The Probationary Game

Sometimes the days go by so quickly it is hard to keep up with everything you want to do.  I suppose it is part of the probationary game that we play.  Do we do things we want to do, or do we do what needs to be done.  Is there ever a point where you have everything done you need to do and can do those things you want?
To add to that problem, what about when it comes to the needs and wants of others.  I have come to believe that my needs come before my  wants.  What happens when somebody else has a need, for which I can help, does that trump my wants too.  So far in my life, it seems that is to be the case as well.
Today is a great example.  Brother and Sister Swapp were moving from their present house to another home within a mile distance.  I volunteered my time knowing how much it helps in having people to aid in moving.  I could very well have stayed at home and done many more other things, even things I think are more important.  But the need of the Swapp family ranked higher on the priority list.  For the most part, we finished all the move in about 4 hours.  I then had to very quickly, go home, get ready, and be back at the church in order to play piano for a baptismal service.  It went well, I enjoyed a few visits with some good people, took the missionaries home, and here I am back at home.
We are still not totally unpacked.  I feel like I should unpack, but I also feel a need to inform other people and let them know what is happening here.  I think there may be some procrastination in there, but I really want to record some thoughts and update the family and friends.  It takes time and effort to do this.  But I hope is that I feel a need to keep others informed and that overrides my wants of having my whole house unpacked and put away.  It will come.
I find myself at work 40 hours of the week.  The time we have for breaks and at lunch is not sufficient time to even read much of my book.  That is if I am a complete hermit and choose not to spend time with my classmates.  So half the week I spend eating lunch with them and listening most of the time.  I am the only guy in the group and they have a whole different set of things they want to talk about.  I will probably have to cut back some of that time as I don’t see it really doing much more than listening to conversations which are not of much value intellectually or socially for me.
I have books I want to read.  I still have McCullough’s Truman on the shelf and have had it for a couple of years.  It is a big book so it keeps falling down the list from other shorter books.  I have been struggling to find the time to finish Tiger in the Senate about Wayne Morse.  (He was a Senator from Oregon in the senate during the 40′s-60′s.)  I want to learn French, I want to relearn German, I want to learn Welsh, I want to write a book on C Ben Ross, I want to live in England, I want to visit friends and family, I want to read many more books, I want to learn so much, and yet these things keep falling by the wayside.  They really are good things, but somehow I cannot justify they are needs.
Just this week we helped the Jeppesen, Maravilla, and Swapp families move.  I have gone out with the missionaries and I have gone Home Teaching.  In addition, I have tried to make sure our budget is still planned, keep up to date on the registers and bills, answer the mail, write a letter to Mom, and many other things.  On top of that are the every day walk requirements of religion and life.  We wake in the morning to read a chapter of scripture together, say our prayers, shave, shower, dress, look pretty, and by that point we are racing out the door with our one auto world to be on time to two locations.  Sadly, the other half always runs late constantly and usually by the time I make it to work have lost any hope for maintaining the spirit that our reading and prayer is supposed to provide.  The single greatest blessing in my life to come will be the day when we have separate vehicles.  I know I am off on a tangent, but I know of only one thing that upsets me really, one thing that pushes me towards what I believe is anger, one thing that makes me forget my religion and want to be unkind, and that is tardiness.  I think that is why I married Amanda.  I have come to appreciate more fully the need for promptness, preparedness, and arriving early.  Many says it teaches us patience.  I find my patience wearing thin more and more when I know there is very little or no valid reason for being late other than somebody procrastinated getting ready.  I think nearly daily about President Kimball’s comments, “One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination, an unwillingness to accept personal responsibilities now.”
The bulk of the day is found at work.  Then there is the time to go home.  Evenings are usually not just our own though.  Amanda does have much of her evenings home, but being in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency pulls me often to different locations.  Every evening is usually taken by the little required activities of eating, preparing for bed, reading and responding to mail (email too), writing bills, and planning for the next day or something else.  It just seems like there isn’t enough time in the day for what needs to be done.
It seems if I were to spend more of my time doing what I wanted then I would get more done.  I would certainly know more and be learning more.  That is not to say I don’t learn from those I help.  I saw a map of the human genome this morning.  How is that for interesting?  I witnessed two other ways in which I would certainly never design a home.  I learned a few more details about Brother Pyron’s life and about a shooting at a school in Grundy, Virginia.  I met a man who moved into the ward from Mobile, Alabama with his wife for a residency.  Really, while it is all interesting, and applicable lessons are available in my own life I yearn to be learning something more.  Perhaps it is the fact this is all too close to home.  It is another life of the same life I am living.  Perhaps I yearn to be learning and living in the life of another time and another person.  I just think I really want to be learning something more than the activities and daily lives.
