, where I probably dug deeper than I had for many of my high school English assignments, my heart didn't sorrow much about the disconnect which has happened between Easter and Mother’s day; nor did my spirit sink that Mother’s Day has been largely separated from any other kind of religious connotation. I won't even mourn over the fact that the carnation has been usurped by chocolate, but I do regret that the movement Julia Ward Howe started as a movement for peace and against war did not become the dominant theme in the celebration of Mother’s Day.

If William Ross Wallace was anywhere near correct when he stated “A mighty power and stronger Man from his throne was hurled, for the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” it would stand to reason that if peace is ever to become dominant in the world it will not come from the hands of warriors, but from the hearts of women.

Therefore, wouldn't it be marvelous, if unitedly the women of the world used this innate power to become the mighty army which publishes peace, whose feet Isaiah saw were beautiful upon the mountain?

That would indeed be reason to proclaim every day a day of veneration and honor to the women of the world. Until that long hoped for day comes to pass we will individually just have to honor and sustain the women around us who are lifting the ensign of peace, by returning their acts of kindness and love each passing hour of each passing day.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Most, if not all of us are acquainted with the delightful adventures of Alice in Wonderland. We have read about her explorations, we have viewed them as cartoon characters and seen them come to life on both the big and little screens. Take just a moment and revisit with me one of the characters Alice came across during her wondrous adventure.

ALICE: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?
CAT: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
ALICE: I don’t much care.
CAT: Then it doesn't much matter which way you walk.
ALICE: So long as I get somewhere.
CAT: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if you only walk long enough.

As Lewis Carroll so startlingly brought to our remembrance, there are a mass of us living in our own wonderlands who find their current situations a result of chance, having walked the path of fate. This ‘just keep on walking,’ which will lead to that ‘somewhere’ attitude, seems to be prevalent in all of the social strata of the world. We find people bounced hither and thither by fate on every level of the economic, educational and social ladders. Likewise, we find them in every nation and among every race and creed.

One of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss was also aware of the abundant part of the earth’s inhabitants who are adherents of the ‘succumbed to what fate does to me’ cult. His understanding of this phenomenon is expressed in his delightful poem about the Zode who stood in the middle of the road.

The Zode in the Road

Did I ever tell you about the young Zode,
Who came to two signs at the fork in the road?
One said to Place One, and the other, Place Two.
So the Zode had to make up his mind what to do.
Well…the Zode scratched his head, and his chin and his pants.
And he said to himself, “I’ll be taking a chance
If I go to Place One. Now, that place may be hot!
And so, how do I know if I’ll like it or not?
On the other hand though, I’ll be sort of a fool
If I go to Place Two and find it too cool.
In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue!
So, maybe Place One is the best, not Place Two,
But then again, what if Place One is too high?
I may catch a terrible earache and die!
So Place Two may be best! On the other hand though…
What might happen to me if Place Two is too low?
I might get some very strange pain in my toe!
So Place One may be best,” and he started to go.
Then he stopped, and he said, “On the other hand
On the other hand…other hand…other hand though…”
And for 36 hours and a half that poor Zode
Made starts and made stops at the fork in the road.
Saying, “Don’t take a chance. No! You may not be
Then he got an idea that was wonderfully bright!
“Play safe!” cried the Zode. “I’ll play safe. I’m no dunce!
I’ll simply start out for both places at once!”
And that’s how the Zode who would not take a chance
Got no place at all with a split in his pants.

From my own personal observations, it seems that the most joyful among us are not those who have resigned themselves to whatever fate might be impose upon them, but are those who have faith in a master plan, designed by God, which they deliberately and consistently strive to understand and follow.

Just a few random thoughts about coming to understand the plan of faith and putting it into practice rather than being tossed to and fro as a victim of fate:

First: We all need to conduct frequent and searching personal introspections. Not trusting alone on our mother’s version of how wonderful we are, but with candidness throw off those fantasies and view ourselves as we really are with all our scars and imperfections.

We might ask ourselves:

Have the paths I have trod led me to greater happiness?

Are there things which I could change which would result in me being more joyful?

What abilities do I have which could be used to bring greater happiness to those who surround me?

Second: I must strive to remove the shackles of the past, whether those bonds are shiny or dim, living in past glories or failures will stymie my ability to face today and determine the path my future will take.

We must remember:

Memories of the past are wonderful and instructive as long as we never allow them to cause us to stagnate in the present and alter our ability to find happiness in the future.

Life’s passages should be used as building blocks and never allowed to become anchors or chains which will hamper our growth.

Memories which bring happiness and give me a desire to do better should always have precedence over memories which bring sorrow and stifle progress.

Third: I must become determined that I will never arrive at a level of comfortableness where I feel I have finished growing and coming to an understanding of life’s purposes.

As a reminder:

Our progress demands stretching our limits and being willing to move outside our current imagined boundaries.
Being in a rut is the same as being in a grave with both ends knocked out.

It is only through the vision of faith that we will be able to make choices which will allow us to see beyond the horizon and put us on paths which will bring us to a higher state of happiness.

Finally: We need to organize our lives so that in all our doing we will set apart time for designing patterns which will help us move closer to our full potential.

Truths discovered:

A task well planned will save hours of frustration, retracing and correcting false starts.
Happiness is a result of foresight not hindsight.

Flying by the seat of ones pants will invariably lead us to undesirable results.

We are living beings, and all living things which cease to grow will eventually die. One of the saddest things we witness in life is to witness one who has through despair or discouragement, thrown in the towel and died in spirit while their bodies continue to function.

May the Lord bless us that we might realize:

This life was designed as a place for growth.

Real growth is based on faith in the Master’s plan and not left to whatever fate might greet us at the end of each path we chance to take.

Our true happiness in this life and the next depends on our being about the business of understanding that plan, and through it, becoming all that we possibly can become.