In Memory of Lowell Hansen and Garrett Smith

With a recent bout of suicides, I thought I would pay a bit of a tribute to Garrett Lee Smith and Lowell Eugene Hansen.  Both of them forced the concept of suicide into my life and required I come to some understanding of the idea.  I wanted to give some memories of these two individuals and the doctrinal concepts surrounding suicide.  What is suicide?  How does God look at suicide?  How am I supposed to deal with suicide?  How does God deal with those who commit suicide?

Lowell Hansen was an acquaintance I knew in Paul, Idaho.  I was young enough that I knew who he was, but did not really know anything about him.  After I was charged by a bull at our house, I remembered that within days he appeared at our home and removed the charge from the bull.  I watched him shoot, hang, gut, clean, and cut the bull.  It was fascinating.  I remember recognizing the butcher truck each time when I would see it on the road or at some other location.  I knew he built a log home because I always saw the truck parked near it.  Years later after I became involved in the same congregation and came to know him a little more as Brother Hansen.  It was not until I returned from my mission that I realized he even had a family.  I moved back to home in the fall of 2002 and I was assigned as a Home Teacher to one of Lowell’s daughters.  It was only then I really started to get to know the Hansen family more on a personal level.  It was shortly after that Lowell decided to end his life much like he did that bull.  I was called upon to help minister, however weakly, somewhat to the needs of his daughter and her then boyfriend.  The talk I reproduce in full below was given at his funeral and has provided much of the basis for my feelings and ideas on suicide.

Garrett Smith was on a bit more personal level for me.  I first learned of him in Manchester, England when he was assigned my companion as a new missionary.  I was called as a trainer to him, although I only knew of him as Elder Smith.  We served together, 24 hours a day, for 6 weeks.  We had many a conversation and became close friends.  I had some frustrations with him due to some of his learning disabilities and my lack of patience.  He knew of this and I do not think I always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other though.  He convinced me that I should consider leaving civil engineering and looking more into political science and law.  I think I had convinced him that his disabilities were not a very good excuse for settling for mediocrity.  I left England to return home and he finished in 2002.  We had planned several occasions where we would get together for old time’s sake, but they kept falling through due to poor scheduling and other issues.  We finally set a date to get together on the 13th of September in 2003.  I was going to drive down to Orem, Utah where he was and spend the weekend.  Unfortunately, I received a phone call that week only to find he had hanged himself in a closet after consuming alcohol and sleeping pills.  I had a great desire to attend his funeral so a roommate from Logan drove with me to Pendleton, Oregon for the funeral.  I took a copy of the talk from Lowell’s funeral with me and gave it to Garrett’s parents.  Garrett’s mom, Sharon, later thanked me for the talk.  Our Mission President, Phil Wightman, spoke at the funeral and while I doubt he had read the talk, he referenced very similar themes as Hyrum Smith did at Lowell’s funeral (Hyrum Smith was Lowell’s Mission President too).  Sometimes I find myself wondering what Garrett’s life would be like if he wasn’t reposing in the ground at Weston, Oregon.

I lost the talk over the years and had repeated requests come to me for a copy of it.  Those asking were mostly individuals I had shared with at the time of Garrett’s funeral who were moved by it and wanted to give a copy of it when someone else took their life.  I had probably a dozen requests for the talk in 2010, so I ended up contacting Lowell’s widow for a copy.

Here is a copy of the talk by Hyrum Smith given 6 December 2002 at the funeral of Lowell Eugene Hansen in Paul, Idaho.  At the end, I will give some other thoughts I remember Phil Wightman giving at Garrett’s funeral.

My brothers and sisters, I wasn’t really sure until about 3 o’clock this morning why I was asked to be here, but somewhere around three, I knew.  The spirit indicated to me that I am uniquely qualified to speak here today, and I’ll share with you why as I share some thoughts with you.

I’m honored and humbled that Emma Jean asked me to be here.  When she called Monday, I was stunned as I’m sure all of you were.

Public speaking is not something that is foreign to me.  I do it for a living.  I’ve spoken before thousands of audiences, but never an assignment like this.  I’d like to begin by suggesting that we are met here today in the house of God.  That same God who sent Jesus here to help us.  We meet today in the name of Jesus Christ who died to save us.  I would ask that you keep that in mind as I share a few thoughts with you this morning.

I’d like to begin by sharing four scriptures with you that describe, as many scriptures do, how our Father in Heaven, and our Savior feel about us.  I think we need to be especially reminded of that.  I’d like to go first with the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 5 “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.”  I would then take you to the 62nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 1, “Behold and hearken, o ye Elders of my church saith the Lord your God.  Even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”  Now go with me to John, Chapter 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”  Last I would take you back to the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 18.  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  For behold, the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh.  Wherefore He suffered pain of all men that all men might repent and come unto Him.  And He hath risen again from the dead that He might bring all men unto Him on conditions of repentance.  And how great is His joy in the soul that repenteth.”  I share those scriptures with you, brothers and sisters, as a preamble to what I would ask you to consider as we have met here today.

This wonderful man, father, husband, son, brother, missionary, I knew him well as a missionary.  He was one of the great missionaries of our mission – most of the Idaho people were.  He made a big mistake the other night.  Huge mistake.  He knows that he made that mistake now.  It cost him his life.  But only his body died the other night.  His soul, his spirit, his brain, his mind are still very much alive – very active.  It’s like going into another room.

