Sunday, September 28, 2014


My good friend and oft times mentor, Paul Maddox, a short time back sent me a quote by D. H. Lawrence which pretty much sums up my philosophy on gaining a testimony of truths, or as some would want to say, coming to understand what I truly value in life.

A man has no religion who has not slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it; and one’s religion is never complete and final it seems, but must always be undergoing modification.

As an adult, I don't ever remember really enjoying the discomforts of camping; however, there was a time when a priesthood calling I had required me to voluntarily spend one week each summer at Bucks Lake, California, with a horde of girls 12-18. The girls were challenge enough, but the adult sister leaders seemed particularly bent on making sure my nights were sleepless and my days were full of anxiety.

I tried all kinds of devices to make my six year annual trial more pleasant. I took a van with a pull down bed, but the girls and their leaders found delight in taking shifts to keep it rocking during the night. I tried having to return to Reno, Nevada, to take care of some urgent church business, only to return to the lake to find my tent and camping stuff on a raft in the middle of the lake. We posted signs of the presence of bears, hoping this would keep them huddled securely in their tents.

The only solution I ever saw which really worked was one used by a golfing buddy, Terry Drake, who also had a priesthood assignment which put him in the position of being an involuntary volunteer. Terry would rent a room in a lodge at the other end of the lake and there he slept very well. At the time I was relentless in telling him what an absolute coward he was, but upon further review I now see the genius of his method.

Anyway, back to the point of Lawrence’s statement. Usually at the fireside on the last night of camp the girls and leaders were given the opportunity to share their testimonies. Frequently their words would include some all-encompassing statement about the level of their belief, such as, ‘I believe with every fiber of my being…’ or ‘without a shadow of doubt…’ I knew the probability was that they were repeating phrases they had heard from parents or others, without realizing the profundity of belief and the responsibility which attended what they were saying.

Presently, after the passage of many years, which included only one brief week of camping for a family reunion and was only attempted after the forest service gave assurance that there were facilities in the camp (this facility thing remains a cross I have to bear even to this day), I have come to the following conclusions concerning knowledge, understanding, testimony, belief, conversion, conviction and commitment.

Since belief and testimony are limited to one’s level of knowledge and understanding, it would seem only a God who has omniscience is capable of having an all-consuming testimony.
Since all mortals fall far short of even having a primary degree of knowledge and understanding they are universally incapable of having a sure testimony of all things.
That we may have a limited testimony of finite number of things, but are tremendously limited by our lack of knowledge and understanding.
That our level of testimony is borne more through actions than words and in a very real way is a surer measure of where we are in our search for the confirmation of our beliefs.
That Brigham Young was right when he inferred that it could be millions upon millions of years after he left mortality before he approached where God is in knowledge and understanding.
That the very idea of having a complete testimony proves to be a limiting factor on the growth of knowledge, understand and, therefore, a firmer testimony.
That a testimony is a living thing and should be nourished and strengthened daily by study, prayer and righteous living.
That the more dedicated I am to living the principles I testify to be true, the surer my witness will become.
That the more I study and expand my knowledge base I will likewise be expanding those concepts I will be capable of testifying to be true as far as I understand them.
That when the fibers of our bodies return to dust and we can no longer cast a shadow we will still be in the quest of developing our testimonies and striving for perfection.

I suspect when the veil is rent and we all see and discern more clearly, we will also be able to speak with greater clarity, and understand one another more soundly. In the meantime we will all continue trying to express our testimonies in the best way we can, be more accepting of how others express their beliefs and strive each day to live just a little bit closer to the level of understanding we currently have.

My personal testimony is that camping is something one does of necessity, not something one does for enjoyment.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


I remind you that I have never claimed to have an original thought in all my life, so any similarity you find between the sayings I share here and those you might previously have heard is innocent but hardly accidental.

Thursday, May 15, 2014: Some things are hard to wash out of your life no matter how strong the soap!!

Friday, May 16, 2014: Sow gratitude and you will reap happiness!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014: A sure way to have a lot of unhappy days – is to put the responsibility for your happiness on others!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014: Keep trying – most of the important games we play in mortality only end when the clock runs down!!

Thursday, May 22, 2014: Sharing, service, love, kindness are all elements which help your garden of happiness blossom!!

Friday, May 23, 2014: There are few times in life when having a 'hockey puck' in your life will make you happy!!

Monday, May 26, 2014: Whoever thought it would be easier to shoot your age as you got older didn't understand anything about geezer golf!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014: Having a sweet ride through life usually only happens when you have your sweetheart by your side!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014: If the only close shave you have had in life was with a razor – add that to the list of blessings which have been sent your way!!

Thursday, May 29, 2014: Like too much rain turns into a flood – Many times in life too much of a good thing can be disastrous!!
Friday, May 30, 2014: Every pain in the neck isn't caused by aging!!

Monday, June 2, 2014: Just because you finally made the green doesn't guarantee everything will be smooth!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014: Repeating something over and over does not necessarily increase its importance – it could just be a case of age related memory loss!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014: Faith is the foundation of Conversion – Knowledge is the foundation of Commitment!!

