Sunday, June 28, 2015


I have never enjoyed movies where things jump out at you and make your heart skip a beat. Therefore, it was unusual for me to be sitting in a theater with my oldest son Cevin in 1975 when the movie Jaws came to Reno, Nevada. While we were watching the movie, I am sure I set a personal best for the number of heart beats skipped during a movie and I am pretty sure I may have set an all-time everywhere best for distance popcorn could be tossed in a theater, when that mechanical monster first popped out of the water.

The Webster on my shelf defines surprise as ‘that which comes upon us with suddenness or unexpectedly.’

I think being T boned while going through an intersection with a green light, the moon going out of its orbit and for some of us things jumping suddenly upon the silver screen would qualify as surprises.

However, some of the things which we allow to come upon us suddenly as if they were unexpected shouldn't really be on our lists of surprises. Such as Christmas morning being on the 25th of December or the calendar indicating that the date of the anniversary of our birth had come again or that April 16th means that I am late mailing my tax return.

Yet many of us stand with our mouth agape on these and similar dates uttering silly sounds which may be interpreted as ‘ is it that time of year again?’ or ‘how could it be here already?’ or simply ‘no way!’

Almost since the legalization of a federal income tax, each year we have had to file our tax return prior to midnight of the 15th of April; yet annually, as if it were unexpected, there are cars surrounding the block where the local post office is found, waiting their turn to have the envelope which contains their tax return postmarked prior to the date of doom.

Since the day when Gregory the Thirteenth’s calendar was adopted, the celebration of the birth of the Babe who was born in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea has fallen on the 25th of December, yet yearly we witness the end of wrapping barely preceding the beginning of the ripping of brightly colored paper surrounding gifts. Because Christmas always comes as a surprise to some, lately, we have witnessed the emergence of a cult whose adherents claim they always wait until Christmas eve to do their shopping, because of low prices or because the stores are less frenetic and more peaceful after midnight of the 24th. (I was wondering, if it is more correct to say, the midnight which starts the beginning of the 25th.)

A full 365 days pass each year between the time we blow out the candles on last year’s birthday cake and the frosting is being smoothed on this year’s. Yet as the years accumulate we seem to find it more and more surprising that another year has passed and we are about to start the count down to the day when another candle will be added to magnify the blaze on another cake.

We also observe reactions in mock surprise to events which in no way qualify under the definition of surprise.

Such as, a young girl shockingly gasping with her hand over her mouth when her boyfriend gets down on one knee and asks for her hand in marriage. (After they have gone shopping for the ring together and her father has had ‘that talk’ with her about whether she really wants to marry this clod.)

The sinking of the hearts of the locals when Chicago Cubs fail to win a World Series. (My apologies to the non-baseball fans who might be reading this Thought.)

The shocked expression on parents’ faces when as adults, children reveal to their mothers and fathers acts hidden during their teenage years. (The thing that makes this action so unusual is that each generation has gone through this same ritual with their parents.)

But far and away the most surprising reaction we have to what is an absolute, is the way most of us respond to the passage we all must take to leave mortality. (For those who would rather not have this passage referred to as ‘death,’ I have used a kinder gentler word. Whoops, I think I just used the D word.)

It seems to me that long ago when our first parents asked that lying serpent in the garden, ‘Will we surely die?’ and he responded, ‘You will not surely die.’ that most of us go through life as if we believe that lie. We go through mortality responding to every death as if we expected it never was going to happen. We tear our raiment and darken our faces, sometimes beyond the reaction this passage from mortality and our personal loneliness or loss of a loved one would dictate; as if we had just been surprised by the most unexpected thing we ever thought would happen.

Just like so many absolutes in life, every child born into mortality will one day leave mortality through that gateway called death. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Medical science and blessings may delay it, but it will never be deterred.

Maybe like taxes, Christmases and birthdays, which seem to be brighter and more joyful and easier when we do some anticipatory planning, death might likewise be a more acceptable and pleasanter event if we did some preparation, so that we are not caught by surprise by this absolute eventuality which will befall us all.

When I was much younger I had the thought that the Egyptian Pharaohs were drastically misguided when they spent a major part of their life’s energies in constructing gigantic pyramidal instruments to facilitate the passing from mortality to immortality. As the years have passed I have come to believe they may have been misguided in their instrumentation, but I suspect that their philosophical base may have been right on track.

Alma, an ancient prophet of the Americas, wisely taught that the whole of life should be spent in preparing to meet God and that we should often look forward to the day when we will once again stand in His presence. It is entirely possible that by following Alma’s counsel, by preparing for rather than ignoring this inevitable event, we will be able to react more positively and with less surprise as we all take this necessary step on our eternal path.

Just as it is a wise thing to prepare for tax time by paying a portion of our taxes each time we have income; just as it is a good thing to buy next year’s Christmas wrapping the day after Christmas; just as it is a good thing to begin living in the next year of your life while this year’s candles are still being licked; likewise it is wise, good and correct to spend our whole lives in preparing for the coming day of our progressive passage.