I was led to a talk that Elder Jeffrey Holland gave at a very similar funeral.  Jeff Holland and I served as missionaries in the same mission, British mission, lots of years ago.  He’s a very dear friend.  He was asked to speak at the funeral of a young man who had taken his life.  This is what Elder Holland said, and I am going to interject Lowell’s name into these remarks, because they fit perfectly today.  “We’re here to celebrate Lowell’s life, not his death.  We’re here to praise the Lord and love God for the atonement and the resurrection, but we’re also here to say, particularly to the youth in this congregation and others who struggle, that Lowell made a mistake.  Now he would be the first to say that.  Someone said, ‘A man to be good, and I would add a woman, must imagine intensely and comprehensively – he must put himself in the place of another – the pains and pleasures of the man that has become his own.  Until he can do that, he must never sit in judgment on a man or his motives.’  We need a better vocabulary, Emma Jean.  We know what we mean when we use the language of death.  But the master of heaven and earth, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all mankind, the living Resurrection said that, “When you live and believe in Him, you never die.”  So, we’ll let Lowell go for a while.  But he’s not dead, in any eternal sense, and you know that.  You know that now, you’ll know it tomorrow, and you’ll know it next week.  You’ll especially know it when he is spiritually close to you, whispers to you in your dreams, helps through the veil to raise your grandchildren.  You’ll know that Lowell lives.  It is important to me to bear testimony to you that Lowell lives – just as we testify that God lives and Jesus lives.  We testify that Lowell lives and spiritually and is loved of God and of us.  We miss him.  Death was an intruder this week.  We weren’t ready.  We do miss him and we are sorry, but none of that diminishes the brightness of his life.  The grandeur of God’s plans – the reality of life and the resurrection – of eternity and the Celestial kingdom.  Lowell is being buried with all the promises and symbols of his covenants safely around him.  God in his mercy will work out all the arrangements even as Lowell works out his acknowledgement of his mistake.”  Un-quote.

Those are words of an Apostle of God.  I would like to pose five questions to you now.  The first of which no one has an answer for, but I think we need to deal with it, because I don’t think there is a person in this room that hasn’t asked this question in the last five days.  The second, third, and fourth question, I came from southern Utah this morning, to answer.  Because there are answers to those three questions, and I believe I can answer them for you.  The fifth question, only the people in this room can answer.  I don’t know what that answer will be, but I’m going to pose it.

Here’s the first question, which has been on the minds and lips of probably everyone.  “What was he thinking about?”  What possibly could have driven him to make this mistake?  What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  Nobody here knows.  What sort of despair and anguish and pain causes someone to do that?  I don’t know!  He made a mistake, so we really don’t know the answer to that question.  But that’s not the important question.

The second question, the one that I think I am uniquely qualified to answer, and one of the reasons why I think I was asked to be here is, “What is Lowell thinking now?”  Lowell’s very much alive.  He thinks, he breathes; he has probably had an opportunity to walk with his Father in Heaven.  DO you want me to tell you what he is thinking now?  He’s afraid.  He’s sorry.  He’s in anguish.  He’s suffering.  He’s wishing he hadn’t done it.  I know that.  How do I know?  Several years ago, I made some big mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Hopefully not as big as the ones I made.  Because of those mistakes, it was required that I lose my membership in the church for several years.  And after I went through the process of approaching my Bishop and my Stake President, and going through the church judicial system – which is amazing, I found myself asking the first question a lot.  What was I thinking?  I couldn’t even answer that question for me.  But I know what I thought about after.  I know about the pain.  I know about the anguish.  I know about the suffering.  It’s awful!  So rest assured, and knowing Lowell as I know him – the integrity of this man, he’s in a lot of pain.

Third question, “Will the Lord allow Lowell to repent?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question – Of course!  He allows everyone to repent.  There’s a myth that floats around the church from time to time.  It suggests that people who take their lives have committed an unpardonable sin.  I’m here to tell you today that’s just flat not true.  The Lord will allow Lowell to repair that mistake.  He’ll walk him through it.  He’ll help him do it.  He’s going to allow that.

Fourth question, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question.  The answer is yes.  He will.  He will forgive him.  And Lowell will receive all the blessings that he rightly deserves from a wonderful life.

Those are the three questions I can answer with surety.  The fifth question, I can’t.  The fourth question was, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  The answer is yes.  The fifth question is, “Will you?”  I know from sad experience that lots of people don’t.  But the Lord has asked us to forgive.  He said, “I the Lord will forgive whom I choose to forgive, but of you, you’re required to forgive all men.”  I need to talk about forgiveness for a moment.  Does the mistake that Lowell made the other night blot out all the good that this man did in his life?  No!  Elder Holland reflected on that.  He was a wonderful missionary.  He was a great father.  He was a great man.  He was dedicated to his Father in Heaven.  Like many of us, he made some mistakes, one big one.  It doesn’t blot out everything he was.  We heard of a wonderful tribute from a beautiful daughter today about the kind of dad he was.  None of that gets wiped out.

As I went through the initial stages of my repentance process, one of the major sources of the anguish was the worry that no one would forgive me.  Because I somehow got it in my mind as I grew up in the church, that to ultimately forgive someone, for a transgression, you had to forget it.  Because we were taught in the scriptures, that when repentance was real and complete, the Lord forgets.  How does He do that? He forgets!  Wow!  Can we, mortals, reach a level of spiritual maturity where we can forget what happened the other night?  I don’t think so.  Do you think that anybody in this room will ever forget that Lowell took his life?  Not in this life.  I don’t think so.  Do you think anyone, who knows me well, will forget that I was excommunicated from the church?  Nope – Hyrum Smith…business leader, great, great grandson of the prophet’s brother, Hyrum?  No one will ever forget that!  Do you think my kids will forget that?  No!  BUT, and this is one of those moments where the spirit instructs and saves, in the middle of the night, the spirit taught a great lesson.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means remembering – but it doesn’t matter any more.  I think we can achieve that.  I think we can reach a point, as mortals, where we can remember and have forgiven to the point where, in remember, it just doesn’t matter anymore.  I challenge each to deal with the fifth question, “Will you forgive him?”  I believe you can – you must!  That’s what the Lord wants you to do.  But you’ll never forget.

I want to share a concept with you that has helped me think through a number of things.  During the Vietnam War, I was in the military during that period of time; there was a man by the name of Stockdale.  He was an admiral.  He was the highest-ranking man to spend time at the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war.  And while he was in the prison, for about six years, he discovered that there were three basic types of people incarcerated in that prison.  He discovered the same thinking that Victor Frankl discovered at Auswich during the Second World War.  Victor Frankl wrote about it in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Then Stockdale wrote about it, and it has become known and has been written about in a number of books since – the Stockdale paradox.  The three groups of people that he discovered were these.  There were pessimists, optimists, and realists.  And this is how he defined each group.  The pessimists saw the brutal facts around him and quit.  The optimist had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts.  The realist saw the brutal facts, but had faith they could be dealt with.

