Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Christmas Room

Forward .. when we were going through mother's things following her passing, I was given the task of foraging through her papers. I learned a ton about mom from this task: she printed everything, kept instructions and booklets for purchases, wrote meticulous notes, and even designed mechanisms to help her remember when her memory began fading. The list of her children and grandchildren enumerated with names and calendar of important dates were just a couple examples. In all these papers, clippings, envelopes of data, and invoices of everything, there was one item slipped in a plastic cover. It was a reprint from FOCUS ON THE FAMILY / DECEMBER 1999 of The Christmas Room by Gillette Jones.


When I arrived at my daughter's on Christmas Eve, her children ran to the door with shouts and kisses. Then, struggling with my bags, they took me to the guest room. I stopped short at the door, staring at the sign that hung there. In red and green crayon it read "The Christmas Room." My throat ached for a moment, as I remembered...

OUR daughter Barbara was only 9 when she began to realize that we were quite poor. In Barbara's class there was one girl who took special delight in tormenting her. Joan came from the wealthiest family in town, one of the few that hadn't been affected by the Great Depression.

Joan was outgoing, Barbara quiet and shy. Joan was all ups and downs: one minute befriending Barbara, treating her to candy, giving her a toythe next, bragging extravagantly, teaching Barbara to be ashamed of our house.

We kept hoping Barbara would overcome her shyness and make other friends, but she continued to tag after Joan.

Christmas was coming. I knew ours would be a lean one indeed, unless we used a great deal of imagination. Early in November we started planning. Barbara helped me look for recipes that were inexpensive. We colored Epson salt and put it in pretty bottles as bath salts for her grandmothers. We took scraps of velvet and transformed ordinary boxes into jewel boxes for grandfather' stickpins. We dreamed up pincushions that looked like miniature hats and pot holders in the shape of teapots.

We spent hours in the little spare room laughing at each new touch of  imagination. The lumpy old daybed became littered with gay scraps of paper as we cut pictures from last year's Christmas cards to decorate our packages. We had a wonderful time.

One day Barbara went to Joan's house after school and returned looking sad. 

"Whats' the trouble?" I asked her.

"Oh, nothing." She hesitated, then said, "Mom, I told a fib today. But that Joan! She's always talking about her guest room and the company that sleeps there. Today she asked, "Where does your company sleep?"

Barbara went on. "I told Joan we don't have much company, and her eyebrow went up. Mom, I just couldn't stand that look again. So I told her, 'We have something you don't. We have a Christmas room.'"

Her feet shuffled. "I didn't mean to fib, but you should have seen how surprised she looked. I never saw Joan stuck before. She really didn't know what to say."

"But, dear," I said. "We do have a Christmas room. But if it will make it more official, we'll make a sign for the door."

She brightened. "Oh, could we?"

"We'll do it today."

The sign was barely dry and hung when Joan arrived. She rarely came to our house, always preferring her house where there were lots of toys. Now she stood at our door asking to see the Christmas room. Barbara looked at me. "May I show her?"

"I guess so," I answered. "If everything is wrapped, it is." Barbara went to check while I explained to Joan. "The room is full of surprises, and we can't let any secrets get out."

Barbara hurried back into the room. "It's okay." Joan would probably see only a small dingy room, a cracked ceiling, and a homemade sign on the door. She would not see the specialness that room held for us.

They were gone so long, I finally went and peered in. Joan was looking at our paper creche figures we had cut out.

"We have China figures," she said. "Imported." I started to speak, but just then Joan moved to the packages that were on the daybed. She touched them one by one, lingering over the one with the paper sled on it. Barbara had done that one from colored paper, filling the sled with miniature packages.

Joan turned to Barbara. "We don't have surprises. I always know everything."

"How?" Barbara asked. "Do you peek?"

Joan shook her head. "They ask what I want, and I get it."

Barbara said impulsively, "I'll give you a surprise."

Joan shrugged. "If you want."

Barbara nodded solemnly, before I could stop her.

During the next week, we tossed ideas about. At last, we settled on giving her one afternoon a week at our house, helping make surprises. I wasn't sure she would think it was a present. She did come however.