There are some events in life which should never catch us by surprise.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Traveling with our family, which eventually grew to include five sons and a daughter besides Kathleen and me, always involved some very special challenges. There were years when we crammed all of us, including our luggage, into an Opal Kadette minivan. (It was fun to keep track of the cars that sped past us whose occupants couldn't help but point fingers.) There were times when we would start slowing when we would see a hitchhiker. (They would turn their backs when we got close enough for them to see the cramped mass of humanity which was approaching.) There was even one year we packed Christmas in with the rest of our stuff. (One year was more than enough to cure me of ever trying that again.) There was a year when we borrowed an almost hippie VW van from John Rand, which we were more than grateful for, but had to spend much of the trip wondering whether we would make it over the next hill, with the bear who was always being sung about going over the mountain to see what he could see. Another year, a golfing buddy, Terry Drake, lent us his almost brand new VW van, and although we made the trip with absolutely no worries, for some strange reason he never offered the use of his van again.

When we were not making another ‘rest’ stop and since this was a long time before hand held video games or portable TV’s, we had to be pretty inventive to keep a semblance of peace and civility in our confined conveyance machines. Slug Bug had to be eliminated pretty early and ‘I spy with my little eye’ became rather ridiculous since what was spied was usually miles behind before anyone came close to guessing what had been spied. We tried to confine the spying to the interior of the car, but that very quickly became repetitive and boring.

Anyway, out of all this madness, one of our favorite road activities was to take a road sign or landmark and make up a story about what was written. Kathleen was especially creative with the stories she made up about ‘falling rocks,’ ‘Honey Lake,’ ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ and enough others to make the princess who made up the tales of the Arabian Nights pretty jealous.

One of the things I found interesting about Kathleen’s stories, besides her ability to embellish and extend them in order to diminish the need for ‘rest’ stops, was that many of them of them included a heroine or hero being sent on a mission to accomplish some great feat which would bring about the salvation of their family or people.

I have often wondered why this theme is so ancient and has retained its universal appeal. The ancient Greek myths are loaded with heroes such as Ulysses, Achilles, Heracles and Jason and his Argonauts who were sent on rescuing missions. Modern authors and movie makers would be at a loss if this theme were to be outlawed.

One has to pause and ponder whether it is accidental that so much literature has been devoted to the theme of sending a worthy son on a mission to do something which would bring salvation and peace to a given community.

One of the first stories in the Book of Mormon tells us about father Lehi, who, against the pleadings of his wife, sends his sons to accomplish a task which was essential to the salvation of his wandering family. In this story it is interesting that there was a varying degree of reluctance and willingness among the sons who were sent forth by loving parents.

There have been times when the thought has passed through my mind as I have been reading these legends, fables, myths, historical and scriptural accounts, if the reason this theme is so universal is because of the Story of Stories about the King of Kings. This Story tells of a Heavenly Father who had two sons who were vying during their pre-mortal estate for the stewardship of becoming the Savior of mankind. In Moses’ account in the Pearl of Great Price – the Father of all children born as spirits who would eventually inhabit this world – pondered upon whom he would send to fill the office of Savior for His children from the conditions of their mortality. Each son was given opportunity to prove himself worthy of the task. The Father’s choice to send the First Born seems to have come down to the righteous understanding this son had of the Plan of Salvation, the Principle of Agency and the Appropriation of Glory.

If I meditate long enough about this subject I at times begin to contemplate which of the sons of Zeus or of Lehi’s sons or of Heavenly Father’s sons I would be most likely to emulate if I were under consideration to be sent.

Is it possible that each of us has indeed been sent and we need to understand that our life has purpose and there are some deeds which we alone may be able to accomplish?

Does one of our major tasks during mortality involve convincing ourselves that our decisions and actions are important and whatever direction we turn has the possibility of affecting the journey of the children of Eternal Parents?

If the results of my mission are of utmost importance to the Heavenly Parents who sent us all forth, should I not be doing all I can to remain worthy of receiving Their revelatory help in accomplishing that which I was sent forth to do?

I am sure the world would benefit greatly if we, like our Savior Jesus the Chris,t were prepared to go forth to do all we have been sent to do.

I am sure that many of our ancestors who ‘went and did’ as they were sent to do, little suspected the impact their actions would have on their posterity and others.

Likewise, we may never know what child in some future generation will call our name blessed because we fulfilled the mission we were sent to earth to do.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Kinder and more sensitive people would have referred to it as a very humble abode. We who are of a lesser ilk, would simply call it a dump. It should have been obvious to almost everyone that the land upon which the little shack stood would have been of greater value if the ram shackled blight upon it were removed.

As I was greeted by the proprietor I could not keep from letting myself think that he and the abode were certainly a matched set. I almost shudder to think what might have been my judgement if I had come upon this situation in my pre-mission days when I was really burdened with being overly critical and judgmental.

The errand I was on when I found myself in these unusual and interesting surroundings was a supervisory visit to call a seminary teacher for the youth of this small local branch for the Church Education System. My mind went swimming through a list of why a branch of the Church could be so bankrupt of resources that this was the only soul who could be recommended to be called to the important position of teaching their youth the principles of the gospel during their struggles of adolescence.