The reason I share this with you is that in this book, when he wrote about this he said the interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps at Vietnam.  Died!  Didn’t make it back!  I understood why the pessimists didn’t make it.  They saw the brutal facts.  They were in the middle of South-East Asia.  They were 8,000 miles from help and the Marines aren’t going to get in here.  We’re going to be here forever, and they died.  And some very healthy bodies died.

The second group stunned me!  The optimists died!  How come the optimists died?  Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts.  And they said to each other, “You know we’ll be out of here by Christmas.”  “We’ll be out of here by Valentines.”  Every rustle in the bush was the Marines coming to save them.  And when every rustle in the bush wasn’t the Marines coming to save them and when they weren’t out by Christmas, and when they weren’t out by Valentines, they died.  They gave up and died.

The realists survived.  They saw the brutal facts.  “We’re in the middle of South-East Asia.  We’re not going to be rescued for a long time, but you know what guys, we’ll stick together.  We can handle this.”  And they did.

A good friend, by the name of Jensen, was in our mission – Lowell knew him – served six years in that prison.  There were several LDS fellows there, and the way they kept themselves sane was they would try and remember LDS hymns.  They would tap by Morse code on the bars of the jail, and they would send what they could remember of each hymn.  They gathered lots of hymns.  And one hymn they worked on for four years.  They got the first three verses in about 18 months, but the fourth verse took two and a half years to get.  They finally got the fourth verse.  When they got back, there was only three verses.  They had created their own verse, but they survived.  Now why do I share that here?  I want to ask you the question as what are you going to do about this issue?  Pessimists see the brutal facts – Our dad killed himself.  It’s pretty awful.  Nothing so wrong, it’s awful!  And you can give up – if you want.  The optimist ignores the facts – puts on a smiley face and pretends it didn’t happen.  And the optimists live a lie.  The realist sees the brutal facts – We lost our dad, our husband, our son – pretty awful.  We’ve got to gather together and help each other now to survive financially and economically.  We’ve got to get through school.  We’ve got to do stuff that dad normally would have helped us with.  It isn’t going to be easy.  The optimist has the faith that we can do it.  And so I’m asking you today, “What are you going to be?”

On the 19th of October of last year, not this year, but 2001, Steven Covey and I, we have a business together, were asked by Mayor Giuliani of New York City, if we would come back to Manhattan and do a free, one day, workshop for the families of those affected by the 9/11 disaster.  He told that their mid-town Manhattan Sheraton had donated their ballroom.  They donated our rooms to stay.  Would you come back?  We’ve got people in some real pain.  Would you come back and speak?  We said, “We’re there!”  We got there on a Thursday night.  The seminar was to be on Friday.  I got there about midnight.  I’ve been in Manhattan many, many times.  As I flew up the East river, I was coming from Chicago, and saw the lights where the World Trade Center used to be, it was kind of an eerie feeling.  It was a very different landscape now.

At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor Giuliani had arranged for a tour, a private tour of ground zero for Steven and me.  At that point, which was just five weeks after the event; sixteen hundred policeman had surrounded ground zero, and had blocked it off.  You couldn’t get down there without a police escort.  We had to go through four checkpoints to get to ground zero.  About 5:15 in the morning, we found ourselves standing on the street in front of where the Marriott Hotel used to be. It used to be called the Vista Hotel.  I’ve stayed in that Hotel many times.  Only I wasn’t really standing on the street.  I was standing on 16 feet of compacted debris.  And as we stood there looking at this horrific hole in the ground, the policeman who had been assigned to be our guide began to tell us his story.

He said, “You know, I was here that day.  I was standing on the street right about where we are.  I heard this big bang, I looked up, and all this stuff came flying out of the World Trade Center.”  He said, “You know, it looked like paper when it all came out until it started hitting the ground.  It was fifty foot I-beams killing everyone it hit.”  He said, “I watched 34 people jump from those towers.  Four of them holding hands.  I watched eight firemen lose their lives from falling people.”  I’m not even believing this.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mr. Smith, how many computers do you think there were in the World Trade Center?”  I said, “Probably a lot.”  He said, “We haven’t found one!”  I said, “How come?”  “3,000 degree fire.  It’s still burning.”  As he was talking, a crane pulled a big I-beam out of the rubble, and the end of the I-beam was dripping molten steel.  Then he said, “You know the second plane hit and then the building started to come down – we all thought we were dead.  We got under a car, and somehow we lived.”  That’s how our morning started.

When we got back to the hotel at about 7:30, we had to shower.  We were covered with soot.  At 8:00, this meeting began.  There were 2,000 people jammed into a ballroom designed for 1,500.  People were sitting on the floor.  It started by two New York policemen and two New York Firemen, carrying the American flag in.  I will tell you, It’s hard.  And then the Harlem girls choir, sixty young women from Harlem, filed in and sang three patriotic songs, and the music that came out of those kids was amazing.  I was very grateful that Steven Covey had to speak first because I was a mess.  He spoke for two hours, and then I had to speak for two hours.  As I approached the front of the room, there were people all around on the floor.  A fireman, about half way back, in uniform, stood up, and he said, “Mr. Smith, are you going to tell us how we get of bed in the morning when we just don’t give a darn anymore?”  That’s how it started.  It turned out to be one of the toughest, and ultimately the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.  I said these words to the fireman – and I want to say these words to you – Emma Jean and the children, and their extended family, and everybody here.  If you don’t remember a think I’ve said, remember this statement.  I said to this fireman, “Pain is inevitable.  Misery is an option.”  And he seemed a little stunned.  Now what do I mean by that?  The fact is, brothers and sisters, bad things happen to good people.  They just do.  Airplanes fly into buildings.  Rivers overflow their banks.  Dams break and flood out villages.  Accidents happen – people die prematurely.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  How we choose to deal with the pain is ultimately a measure of who we are.

That’s why the Lord gave us the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To help us deal with the pain.  Some of the most serene, magnificent, wonderful people I’ve ever known have gone through some major pain in their lives.

Will the Lord forgive?  Yes!  Ten days ago, tomorrow, President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, laid their hands on my head and restored all my blessings.  Not just some of them.  All of them.  And President Hinckley mentioned three times in the most amazing blessing I’ve ever heard, all the blessings.  I’m here to testify to you today that that will happen to Lowell.  He’ll be there.  He’ll be ready, Emma Jean.  He’ll welcome you with all his blessings.  So the challenge for us as the living – to go on.