The first time, we made cookies and wrapped some for her mother. The next week, it was fancy matchboxes for her father. The week before Christmas, Barbara gave her a box to open. Joan tore at the paper, but when she had the lid off, she didn't know what it was. Barbara looked disappointed. I tried to force gaiety into my words, "It's cornfor popping."

When the corn was popped, Joan remarked, "I could never make this. It's too messy for our house."

I glanced at Barbara, but she was busy showing Joan how the corn could be dyed with food coloring.

"Later, we'll string it for the Christmas tree," she explained. Joan worked at it, occasionally holding up the colorful string.

"They'll never hang this on our tree," she snorted.

"Would you like to come hang it on our tree?" I ventured.

Her sudden tears alarmed me. "Could I?" she asked.

"I can never help trim ours. I might break things." Then, she pushed back her chair. "I'd better go now."

She got her coat and hat quickly. In the Christmas room she hesitated, wondering whether to actually take home the things she'd made for her parents. At last she picked them up. We watched her leave, clutching her small surprises.

Barbara turned big eyes toward me and whispered, "I used to be jealous of her."

THAT was long ago. It had been important at the time, but I'd thought it was long forgotten. Now once again I stood facing the Christmas room.

I stepped inside a pleasant room, not at all like our homely old spare room. On the window seat were packages wrapped with special touches of childish imagination. The children ran to them.

"I made this!" Ronnie cried proudly.

"You're going to love mine, Grandma," Paula shouted.

There was no financial need for Barbara to do with her children what we had donebut I was glad she had. She'd been young that year of the Christmas room, yet she must have known that a Christmas room is room for people, a room in the heart. ■

From Christmas in My Heart #8 (published by Tyndale House/Focus on the Family). Reprinted by permission of Joe Wheeler and Christian Herald, Inc. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Better than ever

In my household, running is a big deal. I myself am a walker, but even then I am not as diligent as my wife. She walks on a regular schedule and has been doing so for years. But it is really my children that are the runners. One daughter runs religiously every morning. She did ten miles today before I was even out of bed. Others in the family are similarly impassioned. Another daughter and her husband run frequently with the baby in a stroller and the dog on a leash. I have seen them and others perform this feat for years. Other children ran track when they were in high school. They never feared pushing through the last leg of the relay when the coach and team needed the most effective surge. That’s why they exercise. The moment for which they had trained regularly and endured all this pain was the very reason they exercised in the first place. And their diligence paid off then, and it is paying off big time now.

Maybe you’re not a runner. I understand that, but you no doubt have other passions for which you give your all: drama, education, auto mechanics, family, art, history, rodeo, outdoors, or other interesting quests or exciting activities. Whatever your passion, you are faithful to your goals, and you find joy in that pursuit.

That is good and right and the way it should be, but I am going to make a claim that may sit funny with you when you first hear it. Okay here goes:

Whatever you do and whomever you do it with—the gospel of Jesus Christ will help you do it better. And it is guaranteed to bring you more happiness along the way. Period.

Do you believe that? There are many illustrations of this principle:

Example 1 - The Atonement is “the very root of Christian doctrine. You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Mediator,” Ensign, May 1977, 56).

Example 2 - “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

Example 3 - “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel“ (Elder Boyd K Packer Conf Rpt Oct 86, p20).

I purposefully took these quotes from long ago to demonstrate the accuracy of their prophetic claims. Now I have had the benefit of putting their words to the test. And looking back with hindsight, were the assertions made accurate? Did the predictions prove correct and factual? While you consider those questions, let’s take a look at some other people whose views coincide with my own.

Effectively, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the fuel that makes this world go around. President Gordon B Hinckley once said the following in the context of the other churches around the world:

“Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it.”

I believe that this statement is not limited to churches only. The gospel of Jesus Christ can add to and exalt everything it touches. That too is not new. That is the power of Jesus Christ.

There is power in ordinances. As we make covenants with Jesus Christ, live in accordance with those principles, and renew our ordinances regularly, we are empowered beyond our natural abilities and find hope, solace, and peace in our lives despite the uproar all about us.

