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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

SEEING DEEPER

I have been teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ for most of my life. As a missionary, my efforts were meager, but I tried as hard as I could to stick to the truths as given in the scriptures. My knowledge of the Bible and The Book of Mormon was basic but over the years more of the truths found therein began to stand out and help in the progress to goodness.


This year is another chance to study deeper in the translated words of Mormon and the other prophets who contributed to the work. Students have been very willing to dig down and discover hidden gems of faith that invite the Holy Ghost to testify of Christ. My own study has increased, as new insights are discovered and shared with those I love.


That brings me to today’s experience.


We are working our way through the book of Alma, a conglomeration of truths/stories assembled by the prophet Mormon. Just before Christmas we spent a full day on Alma chapter 7 where the purpose and experience of the Savior’s atonement was described. The moving words of Alma help us to find comfort in the sacrifice Jesus provided for ALL of God’s children:


For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing of more importance than they all… And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:7, 11-13, emphasis added)


These wonderful verses have been a comfort to me (and many others) as I have pondered the things that happen in mortal life. And I rejoice because according to Alma, sin has an enemy that will swallow all the pain and anguish it causes – if the individual will allow Christ to be involved in the process.


I believe completly in the power of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice to change us as we seek His help, but as I studied further in the book of Alma there was another discovery that helped me anchor this truth in my heart.


In chapters 8-11 in the book of Alma, we find a story about the missionary efforts of Alma the younger, the once wayward and now repentant son of Alma, the first Chief Judge of the people in Zarahemla. Alma the younger was appointed to the Chief Judge position when his father retired. Additionally, he was also given the responsibility to guide the church as presiding priesthood leader (Prophet). His efforts to bless the people had him working hard in Zarahemla, traveling to the city of Gideon and Melek (finding much success in both) and finally arriving in the city of Ammonihah.


Alma rejected in Ammonihah

The reception in Ammonihah was ‘chilly’ – maybe even ‘frosty.’ So little success was found that Alma determined to move on to another city rather than take the abuse of the leaders. But as he made his way along the path, he was instructed to return to Ammonihah with the assurance that new circumstances would improve the outlook. Immediately, Alma turned around and entered the city by a back way. As he wandered the streets, he stumbled on a resident of the city and asked for food and lodging for the night. 


The man, Amulek (a lapsed member of the church), recognized Alma and invited him to his home for rest and refreshment. Over the next days, Alma and Amulek developed a friendship based in a common desire to serve the Lord in His work. Both men recognized that there were souls in the city who could benefit from the blessings of Christ, so they prepared to share their message – despite Alma’s previous experiences.


When the two men were prepared they went to the place where they could find people who would listen to their words. As expected, they encountered resistance from the same crowd that rejected Alma in his first attempt to teach. But with Amulek, some of the people had a little more incentive to listen to the message.

Alma and Amulek teaching Zeezrom

While probably not a polished as Alma, Amulek began his teaching stating his place in the city as a well-known citizen and recounting the conversion that brought him to his present circumstance. Various individuals asked questions of him and some attempted to trick him into making a mistake in his message, but Amulek was able to answer each question and challenge to the satisfaction of the listeners.


One of the listeners, a lawyer named Zeezrom, took another route to turn the situation to his own benefit. Offering a great deal of money, he invited Amulek to recant his testimony of Christ and the doctrines He taught. This Zeezrom was a well-spoken man who had proven his abilities to twist the truth for his own benefit. His confidence in those abilities gave him the chutzpah to stand up to Amulek’s confession of faith.


How disappointed he must have been when Amulek refused the money AND chastised him for his misbegotten plan. And his disappointment turned to fear as the missionaries taught him the true doctrine of Jesus Christ and the Atonement. In fact, the fear of destruction left Zeezrom physically weak and unable to continue his rantings against Alma and Amulek. In the end, Zeezrom recognized his own sins and the damage he had done to the faith of the people. His change of heart caused his former friends to cast him out of the city forever.


Alma and Amulek continued to preach and were eventually driven from Ammonihah, only to find Zeezrom on his death bed in another town. Laying hands on his head, Alma and Amulek healed the former enemy and raised him up off his death bed. Then they taught him the gospel and helped him enter the church of God. Zeezrom became a powerful instrument in the spreading of the doctrines of Christ among many of the Nephites.