There is some rambling of thoughts here.  Part of the constant debate I feel.  Really, history and everything we know is because of the life of someone else.  I love and enjoy learning of those around me but perhaps want to connect with something outside my culture or time.  This morning I read of Nephi and really felt like I understood his sentiments when he wrote, “Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord-  Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.  But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.”
Often the thought crosses the mind, “if I could have lived in the days of Brigham, I would have more time to follow more personal pursuits” or something along those lines.  “If I could have been raised in France to have less of a workweek so as to pursue other intellectual activities.”  There are many times I think how much I would have loved growing up in the Rome and going to watch the Senate and learning of far away places.  I wish I could have worked on a ship where I would have plenty of reading time as I traveled the world and met people all over the globe.  I think how fascinating it would be to dive into the archives of Rome, London, Moscow, Baghdad (what is left), and Paris.
Then it dawns on me how much more information we have available to us in our day and I am glad I was not confined to a bookless world, or a carless world, or a electricityless world, and on.  There is so much available to me and I certainly believe I seek out and gain much as it is in everyday life.  But there is so much more!  It is funny at times what dawns on me as a miracle.  When I place a dozen letters in the mail and am dazzled to think they will arrive all over this country the day after tomorrow.  I wonder often how much fun it would be to host Thomas Jefferson, Brigham Young, Constantine, or other individuals for a day.  Sometimes I sit in a room and look around at what would not have been present even 50 years ago.  What questions would Brother Jefferson ask upon appearing in my living room about what was not present in his day?  How would I answer his questions?  How would I walk him through the 181 years since his death to arrive at a particular object sitting in the room?  What would he think?  Would he be astounded?  Would he comment, “Who would have thought” or “That makes sense, why didn’t we come that that?”  What would he see in my life as useless or meaningless?  I hope that we have maintained a lifestyle that is for the most part Spartan.  Just the basics for what we need in our earthly journey.  Truly, our lives are surrounded by objects that are miracles in their history and they are every day.
I hope I am showing to some degree what there is to know and learn.  The history of places, the history of possessions, the history of people, the progression of societies, and much, much more.  Perhaps I have a disconnect in the run of the mill people to those few who seem to alter the future of societies and civilizations.  Not that they are greater, or run of the mill is lesser, but that I have enough experience with the every day that I want to get beyond it all.  So many conversations, so many thoughts, so many activities just seem to be in place in order to bide the time and endure.  I seek out the activities and people who are not just enduring life, but trying to do something with it.
That really takes us to the next part of the struggle.  I do believe I have learned quite a bit and come to an understanding of many things which are not common knowledge.  But what am I to do with it.  Knowledge is very lonely stuff.  Some people it seems to puff up and make them become showoffs.  Nobody likes a showoff and it undermines what it is they really know.  Generally, many people don’t seem to care about the details of life.  How do you maintain the relevance of life when you live in more and more in a world that doesn’t exist to other people?  I believe I have come to understand and know a few things about the interactions and play of the US Senate from about 1900 to about the 1950′s.  Who in the world will I ever have a discussion with about that?  Very few people indeed!  Who will I talk to about England and what readings I have been doing?  Who will I chat with about Manchester and the mission?  Who will I talk to about Idaho history here?  How many Idahoan’s can I talk to about Idaho history?
It really is amazing how much the church plays a role in all this.  With all the separation and divisions knowledge provides, especially the more as a society we do learn, the gospel provides an amazing link to others.  It links us and connects us on the most basic and fundamental level.  Then we can build from there.
Then we come back to the needs of others.  It seems to me we can’t really pursue our wants until we have met the needs of others.  I suppose children and a larger family would compound this question many times.  I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there.
I think often of the comment about President Kimball at his funeral.  How his life was like an old shoe, worn out in the service of others.  Did he spend much time pursuing his own wants.  I am sure glad reading the scriptures and serving in the church are commandments.  That takes them from the realm of needs and wants to must do.
There really doesn’t seem to be an answer before me.  I guess we all need to answer it for ourselves.