Thursday, June 5, 2014: If you want to be known as a fountain of foolish words – ridicule that which you do not understand!!

Friday, June 6, 2014: Actions are more likely to reveal a person’s true beliefs – than their words!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014: If you want to see more beauty today – expand your idea of what is beautiful!!

Friday, June 13, 2014: There are people who are like crows – they have a certain beauty which diminishes rapidly when they start making noises!!

Monday, June, 16, 2014: Put your bad shots behind you – it will increase your chances of a good shot the next time you swing!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014: I really tried – but – I can never think of a Crow as being as beautiful as a Snowy White Egret!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014: Some people are like Snowy White Egrets – we don't appreciate their true beauty until they fly away!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014: Paintings which catch a moment of man’s and nature’s beauty – much like a photograph – have always resonated with me more than those which represent a world – where the artist is painting to a song I neither recognize nor understand!!

Friday, June 20, 2014: My ears and my soul have taught me – there is a big difference between screaming and singing!!

Monday, June 23, 2014: I am pretty sure Deity cares very little about how one plays golf – I am not quite as sure the Devil is so inclined to absent himself from the Course!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014: The sincerity of sacrifice is measured by the absence of Me and the presence of You!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


The other day I was mentally reviewing the fifty plus years I had spent teaching in the Education System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As I mystically traveled through that majority period of my life, there were many years which were shrouded in a pretty dense haze, but there were also moments which were drenched with brightness in my mind.

In 1965 there was a young man named John who dropped by after school one day at the Kearns Stake Center where Brother Darrell Parks and I taught seminary to the ninth graders attending Kearns Junior High School. We were studying the Book of Mormon and the lesson that day had been on 4th Nephi and some of the latter-day revelations which talked about a Zion society built on the foundation of Celestial Law.

Evidently John had spent some time since our class pondering on the benefits and beauty of being able to live in such a community. His question to me was, “Why can't a group of people just get together and go up in the mountains and isolate themselves from all the corruption of the world and become a Zion society?”

I could tell he was really anxious about the issue, so we spent a wonderful hour together exploring the whys and why nots of his question.

The exact words we exchanged are contained in that dense haze I spoke of before, but having passed over the subject of a Zion society many times during those fifty years my hope would be that we covered some of the following concepts.

There are Seers who report of having been given glances into Heavenly Father’s Celestial World and then scantily reported on what their spiritual eyes had beheld. I am certain that no matter how exhaustingly we exercised our Telestial minds we would always fall short of catching the vision of how wondrous it really is. We do know that the beings that are eligible to reside there have taken on, through their own efforts and determination and having been added upon by a large helping of the Grace of God, the perfected attributes and characteristics of Godliness. Since us mortals without exception fall woefully short of such a standard, it would seem that no matter how long we separate ourselves away in the mountains we will, under present circumstances, never make of this earth a Celestial World.

In two instances in the scriptures we read of nations who have become Zion. One is spoken of in the Pearl of Great Price. Evidently, the prophet Enoch, after working with a group of people for centuries and after the Lord had separated them from all outside contact and distraction, was able to raise up a people who had one heart and one mind. Hearts which no longer had any disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. Minds where every thought was righteous, words were pure and actions were edifying. Then in 4th Nephi, the Book of Mormon speaks of another group who, after having been taught and converted by the resurrected Jesus Christ, became a Zion Nation. The Enoch groups had to be taken from this earth in order to preserve their righteousness; the Book of Mormon group was only able to continue as a Zion Nation into the third generation. Since not even the most righteous of us are going to be able to continue to work with each other as mortals for centuries and since none of us has the power to convert ourselves or others as did our Savior, we might conclude that as of now, becoming a Zion Nation might be a bit out of reach. Evidently there is no mountain high enough on this earth, where mortals can escape others and themselves in order to maintain the standards necessary for the perpetuation of a Zion Nation.

Along with many other revelations, Joseph Smith outlined the city plot and government of a City of Zion. During his short life and for some years after his life there were various attempts to build such a place and inhabit it with a people who would become Zion. The fatal error which seemed to show its serpented head soon after the first spade had entered fertile soil in each new place, was that the people who migrated to that place expected the place to make them Zion and they would therefore become a City of Zion. But alas, since they remained far short of the perfection referred by the Lord in his Sermon on the Mount and their hearts were still far from Him, these attempts were condemned to failure even before they had their meager goods stored on their wagon. So John, it seems that that heart we take to the mountain will be the same heart which others must deal with in our isolated new home.

As we continue to narrow our hopes of Zion, we take a quick peek at what the Latter Day Prophets hold up to us as a conceivable, achievable goal; a Zion Home. This idea hit John rather hard, since one of the reasons he had pondered on the possibility of a mountain retreat, was that he could not imagine that such a goal could be reached in the walls of his family’s house. Rather than Zion Homes, he felt surrounded with people living in houses which were occupied by inhabitants interacting in very dysfunctional ways. Houses where people were quick to put the blame for their own shortcomings on every other resident, but were extremely slow to take responsibility and be accountable for their disharmonizing words and actions. Houses where personal needs far eclipsed the needs of those who shared those walls. Even in small groups he witnessed a void between what he had quietly been taught in class that morning and the din of people who were far from being of one heart and one mind. His sincere remedy was that perhaps by escaping to the mountain he might have a chance of establishing a Zion Home. Sadly, he was left with trying to choose angels from among mortals.

