Thursday, July 30, 2015


 Some may recognize the title of this post as words from a song rendered by pioneers as they made their way to the Salt Lake Valley during the great immigration of the 1840'- 1870's.  We have just passed the celebration day (July 24th) for the arrival of the first company into the valley in 1847.  For Latter-day Saints, it is a significant milestone – one that signifies the release from the persecutions of our early history.

My life has not been tested the way my ancestors were challenged.  Comfort and ease has been the ‘lot’ of most of my days.  And even when they were not companions, they were not far away and easily returned to stay with me and my family.

This summer, Teresa and I were privileged to participate in a fantastic experience that has given us a renewed appreciation for those who made our ‘comfort’ possible.  As part of my employment, we are allowed to participate in something called a Pioneer Trails Workshop – basically a re-enactment of the crossing from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City.  Fortunately, we are not expected to make the trek in wagons or handcarts, but with experienced leaders we are given a very detailed itinerary that guides us along the major parts of the journey.

So, I thought it might be nice to share a few things we experienced as we trundled from Nebraska to Salt Lake City during the week of July 20-25.  This will not be in great detail, but will highlight some of the most interesting events of the week.  Hope you enjoy and can appreciate, just a little, what our forefathers gave to find peace.

A slight rain as we began our journey at
4:00 am on Monday.  The vehicles were provided
by the Larry H. Miller dealerships at a very reasonable
rate.  It was also our privilege to have Gail (Miller) Wilson as
one of our participants on this excursion.
Our SUV was a delightful Honda Pilot that
makes me think we might go that way when our next
vehicle purchase comes around.

The adventure began at 0:dark thirty on Monday morning, July 20.  There were 14 vehicles in our caravan and we were separated into four groups – Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow.  There were three vehicles in each group except for green which had four.  Our little Honda Pilot was designated Blue 3.  Each day the order of color would change so everyone had a chance to be in the front.  Whomever was in the last car of the convoy was given the role of ‘tail-gunner’ and was responsible to keep watch over the whole crew.  It was all very organized and as we would find out, essential to our success.

We are the 11th vehicle in the line of 14. On the third
day we were 'tail-gunner' but we used the moniker 'Stinger'
to let them know there was someone special in the line
taking care of the stragglers.

Most of the whole first day was spent streaking across I-80 to Scott’s Bluff, NE.  The plains of Wyoming and the flatlands of Nebraska are not really great tourist destinations so there isn’t much to report there.  It was long and boring, broken up by monotony and napping.  There was one stopping place that held some interest: the commemoration of the Lincoln Highway rest stop.  This was the first transcontinental highway and was completed in 1913.  While I am in favor of making a display of the events, my own appraisal of the statue of Lincoln is that it could have been slightly more professional.  But my tastes don’t usually appreciate some of the more interpretive arts. 

It doesn't look so bad in the photo.
As to not waste too much time, we began our touring immediately upon arriving in Scott’s Bluff.  Though tired, we thoroughly enjoyed climbing the Bluff and touring the visitor’s center.  There were also some pioneer graves and stories we found before our eventual falling into bed for the night. 

I should explain that we had a crew that was ahead of us who were tasked with setting up our camp each night.  Their duties seemed difficult but they never complained or acted put out by any requests.  It was a pleasure to have such good help on such a long voyage.  We also enjoyed the services of a cook crew that joined us the second day and provided amazing meals in the wilderness.  All these folks are volunteers who appreciate the wonder that is a Pioneer Trek.

Our first tent city -- Bonus sunrise in Nebraska.  We don't get them
like that in Utah.

For the next five days our whole life was consumed with searching out and enjoying the places and travails experienced by the pioneer companies.  Rather than give a long dissertation on the events, I am going to post some pictures of different places and put a short caption to highlight the activities.  Maybe that will make this a little more palatable for those who are not anxious to read a lot of my ramblings. Just know that we were very moved by the whole experience and have a greater appreciation for those who blazed the way for our survival and freedom.  