Clarification on security, freedom, and comfort

In the first e-mails, I am more building off of common ground.  He pretty much told me his whole desire is to be a billionaire by the time he is 40.  He gave me as the reason for doing so is that he could have independence and security.  Building off of that theme, I gave the following paragraph.  I completely agree with your statements that that is not our whole purpose.  I hope I defined that more clearly in some of the other e-mails that came later, if not in the same one.

“I do not laugh at your hope of retiring early.  I believe it is a noble thing to have prepared so you can spend your live doing something more productive than the pursuit of money.  I completely agree with you on this point.  I hope to be financially independent so I can turn my focus onto other things, more important things.  I see nothing wrong with this desire.  I am sorry if other people find it foolish.”

I certainly think you should do your job with full faithfulness and not just with the end to get money.  You should enjoy your job and find its meaning and opportunity for you.  I completely agree that it is more than just supporting the family.

“There are a couple of thoughts I will throw at you.  I am not to elude that you are caught in these thought patterns, but a caution in case you may have forgotten.  You referenced financial freedom and security.  I am not personally aware of any promises in the gospel that we will be given security or a large degree of freedom.  Agency, yes; the ability to act, definitely; but beware of the thought process that at some point you will have reached a point to where you are excluded from pain, sorrow, or suffering. “

You quoted D&C 70 in relation to this comment.  The Lord there promises us blessings and great blessings.  But I do not read that these promises are necessarily for temporal blessings and temporal security.  Remember, this is one of the reasons why the Saints were so terribly upset in Kirtland and in Jackson.  The Kirtland anti-Banking Society was established and many people fully thought the Lord was going to make them rich.  After all, they were in the process of gathering and of building Zion (literally) and that led to their downfall.  In Jackson the Saints were sure that they would be protected temporally because of some of these commandments.  Well, we know what happened there as well.

To me, when the Lord promises comfort, security, blessings, and freedom, these are all first and foremost spiritually and in the conscious.  I do believe they lead to the physical.  That is one of the messages I get from the New Testament is that Saints will be able to call anyplace, even the pits of hell, home and make it a Zion.  Wherever the Saints are, there cannot be hell.  Remember the Lectures of Faith, those who have a certain knowledge can take spoiling of the goods and even the taking of their lives with joy and a certain knowledge that they have a future and know their place in eternity.  If I remember right, I don’t have the book yet, but the quote of idolatry by President Kimball includes the comforts of family, cars, and houses. 

I guess is what I am saying, Saints were had in Kirtland and Missouri even though they were in hell.  They had comfort and freedom and independence and security despite what they were going through physically.  Many counted it a blessing to come across the plains, even the quote from the old man in the Martin Handcart Company, that it was the place they came to know God and would not trade it for anything.

It seems to me a twist of the scriptures to believe we are promised physical security and freedom.

Your quotes from the Book of Mormon go along with what I have already talked about.  Free forever, certainly is more than this mortal probation (2 Ne 2:26).  The Lord promised the Israelites freedom in Egypt, but they still had to sit there for 400 years.  (I wonder how many lost their faith because they were not given their freedom in their lifetimes?)  Out of darkness into the light, out of captivity to freedom (2 Ne 3:5) seems to be speaking the same.  Under no other head are you made free (Mosiah 5:8) I view death and a resurrection as a freedom from the fallen world too.  Moroni’s inspiration to be freed from bondage (Alma 43:48) is still very much on the Lord’s timetable.  Wandering in the wilderness for 40 years is certainly freedom considered under what they had left with Pharaoh, but still it was very taxing, and they had no real comforts or even security.  They had serpents and all sorts else to worry about.  Hearing the Lord and following him will make us free (D&C 38:22) is very true, but what about all those Saints who wasted away with the same promise in eastern Germany and Soviet provinces.  Hundreds never saw freedom in their life according to what you are arguing here, but certainly did in the spiritual way.  Even Brigham Young has quotes where the strangling of the US government was diminishing the Saints freedoms.  His views were of the freedom of polygamy, and (don’t know if I would argue for it) we still don’t have the complete freedom of our religion in this country. 

As for the quote about the Constitution and our liberty to make us free.  That is one of the big things Joseph Smith taught.  Our constitution gave us the freedom of thought, to act as we please (despite its tightening under Brigham) and freedom of conscience.  You know this. 

If we are righteous, the promise is that we shall have our needs met.  Even that our cup will run over and with tithing that we cannot receive them all.  But that certainly never applied to riches as far as I have ever seen. My bank account certainly could receive more and I could too.  So it doesn’t have to do with money.  But in spiritual blessings, from which the physical manifests itself, I certainly believe we can be therewith content with what the Lord has allotted us.  Even if that is a prison cell in the freezing of winter in 1837 called Liberty.  Isn’t that what the Lord told Joseph and later.  Receive ALL things with thankfulness and you shall be made glorious (again, not necessarily physically).

“I know you are not saving up money to become rich.  It is your desire to be able to be more free to do things which are of more worth with your time to your family and for others.  I certainly think that is a worthwhile pursuit.  Just be careful not to be driven too much by money rather than your worthwhile pursuits. “

This was another building off the common ground concept.  Start at common ground, build off of it, and then you can help them see where you vary and then they are left with the choice.  Isn’t this much of the Socratic method.  But you have to start somewhere to where they can agree with you.

This was one of the main reasons why he wanted to gain riches.  I do think it is a noble thing for you to be able to do more with your family and time for the benefit of others.  I admit, no matter how much I like my job, I have to do it a certain amount and detract away from time that could be used with family, teaching, or even in service.  Honestly, you can love your job and want to spend all your time there, but in the end, whether you love your job or not is not going to get you into heavens quadrants.  Your family, your service and stewardship will count much more.

There are a score of great blessings that do come from work.  I don’t doubt that.  But I am sure you could learn many of those same ethics and work from other meaningful service too.  Our jobs are a required part of life.  Someone has to clean the sewers, someone has to move the trash, someone has to do crime scene investigating, someone has to be the mortician.  I certainly hope those people don’t hate their jobs.  I do believe, in the vein above, that you have to have that inside conviction, freedom, and security and the outside will change.  Hell will in fact become heaven.  If you hate your job, first you should probably change your heart and mind, then look again at the job and consider if a change needs to be made.