Now, that’s a pretty common story when it comes to religious conversions. A former unbeliever becomes a believer through a spiritual experience that changes their heart (see Saul for example). But that’s only part of the message I think Mormon is trying to give us in these chapters.


If you remember, Alma 7 explained, in detail, the blessings that would be available to those who accepted the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repented of their sins. That redemption is meant for ALL of God’s children, not just a select few. In chapters 8-11 we encounter three individuals who are in varying stages of mortal life.


1.     Alma, a rebellious son of a prophet of God, has been converted and is now doing his best to repair the damage he caused in his younger days. His success is impressive, and we are all inspired by his efforts.

2.     Amulek, a ‘less-active’ member of the church, has been re-converted and invited to help bring other souls to the fountain of Christ. He was not necessarily antagonistic toward the Savior, but he was apathetic in his testimony.

3.     Zeezrom, an opponent of Christ and all He offers. This man had wealth and power as his god and tried to destroy anyone who would try to affect his plans but found peace in the teachings of Christ.

The resurrected Christ appears to the Nephites

The placement of each of these individual characters is a testament to the wisdom and inspiration of Mormon as he assembled the records. It was not by chance that the stories of Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom were given after the teachings of the Atonement of Christ. No, Mormon wanted us to see a deeper application of Christ’s work. Mormon shows us that there is every possibility, despite current circumstance, for anyone to be redeemed by the blood of Christ. 

Jesus did His work for the benefit of all His Father’s children – the rebellious, the apathetic, and the most virulent opponent – each has access to the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ as they acknowledge their need for His redemption.


This experience in my own awakening reminds me that there is a plan in place to guide us all back to our heavenly home. And the most valuable and powerful ‘tool’ is given as we access the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ which prepares us for that future day.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Important Matters

We have just finished another General Conference in the Church and it is clear to me that the world is going crazy. You would think that a Church with only 16 million members living on a planet of more than 7.5 billion (that’s approximately .2% of all the people on earth) could function without too much interference or notice by the rest of mankind. Yet, every six months, there are reminders that sharing and believing the Gospel of Christ has its costs.

Here’s an example.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Elder Dallin Oaks used his time in Conference to speak about the importance of families and the inspired nature of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” When this document was first published in 1995, many in the religious world lauded the principles of the message and appreciated the reminder, but wondered why such a thing was needed. After all, 22 years ago, nearly every Christian (and other) religion agreed with the things that were taught. But when Elder Oaks completed his talk on this important document and the even more important doctrine it teaches, there was an explosion of angst on the Internet. And not just from folks who are in opposition to the Church and its teachings!

In the passing of 22 years, a document that was once considered nicely stated but unnecessary has now become something to be ‘loathed’ because of its ‘bigotry’ and ‘unkindness.’ Many outside (and some inside) the Church have called for change in the teachings of the Church. They assert that the Church’s stand on families is oppressive and exclusionist because it does not include all “forms” of family.

Why does the Church continue to teach the “Proclamation?”

 Because the Doctrine of Christ, as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says that a family consists of a husband (male) and wife (female) who work together to raise up children in a home filled with love and the knowledge of Christ.

The doctrine of the “world” says any combination of individuals or parties can join together and create a family. It is the plan of the adversary of us all to destroy and corrupt as much of God’s truth as he can in an effort to stop the great Plan of Happiness.

And one of his best efforts, recently, has been the attack on marriage and family.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not persecute those who believe the doctrines of the Gospel of Christ in a different way than stated by Christ and His Prophets. But the church cannot allow members to adjust the doctrine to fit some personal interpretation of God’s message.

A few define this limitation on practice/doctrine as discrimination against the individual when, in fact, it is protection of basic truths in the doctrine. To allow every social, political, personal, or other belief to “water down” the doctrinal truths of the gospel is to start on the road to apostasy. This would be repeating the steps that led to the “Great Apostasy” that occurred shortly after Christ’s resurrection.

I, for one, appreciate the efforts our leaders are making to keep the doctrines pure. It is a difficult task to live in a world that, by and large, does not agree with much of what is taught. And it doesn’t help that there are factions IN the church trying to change things to meet social, political, or some personal viewpoints. That’s why it is so critical to have these semi-annual checkpoints. Even the best of us will drift off course if there are no reminders on a regular basis.