Scott's Bluff -- a landmark for most pioneer
companies moving west.There were several passes
in this area that led to the west.
Rebecca Winters Grave --Fantastic
story of how this came to still be there after
all these years.  Check it out here


That's the famous Chimney Rock.  It is much shorter than when
the Saints came but is still an impressive site.  

Every morning at 5am there was a man who would walk throughout the camp with a bell.  He didn't ring it loud, in fact, if you weren't part of our group you probably would notice the noise.  But it was loud enough for us to hear.  On the second day I grumbled a little and said, "go away."  Instead, the man with the bell came back and added a few more strikes to his bell -- just for us.  From that day forward he made it a point to visit and give us a little extra incentive to rise early.

I was asked, on the last day, if I wanted to know who the bell ringer was.  I said NO cause I don't want to have the negative image attached to someone I probably like and work with.  :-)  But I do intend to write a poem in honor of the "Man With The Bell" which I might post here if I like it.

This was one of our favorite spots.  It's called Ayres Natural Bridge and is found in the midst of a barren stretch of the plain.  The Pioneers would come here to relax, even though it was miles away from the regular trail.  This is a panoramic view taken from my phone.  Very Peaceful, green and so different from the rest of the landscape.

This is the same place but a more extensive panorama.  That's my little sweetie in the foreground.  She was such a positive influence that I can't remember having one moment of negativity while she was with me.  Sure do love her.

All our vehicles lined up, waiting to make the next leg in the trek.
What you can't see is the 'potty truck' that has a huge line.
Those guys were always ahead of us and ready to provide all the
necessities we needed.  We loved the guys because there was
always cold drinking water, music, and clean potties for us to use.

Independence Rock was a massive chunk of granite sitting
right out in the open.  it's about 160 ft. high at its highest
point and probably 300 ft. or so long.  This is a cave called
Clayton's Cave where we met (after a considerable climb)
to enjoy the cool of the place.

From the top of Independence Rock you can see the remnants of our campsite.  The previous night the tents were all assembled in a circle (one year they used them to make a heart for a couple who were having an anniversary).  When we got back from Martin's Cove the wind was blowing really hard.  All the tents were moving with the rhythm of the winds and if you watched carefully, it looked like they were doing a little dance as they waited for us.  Almost like a chorus line with their grace, precision and beauty.  Or maybe I was just imagining things in my stupor of sleeplessness.

On our way to Martin's Cove.  The trail is well marked and not excessively long (though it was harder than we thought).  A very spiritual place where many of the Martin Company passed away from the cold and severity of their trials.  All of this is part of the Martin's Cove area owned  or leased by the Church.  We also made our own 'crossing of the Sweetwater River' while we were there (didn't want to walk to the official place to cross -- 5 more miles).

All companies who traveled the Mormon or Oregon Trail  came to this place --
"The Parting of the Ways".  To the left is the road that leads to Zion/Salt Lake Valley.
On the right is the way to Oregon and other places.  We are symbolically pointing to
show that our choice is to go to Zion and be with the Saints.

Strange looking -- these domes are used to make charcoal for use in smelting ore.
They are in Wyoming and were a vital part of building up the Salt Lake Valley.
Much of the charcoal was shipped to SL and helped build the city.  There used to
be 12 of these but the others have been vandalized.  We went inside one and sang
a hymn to see how it sounded.  It must have been OK cause the birds that have nests
in there just stayed and listened. I have a video but it won't post here.  I will keep trying.

I think this is just before we descended "Gravel Hill", one of the steepest places on the trail.  We had to lock the vehicles in 4WD and go very slowly to get down safely.  The Immigrants had to use different methods to get down -- usually locking the wheels and then tying the men to the back of the wagon would work.  It was a dangerous part of the trip but they never quit.