I recommend thee unto God, and trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved.” Moroni 9:22 Temple recommend* (baptism, repentance, commandments, ordinances)

 1. Power in the word of God
 2. Power in the gift of the Holy Ghost
 3. Power in the priesthood
 4. Power in the house of the Lord
 5. Power in the atonement
       a. Have faith
       b. Repent and obey .. The happiest people I know repent regularly and obey
       c. Diligently seek

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. Isaiah 40:28

I the Lord delight to honor those that serve me. Doctrine and Covenants 76:5

Wow. Did you read that? Did you hear what the Lord just said? “I the Lord delight to honor those that serve me.” What does that really mean.

The God of heaven and earth delights to honor those that serve him. That is a pretty good position to be in. It all comes down to whether we believe in that promise or not.

I believe it.

And I Nephi did go into the mount oft…

True Doctrine, Understood, Changes Attitudes and Behaviors

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Tough times are worth it

We all face difficult challenges, and they come in every possible way. Physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and psychological. Definitely, my memory of a most difficult struggle was unemployment. It sounds trite, I know. But it consumed every day. People I never even met or those that briefly spoke with me made decisions that directly impacted my life and that of my family. Gratefully, I was not facing this struggle alone at the time. Though it was still hard, I felt better in the fact that I was not doing it all by myself. 

At the time your mother had a friend who got one job after another. She didn't like the job she had been hired for, so she quit and would get another job. All the while I am thinking "I can't even get an interview. What is wrong with me?" I got involved with LDS Employment, which became an incredible resource and support system. I still have dear friends today from my numerous interactions there. Nonetheless, rejection is a daily occurrence in the job hunt. And I thought there was no end in site.

Your mother consistently supported me, though it was difficult for her as well. You children were longsuffering. Steven counselled me, and together we rehearsed some interview situations in an effort to help. It did help. All the efforts made a difference, but it did not come quickly or easily.

One time, I figuratively sat down and said to myself "I am not tied down to a job anyway. What would I do if money was no object?" and that is when I began a few hobbies that I am still enjoying today.

When I finally got my job at Oracle, it wasn't through LDS Employment. None of you provided the opportunity for me, but it all helped nonetheless. And now I have the awareness of looking back with hindsight, and I see how fortunate that I have been. It's kind of like the experience we had in Castle Valley. That too was hard and monotonous and challenging at times, but given time it has become one of the most valuable opportunities of my life.

So I have decided that challenges are opportunities for us to grow and develop ourselves beyond what we are comfortable with. Nobody goes to the gym expecting to just sit back and watch. We bust through exercises that really hurt and endure countless repetitions that are painful and demanding. And we do it consistently, because we know that in the end, it will all be worth it.

That's just the way we should face the obstacles that confront us in life. In a few words, life is not the goal or final destination. Life is a means to an end, and we are busting through it for the same reason we exercise .. to get to a better place and a finer outcome. We might enjoy the ride. There is nothing wrong with that. But life is not the end we have in mind. Whatever the cost, the future that is in store for you and your loved ones is so much better than what you can even now conceive.

"The challenge is not so much closing the gap between our actions and our belief, the challenge is closing the gap between our belief and the truth." You might have to read that again. I had to read it a half dozen times.

But I think I have it now. The outcome of this life is so much better than what we can possibly imaginehundred times betterhere and now.  

In the end, it will all be worth it. I can promise you that.

I love you, dad

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The sweet spot

One of my most exhilarating experiences is familiar and comfortable. Though not common, it is regular. I know you have experienced this as well. What you call it, however, may vary some.

Let me explain with an example. I love the thesaurus. That statement may not surprise you, since it was made by the author of this article. As a writer, I have come to love the thesaurus. Weird.

Well, maybe. A thesaurus is an essential tool for me at least. I use it every time I write. For example, let’s say I want to discuss the euphoria I feel when I begin composing prose. Euphoria?  You ask how anyone can feel that kind of emotion when writing is involved. I get it. Your memory of composition may include the final history test in which you were asked to draft a position on the significance of the year 1861 to the civil war and clarify the multitude of idle rights then that nearly pulled this nation apart. My point? I used the thesaurus at least a half-dozen times to compose that last paragraph, and it made my task of writing easier, better, and more delightful for both the writer (me) and the reader (you).