When Lehi and Nephi wrote of their vision of the Tree, both identified an Iron Rod that the seekers of the Tree and its fruit latched onto for guidance. They identified the Rod of Iron as “The Word of God.”

I fear that we sometimes forget the rod is not just the scriptures written by past prophets but is also the words of modern, living prophets who are right in the middle of the life we are living. They face the same challenges and mortal fears but they also know Whom they represent. And when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet and prayerfully define the path that is best for a particular time, they have given all who will listen and obey another length of the Rod, leading to the ultimate goal – The Tree of Eternal Life that represents the love of God and Christ.

I recognize that my own commitment to following Living Prophets is not popular with most of the world. And I will confess that, at times, it is difficult to always be strong (not because I don’t believe, but because it is hard to be unpopular ALL the time). But, thus far my vision is clear enough to allow me to see that the “prize” at the end of the ROD is worth the effort.

So, my hope for all who read this is that you will find the faith in your heart to:
#1 –Believe in Christ and the power of His atoning sacrifice.

AND

#2 – Stay with the prophets of God, no matter what the rest of mankind decides to do. You will always be safe because Jesus has promised that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve cannot lead us astray (I know some will quibble with this, but I am confident of its veracity).

The current Apostles (Elder Hales passed recently)


I am a witness of Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on the earth. The teachings of the gospel of Christ will change mankind and welcome in the return of the Savior. mw

Thursday, September 28, 2017

MY SPEECH ON SPEECH

The other day I received a letter from a former student, apologizing for her behavior in a 9th grade class – one that was pretty raucous most days. I was grateful to hear from her and was pleased that she was serving a mission in a foreign country. She asked if I remembered her (yes, very distinctly) and wondered if I could forgive her (of course, I was 14 yrs. old once) for the way she acted in class so many years ago. It was a nice letter and it was easy to accept her plea and acknowledge her change in attitude.

I never disliked this young lady or any of the classmates that attended with her. By that time in my career I had stopped worrying about whether students liked me and was more focused on helping them get through the struggles of youth while trying to share a large dose of Jesus and His Atonement. To see this girl (and many others) make decisions based on their testimony of Christ is still the greatest pay for someone in my profession.

Teaching the gospel in a worldly environment is challenging under the best circumstances. Seldom do we get any support from the ‘school’, even when the majority hold the same values.
It’s not because they don’t want to be part, but it is a symptom of the world we live in today. Everyone is terrified of showing any religious inclinations for fear they will be removed from their positions or fired for “teaching/supporting religion.”

But with the loss of religious and moral principles in the schools, we have also had a loss in the basic goodness of society. The fear of retribution dampens the desire to teach appropriate conduct until we reach the point where any behavior is tolerated (look at college campuses for proof).

In some ways, the current ‘debate’ about respecting the Flag and National Anthem can find its origins in what is and isn’t taught in schools (and churches to some extent). Most schools don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance on a regular basis and I suspect that a goodly number of our students don’t know the words to the National Anthem. The proper care and display of the flag isn’t even discussed, except in some Scouting programs (witness the flying of flags at half-mast and how it is done incorrectly)

When there is no knowledge for WHY something is done, there is no respect WHEN it is done.

The fear of offending AND the desire to be offended are creating a world where people feel the need to look over their shoulders whenever they are doing something that is, in any way, public.  

I think the prophet Isaiah was speaking of this issue when he taught that in the last-days there would be many who:

… make a man an offender for a word, [laying] a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught. Isiah 29:21

Pointing out offense is easy. Learning to forgive and help others avoid real offensive behavior requires love – for the offender and the offended.

Imagine if Jesus had taken the words of the Pharisees and Sadducees personally (which was the way they were given) and used his unique abilities to strike back. Rather, He bore their behavior with humility and love and stayed focused on the task at hand. He could see the bigger picture and did not let the little things of life get in the way.

So how does that relate to the present circumstance?

People who want to find offense in their lives are going to find offense. Very little that we say will change their desire to be offended (and offense is a desire). But YOUR being offended does not mean that I must refrain from something that is dear to me. And if my actions are hard for you to understand, please let me know so I can explain my purpose. (note: I didn’t say so I would change, but I would explain).