I guess that about does it for this issue of my blog. This past week was an exceptional experience for my favorite girl and me.  We have tried to visualize what it would have been like -- knowing that we can't do justice -- to be pioneers seeking a better, safer life.  We are so thankful for those who endured and made our lives the wonderful experiences we are having.  Our hope is that others will benefit from what we have done and will feel the same when we are gone.  It is good to be alive and know that God cares enough to let us find happiness amidst the pains and trials of mortality.

See you next time.

Friday, July 17, 2015


In his famous “Screwtape Letters”, C. S. Lewis imagines a graduation dinner where all the newly trained devils are gathered to hear Screwtape share some devilish words of wisdom.  The part I have included is a little lengthy but if you endure, you will see some ‘principles of devilhood’ that are very apparent in the happenings of our day.  Especially interesting is the use of ‘democracy’ by those who are seeking to enslave their victims. 

Happy reading!!

Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose…. [T]hey should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won’t. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal…. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.

The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you….

No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority…. “They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.”

Now, this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it — make it respectable and even laudable — by the incantatory use of the word democratic.

Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic…. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals….

Meanwhile, as a delightful by-product, the few (fewer every day) who will not be made Normal or Regular and Like Folks and Integrated increasingly become in reality the prigs and cranks which the rabble would in any case have believed them to be. For suspicion often creates what it expects…. As a result we now have an intelligentsia which, though very small, is very useful to the cause of Hell.

But that is a mere by-product. What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence – moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods?…

Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time…. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem”…. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma…by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career….

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they. As an English politician remarked not long ago, “A democracy does not want great men.”

We, in Hell, would welcome the disappearance of democracy in the strict sense of that word, the political arrangement so called. Like all forms of government, it often works to our advantage, but on the whole less often than other forms. And what we must realize is that “democracy” in the diabolical sense (I’m as good as you, Being Like Folks, Togetherness) is the fittest instrument we could possibly have for extirpating political democracies from the face of the earth.

For “democracy” or the “democratic spirit” (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first sign of criticism. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be. For when such a nation meets in conflict a nation where children have been made to work at school, where talent is placed in high posts, and where the ignorant mass are allowed no say at all in public affairs, only one result is possible….

It is our function to encourage the behaviour, the manners, the whole attitude of mind, which democracies naturally like and enjoy, because these are the very things which, if unchecked, will destroy democracy. You would almost wonder that even humans don’t see it themselves. Even if they don’t read Aristotle (that would be undemocratic) you would have thought the French Revolution would have taught them that the behaviour aristocrats naturally like is not the behaviour that preserves aristocracy. They might then have applied the same principle to all forms of government….

The overthrow of free peoples and the multiplication of slave states are for us a means (besides, of course, being fun); but the real end is the destruction of individuals. For only individuals can be saved or damned, can become sons of the Enemy or food for us. The ultimate value, for us, of any revolution, war, or famine lies in the individual anguish, treachery, hatred, rage, and despair which it may produce. I’m as good as you is a useful means for the destruction of democratic societies. But it has a far deeper value as an end in itself, as a state of mind which, necessarily excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from almost every road which might finally lead him to Heaven.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


I’m not much of a cowboy, but we are going on a Pioneer Trek and the people in charge want us to participate in a talent show.  Singing used to be my go-to talent but the years have forced me to recognize I’m not that good anymore. 

Since we are honoring pioneers on this trip and pioneers were the ones who raised up most of the cowboys, I figured a Cowboy Poem might be fun. 

First I looked up a few to get an idea what they were like and then I practiced.  Here is one I particularly liked from a man named Jim Fish.

The ranch on which I hang my hat, though short on most the frills,
Is thirteen sections, give or take, of rugged trails an’ hills.
We call it ‘home’, our little world, our very own frontier,
Amongst the cattle, sheep an' goats; the varmints, hogs an' deer.

Today I watched the breakin' dawn an' whiffed the mornin' air,
A time I often set aside for things like thought an' prayer.
A Mockin'bird an' Mornin' Dove, an' other birds at play,
Were there to sing an' set the mood to start another day.

