How to write an Obituary

I have done genealogy long enough that I have read thousands of obituaries.  Let me give you an idea about a few things you should include in an obituary and some things you should not.  This is my idea on how to write a proper obituary.

First and foremost, an obituary is a public service announcement.  You will say good-bye, or bid farewell, to your loved one at a funeral or grave-side service.  But an obituary is not just for you, it is an opportunity to put the public and creditors on notice about the death of an individual.  Next, it is an opportunity to invite friends, community, and distant family to grieve with you.  This is not just for people to come to the funeral, but for the community and others to rally around and give some service, emotional or pecuniary, to the deceased’s estate and to the family.  I have noticed the western United States tends to do better at their obituary writing where the east skimps on this important information.  Additionally, the more famous, the less vital information that is shared (I am unconvinced by their reasoning, but may be for good reasons).

Each week I roll through the obituaries of a half-dozen newspapers looking for names that catch my eye.  I am fortunate enough to have some fairly rare family names.  But I do have some family who marry into more common names so I often will look at an obituary to see if the individual is related or not.  Then I scan to see if they really are related, or just a similar name to an individual I know.

I also worked for a law firm at one time that had me keep an eye on obituaries to see if a client with a will had passed away.  Another firm dealing with public relations had me search the obituaries for family members of clients and we would send cards to the client if one appeared.  Lastly, in a service position, I often tried to track members of an organization who had disappeared and I looked first for the older people in the obituaries of the state in which they last lived before attempting other means.

I am just indicating that obituaries have a valid purpose beyond some sweet, potentially selfish, family reason to share their love of the decedent with others.

Therefore, here are a few items to include in every obituary.  These are the items the disinterested public wants to learn in an obituary.  I have included a copy of a good obituary below.

  • What is the individual’s full name?

Please include the full name, spell out the middle name.  You do not need to put the maiden name as the name will be listed with the parents.

  • What is the individual’s parent’s names?

Please include the full name of both parents.  This is where you do want to include the maiden name of the mother.  Usually, I will write the mother’s name first as a maiden name, and then the father’s name to not worry about determining what the real last name is.  Hence, something like, “Richard was the second son born to the marriage of Jane Ethel Jones and Harvey John Smith.”  Mention the marriage if it exists.  If one of the parents are dead, put ‘late’ in front of the parents name (if both are dead, you will mention that farther down and can drop the late).  If the deceased was adopted, please state this in the obituary.  You do not have to give the biological parents, if you know them, but just show, “Jane Ethel Jones and Harvey John Smith adopted Richard when he was 17 months old.”

  • What is the individual’s birth date?

Please include the entire birth date of the deceased.  This is especially important if it is a common name like John Henry Smith.  Even if it is not a common name, include it because uncommon names tend to repeat names in their families which could still muddy the waters.

  • Where was the individual born?

It is not uncommon for individuals to move in our society.  This is even more true of couples who retire to Florida or Arizona.  An obituary is published in Queen Creek, Arizona and not in their home in Montana, and the next thing we know we are searching for an obituary for someone and an apparent match appears in Arizona but we having nothing to confirm the connection.

  • Who did the individual marry?

I completely understand if you want to maintain some privacy to the spouse of an individual, especially if they are still living.  If so, just list the first name.  No matter how much you might hate that first wife, list them.  If you really want to spite them, put their whole name.  Just make a reference to their divorce and put the next marriage.  But please list it, some states still leave property to a spouse after death, even after divorce.  Do not cut yourself short.  If there are other children from such a marriage, list them.  This is a common courtesy if you are not on speaking terms to let them know of the death.  If a spouse has predeceased, just write something like, “Jim married Belinda Carlisle on 4 February 1920, she predeceased him on 23 March 1984.”

  • When and where did the individual marry?

These items too can be useful for genealogy and legal research.  If married in a community property state, or even a state where family does not know of additional property, there can be implications.  An obituary may be one of the only ways this information will be out in the world on a free basis.  Working from obituaries, if a marriage date or location is not given, then a presumption arises that they were not or the family does not even know this information.

  • When did the individual die?