I completely agree with the Luke 3:14, 1 Tim 6:8, Heb 13:5 (what would that say if I didn’t agree?) that one should be content with wages, have godliness and contentment, and to avoid covetousness.  I am sorry if I led you to believe I supported these things.

Anyhow, I hope as you read later of the forwards, that I corrected or explained my position more fully.

This is a great little study for both of us.  We must be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves.  We must think these things through, even we must plan financially but far too many people let it consume their lives.  I really liked your line, “…I can see how it will take over if you are not careful.  But now I know, I need to be wise, but not worry, be prepared, but not obsessed!”

Thanks again, I enjoy our little banters.

The offering of sacrifices

Being thankful seems to be a crux of most of the gospel.  One of the scriptures I gave you said that they who are thankful will be made glorious.  I certainly believe that is true.  As ole Terry McCombs likes to repeat, “to be thankful, you have to remember; remember, remember, remember!”

I like your train of thought on how to be thankful.  But I think you might be missing a very important part of sacrifices and burnt offerings.  Brad, I am a bit shocked you did not remember this.  After all, we had a string of e-mails last year discussing sacrifice.

“And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.  And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.  And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?  And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:5-6).

Notice what comes before the offerings to the Lord, it is worshiping the Lord.  Your sacrifices are of no value without the prayers.  Just like fasting with out prayer is just starving you.  Tithing without the prayer is just putting your money in the coffer.  Offerings without prayer is just burning a piece of perfectly good meat!

Think of the temple.  When Adam is offering sacrifice before the Lord, if you notice there is something missing on the altar.  I think that is very telling.  It is certainly more than just trying to save those who could not stomach a piece of burning meat or produce from the garden.

“Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8).

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Sam 15:22-23).

So thankfulness is manifest in sacrifice, but don’t forget the most important part of sacrifice.  The law of obedience comes first, then the law of sacrifice.  Obedience is that you are to do all things in the name of the Lord.

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faith; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate they performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Ne 32:9).

This thing seemed so obvious to Nephi that he grieved that the people were missing it.

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:15-16).

“And it came to pass that we did come down unto the tent of our father.  And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God; and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him” (1 Ne 7:22).

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Prov 15:8).

Why do we offer prayers?  It is so that our heart might be contrite.  That is our sacrifice after the obedience.  First our heart, then comes the rest.  Our will, our ego, our all, then comes the physical.

“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Ne 9:20).

“Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (D&C 59:8).

So, there is some more backing on what goes into sacrifices.  Before the sacrifices of meat, or any other type whatsoever (fasting or tithing) it should be preceded by prayer.  All things should be done by prayer.

These sacrifices enable us to come unto the Father, the activate more fully the atonement in our lives, to allow the Spirit a stronger influence, and the whole host of blessings that follow.

As with your examples of David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Thomas B Marsh.  It is not enough to know, but to continually be seeking the Spirit.  One cannot rest on your laurels, or you will be left behind.  Then you will fight to regain your place and it will have been lost.  Whether eternally, or callings within the present.  Do not delay.  Be ever diligent in keeping the commandments every day.  The Spirit helps us see, understand, know as we are known, and not allow those blasted beams in our eyes to block our vision.

I would like to visit Thomas’ grave in Ogden.  We will have to make a trek.  I have some more of my own family to find.

Lastly, to comment on your thoughts in relation to Alma 4:19.  In bearing down in pure testimony, the only way is by the word of God.  First, to have the Spirit (prayer facilitates this greatly) and the advice of Alma, “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them – wherefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God” (Alma 31:5).  Have the Spirit (which gives you the power of the word) and then use the written word.  It has a more powerful effect than anything else.

That is what President Wightman taught us very diligently.  That is what I try to do.  That is what you try to do.  Let us help others understand it.  We don’t want to be another slap on the back, feel happy church.  We believe in keeping the doctrine pure, and sometimes charity and love hurts, but is always for our best.

The scripture…

Just a few thoughts in regard to this e-mail. 

Remember the responsibilities of an Elder.  “An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize; and to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons; and to administer bread and wine – the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ – and to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures; and to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; and to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost; and to take the lead of all meetings” (D&C 20:38-44).  This obviously extends beyond that of the family.  Their duties are expounded further as the section continues, but are to be aided or expressly done by the lesser priesthoods if they are present.  If not, the elders do them as well.  This revelation was given before the wards and stakes were organized.  It is my understanding that our elder responsibilities exist only in our ward.  So, to individuals within our ward, we have the responsibilities given to us above.  Of course we don’t take it upon ourselves, but we are assigned to these responsibilities, particularly through home teaching.  Accordingly, we must be set apart for special occurrences outside the ward.  Just like stake leaders have to be set apart for the stake level.  But an elder is not set apart for their home teaching responsibilities.  Assigned, but not set apart.  As missionaries we had to be set apart as a missionary to have the revelation and privileges necessary to be a missionary.  I have always found it interesting that our stake president sets us apart rather than the mission president.  I don’t have an answer for that one yet though.