What does that have to do with anything? You ask. I answer. Absolutely everything is influenced by our attitude when it comes to effectively handling situations. But what makes composition a life changing experience is what occurs outside of one’s control. And this is not exclusive to the publication industry. It happens everywhere—all the time, rhetorically speaking—and yet I don’t think it can be forced. Mathematicians feverishly try to find the answer that is right at their fingertips, and the brush of the artist flows like a hot knife through butter. Every touch, every stroke improves the outcome and the completed painting is providential. The batter that hits a home run with every swing may be another manifestation of this sweet spot. Some call it tender mercies, divine guidance, or pure knowledge. Others refer to it as in the mode or in the groove or perhaps luck…there are many ways to refer to this unlikely situation when everything just clicks.

During that moment, you can’t make a mistake. Every move is perfect. Every note is better than the last. You never want it to end. You are at the top of your game…then suddenly, it’s over. You try to get it back. You follow what you were doing all along, but despite your desire, motivation, and intensity, you are on your own and the fleeting ecstasy of that perfect harmony and rhythm is now gone.

I remember this happening once on the golf course. Now I am an amateur golfer at best. My colleagues are all much better than me, and I am ok with that. But there was a time my son invited me to join him and his friends for a round of golf. My boy and I had never golfed together up to this point. I approached the green and tried to look like I knew exactly what I was doing. I didn’t. The last thing I wanted was to embarrass my son in front of all his friends, and since we had never golfed together, he had no idea what to expect. I put the ball on the tee and prepared by taking a couple practice swings. OK. I am ready and stepped up to the tee to give it a go. My first drive was 400 yards. Nobody was more surprised than me, but I tried to look unimpressed.

“Dad! I had no idea you had that in you.” The euphoria lasted for maybe the first nine holes, but I wasn’t as extraordinary on the back nine. Still for a moment, I was riding high and on Cloud 9.

Does that sound familiar? When this kind of thing happens to you, is it startling? As I said one cannot force this to occur, but for me it happens regularly when I write. I first experienced this when I was in college. The instance was after an all-nighter trying to get a paper done. It was an “all-nighter” because the words were not coming together. I struggled to get my thoughts down on paper. Honestly, I struggled to collect my thoughts at all, and then it happened. I guess I had finally demonstrated enough effort because in the final moments before I had to get my paper completed and turned in, the light broke wide open and the paper came together seemingly on its own. To me it is pure knowledge coming from above. Instead of composing verbiage by combining nouns, verbs, adjectives and the like, complete sentences fill my mind in succession and my task is to capture them as quickly as I can before they are gone. It may last ten minutes or an hour, but it is typically fleeting and comes and goes on its own terms. I don’t understand it completely yet, but my personal opinion is that at times for reasons not entirely clear, we have heavenly help that increases our ability and makes us better than we can be on our own.

I have seen this happen for my son, when he is composing music. From somewhere he combines notes, tempo, and harmony in such a way that it thrills the heart and mind. The task is therapeutic for him as well. But when he performs in front of an audience, he is at his best. With a band and vocals, he is in his element. I will always remember the times we went to the Velour to watch him perform. I was probably the oldest person in the theater, but that was OK because he wanted me there, and that is exactly where my wife and I wanted to be. For a period of time, we had the privilege of supporting my son on his music journey. And we still enjoy today the albums he produced at the time. But the ride is not over. It continues even now and is still happening in earnest. The stage and the music have changed, however. Now his performance is in his home with a family. His band includes two incredible little boys and a beautiful, loving wife. But the music they make together is better than anything he has ever produced before, which is really saying something.  Even he doesn’t realize the amazing feat he is accomplishing. Realization and appreciation take time, perspective, and patience.