So, when a bunch of rich kids who play games for a living decide they are too ‘cool’ to do something, I really don’t care.

Yes, it is hurts my heart to hear of it and I wish they wouldn’t do it. But, it isn’t something that is going to change me or my family and I see no need to be incensed?

Truthfully, their behavior has no bearing on my experiences in life and I suspect they will lose the desire to stand out as soon as people quit talking about it. I guess you might say I have a “laissez-faire” attitude towards things like this. Especially when they have no real bearing on anything of substance. These are just little children trying to get attention – and it’s working.

On the other hand, there are some folks who are clamoring for changes that I DO believe should be resisted. One current trend is calling out speakers/believers for ‘hate speech.’ In general, hate speech seems to be anything one body of believers (often loosely defined) finds offensive to their own ideas or practices. Somehow this term has become the rage for shutting down unwanted messages that disagree with another set of beliefs.

For example, if I am a dog lover and profess my love for the canine faction on earth, some other group will try to accuse me of ‘hate-speech’ because they think felines are better and my admiration for dogs must mean I HATE cats. In their mind, I must be stopped from ‘hate-speech’ against cats!!

The concept that a different ideology equates to hate is ridiculous. When did it become hateful to disagree with another opinion? I am a member of many organizations (official and unofficial) that have a wide variety of opinions and beliefs. But my membership in those groups does not mean I hate, or even dislike those in competing/contrasting organizations.

My heavens!! There is nothing wrong with having contrasting points of view. I recall that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, yet they were amiable and friendly – so much so that they enjoyed having dinner together quite often.

Why does EVERYTHING need to be polarizing?

Who says it’s impossible for members of different religious parties to be friendly to one another?

What rule says that graduates from rival schools cannot be civil in their discourse?

Why can’t dog and cat lovers sit down and share a meal together?

What has happened to this world?

Have we ALL forgotten that we are children of the same God?

Maybe that IS the problem.

Each person has their own God (whether they be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, or whatever) but many have become intolerant of the individual right to choose and live in peace with their own creed.

For instance!

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). My faith is dear to me and I desire to protect the right of my children and grand-children to practice what I believe are the doctrines of Christ.

One of the truths we follow pertains to marriage as an eternal ordinance when bound by the authority of the priesthood of God. Sacred temples are built around the world where faithful members can kneel across an altar with their husband or wife and participate in a holy event that seals them as a couple for all time and eternity. This is a satisfying doctrine of the gospel of Christ as we practice our faith. I do not expect everyone to appreciate what we do but I hope that no one will decide that our practices are an indication of something not part of the experience.

What is not part of our marriage rights is any statement pertaining to the practices of others of faith.

Mormons are not saying to the rest of the world that temple marriages are more valid than those of non-Latter-day Saints. We readily acknowledge that husbands and wives who love each other and are faithful to their marriage vows will find great joy together. The children of these unions are blessed by the love they receive from their parents.

But, there is one difference between these types of marriage – we have confidence that the vows we make do not end when “death does us part.” Our faith extends through the eternal realms and promises that those who are faithful to their covenants (to God and spouse) will continue to enjoy the bliss of marriage in the next world.

We welcome any who wish to enjoy this same experience to prepare and receive as we have.

Our doctrine is not hateful.

 Teaching the doctrines of the Latter-day Saints is not ‘hate-speech.’

We do not look down on, mock, hate, belittle, or exclude others as though we stood on a lofty tower. Neither do we cast stones or aspersions toward those who do not believe as we do. We simply believe differently than others of faith and are careful to not defy God in our practices.

Latter-day Saints believe in the eternal nature of family – both the nuclear type and the world-wide version. Every person on this earth is a son or daughter of a God who loves them and wants them to be happy. Mortal death is not the dissolution of family experiences, it is a step in the eternal continuation of those relationships.

So, when disbelievers chant that Mormons are dividers and haters because they perform marriages in sacred temples, they show a complete disregard for the rights of the faithful to practice their religion.

In reality, the doctrines of the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints are (though many will scream otherwise) very inclusive. There is hope in the gospel, as taught by the LDS Church, for all who come to this ball of dirt to experience mortality. Any who desire to live with God are qualified to join and partake of His blessings.