You would think an obituary might make this obvious.  However, let me tell you where this can become a problem.  Imagine you cut out an obituary and place it in a book somewhere.  20, 30, or even 100 years later someone is looking for that death date.  They do not want to walk down to the local library in another part of the world where the newspaper was published to spend a long time to find the exact page on which the obituary was located to figure out when exactly “last Friday” was on the calendar.  In our day and age with government records, it is much easier to ascertain the day that someone died.  But if you have John Henry Smith, with a hundred or so born in the US in a given year, that obituary with a date will be much more pleasing.

  • Where did the individual die?

This one might sound odd, but it also applies.  Let’s say I am a 2nd cousin who has not been in contact with Uncle George since 1978.  The last mailing address I have is in one town but I do not know if they still live there and I would like to search for their current address or a phone number.  Well, if they moved over just a few towns I will not find them, if they have a common name.  Most people die at a location fairly close to their home.  This will make it easier for the lawyer, governmental entity, or family member to contact you should they want to.  They will find you, but not listing it will just delay the inevitable.  Also, government entities often will list the location of last benefit, but that is not the same as death location for genealogical purposes.

  • When and where is the funeral?

This is one that many obituaries do not forget.  After all, we want people to come bearing love, condolences, and love.  Some even measure how great a person was by the number of individuals at a funeral.  However, I make mention because a few obituaries do not list this information.  I have read an obituary or two that I am left wondering where the funeral is at to send flowers or a card.  I only find out on the day of the service when the newspaper publishes it.  By that point it is too late to send flowers.  While cheaper for me, some people probably would not have minded attending the funeral.

Lastly, I do not mean to indicate that other things should not be included.  Military service, favorite hobbies, and special thanks should probably be included.  If a person has dedicated their lives to the Masons, a community, a church, or employment, that should probably be listed.  Please do not spend too much time on it though.  Some newspapers charge over a certain amount of lines too.

One last item that I would highly recommend, but understand for privacy reasons if you do not wish to do this.  List all the children of the decedent.  A little hint about the daughters, list them with the husband (if still alive) and married name.  Hence, “Jim is survived by 2 children, Molly (Kevin) Jenkins of Sacramento and Richard (Karen) Schmidt of San Francisco.  Jim was also predeceased by his daughter, Diane (Gary) Warner”

It is also common to list out the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Please do not name them.  Usually it takes space and the usual reader cannot tell which child belongs to whom, so it is just type we skim over.  Close family know who they are, the less-interested public will skim.  I read an obituary once that had like 11 children and they listed out all 42 grandchildren!!  They did not even give the last name of the grandchildren so even a person who does family history would have found the list useless (and if all the same last name, still just as useless).  List them in the funeral program, not the obituary.

Here I have to put in a note regarding our current society and identity theft.  The theft of a decedent’s information is somewhat limited in use.  First and foremost, report to the government immediately the death so that the Social Security Number and other relevant identification routes are stopped and that the government will be put on notice if someone attempts to use it later.  The probate court should take care of the rest.  Even if the hospital or funeral home is supposed to take care of it, make sure you check it out and report it yourself to both the state and federal government offices.  The information is not often independently valuable unless the government benefits are available.  Too often the family does not report it in time and the next thing they know someone else is using the information and even filing taxes under the decedent’s name and government identification numbers.  If you want closure with your loved one, do what you can to keep others from perpetuating their identity!  It will save you loads of heart ache to do a little effort immediately, like when you are writing the obituary!

I hope this helps some on how to write an obituary.  Keep it simple and do not put too much affection in.  After all, most of the public just wants the facts to determine if we know the person.  If we want sappy, we will come to the family, or send a card/flowers.  Or, if we have business, we now know we need to watch out for the probate notice.

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!

