Monday, February 23, 2015


Saturday was another of our family dinners.  This one was a little different because there was a theme.

In celebration of the continued aging of the clan patriarch, the Lords and Ladies and their considerable lordettes and ladiettes, offered high salutations to said patriarch with a feast of great birds and rousing merriment for all.  Delight was abundant  and appreciated by the beneficiary.

Brian consuming a Large Hunk of Bird

This is a momentous year as we have (or will soon have) reached six decades of actual living as mortals, bound to this earth.  It has been such a marvelous time and we/I hope it continues on for several more decades (OK, I think I’m alright with two or two.five, but much more than that might be a little dicey).

Thanks for the wonderful day and for the many memories of such a sweet family.  And Josh, thanks for the touching and very well done musical number.
(Later I will post the words to his tribute to the ancient traveler).

Until the next occurrence I bid you FAREWELL.

For a more complete vision of the festivities, visit my beautiful daughter's blog .

Friday, February 20, 2015


(I have been a little slothful in maintaining this thread of posts.  Here is the first in the repentance effort.)

When Teresa and I moved to Utah back in the early 80’s, we were a little worried about the reception we would receive.  Both of us were small-town grown and not familiar with what life would be like in the ‘heart of Mormondom.’  Our experiences in California and Arizona had given us an expectation that we worried might not be found in such a Mormon-centric environment.

Our first Sunday in Utah found us attending a small ward in the heart of the new community of West Valley City (The city had recently been incorporated but the homes were from the 50’s and 60’s construction booms).  The congregation was small, by our expected standards, and we wondered if there was some event that took the members away for the Sabbath.  We soon discovered that we had a Utah anomaly on our hands – a ward that was small and in need of new membership (not much has changed in the last 30 yrs.).

At one of the early meetings we attended (I don’t remember if it was the first week or sometime after) a distinguished couple came forward to shake our hands.  They both spoke in distinctively British accents and politely inquired about our status regarding family, work, church experience, and all the other attending phases of life.  They were delightful and introduced themselves and Bertram and Victoria Merrell.  We did not know it at the time, but this wonderful couple was about to have a great influence on the lives of two young people in the beginning stages of marriage.

Over the years, we have enjoyed many experiences with the Merrell’s and have often considered them as one might an older brother and sister.  Their children were somewhat older than ours and we watched their experiences, counting them as a benchmark to peek into the future as our young family grew up.  There were innumerable ups and downs for our friends and we constantly felt of the despair and joy they had in the challenges of family life.  And through it all, we witnessed something that has given us confidence in our own efforts to make and keep an eternal family.

Through the whole of their experiences, Bertram and Victoria have always been completely faithful to each other, their precious children, and the God of Heaven who guides them in their search for happiness.  Their example of peace in the face of great disappointment and sorrow has etched in our hearts a desire to be less judgmental toward the ‘failings’ of others.  In all the years we have been friends, it has become clear to me that the Merrell’s have accepted the charge to become more like the Savior in the way they treat God’s children. 

They are true disciples of Christ.

Now that many years have passed, life for the Merrell’s has changed.  Their children are grown and have kindly supplied them with a bevy of grandchildren.  Age has taken away many of the things they love to do but there is still that air of confidence that comes when the future holds no fear.  Bertram is struggling a little and Victoria bears much more of the burden that used to be shared equally.  But they do not complain.  They are happy in the face of their changing circumstance.  And they are (and I believe always will be) faithful to the same God they have worshiped since their conversion to the Gospel of Christ.

These are our friends.  We love them for the road they blaze as we follow along their path.  We are much better people because of the example they have given.  And we will always be grateful for the encouragement, confidence, and love they have offered in the years of our friendship.  We couldn't ask for better guides through the experiences of mortal life.

The Merrell’s truly are GOOD PEOPLE.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


One day, when I was a young teen, I went to a Boy Scout meeting and was informed that we were going to begin working on the Lifesaving merit badge.  Swimming was always fun for me but I was not especially proficient so this worried me a little.  I had done all the requirements for the Swimming badge so I figured I could probably handle this one without too much trouble.