And those are somethings one has in abundance at my age. For me, it is easy to see the paybacks of authenticity, esteem, discipline, and endurance. You see, I have the benefit of hindsight and experience, something dearly acquired yet easily overlooked. But you and I both will eventually have it in spades. We all will, because a kind and loving Heavenly Father prepared a plan that ensures success for every one of us that is willing to follow his lead and accept the reward he has already won for us and all those that humble themselves and endure to the end—all of us.

And like the rod of iron, our loved ones give us something worthwhile to hold onto every time we consider the beautiful family we have now and the importance of eternal families in the world to come. My grandsons do that for me every time I admire them.

And if your family circumstances are not perfect and far beneath what you were hoping for now, realize that too is temporary and sometimes fleeting in this life, but exhilarating, comfortable, and familiar is what waits for you in the world to come. You are already headed in the right direction. Hope, repentance, faith, and success all start with desire. In this crazy world of ours, that is what we control.

Righteous desires put us on the path that leads to the happiness we are all seeking. And meanwhile, we can work toward an eternally happy family that seems to have it all together—and because of Jesus Christ—hope for the day when there are no more troubles and everything just clicks.

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.” – Joseph Smith

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Spring cleaning

I know. With summer ending and fall in full swing, the title of this email sounds like it is several months late, but we all know things often take longer than expected. A year ago we were telling Gma to throw away those boxes of paraphernalia bumping around in her garage for several years now. I would smile to myself when I saw the old things she was keeping…then I helped your mom with a little spring cleaning of our own.
We were straightening up the bedrooms and preparing a craft room upstairs. I carried mattresses, made beds, situated stacking units, and emptied the hallway. We got a lot done. All was going well when your mom reminded me that she had some things I needed to bring up from the basement—destined for DI. “No problem,” I called to her. We were really making headway. I went downstairs to get the junk and carry it upstairs.
When I entered the room where she was working, I found my stereo and speaker system had been placed in the middle of the room.
packed boxes

“We can’t get rid of this,” I said half serious. I had tried in vain to get you children to use this system, and I was seriously thinking I could still convince my youngest. I mean it has an Acoustic Controlled Amplifier AX401 with direct coupled power stages. Admittedly, the Stereo Cassette Deck is not really practical, but even that has a high density head and dual motor transport mechanism. Same thing goes for the Automatic Stereo Turntable system. But let’s not forget that it also includes a Quartz Lock Digital Synthesizer with 30 station preset and FM Stereo/AM-FM radio tuner. Plus, the 5-disc cd player with 4 times oversampling digital filter is really impressive. Your mom just rolled her eyes.
Desperate for someone to understand, I said “At least Emily could use the cd player.” Calmly mom responded “She doesn’t even own cds anymore.” Sheepishly, I carried the components upstairs. The stereo cabinet was a little awkward and heavy, so I asked my Emily to help me lift it into the back of the car. I appreciated being able to share my feelings with someone who could really understand. "When I was young, I would have loved this system," I said. Further, I explained that in my day this was the optimal music equipment. And it seems somebody should still want it. I thought of my brothers and sisters and their children. Looking for sympathy, I continued. “Do you think any of your cousins would like this?” I asked her as we situated this classic piece in the back of mom's car. That's when Emily looked straight at me and somewhat startled pulled out her earbuds and asked “What did you say dad?”
At that moment I thought of my sweet mother-in-law and the boxes in her garage. I realized she was probably keeping those things so she could give them to us and her grandchildren someday. And it’s not that easy for any of us to give up things, even when they are out-of-date and absolutely impractical.
And I wondered how many other little habits or debaucheries we hold on to when we really ought to rid ourselves of these vices and cleanse the inner vessel for good. It can creep up on us. It happens to us all. We are less patient, understanding, and loving than we should be. Our favorite habits and comfortable shortcomings are hard to abandon. Yet we can all be more committed, obedient, kind, and thoughtful. We should rid ourselves of our favorite behaviors that are less than admirable and replace them with upstanding characteristics that mimic our Example.
It makes perfect sense to all of us when we are talking about technology. It should also ring a bell when we are talking about habits.
Mormon men
To read more of Walter’s articles, click the picture.
I love the parable of the Prodigal Son. Sometimes, what is really important and relevant in our lives is pushed to the side in preference to less admirable behaviors, responsibilities, or selfish desires. This parable has application in all our lives today, just as much as when it was originally spoken more than 2000 years ago. I can relate. 
Another favorite scripture story I really enjoy occurs when the crowds surrounding the Savior make him somewhat inaccessible.  Friends of a man stricken with palsy break open the roof into the chamber where Jesus is teaching. Then, my favorite part of the video occurs. After lowering the man from the roof, the men drop the ropes, in effect showing their faith in the Lord's ability to heal this man, which the Lord does. Jesus frees him by first forgiving him and then saying "Arise. Take up the bed, and go thy way into thine house." This small man does something giant with the Lord's help. He stands up on his own, lifts his bed, and carries it away.
Palsy is paralysis, which is accompanied by involuntary tremors. I think I know something about that.   
Many years ago, I too was dropped--this time on the pavement--into a situation from which I could not free myself. But through good doctors, mindful friends, and a beloved family then and today, the Lord raised me up and has given me hope, happiness, and freedom well beyond my own ability. I know of his power because I have experienced it.
Though his words were spoken to men long ago, his message still resonates for all of us.

