Wednesday, August 9, 2017


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)


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


(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?
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!!

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.

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 (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 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


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