When the pioneers came across the plains, they periodically had to stop and bury the dead.  And the scene was always the same.  There’d be a family standing around the grave, and if you looked off into the distance, you could see the wagons – and the wagons were ready to go.  The wagons had riders in them.  They were waiting for the family to get through with that funeral so that they could move on because they knew, “If we don’t move on, then we’ll die!”  They buried their dead, and they moved on.

Well, the wagons are surrounding the building, and they’re ready for us to move on.  We pulled off the highways of our lives to pay tribute to a great human being – who made a mistake that can be fixed.  And when we’re through here today, we’ll get back in our wagons and move on.  We’ll survive.  Don’t ever forget the brutal facts, but never lose faith that they can be dealt with.  I bear you my testimony that God lives.  Jesus is the Christ.  He loves everybody in the room.  He’ll take care of Lowell.  He’ll take care of us too.  I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Here are a few more thoughts from my memory of Phil Wightman’s talk from Garrett’s funeral.  The talk centered around the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 which states, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

In essence, since I went to the funeral with Lowell’s funeral talk in my mind (in fact, my friend, Taylor Willingham, read it to me again on the drive up and I gave a copy to Garrett’s parents) the basics of the talk were the same.  Brother Smith approached it with some practical questions and answers to those questions.  President Wightman approached it from a doctrine side that we do not really know what goes on in the minds of these individuals when suicide is completed.  But we have to have charity, love them and their families, and move forward.  In the end, the Lord will sort all things out.

Rest in peace Garrett and Lowell.  I look forward to meeting up with you both again some day.  Until then, I hope we all can appreciate the suicidal act and hopefully help avoid it in the future, and work forward from those who do commit this unthinkable deed.

Slumbers Not

I stumbled upon this photograph again tonight and thought I would share it.  This picture was taken by an old roommate of mine at Utah State, I do not remember for sure which one, I think Mark Morris.

The contrasts of the photo are pretty dramatic.  This is taken from Darwin Avenue in Logan, Utah.  You can see the Wellsville Mountains on the west side of Cache Valley.  You can see the lighted Logan LDS Temple with its greenish spires and lighted facade.  Some other silhouettes are discernible and will be recognized by most people who have lived in Logan, particularly the LDS Tabernacle Spire and the red Wells Fargo sign.  This photo was taken 12 November 2003.  You have to click on it and zoom in to get the full effect.

Whenever I see the picture and the amazing sunset, I am reminded of Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio named Elijah.  The song particularly that comes to mind is “He watching over Israel, slumbers not” (from Psalm 121:4).

I know God is watching over Israel and not slumbering.  In the end, all things will come out right.  He is in charge, this is His world and His plan.

“When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land.  [T]hey shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards…they shall build with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despite them round about them; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God.”  Ezekiel 28:25-6.

“Let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.”  D&C 101:16.

Favorite Script

It is a common thing.  We are supposed to have our favorites.  I am not sure why.  With such a large body of material, why do we have to pick out a few favorites, or even a ‘most favorite’?  In some senses, it doesn’t seem quite right.  Do we have a favorite child?  Do we have a favorite cousin?  Do we have a favorite anything?  I guess the question is more, ‘should we’?

Perhaps it is the world or a weakness tendency in the human race.  Another one of those great weaknesses like pride.  Really, I guess it just is a manifestation of pride.  Usually favorites seem to indicate those things that are most kin to us.  They are those things which somehow seem to reflect or speak of us.

When in the whole, aren’t we supposed to take the whole?  Take into consideration all?  Preferences seem okay, but they are the easy route.  Is this another reason we don’t like missionary work?  We are forced to work with those people who are not our favorites?  Or we are afraid we won’t be a favorite anymore?  Who knows.

Through the years, I have had one scripture which seems to reflect my feelings and passion of life.

One night as I spent the evening in the home of Terry McCombs, he gave me a scripture to think about before I retired for the evening.

“Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessings which was offered unto you; but behold, verily I say unto you there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive.”  (D&C 67:3)

As I laid there in the old comfortable bed, I read this scripture.  There happened to be a set of scriptures on the bedside and I did not have my own.  I could read it and think about it.  It really hit me pretty hard.  A whole host of blessings which I wanted to receive, but due to fears I was not receiving.  Terry had given this scripture to me for a particular reason and fear with which I was faced.  I just could not seem to let go of it.

Somehow I felt there must be an answer to this scripture.  I did not know how to overcome fear.  I did not know how to receive.  I did not know a whole lot of things.  I still don’t.

Then somewhere around 2 or 3 AM I stumbled upon this scripture.  Somehow in nearly all instances, it still speaks to me.  When asked my favorite scripture, I almost just as quickly give the reference.  In the mission field, the scripture took a whole new meaning.  It applied to others and the work with which I was employed.  Just a couple of weeks ago Brad Hales asked me my favorite scripture.  I gave it to him just as quickly.  While I am sure he must have heard it dozens of times, it meant nothing to him, no recollection whatsoever.  Yet it has somehow always been a bedrock for me.  It is somewhat out of context, but still very applicable.

“Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.  But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.  Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.”  (Alma 26:6-8)

In the mission it was not to get baptisms or converts, but to put them in connection with and into the hands of the Lord of the harvest.  All people.  Member or not.  To help them make that connection.

In my personal life, despite all the storms and whirlwinds that may come, God will uphold and protect those who are faithful.  I thought of this scripture numerous times with the episode with Mom.  I thought of it with adversaries in all things.  Those who are truly converted will not be beaten or harrowed.  They are gathered to their place and singing to God.  Reminds me of “Guide us, O Thou Great Jehovah.”

“When the earth begins to tremble, bid our fearful hearts be still.  When thy judgments spread destruction, keep us safe on Zion’s hill.  Singing praises, singing praises, songs of glory unto thee, unto thee.  Songs of glory unto thee.”

May we all be more like this.  Less worrying, less fearful, more buoyant and pressing forward despite all odds.

Procrastination??

