A duck story and the Gores

Here is a picture of our latest visitors here in Oklahoma City.  Kevin and Jean Gore from Walkden, Greater Manchester, England.  They visited and stayed with us for two evenings and about two days.

I first come to know the Gores in 1998 as I was preparing to leave for my mission to the UK.  The Bishop from the Hazelton Ward, Paul Tateoka, sent word through his brother in my ward, Ted Tateoka, that I needed to call this couple from the UK.

The Gores were staying with one of the missionaries who had brought them into the church, who lived 5 miles or so down the road from me.  I called the Meacham home and had a nice visit with Kevin for about 30 minutes or so.  I obviously had my mission call, but I do not recall knowing that they lived in my mission.  Kevin knew I was in the mission so he told me a few interesting things and we hung up the phone.

I admit I completely forgot about this conversation with Kevin Gore until my first Sunday serving in the Eccles Ward (now Swinton) of the Manchester England Stake.  I stood there shaking hands with members and introducing myself when a man asked if I was Elder Ross from Hazelton, Idaho.  I apparently looked dumbfounded so he informed me that I had spoken with him on the phone before my mission.  Granted, this was the first time I laid eyes on him.  Well, that started a relationship that has now come down through the years.  I served in the Eccles Ward for about 6 months, although since there were two sets of missionaries, me and my companion had the other half of the ward.

The Gores were probably one of the closest families I had in that ward, although there were a couple.  Before we left late in 1999, Kevin and Jean Gore treated all four of the missionaries to a very nice roasted duck dinner.

Time has a way of marching on, and so it has done with this friendship.  Brad Hales, Amy Hales, and I visited the Gores again in the summer of 2003 when we went to England for a convert baptism of a lady who Elder Hales and I had once taught (in Runcorn Ward).  I think we spent two evenings with them at that time, although our time was limited because they were working and we had other people in the area we also visited, but Jean made us a roasted duck dinner again!  We did not request it, but she made it, and it was fabulous.  We again enjoyed our time with them, although limited.

The Gores were kind enough to invite us to the wedding of their son, Ian, in Springville, Utah in 2004.  Brad Hales and I visited, partook of the food (no roasted duck!), and enjoyed a good evening with our British friends.  The Gores came to visit Utah in 2008 again, but we were only able to enjoy a light dinner at Olive Garden together (again, no duck, only in England!).

Amanda and I made the trek over the water again in 2008.  This time we again spent 2 nights with the Gores in their home on Trinity Crescent.  Both in 2003 and 2008 I knew the neighborhood well enough I could still drive to the home without much difficulty.  Jean once again made her now famous roasted duck dinner!  I honestly think this is the only times I have ever eaten duck in the past decade, if ever in my life (other than what they call duck at the Chinese buffet).  The Gores were more than kind in allowing us to stay with them, use their computers, talk family history, and even hosted a little get together of other members of the Swinton Ward I still knew and asked about.

Here we are in 2011, 13 years later after the phone conversation, and the Gores have come to visit us!  Sorry, we did not treat them to a roasted duck dinner.  It would have been an insult to Jean’s cooking.  Their son, Ian, had moved from Springville, Utah to Bentonville, Arkansas.  Kevin and Jean wanted to come down to visit the Oklahoma City Temple and, we feign to believe, us.  We drove out to Pops Soda Shop in Arcadia.  We also ate out at our favorite little Mexican joint and then we treated them to capers and artichoke pasta the night we made them dinner.  We played a couple of games of Ticket to Ride and just enjoyed our time together.  Thanks for being such great friends and keeping in contact through the years!

When is the next time we will see the Gores?  And, the question you all want to know, will there by duck involved?

How to bury a prophet

I thought this article was fascinating and insightful.  Enough so that I am replicating it here.  It is from the OnFaith series at The Washington Post.