So back to the original premise:

Being offended is a choice!!

Finding offense where none is intended is a choice!!

Looking for ways to be offended and then claiming that offense is ‘hate-speech’ is to destroy all freedom in a land where freedom is key.


Trying to control dialogue by shaming and propaganda (claiming disagreement is hateful) is the beginning of the end of free speech. The end of free speech is the doctrine of the adversary and will destroy many other freedoms as it spreads.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

JUDGMENT

Yesterday, it was announced that a member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy (the third highest quorum in the Church) was excommunicated from the Church for unspecified reasons.




It is unusual for someone in one of the senior quorums of leadership to find himself/herself in this circumstance. For members of the Church, having a trusted leader lose his/her membership can be jolting. There is an expectation that when a person reaches that level of leadership they are immune to the temptations that result in such drastic consequences.


Obviously, that is not true!


Generally, in such situations there is no mention of the offense committed by the participant but the Church (and this can only be done with the permission of the individual) felt it was important to know that this was not a case of apostasy or losing his testimony of the faith.


Sadly, the need to clarify is a symptom of the Internet age we are experiencing. So much speculation and projection takes place in these circumstances that the Church (and most likely the brother) wanted it understood that loss of faith was not the reason for the action.


That doesn’t mean that there STILL won’t be many who choose to trumpet this as exactly that!!
AHH!!, don’t we love Internet trolls!





It would be very easy to begin to come up with scenarios for why someone would lose their membership. My experience in these cases has taught me to be sensitive to the tender feelings of those who find themselves working through their quest for forgiveness.


Each of us has failings and it is not unusual to look back and say,


“How did I get here?”


Jesus taught us, “Judge not unrighteously that ye be not judged.” (JST Matt. 7:1-2) And Mormon expanded on the Savior’s words to teach us a bit more about judgment:

Mormon recording and compiling

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.


(Notice that it is not wrong to judge. But it IS wrong to judge unrighteously. So how do you do that? Here it comes.)


For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.


(The gift Mormon is teaching about is called the Light of Christ – also known as a conscience. We are all born with it – a little piece of the Divine – and as we listen to its promptings, it can guide us to make better choices – including judging correctly)


But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.


(Despite what some may say, it is pretty easy to discern good from evil. Our help comes from that spark of divinity Mormon identifies as the Light of Christ. The challenge is listening and making the correct choice in times of pressure.)


And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. (Moroni 7:15-18)


And isn’t that the challenge?


Making righteous judgment while still living as a mortal being, full of prejudices and weaknesses of our own is TOUGH.


So, when we recognize that someone has faltered in their journey through this temporal experience or we know of a person who is steeped in ‘sinfulness’, might it not be best to have compassion rather than condemnation for their challenges. Each of us has a similar path to trod and at some time we are going to need help to get through difficult times. It will be much easier to find comfort from others when we have given the same to them.


My hope for this good brother is that he will do all that is necessary to receive forgiveness for whatever misstep he has made. He is still relatively young and can find new strength through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Savior is all about forgiveness – not one is ever exempted from His influence.


AND, may we all have a prayer in our hearts and compassion for this circumstance, along with others we may know, as they navigate the road of repentance.


Don’t forget what Paul taught the Romans about our individual trek through this fallen world:

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:19)


FULL DISCLOSURE:

This particular sin (judging unrighteously) is a continuing issue for me. I am working to eliminate this annoying habit from my own life. Postings like this are probably more for me than anyone else. My hope is to be less “unrighteously judgmental” when I stand before the bar of Christ. 😊

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ROOTS AND FRUITS #1


(Continuing where I left off last time…)

Kansas City, MO is about the same size as Salt Lake City, but much more difficult to navigate. Where SLC has square, even blocks that are numbered for easy identification, KC is a hodge-podge of streets and parkways that have no specific design (except to torture travelers). And when the services of Google AND Garmin are spotty …… well, life can become interesting.

So, how do you think we did getting to the airport when it came time to join our group of friends for the Workshop?
HAH!!
This was a good day for the electronic maps.
And our car was easy to return (thanks National Car Rental).
In fact, we were VERY early and had to wait in the terminal for the rest of the company.