One of the greatest defects of all mankind is that of procrastination.  Our propensity to give into it has been a struggle down through the ages.  Our day is no different, in fact, our comfortable and easy life probably makes it more likely.  There is the classic quote by Spencer W. Kimball about procrastination, but I am too lazy to look it up now.  I will do it later.
Fortunately, I have not been afflicted much with the dreaded disease.  I get a bit antsy if something needs to be done.  In fact, I would be one of those who would border on the workoholic side more.  Always something more to be done and just not enough time to do them all.
All I know is if I have the mentality that it doesn’t need to be done now, then I delay it.  If I can switch it in my mind to be done soon, then it will fall into a queue and I continue working until the queue is finished.  Somehow, I generally don’t tend to see things as being a ways off.  Which I think makes a marked difference between me and the next man.  I believe I can have a state now, and will work towards it.
The same applies for me in the gospel.  Many, many talk about when the Savior returns.  Then we will have to live the law of consecration.  Then we will get the temple work in full gear.  Then we will live all the celestial laws.  Then we will be more proactive in missionary work.  Then I will repent.  Then I will believe.  Then we will work on learning the scriptures more fully.  Then we will do this, then we will do that, then we whatever it is we will do.  In reality, it is a bunch of hokum.  The scriptures tell us so.
“And now, as I have said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed.”  (Alma 34:33)
Those who procrastinate will find themselves not knowing what they need to do.  Not having experienced what they will have need to experience.  They will be in darkness.  As Joseph Smith said, “Hell is not knowing.”  Don’t say you will change.  Why will you change then?  Why not now?  Remember Lazarus, even if one should come back from the dead, they will not believe.  Jesus already came back from the dead and yet we still don’t act, we still don’t live our faith, we still don’t believe.  Nothing will change then.
“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God (or start coming closer to my God), Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”  (Alma 34:34).  Why would the millennium be any different?  If not doing it now, why then?
“But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain (Pleasure?  Comfort?  Relaxation?  Work is an eternal principle.  Rest is in the after life.  Joy is for this life.); and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity (Sin is waste.  Waste of time – killing time especially.  Waste of learning.  Waste of work.  Waste of intelligence.  Waste of eternity), which is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Helaman 13:38)
Is it any wonder why the Lord makes the following statement?  “Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen together and hear my voice while it is called today, and harden not your hearts.”  (D&C 45:6).  Today is the day of salvation.  Not tomorrow.  “Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day of the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.  For after today cometh the burning – this is speaking after the manner of the Lord – for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.  Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today.”  (D&C 64:23-25).
Wow, if that is not harsh and clear enough, we are certainly beyond feeling.  Very clearly the Lord states tomorrow is for the wicked.  Today, if we believe, we will labor.  There are no tomorrows in the Gospel.  Today we work.  Today we sacrifice.  Today we repent.  Today we build.  Today we lift.  Today we teach.  Today we convert.  Do not ever allow yourself to fall to the belief in tomorrow.  Those who look to tomorrow will be burned.
The probationary games goes forward.  Working today, with a hope in the mansions of the Father.  Tomorrow for all intents does not exist.  What we are going to do tomorrow doesn’t matter really.  Tomorrow may not arrive and today has been wasted.
Here is the verses that triggered this little soapbox.  I think it applies just as fully.
“Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, (let’s include the deacons, the children, the Relief Society, the Apostles, the Seventies, the High Priests, and even those not in the church) did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given;  persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.  And after this manner did they teach them.”  (Jarom 1:11)
“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.”  (Mosiah 3:13)
We are to be acting as if he is already among us.  He has come, more than once.  Although not to the whole world in the big wrapping up scene yet, ye will.  But to us, he has already come and that is how we are to be acting.  We are to be keeping his commandments now.  We are to be living a Christian life now.  We are to be building Zion now.  As the scripture above stated, we are supposed to be coming out of Babylon now.  Not at some future time.  I made covenants in the temple to live the law of consecration now.  I have covenanted to live the laws of the celestial kingdom now.  Not at some future time when we imagine they will be dictated to us.  They already have.
“And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.”  (D&C 105:5)
We have to live the celestial laws to have Zion.  We have to have Zion for the King to take his throne to rule forever.  Zion will not be raised up and then we will try to live accordingly.  We have to be living accordingly to receive Zion.  Even the Lord said so.
“Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.”  (D&C 105:2)
We may have already been redeemed if we were not procrastinating.  If were were living as if he were already here.  Let’s get to work.  Today.  With President Kimball, let’s DO IT!

Manifesteth

Often as I survey the environment around me, I wonder about many of the charismatic gifts.  It is a fascinating world we live in.  Many churches teach that they were done away.  Others teach us that they must ever be upon us and always manifest as a true sign to the believers.  In the world of Mormonism, there is certainly a middle ground.  One I am always watching and listening for.
“But the Son of righteousness shall appear unto them…And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.” (2 Nephi 26:9, 13).
There are those within the church who make the comment that if we have not seen the Savior, than we have obtained nor lived up to all that our religion has to offer.  However, does that really mean we have to see him physically and in person?  I certainly believe it is a possibility, but something that doesn’t seem common place.  To me it seems something much more sublime.  Dreams, Visions, and all the other gifts must be manifest by the Spirit.  Accordingly we are told, that if the Holy Ghost burns the witness into our heart, it is better than if we had physical verification of the Savior.
Rather than separating all the parts of this verse apart, like many others, why don’t we look and see that perhaps the working of mighty miracles, signs, and wonders may be methods of his appearing unto us?  After all, if we can feed the hungry and clothe the naked and it is as if we did it unto him, why could not the same being done to us be a witness of him in our entropy world?  What is even more, what if we were in tune enough the spirit witnessed to us the person was acting in the Savior’s place?
How else would we learn to see the countenance of the Savior in others?  How else would we learn to see the countenance of the Savior in us and if we are a saved being?
I certainly believe in the visions and dreams which give us greater insight into the Savior’s life.  The example of Orson F. Whitney or Melvin J Ballard are great examples of what is possible in that realm.  One of the latest testimonies of the same I have read came from David B. Haight.  It seems to me that after we have learned to recognize the voice of the Spirit manifesting the miracles and signs around us, then we may be granted a greater vision and view of the beyond.
One thing I am sure of, the boasting I sometimes hear is surely not what the individuals are relating.  I remember the tale of a sister who worked in the Washington D.C. Temple.  Apparently she helped close down the temple some evenings.  She then commented in her testimony of that the Savior lives and that he goes to his own.  She then repeated over and over about four times, “I know He lives.”  While it surely may be the case she knows and it seems she was trying to indicate, after all Lorenzo Snow’s experience was similar.  However, the Spirit was not present, and to paraphrase a Joseph Smith comment about those who do not prophesy according to the Spirit, “and there shall be many inquiries after them.”
However, if we have learned to recognize the Spirit through the signs and miracles around us, I know such blessings are available.  But would we ever really know for sure if anyone else knows?  Does it really matter?  If we haven’t learned to walk that path, and to recognize those miracles and signs among us, does it really matter whether or not another member really knows?
“The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.  Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?  Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.” (D&C 88:44-46)  If we have viewed the creation of God by the Spirit, we have seen God.  Why do we need to see more.  This was Marion G. Romney’s testimony given to us again just last General Conference by Elder Hales.
“But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.” (Mormon 9:11)
Lastly, the questions I have posed are answered so clearly by Moroni himself.  He who appeared and was another witness of the spirituality of Joseph.  He surely would not have seen anything if he had not seen the miracles and signs of God all around him.  We know he wondered at the heavens in all their beauty and order.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?  For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens.  And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased?  Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.” (Moroni 7:27-29).
Just because Christ doesn’t walk among us doesn’t mean miracles have ceased.  Just because he dwelleth eternally in the heavens does not mean the mercies do not still descend upon those with faith.  Interestingly, the first example of the miracles that Moroni gives is that of an angel ministering unto us.  Perhaps we are to busy looking beyond the mark and are missing the signs, miracles, and angels all about us.  Indeed, the angels we are called to receive, but also to which we are also called to minister.