We went to a local pool for our practice and warmed up before we began the lesson.  Then we all sat on the side of the pool as our Scout leader began his lesson on how to be ready to save a life in the water.

Most of what we learned had to do with ways to recover those who may have become entangled in things or were too far out for their own abilities.  But there was one section that really had me worried – what to do when you are with someone who begins to flounder and drown.

This many years later, I don’t remember most of the specific instructions, but one thing stuck in my brain.  The instructor repeated this several times so we would clearly get the message.  He said:
When someone is drowning, they will do anything they can to get their head above water– even if they have to climb on top of the person who is trying to save their life.  So as a rescuer, your first priority is to make sure you are safe before you attempt to help another.

At first, this made little sense to me but as we practiced, and as I watched in other venues, it became clear that this was not just good advice but a critical element of survival for those engaged in rescuing others from death.  To save another a rescuer must be in a position of safety where they can fend off the advances of the suffering person yet still find a way to save their life.

Recent events in the world, and especially in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have given me a new perspective on the counsel of my Scoutmaster from so many years ago.  There are some of us who could use a lesson as we consider making efforts to rescue others from the dangers of doubt or unbelief.  Keeping with the theme of drowning and swimming, here are a couple of things that might be of use for some who want to help.

1.    Before you jump into the water, make sure you have plenty of experience ‘swimming’ in different conditions and circumstances.  What seems to be a calm and shallow pool may turn out to be much deeper and more dangerous than first imagined.  And without some guidance, making a blind jump into unknown spots could result in injury or death from striking unknown obstacles.

Stated as a gospel principle, we might say that just because a person has read/studied the scriptures, attended seminary or Sunday School, or even served a mission, they should not suppose they have the answer for every question a doubter or non-believer might present.
Firstly, there are some questions that are worth asking and others which are meant only to destroy faith.

Knowing if the Book of Mormon is the word of God is essential to understanding the doctrines of the gospel.  Understanding the doctrine of the Atonement is critical to our finding faith in Jesus Christ and would be considered a worthy study.

Finding out how many wives Joseph Smith had or where the Gold Plates are hidden is interesting but not something that will lead anyone to Christ.  The Lord is very selective with the information He shares with His people.  There are many things not yet revealed or understood completely – how else could each of us develop a foundation of faith.  (See Alma 32:21)

Some questions are not asked for any reason other than to cast doubt on the truths of the Restoration.  And, be it known that some doubters or non-believers have already made up their mind about what they will accept.  They are not looking for answers as much as they are trying to find some ‘sincere but unaware rescuer’ who can be easily taken down with their thrashings about in the pool of ‘religious study.’  Like the terrified swimmer who is approached by their rescuer these, sometimes misguided and other times devious, souls attempt to drag the rescuer down with them to the depths of non-belief or doubt. 
There are times when it is better to walk away rather than give ear to questions asked with a desire to deceive or destroy faith.

2.    Most public and private swimming areas are required by law to have some sort of protection for those who are going into the water.  Help comes in the form of lifeguards, signs, fences, or other protection.  Unfortunately, having protection available does not mean it will be utilized (that agency principle can be a real test to some).

Before beginning the process of rescuing those who have drifted or fallen away, it is best to seek advice from ‘lifeguards’ who are intimately acquainted with the depths to be plumbed.  They have spent countless decades mapping out the channels, holes, currents, and eddies that make the area dangerous.  As they have learned, signs are posted to warn of danger.  Some of those warnings have been compiled into manuals that give even greater detail about where to find safety and what dangers to avoid.  Their careful attention to detail makes them wise protectors for any wishing to use the waters they guard.

Our Father in Heaven has established His church on the earth in these last days.  He has given His Son stewardship over the administration of the gospel and its message.  The Savior has, in turn, called and set apart men (yes, they are mortals) who are to lead His kingdom until He comes to finish the work Himself.  These men, working according to specific guidelines and under the direct inspiration of Jesus Christ, are tasked with maintaining pure doctrine to keep the membership safe.  They seek out answers, warn of dangers, record the impressions for the followers of Christ to share, and invite all to test their offerings by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.