Regardless of our circumstance, the solution is the same. I know something about that as well.   
Access to the Lord and his gospel can free us from the vices of our day and provide power, help, and forgiveness.
That's all part of the plan.

I love you, dad

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


No. I do not work for Dominos , nor do I deliver pizza—not even close—but I do want to speak about delivery and how it gets done better than even the pizza-delivery-mega-machine Dominos does it. Now this might reach outside your comfort zone and what you believe is the best delivery method, but stay with me, and I think you will agree.

There are 35 million pounds of potatoes grown in the United States every year. That is a lot of fries and potato chips. And when you think about it, we don’t even eat potatoes in their own right. What I mean to say is potatoes are rarely eaten alone. Flavors or butter and sour cream or ketchup are often loaded on the potato to make it more palatable. So why do we grow so many potatoes in this country? There are many reasons, but certainly one of them is taste.

Potato chips are a method of delivering flavor. That’s right. We eat potato chips to enjoy flavors. Barbecue, jalapeƱo, sour cream and onion, or other delicious tastes are the desired end result. Think about it. We rarely eat a plain potato chip—sour cream & chives, bacon, cheddar cheese, BBQ, or ranch—you name it. Potatoes deliver flavor. And if you’re like me, you may say that you like your fries plain and don’t need the litany of dips, ketchup, or fry sauce available, but even then most people put salt on the tasty tubular morsels… And that is just fine, because the job of a potato is to be a method of delivering wonderful flavors. We can all agree on that. And how is it doing? Is the potato chip succeeding at its job?

According to a report on the Internet, 513.5 million cwt of potatoes were grown in the United States alone in the year 2000 (cwt is a hundredweight or equal to 100 pounds). Another site estimated 42 billion pounds grown in the US. That’s a lot of potatoes per person any way you slice it. The top producer of potatoes is Idaho with 350,000 acres planted in 2012. So if there is so much effort exerted to deliver a positive experience with potatoes and deliver the flavors we crave, how much more should we be focusing on the delivery of something really important—like happiness?

Despite the large number of people interested in potatoes, a lot more are eager to attain happiness in their lives—all of us, in fact. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the method of delivering true happiness. I happen to believe that we spend too much time trying to distinguish between what is public, personal, religious, political, social, and/or ecclesiastical. It is all religious from God’s perspective, and so the answer to all of life’s challenges are found therein. Too broad of a claim? I think not. Read on.

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it (Mosiah 2:41).

I had the opportunity to visit paradise recently. Now if you are thinking I had an out-of-body experience of sorts, I am actually talking about taking a trip to Hawaii, which is frequently referred to as paradise. Why? Admittedly, the Hawaiian Islands are appealing, but why would the Islands be referred to as paradise? That is a pretty lofty claim. Does it hold muster?

Well… I suppose it is a personal opinion, but my answer is in the affirmative. Probably, the warmth, hospitality, and beauty of the Aloha state make it a fine candidate. Flavors of Hawaii come in all sorts. The beautiful landscapes engender in the mind visions of what heaven must be like; yet even then, I have only seen a glimpse of what the islands have to offer.

