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Friday, January 29, 2016

WHICH ONE?

I originally sat down today to write some thoughts on the candidates who are presenting themselves for the leadership of this country. My disdain for some has been expressed in past postings but there are some others that I thought needed more consideration.  Much has been said about each and I’m sure more will be forced upon us in the ensuing months. I don’t look forward to the rancor that comes with the process but I suppose that’s how it will always be. 

But, thoughts have skewed from my original intent because it has occurred to me that we are going about this all wrong. If the desire of our nation is to be free from the violence and misery that seems to be encompassing the world we must do more than ‘elect’ individuals who claim to have skills in politics, negotiation, and speechifying.  It’s wonderful that “this candidate” has experience in foreign affairs and “this other person” can work deals for the benefit of the nation, but where is the person who will look long-view and build a nation that has true lasting power.

Let me digress for a bit and set a stage for what I am thinking.  If you aren’t into lengthy treatises then this probably isn’t for you.  But if you are still hanging around, I hope what I say might have some merit.

A little over 15 years ago we experienced a terrible event that changed the way our nation functioned.  Prior to 9/11, most of us were secure in our belief that we could defend our country from attacks and destruction launched by our enemies.  But the events in New York and Pennsylvania changed the whole mindset of our citizenry. Instead of having faith in our leaders, we began to question what they had been doing while Osama-bin-Laden and his cronies were planning their murderous rampage. We questioned whether there was anyone who could have the foresight to prepare for the future attacks that surely would come.  The United States of America was in trouble and we had no idea how to fix things.

So we did what we had been taught to do.

We went to a Higher Source and pleaded for help. And we made ‘no bones’ about it. It didn’t matter what the ACLU, or the atheists, or the anti-religionists, or any other group had to say about it.  As a Nation, we fell to our knees and pleaded for help from the one source we knew would listen and give us hope.

And it worked.

Maybe too well.

I’m not na├»ve enough to think that EVERY person sought help from God, but I believe there were enough engaged in seeking help to make a huge difference. My recollections are that people began to attend church and pray much more than they had in recent times.  Politicians seemed unafraid to express their hope that more would find time to worship.  We even had a President who set an example by his own actions. Overall, the feeling in America was that we had to find our way back to safety and the best way to continue was to let God lead us.

Now we are in 2016.

After more than 15 years of dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, the world we live in is very different.  Travel has changed because we need to be safe from terrorists.  Immigration, once a staple for growth, has become a hot-button issue and an economic ragdoll.  Poverty continues to plague our nation – some government caused and some from lack of response by the people.  And when was the last time we saw a major leader express the opinion that we should look to God for answers to the day’s problems. 

How quickly we seem to have forgotten.

For a moment, I would like to consider something I have always wondered about in the scriptures.  This happens in more than one place, but I will focus on a time from the Book of Mormon when similar experiences occurred.  Please bear with me because it will make sense when I’m done.

In 3 Nephi 3, there is a story about King Lachoneus who is trying to save the Nephites from destruction by the Gadianton Robbers.  These robbers were ruthless, devious, and set on the total destruction of the Nephites, much like groups we have today. Lachoneus came to the conclusion that the only way to be safe from their enemies was to gather all the Nephites into the city of Zarahemla and wait out the robbers. Collecting food and supplies for a seven year siege and reinforcing the city for protection, Lachoneus deprived the robbers of their favorite tactic: wait and pick off small groups until the whole was destroyed.  It took years of patience but eventually the Nephites in Zarahemla were successful and destroyed the wicked robbers. (I am not advocating this as a tactic against ISIS or other terrorists, it’s just part of the story).
BUT! That’s not the end of the story.
After surviving and keeping their freedom, the Nephites began to grow in numbers and found themselves doing pretty well in the ‘wealth and success’ area of life.  Their cities grew, the population expanded and there seemed to be no end to the good they would reap from their faithfulness in serving God.
Yet, only a few years after the harrowing experience with the Gadianton Robbers, things started to turn a different direction.  It began with people who had accumulated more wealth than others. 
They weren’t happy being richer – they needed to make sure everyone else knew. 
Then other groups started needing to separate themselves from the ‘masses’ by distinguishing themselves in other ways.
The end result was that a people who had survived the attacks of a vicious, death-dealing organization, eventually destroyed themselves.  And their destruction was WAY more complete than the previous threat could have imagined. 

And they did it to themselves.

In just a few short years.