Some who observe or come to the Church wonder how mere mortals can know enough to offer safety from disaster.  Others doubt that these men, touched with the foibles of mortality, have the ability to see any better than they, the obstructions that might cause harm.  What they don’t understand is that as a body, these men are capable of amazing miracles in protecting the followers of Christ.

Like the swimmer who ignores warning signs and lifeguard instructions, many find out for themselves the pain and suffering that comes from discarding the guidance of such men.  The counsel they give is not based on any worldly goal or understanding.  It comes from God and is meant to protect for eternity, not satisfy for the moment.

We are all children of a God who loves us and offers wonderful blessings in eternity.  All He asks is obedience to the principles of safety He has outlined.  When mortal men begin to dispute the principles and doctrines as given by God, they place themselves in grave danger.  And when these same mortals use their voices to spread false doctrines, and preach sophistry for the intent to lead others away from the truths of God, they are setting themselves up for a very disappointing encounter with the God of Heaven.

The Prophets are the guides.  The Holy Ghost is the confirming voice that gives us the strength to endure on the path.  Jesus Christ is the only hope we have for an eternal life filled with joy.  Let His ‘lifeguards’ and His ‘warning signs’ be the source of the truths we follow in this life.  As we do, there is a great promise of peace that will come to all so inclined.

May it be so in your life and the lives of those you love.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Some of you are, I presume, waiting with bated breath to learn more of my medical struggles and successes.  Being the kind and caring person that I am, here is an update.

On a pleasant Friday in late January, I was admitted to a secret hospital whose location will not be mentioned at this time.  The attending nurses and physicians, using their remarkable talents, bound me to a table (rather firmly I do believe – almost as if they were afraid I might try to escape) and administered mind-altering drugs in such quantities as to cause my brain to become disoriented (which is not that difficult) and unaware of any of my surroundings or experiences.

(This next part I only know from bits and pieces I heard as I came out of the drug-induced stupor).

Working under great duress, the medical personnel advanced me to an operating theatre (I can only imagine the horror or despair some of the student nurses and doctors must have had seeing my limp, bulbous, and seemingly lifeless body lying on the table) for the purposes of depriving me of one vital (or not so much) organ of their choosing.  There are a myriad to choose from but I am quite confident that the one chosen was of lesser rank (not up there with the heart or brain – both of which may already be gone according to some of my students).  Nevertheless, the surgeons and assistants performed their magic and removed what they wanted, stitched (well, really,they just taped the holes which seemed a little careless in my opinion. What happens if the tape falls off and my guts start to spew out all over the ground and such?) the incisions (of which there were four – the largest in the bellybutton area – guess there’s no more bikinis for me in the future) and sent me off to some other secret realm for recovery.

Isn't this cute?!!  It was the cause of much
pain but has been eliminated from my life.

Being the wonderful person she is, my sweet wife returned to my side immediately after the surgery in anticipation of my returning to normalcy (whatever that might be).  She was a little miffed that it took nearly five hours to wake this old body (which will reach six decades in a very short time) up but that was not my doing.  We both warned the anesthesiologist of my system which takes great offense to being attacked by sleep-inducing medicine and refuses to arise to consciousness in a reasonable time.

Three weeks have now passed since the attack on my system (though the events of many of those days are somewhat dim due to… well, I’m not really sure why but they are dim nonetheless) and I am feeling much better.  The constant pain that resided in my lower back (initially thought to be stones in the kidney but later diagnosed as the same entity in the gallbladder) has disappeared but has been replaced by a lack of energy (attributed to the ‘major’ surgery on my system and rebellion from other parts that were ignored when they wanted to play the ‘surgery’ game) and a complete loss of appetite (probably a good thing as I pass forward to future decades).

All in all, I would say the whole experience was………….. an adventure I would not like to repeat.  I did request they keep the stones for me (I was considering using them for earrings for my sweetheart for Valentine’s day or some other remembrance item) but they said it was against the law.  My counter proposal was trumped by the fact I was completely unable to stand up for myself while in the throes of slumberland.  One day I will win when it comes to doctors but this was not one of those days.