The proud always fall

Life continues to come upon me at breakneck pace.  I don’t mind, I am really enjoying it.  There are a number of things I do feel like I am neglecting which are more important.  This trend is not one I could keep up indefinitely.  Portland, Pasco, Spokane all in one week.  Last week it was Pasco, Wenatchee, Moscow, Boise, and more.  This coming week will be all over Northern Utah.  I took the weekend off some to get back into some family history, paid and unpaid.  A chance to do some missionary work (I gave away three copies of the Book of Mormon and had 3 less-actives out to church).  A funeral, visiting with a couple of widows, and time with two babies, and eating that partridge from the pear tree.
Having just written that last paragraph, I remember the time I was accused of telling those sorts of details to make myself look significant.  I often wonder about that when I have mentioned where I have been or what I am doing.  I have for as long as I can remember deliberately never ‘dropping names’.  I honestly think my not doing so has afforded me opportunity to meet more notable than I would have ever had the chance if I had sought them out.  Billionaries, politicians, actors, and who knows.  The best are those who have no name or station, but wisdom to share.  But what about telling of my adventures and travels.  Hmmm, if I do not mention the places I have traveled or the things I have done what would be left for conversation?  Thoughts?  The more I read it seems the less original thoughts there are in our day.  Are we really just to discuss history?  Then again, would we have history if nobody ever recorded where they had been or who they had met?
It seems to me the real problem is when we tell of laurels from ages past.  When we live in a surreal environment where the past keeps being relived with little relevance to the present.  Then I find I am in the presence of insufferable know-it-alls who are doing little in the present field of theater.  On the other end of the coin, there are others who seem to dwell in the present making decisions with little relation to significant points of the past.  With the disconnect we have some terrible side effects on our hands.
“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come: And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.” (D&C 98:24-25)
What do we share with others?  Do we live in a state of hermitage or do we share our experiences with places, people, and thoughts?  It seems we should be living our lives as an open book.  Talking, sharing, conversing, and listening to others.  To truly be learning and walking forward through life.  It really is the spirit that is most important, not necessarily what is shared.
Anyhow, it is not a clear relation, but this was in relation to the scriptures I read this morning.
“And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible.  I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.  Therefore, I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.  And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up; and they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into this own land.  Every one that is proud shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword.” (2 Nephi 23:11-15).
Doing things for our own purpose is pride and arrogancy.  In deed, it is Priestcraft, which interesting the upcoming chapters of 2 Nephi dissect and expound upon.  The proud will have nothing to do than to turn to his own people and flee back to their own land.  Even then, they shall be thrust through, taken down by other wicked individuals.  The truth will not only set you free, it will save you from death and hell and that endless wo.

Scourging?

I promise I do not have a preconceived idea of what I am trying to do here.  This is not solely meant as a series of political treatises.  Perhaps these topics are on my mind and that is why the are jumping out at me.  Who knows.  Tonight’s will be one somewhat in the same vein.

Yesterday I dealt with a land that was to be one of promise.  If the people who possess the land are not righteous and keep the commandments, then the land would be given to another nation.  While that has some scary implications, I find this scripture to be a bit more troubling.

We find the Nephites have now left the Lamanites.  Of course, they are not called by those names yet, but they will be.  There is something fascinating here.  They were those who followed the Lord, kept the commandments, and had to leave their brethren due to the stress they brought upon them.  As they broke away, they did not take on the name of Jesus, or even that of Christ because these people did not know that yet.  They took on the name of Nephi, prophet.  They did not take on the name of the Almighty, Yahweh, Lord, or even Lord God.  They took Nephi.  Due to the tradition this would start, we know this would cause the disputations that would arise in 3 Nephi.  We take it for granted that the name of the church would be after Jesus Christ, but I can sense what their frustration might have been when they were trying to figure out what to call the church after Christ’s coming.  I can see some of the difficulty even in our day.  Anyhow, I am on a tangent.

Nephi takes his people and teaches them to be industrious.  They build buildings, even a temple, and a host of other occupations.  There are the smiths, the carvers, the carpenters, the miners, and the farmers.  Then they give the contrast of those who are not righteous, those who keep not the covenants/commandments.

“…they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.” (2 Nephi 5:24).  There are other scriptures that give us more explanation of those who keep not the covenants.  “…after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (1 Nephi 12:23).  “…their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax.  And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us” (Enos 1:20).  “…after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious…giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God” (Alma 47:36).  “….who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.  Thus they were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols, and the curse of God had fallen upon them…” (Alma 17:24-25).