So according to my understanding of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are responsible specifically for our families and those we are assigned over.  But in general you are privileged to exercise those powers for members within your ward without a special dispensation from the heavens. 

Now as related to extended family, I do not believe you can receive revelation for them.  Nor will you be responsible for them.  However, you can still teach the gospel in its pure form and answer their questions accordingly.  You cannot counsel them individually or according to revelation, but you can according to your inspiration and understanding of the word of God.

Be careful comparing yourself to these individuals who you are comparing yourself to in Jacob 1:19.  They were to high priests over the whole church.  Of course they were responsible for them all.  But you are not.  They would answer for all their sins.  Just like President Hinckley is accountable for the entire world!  To teach them according to the word of God and with all diligence.  But we are home teachers and our stewardship is more limited compared to President of the church.

As for what is appropriate to teach.  I think that is one of the reasons why the Lord gives the commandment that we are to speak nothing more than repentance and to teach the word of God.  Even missionaries have very limited roles in which they can receive revelation.  They are given just enough to find the humble, to lead them to the waters of baptism, and that is it.  We cannot receive revelation on much more for our investigators.  After all, that is the Bishop’s role.  Don’t forget he is over member and non-member.  We are there to aid the responsibility of the elders already in that ward and stake.  We are not in charge of it.  The mission president meets with and counsels with the Stake Presidents concerning the work.  Only where there are districts and branches is the mission president over the work.

As concerning milk and meat.  You can give what he asks, and only according to scripture.  But you know that your job is first and foremost to teach faith and repentance.  Our key is in D&C 19, “and thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see.  And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers.  And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea even the Holy Ghost.  Behold this is a great and the last commandment which I shall give unto you concerning this matter; for this shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life” (verses 29-32).  It seems very direct that this pattern is for preaching the gospel, and is enough for our daily walk to the end of our lives.  We can chat about these things, but are to keep it according to the scriptures, and not more.  Perhaps too many of us are talking about deeper things when we are not exhorting faith and repentance enough.  Like President Cherrington always used to tell us, “gospel curiosity will not save us, but living the gospel.”

Tribulations contemplated….

An excerpt of an e-mail with friends about tribulation and the different ways people deal with it.

After thinking about excommunicated Bishop Young, your Steve, and Uncle (that is what I will call him, your friend’s uncle) this is what I have come up with.  I think I hinted at some of it.

“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father.  And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Ne 2:12).

People murmur because they know not God.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings:” (Philip 2:14).

“And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; belessed be the name of the Lord.  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:21-22).

The Lord gives, and he takes away.  Nowhere am I aware that the promise is given that our family will not wander.  It is not given that they have not their agency or the natural course of events don’t take place.  All people get sick, all have sufferings, all have difficulties; no matter how faithful they are.  Look at Christ, look at Joseph Smith, look at Joseph of old, look at Job, and the list goes on.

So I have been thinking about this quite a bit, obviously as I e-mailed you about it.

“And when the people complained it displeased the Lord; and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp” (Num 11:1).

In reading the whole eleventh chapter of Numbers I think of these people I know.  They want meat, they want water, they want this, and they want that.  It just never is good enough for them.  Then when something goes wrong, they are the first ones to point a finger.  It doesn’t seem like it is God to me.  Seems like it is the person.  I mean, we are talking of Israel here, keeping the law of Moses here and very strict.  Even they in the midst of obedience seems to have something awry and still struggle.

I have come to personally believe that being righteous does not remove bad things from happening.  It in a sense takes you above the low, mean, and doggerel.  It gives the buena vista, the grand picture.  Bad things still happen.  Not that I am righteous by any means, but look at my life.  Look at my family.  Not that we are saints, but we are no more sinners than the rest, but we have our share of woes.  Don’t we all.  It is all how we view them.  Do we live by faith?

If we don’t know or understand the Lord’s way, then we complain and murmur.  It is just a given.  When we seek the Lord and his ways, then we live by the comforter, and knowing all will workout.  Peace innervates our lives.

This hit home tonight in reading the scriptures.  “His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.  From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail.  For thus saith the Lord – I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.  Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.”

So, those who are faithful and serve God, they will have their reward, and will be filled with peace and light.  What is more is how the Lord continues.  “And to them shall I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.  Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.  And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.  For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will – yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man” (D&C 76:3-10).

I think that is easily applicable to Bishop Young, Brother Steve, and Uncle.  Those who are faithful and serve God (faithful and serve!) will be filled with peace and light.  They will know the mysteries, and I think that includes the mysteries of their family.  FOR MANY GENERATIONS, their wisdom shall be great.

Remember, those who know the dealings of that God who created them will not murmur.  So, if they were living the above, not only would they know concerning their family, but they would know the mysteries of God and not be murmuring and complaining to begin with.  Their family’s apostasy/inadequacies would be viewed in the proper perspective.

What is more, don’t forget this promise, “Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance” (Alma 26:22).