This mornin' saw the strangest thing, like time itself had merged,
An' all the souls who once were here, appeared an' then converged.
In swirlin' clouds of mist an' fog, right off the bluffs they rolled,
Till all had gathered in the glen, the modern an' the old.

The Indians, conquistadors, an' other ancient men,
The soldiers from this country's wars, an' cowboys from back when…
They all had come from yesterday to help me understand
Our link with those who came before, to heritage an' land.

A crazy notion, so I thought, that they could just appear,
But as the morning went along the reason got real clear.
They rode along with me that day to show me things I’ve missed,
The things I’ve seen a thousand times an’ some I’d just dismissed.

Those wagon roads of long ago, still evident today,
Are carved in rock an' rutted earth, not apt to wash away.
They linked the missions, forts an' towns those many years gone by;
An' left their mark for all to see, as modern times grew nigh.

The artifacts an' weathered ruins attest to yesterdays,
When others came an' lived their lives in very different ways.
We've seen their skill in arrowheads they honed from fired stone,
An' craftsmanship in beads an' tools they fashioned out of bone.

At ever turn and trail we took was something to remind,
The Maker must have had a plan laid out for humankind.
The Earth He made’s been feedin' us a half-a-million years,
An' used it's wonder, force an' change to challenge pioneers.

I do not know if they'll return or if they’ll feel the need,
But I’m prepared to ride the trail, where ever it may lead.
We all are spirits ridin’ time with bodies of the Earth,
Whose time has come to take the reins an’ offer up our worth.

The land has been the legacy we cultivate an’ reap,
The life has been the heritage our father’s fought to keep,
An’ we are bound throughout our time with those who came before,
To put our hearts and souls to it, and make it something more.

So, with that as my template, I embarked on another adventure.  Don’t get your hopes up and please remember that this is my first ride in this rodeo.

Imagine me in a big cowboy hat wearing jeans, boots, and a big-buckle belt.  Oh, and a great big mustache on my face.  That’s how I would look if I was a real Cowboy.  But I’m not so you just have to imagine.

Anyways, here goes.

One of my favorite cowboys.  

By Mike Whitmer

Poppa says we’re leavin’
‘Cause them folks don’t like us much
Time to get our clothes and food
And load up Momma’s hutch

She left when I was still a boy
Needin’ a momma’s hand
I guess she couldn’t take no mor’
So we laid her in our land

I looked in Poppa’s eyes today
Saw a big tear start to slide
He paused and said real sad to me
Got a little dust in my eye

The trail is hard, the nights are cold
Awful weak most ever’ day
But Me and Poppa and Lil’ Tim
We always find a way

What’s out there, on the other side
Them mountains we must cross?
Will we make it all together
Or bury ‘nother loss

It don’t seem fair to have to go
Away from all we love
Our lives were good and simple
We were bless’d by God above

Them folks back there they hate us so
And I can’t fathom why
They took my Momma ‘way from me
An’ left dust in Poppa’s eye

Tol’ Poppa when I become a man
I’m gonna take a ride
And find that lot what drove us out
And skin a lil’ hide

His sad face looked real hard at me
He gave a great big sigh
He spoke more soft and firm this time
My boy, please let it lie

I wasn’t sure what all to think
His words tore my insides
He wiped away some water and said
Got a little dust in my eye

We marched along for days and days
Through prairie, wind, and sand
Til’ one day from a mountaintop
We saw our Promised Land

It didn’t look like all that much
‘cept it was safe and free
I looked at Poppa and lil’ Tim
And they looked back at me

We’re gonna do our best out here
We’re gonna make our way
We’re gonna live like Momma would
To be with her one day

We found our place we have our home
We’ll live here til’ we die
Then Poppa said ‘my boy what’s wrong’

Nuttin’, just a little dust in my eye.

Friday, July 10, 2015


At least once a week I am asked,

 “What do Seminary teachers do in the summer time when they don’t have students?”