While I don’t want to give an expose on the characteristics of the ungodly, we do see some of these which are in society and which Latter-day Saints are expressly told to avoid.  The Word of Wisdom is most pronounced.

The contract of the wicked are given to us.  But then comes the clencher.

“And the Lord God said unto me: They (the Lamanites) shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction” (2 Nephi 2:25).

That gives a scary scenario!  These less than obedient individuals are allowed to remain.  Moreover, they will be the one’s who will afflict the righteous when they become not so righteous.  Even more, they will scourge them unto destruction.  That sounds like a pretty good incentive not to lose your blessed and promised state.  Remember, the Lord promised them this land in safety forever if they would remain faithful.  If not, then the promise is they will be scourged, even to destruction.  We see this take place with the Jaredites, we see it with the Nephites later.  The scenario plays out throughout the Old Testament too.

Like most scriptures in the Book of Mormon, this is not the only instance where this counsel is given.  Here are a few more.  “And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance” (1 Nephi 2:24).  “…the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak like unto their brethren; and he will no more preserve them by his matchless and marvelous power, as he has hitherto preserved our fathers” (Mosiah 1:13).  “…the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God” (Helaman 4:11).  “…because of iniquity amongst themselves, yea, because of dissensions and intrigue among themselves they were placed in the most dangerous circumstances” (Alma 53:9).  “…for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions” (Alma 50:21).  “…Surely God shall not suffer that we , who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions” (Alma 46:18).  “But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction ;and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord” (Alma 9:18).  “…I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall treat them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people…” (3 Nephi 16:15).

If we should think this is something only Mormon, it is also Biblical.

“Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before  you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you” (Joshua 23:13).  “…he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.  Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed” (Judges 2:14-15).  “If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.  But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge” (Job 36:11-12).  “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.  Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hands of their enemies, who vexed them…they did evil again before thee: therefore lettest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them…yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give year: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands” (Nehemiah 9:26-30).  “Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.  Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far…” (Jeremiah 5:14-15).

You get the picture.  Also take a look at Chapter 28 of Deuteronomy and Chapter 26 of Leviticus.  The Lord even tells of the time he used Israel for the destruction of another nation because of their wickedness in Deuteronomy 9:4-5, “Speak not thou in thine heart, after the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee.  Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

We see how yesterday we described how the Lord would supplant a nation with another nation.  A scourge could certainly be so great so as to replace a nation by violence.  It doesn’t seem that would be the plan for this nation, just that other nations are being allowed to scourge us.  It is an entirely different treatise to show that the Lord will protect and fight the battles for the righteous, perhaps I can cover some of those later (See D&C 98 for a good start).  But here we are showing that other nations can scourge us due to not being valiantly obedient.

These promises are also against those who are being allowed to scourge us.  This scripture shows that God is no respecter of persons.  Those doing the scourging can be scourged if they later reject great obedience to eternal law.

“And they shall be a scourge unto the people of this land.  Nevertheless, when they shall have received the fulness of my gospel, then if they shall harden their hearts against me I will return their iniquities upon their own heads, saith the Father” (3 Nephi 20:28).

So we are to be faithful or else have the chances of scourging.  Just how disobedient a people have to be for scourging I am not sure.  After all, one of the scriptures I referenced earlier (Helaman 4:11) stated that just having blatant disobedience AMONG them could bring upon these problems.  A bit of a Lot scenario.  Just because there are a few righteous won’t save the rest of them.

The righteous will have some scourging on no account of their own.  What are we to do then?  “…if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek ye revenge, ye shall be rewarded.  But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you” (D&C 98:23-24).  You go on being obedient and faithful.

I should be wrapping this up.  I cannot help but see what applications this could have to us as a people, a church, and as a nation.  As we are faithful, the Lord will fight our battles for us and keep us from harm.  I do believe this could be by giving us warning and by thwarting the adversary himself or through us.  When we find we are more and more vulnerable, perhaps we should not be so quick to point fingers, find vengeance, but to look inward.  Find out what we are doing that appears to be lessening our promises from heaven.  Does it appear we are being scourged?  9/11 looks like a scourge of some type.  The scriptures don’t say the people who scourge us are always wicked, half the time they are only ignorant of God’s laws.

Remember, if we bear it not patiently, it is meted out as just measure unto us.  Like President Kimball told of the story of the last summer.  When they found out one was going to betray them/Christ they looked inward and asked, “Is it I?”  Perhaps we should do the same.  When we are afflicted and scourged by other nations, however small, we should ask, “Is it I?”  Rather than looking at them who did the scourging with a condescension and looking for revenge, we should look inward and repent.

I know of only one politician currently running for President who subscribes to this idea.  Perhaps we should seek them out and learn more of their ideas.  After all, they appear to be the most Christian.

“But behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed” (Mormon 4:5).