It seems to me that if we are faithful, repenting, and praying continually without ceasing, our family would not go astray.  However, if they did, we would have the mysteries revealed unto us, at least that all would be well and we are doing what we can.

Divorces take two, so it may not have been his fault he was divorced.  It may not have been his fault that his children divorced.  But if he really had a burning testimony, his covenants would have kept him from leaving the church.  Perhaps this was his trial to test his faith.  “Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son” (D&C 101:4).  It seems Uncle lost his chastening and trying, for when he came to offer up his family on the altar, he fell away into forbidden paths and was lost.

I am surprised how many people seem to be outwardly doing what they are supposed to, but then don’t do the basics.  Like the whole praying and scripture study.  “They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble” (D&C 101:7).

Your friend recited off his accomplishments like they were credits to be raked in for the redemption when needed.  That is not the way it works.  It is what we become, not what we have done.  The Lord tests us when we have nothing to rest on.  The church exacerbated the problems, that shows he and her family were not viewing this with an eye to faith.  Doesn’t matter which church for that matter.  “Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men” (D&C 3:3).  He seems a little frustrated in his work, who was he working for?  If he was working for God, he obviously wasn’t in constant communication otherwise he would have known for what purpose, or that this was the Lord’s purpose.  How narrow sighted to blame the loss of his own eternity on the church or his family.  The Lord giveth and he taketh away.  The promise is that we may have these things in eternity, I know nowhere the promise is that we have the promise to keep them while in this life.  “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matt 19:29).  We have to be willing to give them all up at any time.

So, now that I have thoroughly torn the person apart, what does an outsider say?  Well this seems the given of missionary work.  What do we say to anyone anywhere?  “And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers.  And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost” (D&C 19:30-31).  “And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father.  Amen” (D&C 15:6).

Why is it that we feel we have to convince people of the truth?  Why do we feel we need to coax people into repentance?  Isn’t that the Spirit’s job?  Aren’t we to work by the patterns of the spirit?  Just tell it like it is?  He needs to repent and come back to the Savior.  Back to the Lord’s supper table, the Sacrament.  He needs to return and keep the covenants he made, or make them.  He needs to believe the gospel and walk in its light.  Who cares if his wife and family go to hell.  That is their choice.  We can only do so much.  We can warn them and carry the spirit to them as well.  That is between the Lord and them.

“Verily, I say unto you that ye are chosen out of the world to declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump.  Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom” (D&C 29:4-5).  We are to raise our voice and declare it.  How many missionaries ruined a convert by trying to convince them?  Get the Spirit to manifest to them, then you have got something.  Then the fun things happen.  “If it be some other way it is not of God”

Anyhow, it seems obvious what it is we must do.  Live and continue to be examples of the Savior.  That is it.  The issue is on his side.  The church, the prophets, the scriptures, the word (Spirit, revelation, even Christ) have been neglected in these individual’s lives.  “And all they who receive the oracles (this is more than just a person, it is the instruments, the wisdom, the whole apparatus of the church) of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house (and the family in the house)” (D&C 90:5).

Let our friends be our lesson.  Let us learn from their example.  Let us do what they have not done, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness, shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).

“Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering out of the hands of their enemies (which he has promised to some extent); softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.  And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him” (Hel 12:2-3).

Not so much that the difficulties don’t come and go, but more our recognition of their passing.  Are we Teflon individuals spiritually, or do they increase and increase our drag until we fall to the earth from our lofty spheres of flying with angels?  The rugged terrain is always there, just how we endure it.

So what must we all do?  Live the gospel.  Read daily.  Pray morning, noon, and night.  Attend our church meetings.  Keep the Sabbath.  Maintain and keep the Spirit.

The old cry comes up incessantly, “it is so hard to do!”  Well, as long as we are that weak in faith, that is how long we will continue with the struggles and not have the mysteries continually lain before our eyes.  It is our decision.

One last thought that just popped in.  Uncle needs to be careful that he is doing his part with the Lord, and not just leaving the rest to family, friends, and ward members.  Perhaps part of the problem is he left the Lord out too much in his dealings.  “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; and enquired not of the Lord; therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse” (1 Chr 10:13-14).

We must be careful we do not do the same thing.  We can discuss this all the day long, but we must make sure we are keeping the word of the Lord, and seeking our counsel first to the Lord.  Then to our friends.  This applies to us, and to Uncle.

Good night.