I am sure many think we are like public school teachers and have the summer off… but we don’t.

Our schedules vary from person to person but generally we have a bevy of meetings, work on preparation for the coming scripture block, and take vacations that are not available during the school year.

This summer I have been working on some of my lesson plans for the Old Testament.

A few days ago I was reading in the books of Chronicles.
Not my favorite portion of the OT.
Lots of repetition and boring stuff.
Here’s and example.

1 Adam, Sheth, Enosh,

2 Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered,

3 Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech,

4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

5 ¶The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.

6 And the sons of Gomer; Ashchenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.

7 And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.

8 ¶The sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

9 And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabta, and Raamah, and Sabtecha. And the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan.

10 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be mighty upon the earth.

11 And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim,

12 And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (of whom came the Philistines,) and Caphthorim.

13 And Canaan begat Zidon his firstborn, and Heth,

And so on!!

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered – deep in the passages of the 2nd book of Chronicles – something that made me think of our day and all the goings on in the world.

See if this makes sense to you!!

There was a guy named Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, and king of Judah.  Asa had been a fairly good king most of his life but towards the end he started to drift. 

Jehoshaphat determined that his reign would be a step up from his father’s so he tried to live a more exemplary life.  He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he did the best with what he had. 

Jehu, a prophet in Judah at that time, came to Jehoshaphat one day and gave him a big vote of confidence for his efforts.  

To quote Jehu:

Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou has taken away the groves out of the land and prepared thine heart to seek God. (2 Chronicles 19:3)

To some, that may not sound like a ‘ringing endorsement’, but compared to previous leaders, Jehoshaphat was doing a ‘bang-up’ job with his kingship.

Jehoshaphat Being a good king

Since life is never static, it was inevitable that the King would run up against difficulties in the leadership of his kingdom.  Such was the case with our friend Jehoshaphat.

(I’m glad I don’t have to write his name every day).

A group of neighbors, the Ammonites -- their friends the Moabites -- and a smaller group from Seir, sent a message to the King, inviting him to come to battle on a particular day. 

Combatants in those days were very proper in their invitations to fight so Jehoshaphat was in a quandary how to reply.  Should he lay out a red carpet to welcome the visitors or was the proper protocol to prepare a feast for the leaders prior to the conflict? 

It was just too much for him to know so he went for counsel to another prophet named Jahaziel.

His recommendation was:

Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still and see the salvation of the Lord with you…(2 Chronicles 20:15, 17)

 With that wise counsel ringing in his ears, Jehoshaphat determined to follow his instincts and do as the prophet suggested.  he gathered all his people together and challenged them to prepare for the coming events.  And just before they went out to participate in the proceedings he said:

Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. (2 Chronicles 20:20)

On that day a great miracle was performed for the people of Jerusalem.  Before the Ammonites and their friends could come to battle, the people of Seir decided to attack the Ammonites and Moabites.  And as the conflict became more heated, the Ammonites and Moabites began to turn against each other until, in the end, there were no enemies left to carry the fight to the people of Judah. 

When Jehoshaphat and his people arrived at the place of conflict, they were greeted only by dead bodies with all their weapons, clothes, riches, and food left on the fields.
Not only did Jehoshaphat avoid battle, but his people were able to ‘clean up’ with all the leftovers from their attackers (note: it took three days to gather all that was left behind).

The spoils of war -- without war.
Recently, there have been events in the world that have challenged those who believe in Christ and the things He teaches.  Laws have been adjusted to make things legal that have been illegal for millennia.  Other circumstances have arisen that have taken away liberties once considered basic to the human soul. So much has happened in the last 10 years that it is difficult to believe we live in the same world we once enjoyed.

There is a change coming.

Not a change instituted by man or social fiat.

It is a change that will be determined by the choices we make.

  Jahaziel taught Jehoshaphat well and the King understood. 

The change will come when the people understand these two simple truths.

Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established;

Believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.

Maybe Chronicles isn’t so boring after all.