I’ve always thought that was odd.  How could a people go from goodness to wickedness in such a short time? 

I think I get it now.
Seems nice but don't know enough
about him.

Ok, back to our regular discussion.

The question for our nation is not “who can we elect that will save us from our enemies”? It’s not a question of who is best prepared for the political wrangling that will occur in congress and between other nations. 

The question we should be asking is “Who is going to help us find that place where we can learn to work together and fix our problems?”

There’s only one answer that makes any sense if we want to be safe. 

Pretty sure she isn't looking for God.  What? I don't know.
We have to look to God and seek His help.  He is the only source that has no prejudices or agendas.  His efforts will always be to help His children live in peace.

If we need help, and we ask with faith, help will come. 

It only stops when we quit asking.

Oops, how did
she get here.
I don’t know enough about the current candidates for office to really have an opinion of their ability to seek heavenly help, but it seems most are not overly interested in that path.  The few who make passes at the subject seem rather timid.  And the good chunk of the vocal citizens look to be in the same position. 
I can just imagine what he would say if this subject
came up.  I don't think he can humble himself
enough to be great.

So, what is there for those who recognize the problem to do? 

Can one person or one voice really make a difference? 

Or will those who speak up be categorized as ‘fanatics’, ‘weirdos’, and ‘religious extremists’? 

I’m not sure it matters.  If our desire is to see a change in what is to happen we can’t sit by and wait.  To do so is to accept the way things are.

Such a mystery to me. Should be better than he seems.
Not sure he cares enough about
what is right -- maybe!
We have separated into different factions and are in the process of destroying all that is good in our diversity.  Our nation has abandoned many of the basic beliefs that made us great and held us together during the stormy times of the past.  Some who lead us are only interested in the comfortable positions they hold and the benefits received. The fate of the world, nation, and cities is held in the hands of people who don’t appear to ‘care’ more than a few days in the future.

I will always wonder what might have been different if he
had been elected. Not that he is perfect, but I know something
of his heart.
Tomorrow will come and this nation will still exist.  My hope is that with proper leadership it might exist for generations to come.  My fear is that we are in a downward spiral that will only end when we implode.  The way to peace has to be taken the right way.  No mortal man can do this alone.  It takes a God to keep a righteous people safe. 

Without God, there is not righteousness. 

Without righteousness, there is no peace.


As citizens we have to invite our leaders to look to the One True Source for guidance in the governing of this country.  Otherwise, the fate of The United States of America will look much like the fate of the Nephite nation (which was very similar to ancient Israel, Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Egypt, Greece, etc.).

His leanings are somewhat known and the
results were surprisingly good.






Monday, January 25, 2016

GOOD PEOPLE -- MY DAD

My Dad is one of the best men I have ever known.  I’m sure many people can express the same sentiment, and they are most likely justified in their assessment.  But for me, it is a given fact that no one has had more influence on my life than my own Father.  Maybe I can shed some light on why I feel the way I do by sharing a few experiences that have made a lasting impression.

I was six years old when my parents were divorced.  It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life (DUH!!) and very easily could have scarred me much more than it did.  But the way my father handled the whole situation left open the possibility that I would be able to recover and have a semi-normal life, in spite of the difficult circumstances. 

After the divorce, my brother and I went to live with Dad while the other two boys stayed with our mother.  At first it was like a little vacation for me but as the days moved to weeks and months, I started to resent what was happening.  After not too many months, Dad remarried and my resentment increased – this time focused on my new step-mother (another story for another day).  Soon, the other two boys joined our growing clan and a little sister was born to the new couple.  All this time, Dad was patiently waiting for me to become accustomed to things and move on with my life. 

One day, several years after the divorce, I finally got enough courage to ask what happened between my parents.  This would have been the ideal time for Dad to “lay it all out” and show me all the reasons my mom was at fault for their failures.

Instead, he quietly let me know that there were some problems, but that mom was a good person and the two of them just had issues that couldn’t be fixed.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was sacrificing his own pride and protecting my image of my mom, despite some major hurt he was suffering. 

I’m now 60+ years old and in the 54+ years since the divorce occurred, I have NEVER heard my Dad say one negative thing about my mother.  He has left it to me to determine how I will deal with that relationship.  In all those years, my decisions have been based on my own experiences and not something he tried to force on me.  I will ever be grateful for his forbearance and kindness in this matter.

Two versions of my Dad.  In the back when he remarried
and the front at his 50th Anniversary a few years ago.