Thank you for your attention as I have recited my experiences at the hospital.  If you are a medical person or have one in your family, please don’t be offended by my flippant view of the profession.  I’m sure they are really nice people but, frankly, I really don’t remember that much about them so I have to make things up.  Next time I will have Teresa video everything so I can see what it was really like… or not!!

Until next time.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I like Benedict Cumberbatch as an actor.  He is a little hard for my old ears to hear when he plays ‘Sherlock Holmes’ but he has a presence on the screen that gives me confidence I will be well entertained.  Like Jonny Lee Miller (of “Elementary” fame), he gives his characters a vulnerability that balances out the almost superhuman abilities they possess.

In the new film, “Imitation Game”, Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, a mathematical genius recruited by the British Military in WWII.  The story revolves around the British attempt to crack the German code machine, ‘Enigma’, in order to intercept secret transmissions of military data.  The Enigma machine is so powerful at creating coded messages that the British fear they will never be able to figure out how it works.

Turing is assigned to a team of brilliant men who hope to find a way to interpret what the Germans are doing in time to help the war effort.  Unfortunately, when you put a group of geniuses in a room and ask them to work together the results are not always pleasant.  And the biggest pain/obstacle seems to be Alan Turing.

The story progresses along fairly predictable lines with several peaks and valleys in the success of the team.  It helps that Keira Knightley, playing the female genius Joan Clarke, joins the group and acts as a buffer between Turing and the rest of the crew.  Her presence gives Turing the ability to manage events without completely losing the support of the other participants.

As the story plays out there is an underlying theme that, for the most part, is handled pretty well.  Without making a big production, we learn that Alan Turing is not just a genius, but he is also a homosexual genius.  Most of his colleagues recognize the fact but seem able to work around any struggles with acceptance.  And Knightley’s character provides some cover for his status by pretending to be his fiancĂ©.  All in all, the whole topic is given its due but doesn’t become the totality of the storyline.

Unfortunately, the producers/directors of the movie didn’t feel they could be satisfied just presenting the story and letting the audience come to their own conclusions.  

For two engaging hours viewers witness a major miracle in cypher hacking.  They applaud a disparate group of people who have achieved an unbelievable success despite enormous differences in styles and egos. And Alan Turing has accomplished something never before seen in the history of the world – he created the first working digital computer.

So what message are we to take from this powerful inspiring story?

People suffered discrimination in the past because of their sexual orientation.


That’s the message displayed as the closing credits begin.

To me, it’s as if the people in charge felt they had to deceive the audience by telling a powerful story and then saying – “we really are just pushing our agenda and you fell for it.”

This is a good story about a man who did wonderful things.  He had his challenges and weaknesses and undoubtedly it is important to use those to balance the recounting of his success.  But to take a well-acted, entertaining film and reduce it to a commercial for gay-rights is offensive to many who have paid the price of a ticket.

Having said all this, I would still recommend this movie.  The story is slightly different than reality (read the book Alan Turing: The Enigma) but the film is still excellent.

I just think it would have been even better if someone hadn’t decided to apply a hammer to my head at the end of the evening.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Of late, I have followed a rather heated discussion between scholars in different camps concerning the authenticity of scripture.  I am not a scholar (nor ever desired to be one) but I have strong feelings about the arguments and feel it is important to speak for the ‘common man’ in this instance.  I apologize to those of you who feel I am not common but that is how I view my place in this discussion.

Amongst the two groups alluded to above, one camp purports that scripture must be looked at from a scholarly/historical position and proof must be found to authenticate the different books, stories, and individuals of scripture in the Standard Works.  They don’t necessarily reject the teachings of the scriptures, nor do they always suggest that the figures in the stories are fictional, but they are also not opposed to such assumptions.