One principle which we spoke of that day did shine brightly out of the haze and came clearly to my mind. I remember feeling that sensation which manifests itself in my being when a truth becomes mine and which I still hold to be true to this day. No one has the power to keep me from a constant effort to try to inch forward on my quest of putting on the perfections, attributes and characteristics of Godliness and hopefully, with the help of a Loving Heavenly Father those inches will somehow add up to feet. Thus, the Lord’s mountain is the only one I must climb and is the only path I can take to move closer to being a Zion Person.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


During the wonderful years we spent in Reno, Nevada, which was before the ‘Biggest Little City in the World’ had the ‘Biggest Little Temple in the World (our eldest son Cevin pointed that out when he was helping with the construction because they enclosed the entrance patio making it slightly larger than other small temples), we had to make the trip over Donner Pass to attend the Oakland, California Temple. Gratefully, this was long after the ill-fated Donner Party had struggled over that pass in October of 1846 through April of 1847. It should be noted that there were times when we were unable to go to the Temple and times when our return was delayed because of weather, even with the beautiful interstate having replaced the unbroken trails of yesteryears.

Anyway, on one of our trips Kathleen was doing some research for a presentation she was giving and was reading quotes from the modern day apostles. We were about half way through our three hour trek from Reno to Oakland when she turned to me and remarked that a strange thing was happening in her mind. She said that as she read silently the words of Elders Boyd K. Packer and Bruce R. McConkie, in her mind she was hearing their intonations and their phrasing of the words she was reading. It seemed to her it was as though she was actually hearing their voices as if they were speaking to her.

As we discussed this phenomenon we were both able to recall several times when this same ‘voices out of the printed word’ had happened to us in in the past. Subsequently, when discussing this strange happening with others, I discovered that it was a very common sensation. During our discussion, I think we simultaneously came to the realization of a gospel principle which we previously hadn't understood. It is always a wonderful moment when the glass darkly becomes clearer.

In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Savior gives the parable of the Good Shepherd, where he tries to teach us that the Shepherd knows His sheep so well that He can call them by name and they will respond. He also says that the sheep know the Shepherd so well that they can distinguish His voice from any would-be imposter. The Shepherds voice would be familiar and would bring a positive response while the sheep would flee from the voice of a stranger.

I have been puzzled by the ability some of the Good Shepherd’s sheep have to hear and respond to his voice while others, maybe even a great majority of the sheep wandering in the hills of the world, seldom have the opportunity of being enfolded in His caring arms and having His voice soothe away their cares.
After our discussion on the ‘voices out of the printed word’ Kathleen went back to her reading and my mind was drawn to a scripture in the 18th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. When I got home I looked it up and the words I was thinking of were in the 34th through the 36th verses: These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify that they are of me and not of men. For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you, for they are given by my spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another, and save it were by my power you could not have them. Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.

The prompting Kathleen had received had turned the key. It seems that if I have frequently heard someone speak or sing, whenever I read their words or poetry or even just the title of one of the songs they made popular, their voices come into my mind, even to the degree that their performance comes alive.

The verses I referred to earlier in the Doctrine and Covenants seem to indicate that the reverse of this phenomenon is also true. Evidently, a human sheep can, through constant and continual reading of a person’s words, become so familiar with the phrasing and mannerisms of speech that the reading of the word becomes as if they are hearing the actual voice. The scripture also leads us to understand that when we hear the actual voice of the person’s words we have been reading we will recognize their voice from the familiarity we have gained while reading their words.

I have read several studies of how computers can identify writers by the patterns they establish in their writings. We have all been amazed as we were introduced to the app on smart phones which can identify a song and the performer of that song immediately. Just this last week, I saw a commercial for a new app which will identify any movie which might be playing on the television or over the internet. It doesn't seem to matter what verse might be being sung or what scene in the movie might be playing the apps can immediately give you the name of the song or the movie. It isn't much of a stretch to believe that if we sheep can develop a machine which has this capability that the ’developer sheep’ of that machine may have even greater capabilities when it comes to identifying sounds or recognizing live voices from words they have read on the printed page.

I personally know many sheep that, after only a few words, can recognize the speaker as Hamlet or Macbeth and can tell you what scene the words were spoken of and, of course, know that he who penned the words was William Shakespeare. Sadly, many of these sheep would be sent into a stammering fit if they were asked to identify the reference of a verse of scripture or whether they had ever heard the still small voice of the Savior or the Holy Spirit.

I suspect, if we sheep really understood the power of voice recognition it would become the greatest of motivators for us to be constantly reading the scriptures. I believe that that sheep who has been diligently reading the words of the True Shepherd, when He calls his name, will recognize His voice and respond to His call.