Chapter notes

I wanted to add a few little notes to the closing chapter.  Since it is too late to enter the thoughts in the chapter, I can surely append them, can’t I?  Well, with permission or not, I am.
The last response on the blog was one a bit sober for me.  After all, I tend to take hard critical words that they hint at a grain of truth, if not more.  So, I attempt the thorough examination of whether or not that bit of truth was of size or consequence.
But first, I must recognize how prized some of your e-mails and comments have been to me.  Thank you for your support.  I love good people like you!
I must report that as I went back out into the field that day, to finish up my week, I felt that a whole burden had lifted.  Perhaps that is my whole qualm with the sales industry.  The pressure exerted on its sales people.
It must be reported that I very much enjoyed working with Marc Summers.  While he is cocky, certainly boastful, I found that he had an air about himself that I enjoyed.  Saying that, in his position he is dealing with increasing pressure from above.
That is what used to make Combined beautiful.  The people loved working there because it was fun and the job was great.  Combined Insurance Company of America has turned into an ugly monster.  Having gone the way of all Babylon, they now have retreated to force and pressure.  My Grandmother loved Mr. Clement Stone and the company because they had a product to sell, and according to your wishes and desires, you went and did what you wanted.  You were rewarded accordingly.  Now they have become another vicious machine, where it is no longer the individual that counts, but the program and results.
Mr. Neil Pehrson the Regional was of hope to me.  A relic of another age.  I sure like him, as I do Marc.  Both remind me of what the company used to be like.  But in company’s changes, they are exerting force down the line.  The change has increased even in the months since I have been present.  That is where I bucked.  I don’t allow for that force in my life, especially when it is voluntary.  The same reason I have some issues with the changes government is making, but that is another subject.
I even feel a bit of sadness tonight.  My heart aches for the loss.  Marc has taken this pretty hard.  He was very upset, but now I can sense a longing.  I admit, I became quite attached to the company as well.
At least once a week, I was reminded of a moment in my childhood in doing the travels with my Grandmother.  I miss her more than my heart could ever tell.  Even now I want to weep from the separation that seems to be present.  I think Combined has brought much of the past to life again for me.  I literally have relived the summers when I was growing up.  I think often of President Packer’s talk “In the light of thy childhood” and the pure chords it still resonates with me.  The classic line of Field of Dreams, heaven is where dreams come true….  Anyhow, I think I shall stop there, I don’t feel these are sentiments I should be sharing here.
Next, I had the opportunity of sharing the gospel with Mr. Marc.  He had questions.  He was curious.  I could not get him to keep his commitments, so I wonder his intentions, but I hope they were pure.  I sure enjoyed that experience.  It gave me a great measure of hope and that too provided a certain reliving of the mission.  The questions, the answers, the promptings of the Spirit.  Oh how much I loved those days.  It broke my heart for me to go into checkout today and he gave me back all the various things I had given him.  He gave me back the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Restoration Video, and other various things.  That was hard for me.  Then again, I suppose a missionary is not totally surprised when this happens the rest of their life.
This job provided a reattachment to previous times in my life.  I don’t wish you to think I am surreal and living in the past.  I very much look forward to the future.  My past is past, but the foundation of my life must not be forgotten.  How can I hope a superstructure if I neglect the foundation.  Surely, these things must not be.
Somehow, despite the release of pressure, I feel a sad detachment.  It is like I am not only leaving my job, but my past.  I know this is not true.  There were attachments beyond just it being a ‘job’ for me.
I vow that if I ever come to lead an organization of any type, that pressure will not be the means.  People must find their own motivation.  They must be on board with the community, or business.  That motivation must come from within, from whatever source.  When it comes from without, it is so terrible and undermining.  Love unfeigned, hope, and pure knowledge are the keys to successful leadership.  Any organization would do well to take a page from the gospel of Christ.
Well, having now discarded the wagon I had for the moving of me and my family to Zion, I now have to find another means of moving through the next phase of travel.  After all, that wagon was too much of a struggle to drive.  We are now on foot, which is a terrible way to travel.  One can make out alright, but it sure makes it hard to help others.  The saddening part is those with autos don’t offer help.  Where will the means come?  Church?  I think family is too far to aid.  We will see what God will do to reveal his arm.  Until then, we wade on.
Shall we not go on in so great a cause?  Go forward and not backward.  Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!  Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.