Associate Professor, Religious History

Kathleen Flake is associate professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University. more »

The Latter-day Saints buried their prophet on Saturday. Thousands attended the service in person and millions more faithful watched in chapels around the globe, as well as on the internet. What they saw was an unusually personal ceremony for a very public man who led and to large degree defined the contemporary Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Notwithstanding the numbers and titles of participants, Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was a family affair both in word and sacrament. It was an extraordinary display of what makes Mormonism tick.

Gordon Bitner Hinckley died at the age of 97, having been in the church’s leading councils since 1958 and served as its fifteenth president since 1995. He shaped the church through a half century of growth in 160 countries. A third of its present membership joined during his tenure as president. His counsel to them was more practical than sublime: be better neighbors, stand a little taller, and choose the right. He was much loved for living these virtues. Displaying remarkable vigor late in life, he traveled to meet church members on every continent, responding to their needs with curricular, welfare, and building programs whose costs are impossible to imagine and no one will admit.

He met the press also to a degree unequaled and with an openness heretofore unknown among Mormonism’s leadership. This effort too was largely successful. No less a cynic than CBS’s Mike Wallace admitted Hinckley “fully deserves the almost universal admiration that he gets.” The qualifier is a necessary reference to many who distrusted Hinckley’s representations of Mormonism as Christian and his insistence that marriage was properly limited to a man and a woman. At the other extreme, to critics within who felt he gave up too much in a Larry King interview, Hinckley responded simply: “I know the doctrines of this church as well as any.” His outreach was interfaith, not ecumenical. There was no stauncher advocate of Joseph Smith’s claim to have restored the fullness of the Christian gospel and church than Gordon Hinckley. He was, as Newsweek’s Jon Meacham said, “a charming and engaging man, an unlikely prelate — and all the more impressive for that.”

The same could be said of his funeral. It was an unlikely but impressive mix of the sacramental and the mundane. This is so because Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was no exception to Mormonism’s general rule that families bury their dead. They design and execute the memorial program. They say the prayers and perform the ordinances that send their loved ones off to the next life. Yes, the chapel in this case was the LDS Conference center that held 21,000 mourners; the lay pastor who conducted the meeting was Thomas Monson, Hinckley’s presumptive successor as “prophet, seer, and revelator;” and the music was provided by the 300-plus Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But, in all other essentials, the service was performed by the family. A son gave the invocation. Monson conducted at the request of the family, he said, not by ecclesiastical right. Only one dignitary was mentioned as among the mourners: a representative of the American president. When his name was given, the camera’s briefest glance away from the pulpit to the audience gave the only hint of famous others.

The eulogy was given by a daughter who described her father’s life as half-way point in a now seven-generation story of sacrifice, death, and survival that is the Mormon saga. Explicitly gathering the millions watching into that story, she declared “we are one family sharing an inheritance of faith.” Friends with high titles spoke next. Though the requisite list of his ecclesiastical accomplishments was given, it was subordinated to his success as a courageous and amusing friend and a successful husband and father. Another daughter gave the benediction: “we are buoyed by the knowledge that we will see him again as family, as friends.”

Hinckley’s sons and daughters with their spouses led the casket out of the hall and between an honor guard of church authorities. Cameras followed the mourners, focusing on his five children, 25 grandchildren and 62 great grandchildren who formed the cortege to the cemetery. There, possibly most surprisingly, the eldest son dedicated the grave without fanfare. Notwithstanding the presence of the church’s chief leaders, the son stepped forward to pronounce: “By the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, I dedicate this grave for the remains of Gordon B. Hinckley, until such time as thou shall call him forth.” Then, the hierarchs were “dismissed,” as Monson put it. Finally, as the church teaches is the case in the afterlife, only the family remained.

Families are, as Latter-day Saints like to say, “forever.” What they don’t say is that the church is not forever. It is only the instrument for endowing families with the right and duty to mediate the gifts of the gospel to their members; thereby, sealing the willing among them as families in the life to come. This was Hinckley’s message as a prophet. As he would have it and as the best Mormon funerals do, his message was embodied and enacted by his family who blessed him in death, no less than in life. This is how the Latter-day Saints, at least, bury a prophet.