The only struggle was waiting for all the different flights to arrive from across the country. One group was from Southern California, another arrived from Alaska, two different groups came by way of SLC, and there was one other (I don’t remember the start point) that was last of all. But eventually all the party was assembled and we boarded the bus for our excursion.

Intro --
When you gather together a large gaggle of Seminary teachers in one place you can always expect life to be interesting.

Think about it!!

Our job is to work with young people and help them learn the gospel.

That means we must be able to relate to (and sometimes emulate) them or we won’t be successful. So, the personality of a group like ours just ‘might’ have some resemblance to a high school group on a band or choir tour.

And since we are teachers -- EVERYONE has a story to tell (seldom short).

Humorous events or amazing experiences are the norm.

And, because we teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are many (or slightly more) spiritual experiences shared by the attendants.

In other words, it is a raucous, unruly, tender, heavenly, and enlightening time for everyone on the bus.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

With the crew assembled, our first business was to introduce all the participants. (I will skip that part because none of you really care. If you do, let me know and I will send you the roster.)

I knew a few of our fellow-travelers (sounds sort of communistic when I say it like that) but the majority were strangers. As we did the intros, our tour leader prepared us for the first site we would visit.

And, frankly, I don’t remember what it was!!

MISSOURI
OK, I just checked the itinerary and it was Independence, MO. I thought that was second but I was wrong. The visitor center was interesting and the site where the cornerstones for the temple were laid was… there. The Church doesn’t own it, but it is still visible.

 Maybe the most striking thing was the RLDS (Community of Christ) Temple. It looks sort of like a big ice cream cone.

Community of Christ Temple, Independence, MO


Side Note: The CofC folks are very kind and accommodating. We had lots of interaction with them during our days in Nauvoo, but here in Missouri, they were less visible. While we have some commonality in our origins, their belief system is VERY different than ours. I will probably try to share some of that when I get to Nauvoo with this narrative.

LIBERTY JAIL
The lateness of our start meant we had to hurry along to Liberty Jail. It was sad that this was at the beginning of the workshop because I would have liked to stay longer. The events from this site have had a profound effect on my personal life (and I suspect many others as well) and it would have been nice to sit and ponder more extensively. Still, the sacred nature of Liberty Jail (called by some, a “temple prison”) was obvious as we discussed events and teachings given by the Lord for the benefit of His people (for reference, see D&C 121-123 as a starter).

You can see that it was a long day -- we were tired. but excited to be at such a significant place.

Joseph, Hyrum, and others behind us

I don’t really remember much more of the first day – we were  tired and the bed at the hotel was very welcome.

One interesting thing about these workshops is the friendships we make as we travel together. There is a wide range of ages (we were most assuredly part of the upper-age group) and personalities but everyone works hard to make things better for their traveling companions. For instance, after the first day the directors asked if some of us would accommodate a few who had travel sickness issues. The number of volunteers exceeded the needed changes. That attitude was the defining spirit of the whole workshop. It really is nice to travel with good people who are not focused on themselves at the expense of everyone else.

KC Temple 

Day two started with a quick “drive-by” of the Kansas City Temple. Since Teresa and I had already been there, we just relaxed and let the others have the space.


Side Note: I noticed, as we made our way to Far West, MO, that the bus driver was carefully watching her GPS to make sure she got where we wanted to go. But she also had a secondary map, just in case things went awry. That made me feel better about our experiences with electronic maps.


FAR WEST AND HAWN’S MILL
Far West and Hawn’s Mill (used to be Haun’s Mill but they have discovered Jacob Hawn spelled his name with a W) have some significance to us (me) because I had relatives who died in the Hawn’s Mill massacre. David Lewis was one of the victims and was the brother of my 3rd great-grandfather, Tarlton Lewis. Jacob Hawn failed to warn the Saints to gather with the body of the Church, as Joseph had counseled him to do, and many lost their lives when a mob came and victimized them. It was a sad day in Church History and marked the beginning of the end for the Saints in Missouri.

You can see why people would want to settle in this region.
It's perfect for farming and lots of other 'pioneer' activities.



ADAM-ONDI-AHMAN
Adam-ondi-Ahman is a very special place in the history of the Church. Joseph Smith received revelation that this was the place where Adam built an altar and offered sacrifice when he and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. There’s not much here right now, but the future of this location has some amazing things to experience. I probably won’t be here on earth when it happens but just watching from the ‘sidelines’ will still be interesting.