With Youtube and Flickr and thousands of posts on the Internet, we can have a pretty good idea of its offerings, but even then it is not the same as being there to experience its smells, sounds, and services. They are truly incredible. Still, our lack of time and money prevent us from experiencing it all—and even if we could, we are told that our fondest imagination cannot even fathom the reward in store for those that love and serve God.

So what delivers happiness in this life? I contend that the gospel of Jesus Christ does it here and now.

And our reward lasts into the next life as well—for eternity.

We give everything we have—nothing more, nothing less. And in return, all the Father has can be ours.

Many young men today are fine examples to me. I want to be able to say what Taylor articulates so well in the video below:

“The Savior gave everything to me. He gave his life for me. And when I get back to his kingdom someday, I want to be able to look him in the eye and tell him ‘Man. I gave you everything I had. I really did. Just like you gave me everything you had… and I guess that’s where I find the drive to do those things.”

I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the gospel of Jesus Christ and share with my family the joy and happiness that comes to those who have joined the feast. I have seen its effectiveness.

We should all strive for the real delivery that matters.

I am a witness that it does really matter.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Watch yourselves

I wish to emphasize the importance of keeping the commandments of God. The great deception of this world is that happiness is a product of what happens to us.

Happiness is a gift to the obedient.

May I begin today with a story…

We have been in our local congregation for 16 years—my how time flies. The majority of our children have graduated from American Fork High School and essentially our family has grown up in this little community.

But it all started in Provo, Utah actually. I had just returned from my mission and started attending school at BYU. I lived a few miles off campus at the time with my sister and her little boy. In addition to going to various classes where I met other students, my social interaction was BYU dances. These were way back in the day when live bands played at these events.

Because I was staying off campus, BYU dances on the weekends was a big part of my social life. I was released from my mission just six months prior. I had just finished Dance 180 weeks earlier and enrolled in Dance 280, so I thought I was well-prepared. But looking back, I had no idea what I as getting into. After one night in particular, my life would never be the same.

As I remember, for some reason I arrived at the dance early. Yes. This was basically … in the olden days (when the best dances consisted of live bands), and the group was still setting up their equipment in the Garden Court on campus at the Wilkinson Center. So I was trying in to play it cool.

Meanwhile, a particular young lady prepared for and attended the dance that evening. When I saw her, I asked if she would like to take a turn with me. She told me her name and joined me on the dance floor.

She danced her way into my heart that night and every day since. We have six beautiful children and recently four incredible grandsons. I love being with my wife and family.

Thank you for allowing me to reminisce. Now you know a little bit more about me and your mother. Some of you are just now beginning the trek we started nearly forty years ago, but there is a purpose in my sharing these details with you


Yes. You could say that your mother and I were quite the pair. I want to speak with you today about pairs. There are lots of pairs. They often go well together.

Some are opposites:
Good and bad / Hot and cold / Light and dark / Top and bottom / Health and sickness

And some pairs have similarities:
Lock and key / Mom and dad / Cowboys and Indians / Bed and Breakfast

OK. So what would you come up with to pair with the word obedience? Compliance, agreement, respect. Those are all good options, but when I consider the word obedience, I would pair it with “blessings.”

Have you ever felt that Heavenly Father keeps blessings to himself instead of freely sharing them with all of us? No. In reality, He showers us with all the blessings that He can:
  • Beautiful sunshine
  • Clean water
  • Homes
  • Spectacular mountains
  • A free country
  • Health
  • Family
  • Loved ones and much, much more.
We live in a wonderful day-and-age with modern conveniences and tons of miracles. What we easily take for granted, many have never seen or even imagined. Every time we go to Costco, I can’t believe that we live in a country where our stores are filled with food and goods and abundance from floor to ceiling. It is amazing.

Next time you struggle to find a place in your fridge to fit the leftovers, think how lucky you are to reside in this country and about the promised blessing found in Malachi chapter 3 verse 10:

10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith … if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Blessings, abundance, plenty and to spare—the temple ordinances are the crowning blessings that the Church has to offer.