The greeting I received from the bent and bearded host, as he came to what with a lot of imagination could be called the door, was certainly multiple degrees warmer than my cold thoughts.

The next time I was actually conscious of the impoverished condition of my surroundings, I realized two hours had flown by and I was very late for my next appointment which was several miles up the mountain roads of north east California.

As I backed the car away from what seemed like a residence radiating with light, my head was lowered and bowed and I was overwhelmed with self-chastising thoughts and I wondered as I drove if I would ever live long enough to approach the wisdom and understanding of he who the Lord had chosen to teach his youth in this part of His vineyard.

I remember the eagerness with which I anticipated subsequent visits to this wonderful man who would become a mentor in so many marvelous ways as he made me a student along with his very fortunate young friends. His disabilities and meager government pension had not allowed him to maintain and accumulate the ‘normal’ pile of stuff we all spend our lives collecting, but he had accepted his circumstances, appreciated his sustenance and magnified himself and others many times over.

Although my beloved mentor had been denied what is haughtily called a ‘formal education,’ he became acquainted with the learning of the ages through the frequent use of his well-worn library card.

Although my friend had been ridiculed in his youth because of the defects which had accompanied his birth and had been shunned throughout his life because of his disheveled appearance, he had overcome all of this and had learned how to give love and kindness to all who would bother to give him the opportunity.

Although the honors of men had been kept from him, he spent his life being an honorable citizen and giving honor to his God and to his Savior, striving at all times to emulate the life they lovingly admonish all of us to live.

After making several more stops on what had turned out to be a very wonderful day and as the day was fading and the shadows of the beautiful pines of the Sierras were lengthening, I was on my way back home to Reno, Nevada. My head was still full of thoughts on my littleness and how far I needed to go on my path towards universal love and understanding of my fellows on this mortal journey and the development of my ability to judge righteously.

Should my judgements of others be based on philosophies, possessions, positions or posterities?

Should the value of another be measured by diplomas, dominion, dress or domicile?

Sadly, like little tin soldiers, we march lemmingly toward our individual cliff, eventually falling into very minimal lives, hastily judging our neighbor by the meaningless glitz and glitter of the manufactured adornments of the world and thereby denying ourselves of the opportunity to meet someone whose light emanates from within and miss those moments where love and gladness touch us and teach us hidden treasures.

As I came over the hill and the artificial lights of Reno, came fully into view, I had one final thought, ‘I have such a bountiful and beautiful life; a life which allows me to find pearls in the least expected places and which abounds in glorious experiences.”

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Monday, January 5, 2015: The search for truth will begin to be fulfilled – when our quest stretches beyond mortal bounds!!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015: Some silences – are ugly and far from being beneficial!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015: Sometimes silence – can be more melodious – than the songs of angels!!

Thursday, January 08, 2015: Some silences – are beautiful and beneficial!!

Friday, January 09, 2015: I have yet to find – a lasting benefit to excessive noise!!

Monday, January 12, 2015: Whatever the rate hotcakes sell at – it can’t be the same as books – or there would be a lot more pancake houses going out of business!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015: The more I think of the needs of others – and the less I concentrate on my own needs – the happier I seem to be!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015: If you have ever thought – if I am going to be judged by what knowledge I have acquired – therefore, I think I will just stop learning – it is too late – you already know too much!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015: Tomorrows happy memories – are dependent on today’s choices!!

Friday, January 16, 2015: Courage and strength should be reserved – for defending what is right!!

Monday, January 19, 2015: A bigger castle – is seldom the reason a child gains character!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015: A heart full of happiness – has no room for anger!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015: An angry heart – repels happiness!!

Thursday, January 22, 2015: Acts of kindness motivated by love – drives anger from our hearts!!

Friday, January 23, 2015: Although I realize the synergistic good – which can come from gathering in churches and temples – real religion is expressed through acts of Kindness!!

Monday, January 26, 2015: When we look at ourselves and others – as mere mortals – it becomes easier to understand why we are not yet perfect!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015: Nothing was ever achieved – through procrastination!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015: Doubt will stop progress – faster than lack of capability!!

Thursday, January 29, 2015: Traveling in the wrong direction – will delay considerably your arrival at your desired destination!!

Friday, January 30, 2015: Body pains are felt more acutely – when we are doing something we don't like to do!!

Monday, February 2, 2015: More pleasure => Less pain – More pain => Less pleasure – I think I have that right = or maybe it’s – Less pleasure => More pain – Less pain => More pleasure??

Tuesday, February 3, 2015: Numbers alone should convince us – the concern for others – as concern for oneself – after all there are a lot more of them!!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015: Like good days – soul mates – aren't found – they are made!!

Thursday, February 5, 2015: Making a relationship eternal – will probably require an eternity of effort!!

Friday, February 6, 2015: When we add the sense of spirituality to the five senses – the physical senses gain vibrancy and we become more acutely aware of the purpose of our existence!!