More of the same; Life

Time keeps ticking by too quickly sometimes.  I have so much to write but not as much time as I would like to do it in.  Such is the limitations in the probationary game.  There are plenty of achievements to report though in the past week or two.
This evening I spoke with Gerald Neuffer in Columbia, Missouri.  In a most random turn of events, I noticed that a Jenna Neuffer became friends with my friend, Kami Lowe on Facebook.  With a name as rare as Neuffer, I knew all odds were in my favor of having a near shared ancestry.  I sent Miss Neuffer a message and asked for her Grandfather’s name and phone number.  Which she supplied.  Come to find out, I even had Gerald already in my family history.  I just had his first name Myron (Gerald is his middle name but he goes by it.  Probably due to remove confusion with his father’s name being Myron).  He knew the Andra’s well and said he remembered Millie, who was just younger than him.  Funny how small a world it is.  He went to get his PhD and never left Columbia after moving there in 1947.  We conversed for a little while he dug for information verifying I was not this total stranger calling for his family history for some other sinister reason.  He sounds like a good guy.  He asked if I was doing genealogy.  I confirmed I was and that I was the family historian.  He then happily related he was basically that for the Neuffer/Nuffer family.  I was definitely glad to hear that.  What is the chances of the Andra historian running into the Nuffer historian in Columbia Missouri?  Very far removed from Preston, Idaho!
I received a phone call from Jacqui yesterday about the Phibbs/Ross/Beachell family.  I tried returning her call and spoke with her mother for a few minutes.  I am glad she finally returned my message.  I only left it in May!  That was before we moved!
In other news, there was an e-mail that found its way to me from Robert in Fresno, California.  A most interesting question.  He asked if I knew of any of the siblings of my Constance Jorgensen.  I always felt Constance most likely had siblings but was never able to find any.  Between her parents marriage and Constance’s birth, there is twelve years.  I was sure there were other siblings.  Olavus and Hanna Mathea Jorgensen immigrated with Constance and settled in Richmond, Utah.  Constance married Ole Christiansen and gave birth to my Great Great Grandmother Martha Christiansen who is the mother of my Lillian Coley.  Constance died in Portland, Oregon while visiting and was buried there.  In the whole episode, I knew some day I would have to do some research in Norway to find the rest of this family.  Well, Robert e-mailed me asking me if his grandmother, Amanda Jorgensen Swensen could be a child of Olavus and Hanna.  He produced a copy of a hand written copy pedigree she had produced in 1935.  Sure enough, everything lined up.  Well, Amanda was born another 12 years after my Constance (24 after the marriage of the parents).  She immigrated to Utah a good 10 years after her parents and sibling came over and settled in Logan, Utah.  By the time she arrived her parents were both deceased and her sister had married.  It seems that she never knew she was only 15 miles from her parent’s graves and her sister.  The exciting news is that Amanda gave us the names of her siblings, none of which made it to America to her knowledge.  We added the 5 siblings.  Don’t know their ages, but definitely gives some more to go from.  That will give us much more to go from when the time for the Norway research begins.
I am happy to report I completed the New Testament this evening.  I am one day late.  If I had read the one chapter a day, I would have finished yesterday.  Last weekend put me just off enough that I did not catch up in time.  I completed the Book of Mormon on schedule this year on August 27th.  Now I can go through some General Conference talks and some other reading for the year.  Next year is the Doctrine and Covenants which you can almost read three times in a year.  I think I will just do it twice though.
The ward continues to blossom when it comes to family history.  It seems like people are doing their homework, research, and compiling regularly.  I have e-mails at least once or twice a week for help on something.  That is an indication something is going on.  That is definitely something which is a good thing.
Online the family history work continues to reveal new and interesting things.  I received an e-mail from a Homer Mason.  He was inquiring concerning the Jonas family in Washington State.  Come to find out, Anna Jonas is his Grandmother.  Anna was the daughter of William Jonas who was the brother to my Joseph Jonas; father to my great grandfather Joseph Nelson Jonas.  He knows very little so it has been fun introducing him to the family.  I have especially enjoyed his research on a line of the family I have not been able to crack.  It has proved not to be an easy line for him, but with his living in Yakima, he is much closer and capable of doing the work than I can.  I really hope I am accepted to the University of Idaho for Law School.  Then I could work on the Jonas, Ross, and Sharp lines in Washington State.
Stepping back to the Andra family.  This past weekend Amanda and I took a trip to Washington DC for our monthly temple visit.  But a new aspect as emerged.  My Great Uncle and Aunt, Donald and Lolane Andra, are now serving a mission in the temple.  We went up Friday night and stayed with Amanda’s Uncle and Aunt in Springfield.  Saturday we picked up Don and Lolane and made our way to Mt. Vernon.  They thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  It was the 18th Century Fair so there were masses of people.  Don and Lolane are good and quick on their feet.  Despite being in their 60’s they move well.  Don reminds me so much of my Great Grandpa.  I get a kick out of both of them.  We were limited on time as they had to be to the temple to work later in the afternoon.  We did probably the fastest walking tour of Mt. Vernon I can imagine.  We zoomed all over the grounds, through the fair, and then back up to their apartment to change and attend the temple.
On a side note, as I went into the endowment room, I noticed the officiator’s name was John Whatcott.  I looked at him and asked if he was from Kanosh.  He looked a bit surprised at me and said he grew up there.  I told him of the Whatcott’s I knew.  After the session he asked me to remain in the celestial room so we could visit.  We had a great visit.  Come to find out he knows Don and Lolane from St. George.  Small world.  Don knew which session we were on and waited for us to leave the celestial room.  He walked us down to the next floor and we parted again.  I met Don’s Home Teaching companion, Elder Toronto, while picking up Amanda’s Aunt’s glasses from the temple lost and found.  Funny how interlinked the world is, at least in the church.
I have not made mention of it yet, but I am going from contractor status to full associate status at Bank of America.  Meaning, I will be an employee of Bank of America and not an at will person filling a seat.  Many companies now do the contractor business as they can then hire on employees after they have shown their worth.  I must have done well enough for them to offer me employment starting October 1.  I am excited.  Business has been picking up.  I don’t know if it is from the crunch in the market or what.  Bank of America definitely stands on higher ground than those feeling the squeeze or sinking under the housing market.  One thing is for sure, with this rate cut, we are expecting the next month to be hectic.
My birthday came and went just like every other day or the year.  I am back to being congratulated for it being my unbirthday.  I received all sorts of e-mails (which will take me a good week to respond to them all), many messages on Facebook, and a couple of cards and gifts.  Amanda and I enjoyed a nice big meal at Chili’s for dinner.  We joked about it being our triannual beef night.  It is birthdays or anniversary that I get to eat a steak.  Monday was a 12 oz Ribeye.  Mmmm, so good.  That is of course not mentioning the Idaho potatos.  Amanda got me a shirt, a jump drive, and something else which slips me at the moment.  I also received a journal, a few checks, and some other random memorabilia.  I honestly don’t feel any different now than I think I did when I was 19.  Except the fact my knee was reconstructed in 2004 and doesn’t give me the issues it did at 19.  So I guess I feel better than at 19.  I have filled out in stature, even added a little padding in the middle,  and perhaps a little wiser.  Life is good.
My blessings continue to flow despite my inept nature.  I continue to be given the little peaceable things of the kingdom from time to time.  They make the living and endurance all worth it.  Line upon line right?  Sometimes I wish it was more page upon page, but alas, I am not the one running the show.  Church goes well.  I feel spiritually well.  Not the muscular behemoth I would like to be spiritually, but I feel strong enough to do what needs to be done and any forseeable adventure.