Yet, there are other reasons for the designation “GOOD PEOPLE” being attached to my own Father.

Like most Dads, mine worked hard and sacrificed continually for his family.  To list all the different jobs he worked would take a whole post in itself.  Whatever the job, Dad worked hard and gave his best efforts, a trait I have tried to emulate in my own life.

With ten children, Dad suffered embarrassment over the antics of his brood (I provided many such experiences) and still exhibited love for the unique personalities that populated his home. 

(Not wanting to give too much fodder for future use, let’s just say we all provided moments (or longer) of humiliation for the head of the household).

One enduring fatherly attribute that has been a focal point of my personal life is best illustrated by a little story I have shared a few times over the years.  It goes like this:

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I was tasked with cleaning up some things around the house.  Always in a hurry, I gathered up a number of items and began to put them away where they belonged.  Hurrying down the hallway, I whipped open the bathroom door and threw a washcloth into the tub (right behind the door) and moved on.  Having gone only a step or two, I was surprised by a loud bellow, “Who threw that in here?”  Seems Dad was in the tub and I had connected with my toss of the cloth.  He called me into the room and, with a fair amount of righteous indignation, showed me the fruits of my labors. 
Unbeknownst to me, Dad was reading his scriptures as he soaked in the tub and when I tossed the cloth into the bathtub, I had knocked the scriptures (a brand new quad) out of his hands and into the water.  For many years after, I was reminded of my miscue every time we went to Church because the book expanded as it dried and was never quite the same.

As you consider that story, you might wonder what attribute I would learn from my Dad.  I promise it wasn’t anything about bathing (I never have liked taking baths – I’m more of a shower guy) and it wasn’t about paying attention to work duties. 

What stuck with me was the love my Dad had for the scriptures and his desire to be knowledgeable about the things of God.   As I grew older and had my own experiences with the Word of God, I often recalled the time and effort (with that big family and all those jobs) my Dad took to stay in touch with his Savior.  I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that may have been one of the reasons I eventually fell in love with teaching the doctrines of the gospel.

Like every person on this earth, my Dad has his “warts.”  But those imperfections are minuscule in comparison to the great work he has done in bringing up righteous children and improving the state of this world.  I love my Dad and hope that one day I can be as influential to others as he has been to me. 

I often tell my students that the one thing I always wanted to do in life was become a Dad because I had such a great example and I wanted to be like him.  I now have five children of my own with 16+ grandchildren and I love them beyond my own imagination.  All because I learned from a great man how to be a Dad.


Thanks Dad, you are my hero.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

MEEKNESS???

Politics being what they are, it is interesting to watch the debate and discussion on both sides. 


 The Democrats seek to look like they love everyone by promising to give away the whole world. 


Republicans are focused on finding a way to stop the growth of terror and taking back the White House. The result for most all the politicians is a rancorous debate that focuses on hate, fear, destruction, and destroying their opponents. 


 The situation of the world and our own political issues came into focus as I read the following quote from a wise man. Howard W. Hunter said the following: 


 And what of the meek? In a world too preoccupied with winning through intimidation and seeking to be number one, no large crowd of folk is standing in line to buy books that call for mere meekness. But the meek shall inherit the earth, a pretty impressive corporate takeover--and done without intimidation! Sooner or later, and we pray sooner than later, everyone will acknowledge that Christ’s way is not only the right way, but ultimately the only way to hope and joy. Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that gentleness is better than brutality, that kindness is greater than coercion, that the soft voice turneth away wrath. In the end, and sooner than that whenever possible, we must be more like him. … 


 I am tired of brutality in speech and action. It’s discouraging to constantly see coercion used as the means for gaining an advantage. And the loud voices of the braggarts and ‘fame-seekers’ make it impossible to know who really has the ability to lead with conviction. 


 Even the intimation that a meek person should lead this nation or negotiate with the kingdoms of the world is ludicrous to many. But imagine the power that comes from finding a way to gently revolutionize the path we are taking. And consider the quiet confidence a President would need to invoke kindness and love while helping us all become better. 


 If history is correct, this is the method used by George Washington when he led the newly formed United States of America. Abraham Lincoln famously called for kindness and charity as the same nation began its reunification at the close of the Civil War. Even John Kennedy tried to present the attitude of meekness in order to heal the rifts that were beginning to tear us apart. 