Looking out over the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Just so we could get a feel for how much time it took for the Saints to leave Missouri and get to Illinois, we made the journey to Nauvoo in one day. Well, for the Saints it was weeks of travel but for us it was only a few hours over freeways. Guess that’s not very representative but I’m glad we didn’t have to walk.

I think I will stop here for this posting and save the rest for another day.

Some of you may be wondering about the title of this entry. I chose “Roots and Fruits” because the whole time we were on this workshop the thought kept coming to me that what these people did (the roots of my ancestry) has had a profound effect on who I am and who my future family will be (fruits). I suppose these feelings are a symptom of aging and worrying about the familial line that continues into the future, but it is also a salute to the wonderful people who paved the way for me to find peace in this mortal experience. 

They sacrificed and died (much like seeds that become plants) to open the door for me to grow in my love of Christ and His work. These people were not just pioneers in moving to new nations, they were pioneers in opening the realms of God to His children.


The work of our ancestors deserves our attention and love. I hope that what I share with this and other postings indicates how much thankfulness there is in my heart for these powerful children of God. 
And one day, I hope to be one too.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MIDWEST VACATION



The older I get, the more I wonder about how my life is connected to my ancestors and future generations. When we are young the focus of life is learning and building but as we age our desires seem to turn to those who have preceded us and the other group that is coming up behind.

For instance, one of my worries is that my grandchildren won’t remember who I am – especially the younger ones. Teresa and I spend a lot of time with all of them but I am afraid many may not remember how grandpa and grandma liked to play with them when they were little. By the time their memories can hold onto our experiences together we will be too feeble and loopy (OK, that last part is for me, not Teresa) to do anything that is exciting enough to pack away as a pleasant recollection. We will have become those “old folks who smell funny and can’t do much.”

That’s one of the reasons I try to keep some semblance of a journal – so my posterity can understand a little bit about who I really was. And these blog entries are meant to give them a view into the things that were important – to me! I figure if I write enough (even if it is boring) they will have some foundation for knowing who we were when we are gone. At least that is the idea!

So, here’s some thoughts I had as Teresa and I went on a little vacation a few weeks ago. It was partly personal and partly work related – but all of it was interesting and uplifting.

In the summer hiatus from classwork my employer offers guided workshops, for teachers and spouses, to historic sites that are important to LDS Church history. A few years ago we went on the Northeast version and had a wonderful time visiting sites in New York, Ohio, Vermont, and other church-related locations. We developed some good friendships and really enjoyed the experience – in fact, I hope we can go back to many of the sites at some future time.

A couple of summers later we were offered a chance to experience (sort of) what it would be like to make the trek to Utah from the other side of the Rocky Mountains. For a week, our group followed the Pioneer Trail that was used by the Saints as they left, what was then, the borders of the United States and moved to the frontiers of the Utah Basin. The big difference in our pioneer adventure was we made the trek in six days and had four-wheel-drive vehicles instead of wagons and oxen. Again, it was an amazing workshop and helped us understand (just a little) what it must have been like.

Well, this summer we were blessed to finally participate in the final workshop available to teachers and spouses. This adventure included visits to many of the Church History sites relating to the Missouri and Illinois experiences of the early Saints. And, as a bonus, Teresa and I went out a few days early to visit Rex and Lisa, my younger brother and his wife, in Indiana. We decided that may be the closest we get to them anytime soon so we better take advantage of the proximity of our workshop.

[For those of you who are geographically inclined, Indiana is NOT very close to Missouri, but it IS much closer than when we are in Utah.]

Having lived most of my life in the Western United States, I am very used to having mountains and deserts as the main landscape. So, when we arrived in Indiana (and the rest of the Midwest) there were some adjustments to make.

You see, everything is green.

Not just some things.

Everything was really green.

And most of the green consisted of soybeans and corn.

Lots of soybeans and corn.

Sometimes too much soybean and corn.

Image result for soybean field pictures
Soybean field -- very green
Add to that, there were no mountains anywhere!

How do you know which way to go if you don’t have mountains as a point of reference?