A fellow (whom I admire as a teacher and friend) recently wrote a piece asking if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were real people or just creations by ancient scribes designed to teach principles of truth or corroborate genetic/family connections.  Others have boldly questioned the reality of other biblical characters like Job, Judas, and even Jesus, simply because they cannot find sufficient historical or documentary data to corroborate their existence.

In my mind (remember, I am not a scholar and don’t think like they do), looking at scripture from solely an historical view places doubt in the minds of those who need the help of what is written in scripture for their eternal benefit. 

For instance, to suggest that Abraham was not a real man and his experience with Isaac on Mount Moriah was a fictional tale (recorded for some other reason) undermines faith that God can interact with His children on a very personal level.  

Suggesting that Joseph, son of Jacob/Israel, did not exist in history simply because no one has found anything to suggest he ever resided or ruled in Egypt, is tantamount to removing the doctrine of faith from the Christian religion.

Historical analysis of scripture is interesting, exciting sometimes, and can offer help in understanding the context of certain experiences which resulted in revelations from or experiences with God.  But knowing the history of a particular event is not essential to developing faith in a God who loves His children.  Nor is it required to find comfort and peace in the doctrines (primarily the Atonement) of Christ.

We live in a world that seems to think that everything that can be discovered HAS been discovered.  Yet we keep finding new things.  And someone has to eat their words and start from scratch with their theories.

If the true location of the birthplace of Abraham cannot be identified, does that mean Abraham never existed?  How will scholars feel when they find some long-lost scroll or clay pot that definitively places Abraham in the Land of Ur, just as the scriptures teach? 

Now what thing will they say could never be possible? 

It is, as Paul taught, men who “are ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” – that require proof of everything before they can believe.

Bringing this to a Latter-day Saint perspective, it has become very popular with some (LDS and otherwise) to wonder if The Book of Mormon is what it claims to be. 

The contention is that, while The Book of Mormon teaches godly principles and helps readers come to Christ, its origins begin in the 19th century with the work and mind of Joseph Smith.  

Some will confess that Joseph was inspired and had a miraculous experience in the production and printing of The Book of Mormon.  But they cannot accept, until proven historically, that there was a real person named Lehi – or Nephi – or Mormon – or any other character in the book.  

In effect, the claim of these scholars is that the story Joseph told was out of his imagination (inspired or not).  And, despite many of these scholars recognizing and accepting that the work Joseph did was important and useful for learning of Christ, their belief is that it was nothing more than the imaginings of a young man who had strong desires to be involved in the religious excitement of his day.

How, then, does an individual come to know whether any scripture – The Book of Mormon, The Bible, The Koran, or whatever else one might want to read – is the work of God.

There is only one way!  

It is to ask God and then listen for the answer He will provide.

There may never be a discovery in archaeology that confirms the existence of the City of Sodom or the miracle that occurred when Moses and Israel crossed the Red Sea. 

It is unlikely that archaeologists will find a stone in the Yucatan that is inscribed with the name of Nephi or any other ancient American prophet.

Those who want physical, tangible proof will always be disappointed!!

And I believe that is on purpose.

In my own personal experience, God is not very free with miraculous specifics when it comes to inviting His children to believe in His work.  His method is generally done in subtle and quiet ways that require our faith in what He is doing. 

But the end result is more lasting than if a stack of gold plates were set on a desk for viewing.

When Moroni was completing the record we now call The Book of Mormon, he inscribed on those precious plates the following:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things… that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.  And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:3-5)

I am confident that Mormon was a real person who wrote on sacred plates of metal for a people he knew would live in our day. 

I am sure that Nephi, Lehi, Alma, Amulek, and many others were men of God, who tried to teach the doctrine of Christ to a people who were difficult to reach (sort of like our world)

I have no doubt that Joseph Smith received plates with the appearance of gold from a holy angel named Moroni (the same Moroni who gave the above promise) which he translated and published as The Book of Mormon. 

I am certain that this book, which is available to all the world, will bring a person closer to Christ and His magnificent Atonement than any other book that exists on the earth at this time.

All this and I have not one physical shred of proof that would be accepted by any scholar.

As Joseph Smith told his mother:

I have learned for myself…