 And most importantly, isn’t that the path the Savior chose? Maybe it’s something to think about as we choose leaders in the future. 


Or right now. 


 What we are doing currently has resulted in – well, let’s say, less than desirable consequences. 


 Let’s look for someone who is meek and humble but firm in his commitment to doing good. 


 Someone that will be more interested in what is right rather than what is expedient. 


 A leader that thinks more about the future than what the next poll will show. 


 I’m sure there is at least one person who fits the bill. Maybe not in the current batch of politicians from either party (but I’m willing to be proven wrong). Let’s find that person (male or female) and draft them to take up the challenge. 


It can’t be any worse than what we have to sift through at present. Or what we have had in the recent past. I would even be willing to put up a few dollars if there was someone of such character in the land. 

 Something to think about.

Friday, January 15, 2016

BEING GRANDPA

With all the failings I have as a human, father, and husband, there is one area where I am most pleased to say I try to do my very best.  It started almost 16 years ago (whoa, that’s a long time) when Bryce was born to my eldest and most favorite daughter.  For the first time, I was a grandpa!!

I had been a dad for a couple+ decades and was in love with my little – big – biggerway bigger – offspring.  I will always be grateful for their patience in teaching me how to be a better man.  

BUT, having grandchildren is a totally different experience. 

Playing 'Frozen Toes" at a Grandma
Sleepover
Maybe it’s because dads have this place in their heart for their children and the new little additions, as break-offs, increase the amount of love – sort of like addition by division (OK, I’m really bad in math and that probably makes no sense, but it does to me).

Grandkids playing with Great-Grandpa's Junk
down on the farm.
Anyway, having these little tykes (and the bigger ones too) surely makes my life more complete.



Teresa is amazing about keeping them in our daily/weekly/monthly experiences.  We have a regular weekend where a small group (small in number, not always size) comes to spend the night with Grandma and have a little fun.  


Some of them go to Home Depot for a project and as they get older we try to have an age appropriate activity they will enjoy.  There are weekends where it is a little struggle (for me) but overall, I love it as much as Grandma does (but don’t tell her cause she might think I’m getting soft).

A selfie of Matt and Grandpa at the Jazz game.
Recently, our oldest son, Josh, called and asked if I could help him with his boy.  Matt is on a Jr. Jazz team and they get to go to  the (Whatever they call it) Center where the Jazz play, for a real game.  Josh was incapacitated and wondered if I could fill in for him and I readily agreed.  I was a little worried Matt might find it boring to go somewhere with an old guy, but I needn’t have been concerned.

It's a long way from where we were to the floor.
Our seats were high up in the rafters of the arena but the Big Screen helped and Matt was enthralled with all the action.  He was thrilled to ride the train (TRAX) uptown and really loved the free hot dog and drink we got with the ticket (“Best hot dog I have ever had” he said).  I was delighted with his very mature attitude and all the questions he asked about the game, arena, players, and other things.  The night was a huge success for both of us – for different reasons – but a success nonetheless.
It was a late night for a young man.

Matt was thrilled with the program. 
Being Grandpa has many advantages but the best one is being around people who are growing up and making such a positive mark on the lives of others.  I’m not being prejudiced or proud when I state that every one of the young people who has come into our family is talented, determined, inspired, and loved in more ways than they (or we) can imagine.  Each is positive and willing to give of themselves without reservation. 
Emma dressed in her princess outfit (can't
remember which princess it is).

Grandma party where we took the kids to the water fountains.
Even Becca got in on the wetness.
As an example, Aubrey (Bryce and Ellie sometimes) sacrifices one evening a week to go with Grandma to care for Becca while Brian and Paula go on a date for the evening.  Benjamin, Katie, and Christopher are always so excited to have Grandma come for a visit, but the REALLY light up when Aubrey and Ellie or Bryce make the trip.  And it is such a blessing for Grandma to have helpers with her.


It would be easy to list every child in our brood and give examples of how they show love and are loved for/by so many others.  That is what's so gratifying to see – children of our children who have been taught the right way and are putting those teachings into action. 

More water with the kids.
I used to worry that some of my orneriness as a young dad might damage our children but what I see from them is the compassion and love they felt as they were raised by people who cared deeply for their lives.  And they have increased that love as their own children have come to their homes.  My heart is just about to burst with joy as I consider all the blessings that I receive from this gaggle of nearly perfect people.



Whod've thunk it!!


THAT’S why being Grandpa is is the best!!