Even our GPS had trouble with the flatlands. (Google Fail and Garmin struggle)

Eventually, we sort of got used to the GREEN. At least Teresa did. In fact, she loved it and wished we could take some home with us. She really likes green. I guess I’m more of brown kinda guy. But that’s what makes us such a good team.

Anyway, we had a delightful visit with Rex and Lisa (and Nicholas). They are very gracious hosts and took good care of us while we were there. Here’s a few of the adventures they shared with us:


Pleasant company on the back deck
No pictures of this– sometimes I’m not really thinking clearly.

Gawking at their cool Harley.
Aren't they BAD!!?


Visiting the Indianapolis Speedway and Museum
Climbing this tower (which wasn't as hard as it might look -- or at least looked to old people).
It's called the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.




Catch and release a live turtle. Way to save the weak and suffering Nicholas!!

This is not the turtle but sort of like it.
Our little friend had been attacked and had scratches and cracks in his shell.

Real Indy Racing!! -- Almost.
Teresa learned she better watch out cause I'm coming through!


Lots of good food.

Plenty of welcome conversation.

And renewing/developing relationships that have suffered from lack of contact.

Our days with Rex and Lisa were so much fun. We are hoping they will come visit Utah soon and we can do this again (except we will host them). It does help that they have kids and family in the area so I suspect they will be out before long (or at least they hinted they would)! 😉

Saturday was spent driving from Indianapolis to Kansas City, MO. Again, the drive was extremely green but the company was so pleasant (my wife is a great traveler) that the long drive passed quickly. It’s a good thing the roads are well marked because we still had difficulties with the GPS as we ‘trekked’ across the plains of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.

After all that driving, we found our hotel and settled down for the night. A short walk in the humid weather was enough to get us motivated for a swim and an early bedtime so we would be ready for Church.

The ward we visited was about three blocks from the hotel so we opted to walk. After church, we decided to visit a ‘pioneer village’ type of place. It was free and not too far from the hotel. Reality is that it was further than we expected and all the buildings were locked up and inaccessible. Very disappointing!! So, we opted to visit the WWI Memorial in downtown Kansas City.

Cool (well actually hot and muggy) place and very interesting.

The museum was open but they wanted $16 each and would be closing in 45 minutes so we opted to walk around the outside and look at the displays. We learned a lot and enjoyed the view (despite the sweltering heat).

Now comes the exciting part of the day.

Since the GPS had worked a little better in the big city, we used it to get downtown to the memorial and we got right where we wanted to go. So, when it came time to leave, we plugged in the coordinates and started on our way to see the Kansas City Temple. The GPS got us right there and we had a pleasant visit. But then things got a little crazy (GPS and driver-wise).


There's my little sweetheart in front of the KC Temple


It should have been a simple journey back to the hotel but between the pilot thinking he knew the way without help and the GPS rerouting us a over variety of different roads, we got majorly lost! So lost that both the pilot AND co-pilot were confused and frustrated. We did eventually arrive at the hotel but nerves were frazzled and our confidence was completely shaken.
Monday morning, we decided to test our patience skills (and GPS) by going BACK to downtown KC to visit the Hallmark factory. It turned out to be one of the most interesting things we did. And Teresa found a new friend to hang with:

 
Such a contrast between these two.
Maybe that's why they can be friends.


The Hallmark people were very accommodating and even gave us a couple of small gifts for visiting. That’s another win for the travelling Whitmer’s.

That was also the end of our “self-guided” touring for this little adventure. I worry that this is already overly long for one posting so I will stop here and continue with the Workshop review at a later time.

The take-away, for me, from this part was that Teresa and I need to be more proactive in visiting with our extended family. Particularly MY siblings. The Grange kin live close by us and we see them all quite often.

But the extended Whitmer’s are all many hours away and it takes lots of time and effort to see them. YET, it is well worth the effort so we need to stop being lazy and get out on the road a little more.

And who knows, maybe if we do our part, some will return the favor and come see us in beautiful Utah. Dave and Karen came a year or so ago for a delightful few days.

We would love to have all others looking for a grand adventure come and visit. Our home is large and empty so there are plenty of places to sleep for free. Think about it and call for reservations before we get completely booked. 😊


I promise that I will finish the rest of our vacation in a short while. Just keep your eyes open for the next posting. Love you all. mw