The blessings of the Temple enable us to live in harmony now and be with our families and loved ones after death back in the presence of our Father in Heaven. We achieve these blessings through obedience.

Listen to our beloved prophet President Russell M Nelson   Thanks Be to God

“Each day, ours is the challenge to access the power of the Atonement so that we can truly change, become more Christ like, and qualify for the gift of exaltation and live eternally with God, Jesus Christ, and our families.”

Those words are from of our dear prophet President Nelson, but they are my sentiments as well.

Jesus Christ has promised blessings to the obedient. Luke recorded “it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.”  Luke 6:37

Luke lived 2000 years ago.  During that time, people often went to the market to secure grain for bread.

I love that metaphor. Consider with me for a moment that you have gone down to say Costco. Something is five for a dollar. So you examine the possibilities, measure the largest of the choices, pick the best of the bunch, pay and walk away happy. Now imagine you were living in Jerusalem 2000-years-ago, and you’re going to the market for grain. There are many vendors, but you frequent the one that carefully and precisely fills your basket well with good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

That is exactly how God blesses us. Your mother joined the Church when she was 15. Even at that young age, she recognized the value of Church membership. At the time, I was living in Utah and interested in football, cars, and girls. Admittedly, at that young age I didn’t fiully appreciate the full importance and value of the commandments and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Maybe some of you feel that way as well, but I have a much different perspective now.

The opportunity to receive and obey commandments that we may take for granted can become the ultimate source for joy in our lives today, and I have a pretty good idea that it should continue to be our strategy for eternal joy in the world to come. I still like football, cars, and I love your mother, but I am much wiser now and know beyond a shadow of a doubt from whence my joy comes. But even that is not my primary purpose for why I am obedient today.

Love for the Savior

We are not achieving our most important goal until we have established in the hearts of our children and the saints a great and abiding love for the Savior Jesus Christ.

Friends may betray us, spouses may leave us, health may fail, and our possessions burn up. But, Christ, His promises, understanding, and love will never fail us. With some trials and most tragedies, only this can get us through.

When we can take a thankless, demanding calling; give up something we wanted greatly so we can pay our tithing; or help out someone who has badly hurt us… and say, ‘I wouldn’t do this for anyone else, but I will do it for Christ!’ …then the power for good that he can have in our lives is becoming a reality. He must be the foundation of our lives. He stands ready to bless us, today and throughout eternity.

 “The eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Jesus Christ is the Architect of our happiness in this world and that to come. He marked the path and showed the way, but it is up to us to walk it.

Obedience is the tool that he uses to help us realize the blessings of all his promises.

“Don’t be too critical of the barrier. It’s the only thing keeping you from being devoured.”

The Lord’s commandments are intended for our joy in this life just as much as they are intended for our joy and exaltation in the next.

King Benjamin is someone I think we can unanimously say was well-liked. Why? Because he cared about his people and served them and worked for his own support rather than burdening them with heavy taxes, he was well-loved by all the people.

He chose to rule by setting an example of humility, righteous living, and service; and he strove always to teach his people how to live Heavenly Father’s commandments. Again I ask why?

Let’s defer to King Benjamin’s own words for the answer:

He remarked that he could not explain all the ways to commit sin; for there are so many ways and means that he could not even number them. And then he said…

30 But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.  Mosiah 4:30

This was their king whom they loved, and he loved them and served them and wisely counselled them to be obedient and flee from sin, so that they could live full and happy lives of abundance here and now and enjoy exaltation in the world to come.

You may not have all the things that you hoped for to make you happy, but you will be rich with abundance and your reward here-and-now will be great. Our King has told us that very thing:

29 There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands…; and in the world to come eternal life.

That is one of my favorite scriptures of all time. It gives me hope and strength when I need it. But there is another scripture that I believe explains well WHY we should keep the commandments of God:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Rom. 8: 35-39

We are obedient because of our love for the Savior. That is the power for good that he can have in our lives.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…   Rom. 8: 28

Obedience is truly the key.