Sordid thoughts on the lowly things

Here we are beginning another week.  I admit, I am torn in so many ways.  What to do?  Where to go?  These are questions that I suppose creep up in our lives when we are just not quite as sure of things as we would like.
My job has become just that.  I am not motivated by money and they keep trying to entice me with it.  Well, in the end, I find myself doing the same routine, with not much improvement.  Well, I lie.  Every week so far has been an improvement in my earnings.  This past week I made more than six hundred in a week, before taxes and all.  So I guess that is a good thing.  But that is not how I measure my effectiveness.  Never has been, never will be.  Why would I use Babylon’s measuring rod?  How many lives am I influencing?  Is my family the better for it?  Am I happy?  And then the answer comes in at a stark no.
I get to go around and meet a wide variety of people.  That is most definitely true.  However, while I do feel we have a valuable tool, and a good product for those who need supplemental insurance, I am finding many people who have this as their only insurance.  They are content to believe that this is going to cover their needs and that is not the truth.  I think most understand this is not major medical, but for the fact that these people are poor and paying for this bothers me.  Now for the craftsmen and heavy laborers who carry this, I most certainly think it is the best thing for them.  So I am touching these people’s lives, and getting to meet them.  But I am not convinced I am leaving them better off in the end.
It most certainly is a worthwhile time to visit and see all these places.  I have always been fascinated by geography and love to travel.  This job has catered to that desire.  I have been to the birthplace of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.  I have been to the place where John Wilkes Booth was hiding, found, shot, and killed.  The historic Northern Neck of Virginia, while slightly penetrated, has been interesting.  But all this traveling takes time and money.  By which I travel and find the homes of these people, which are literally everywhere, so the byproduct is I learn the territory.  However, I am finding that running a household, a wife in school, and other costs take one’s funds.  In the end, I can afford the $100-$130 I am spending on fuel.  But I am worried that by breaking even, I am not saving to replace or add to the vehicle that is being required to drive the minimum of 1,000 miles a week.  With 183,000 miles plus on the car, I should be saving or paying for another vehicle rather than running into the ground the only means of income and transportation, for two, I currently have.  That just seems dumb to me.  In the end, it is not making enough money to pay for a car payment a month, nor to save up for a new car at a later point.
What about the next point?  What about my family?  Well, the last week, I certainly made the most of what I have made yet with the company.  But having said that, I am leaving at 9 in the morning, and returning at 9 or 10 at night.  If I was single, that would not be so much the issue.  I have a wife that is at home.  She can surely spend the time studying or whatever else without my interference.  When I finally get home though, I am exhausted.  I need to eat and go to bed.  She is kind enough to provide the food.  By the time we read our scriptures, pray, get ready for bed, and make it in, I am beyond my bedtime.  We have spent little or no social time, and other events are just a pain.  That is fine for a little while, but it really starts to add up in the long run, and I am not willing to make that type of a sacrifice.  The job is on the altar before the wife.
Lastly, am I happy.  Well, I surely enjoy the traveling and people.  It does grow wearisome at times though.  I love meeting people, I love seeing these new places.  However, the chances of my meeting these people again are slim.  It was not like spraying lawns at all!  Many of them gripe and moan they have to pay this again, and the rest are just a pain to track down.  It wears on me.  What wears the most is that I don’t have time to do things I wish to do.  I take the LSAT this weekend and I have no time to really practice for it.  That bothers me.  What is worse that when I do get time to myself, I use it for other things than studying.  I have other things I place more importance on and since I never get to do them, then the lesser things don’t come up.  So now what?  I am not going to postpone it again.  I should have just taken it in June.
So, after seeing this whole thing now play out, I am not impressed with the fruits.  I planted the seeds, I have lingered, waited, and prayed long enough.  The fruits appear to be bitter and if I allow the tree to continue to grow, it will only grow more wearisome and bitter.
I don’t even think it is so much Combined that I am having the issues with.  I wonder how much more effective I could be if I were to be trained in how to sell.  Would that little extra bit every day make it more worth it?  Would I be able to stop earlier from working knowing I had met the monetary needs?  Who knows.  Probably.  If I could spend less time working to make the same amount, that would be good.  If I could lay some aside for other purposes, that would be helpful.  All I know, something has to change, now.
Having said all that, I wonder about the other side.  Could there be something more I am missing?
What about those who say stick with it?  Grin and bear it?  It will all work out in the end.  I have thought quite a bit about Joseph of old.  He was in prison and a very unlikeable position.  But he bore through it with faith and came out on top.  My leaders at work keep wanting to put me into executive training.  In fact, if I would have agreed, I would be in Virginia Beach all week for it.  (But what of the LSAT then?  Being gone all week seems to only compound the problems.  Best part, they don’t even pay for your being gone so I would sacrifice a week for no pay!)  So, do I endure, make my way to management, and then what?  Well, I will be expected to train.  How in the world can I train on something I have yet to learn to do?  Nobody seems to be willing to train me and I obviously have not worked it out yet.  As Marc says, I am making what money I am by pure hard diligence and work.  That is noble and all, but he makes the same I do with only half the hours.  Yet getting him to train me is like pulling teeth.  Endure….where is the line where you simply throw your hands in the air and say I am moving on?
Much on the mind lately is the thought that perhaps I am meant to be here for some reason or another.  Marc has accepted an invitation to attend General Priesthood with me on Saturday Night.  That is great news.  I would like to endure enough to see him read the Book of Mormon and join the church.  However, should I gain one soul for the kingdom and give up everything for that one?  Honestly, I don’t see anything breaking down in my relationship with Amanda, but do I want to take that chance?  It is hard to be a nice person when I am not completely satisfied with my job.  Amanda takes some of the brunt of that.  There are two reasons why I have stuck with the job so far.  Simply because I need some income to provide for those things that are essentials (granted this house is more than we need, but it is still inexpensive compared to renting an apartment).  Secondly, in the hope that Marc will feel of the Spirit and be converted.  With my being away from the company the chances of his keeping his commitments and being converted are greatly reduced.  He has no one else to challenge and teach.  I told the missionaries about him coming on Saturday.  I sure hope we can get his address and a commitment to take the missionary discussions.  That will sure take a load off of me!
Yes, I believe it is time for a change.  But where to?  What shall I do?  Where shall I go?