Witness of the book

Perhaps I may be a little crazy.  I believe we fully and completely are enabled to witness miracles in our day.  Just like the days of old, it seems the miracles are probably all around us.  I always take the scriptures to mean that if we are in tune it isn’t that more miracles will happen to us (although faith may lead us to ask for more and receive more) but that we will more more recognizing of the miracles about us.  Hence, the great crime in seeking signs.  There are those always looking for signs to confirm or denounce their course of action.  Those people are like the waves of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.  But those who live by faith will not be seeking for signs, but will recognize them all about them.  We have one such miracle happening nearly every day around us.
“And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth.” (2 Nephi 27:11).
I just never got this verse until my latest reading.  Even then, I may not still get it.  However, how in the world does the most vile of sinners read this book by the power of Christ?  Now, those who are familiar with it know this scripture is talking about the Book of Mormon.  The whole chapter and some previous talk about the coming of the Book of Mormon coming forth.  Viola!  The whole miracle of the book coming forth is by the power of Christ.  There is no other way this book could possibly exist except by the power of Christ.
Every day, wherever a page of the Book of Mormon is read, even when a Book of Mormon is trashed, it is by the power of Christ.  The mere existance of the book is a testimony of Christ working in our day.  It is not that the book will be read through the power of Christ like I had always thought, but it will be read, dropped, burned, ripped, coveted, loved, cherished, and hated all by the power of Christ.  Everything that happens to it is by the power of Christ which made it available to us.
It goes on more.  It will be through the power of Christ that all things are revealed.  It isn’t necessarily by a prophet, capital P or not.  It isn’t necessarily through the Priesthood, the church, or even the kingdom of God.  Just the fact that knowledge, history, wisdom, and all these things are flooding the earth is a continuing testament of the Son of God.
The next verse goes back to the Book of Mormon.
“Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witness shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein. And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his owrd unto the children of men; for the Lord God hath said that the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead.” (2 Nephi 27:12-13).
This is jumping back to references in Isaiah.  The book should whisper from the dust and the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead.  What a strange and interesting idea.  I haven’t a clue what it all means.
What we do know is there are witnesses to the book who are faithful.  I always wondered why there were not more recent witnesses to the plates.  There was a time when I prayed to become a witness to the plates and the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  However, it seems these witnesses are to speak as if it were from the dead.  It takes faith to believe the testimony of a deceased person.  Just like Lazarus wanting to go back from the dead to warn his brothers.  If they won’t believe Moses or Joseph Smith, why would they believe a modern or living individual.  It doesn’t seem as necessary.  As I say that, I have no doubt there are those who have received such a witness in our day, but they are not called upon to bear that witness.  Just like Mary Whitmer, or Vilate Kimball, they receive witnesses for their own testimony but not to share with the world at large.
I may show some ignorance of church history, beyond their testimony written in ink, the extent to which the three or eight witnesses were called to bear that testimony also seems limited.  Martin Harris and Joseph Smith seem to be the only ones who went out of their way to share the testimony with others.  Many of them served as missionaries, some went on to convert some very notable names in the church, but I am not aware of them going out of their way beyond being questioned about their witness of the Book of Mormon.
Many receive the witness of the Book of Mormon but how many actually receive the vision, hefting, dream of the plates?  I don’t know?  Does it matter?  After all, the testimony of the Spirit is all that is important.
Then again, do we really need to see the plates.  If we have the Spirit of God, we will recognize the miracle of the cheap missionary handout version sitting in the glove compartment of the car.  If we have the Spirit of God, we will already have a witness of the Book of Mormon, whether or not we have a witness of the plates upon which they rested.

TV’s and such

It seems to be one of those weeks where there isn’t necessarily a whole lot to tell.  So to make an entry, and anything with a little length, I will offer a smattering of thoughts from all over the spectrum.
A big Happy Birthday to Chris Horsley and Amanda Smith on the 14th.  I sent them both e-mails and wished them the best.  It is my Aunt Jackie’s birthday on the 25th, so Happy Birthday ahead of time.
Tuesday night Amanda and I went to pay a visit to Doris Coley.  She lives over in Laurel Fork area.  Amanda has worked with her for some time at Macy’s.  She lured Amanda over there in pursuit of a free TV and DVD player.  I really don’t care if we own either and would actually prefer not to.  That is just a little more weight I will have to worry about moving in a year and another distraction to take away some of what little time we mortals have been given.  Somehow I had come to believe it was a venture where we would go over and pick up the newly acquired property and head back home.  We made an evening of it.  We chatted about the nice lovely pleasantries of the life at Macy’s.  Conversation turned to life in general and school.  Of course I did a full analysis to see if her Coley line could in any way be related to mine (Hers is several hundreds of years in North Carolina making at least that long of a connection seeing how mine came directly from England).
She had a nice little piano in her living room that also became conversation.  She invited me to play it and before long I was in my own land while the women pondered paths I didn’t care to walk.  Before the night had ended we sang some hymns and even ended in a discussion about religion.  I ended the evening with giving her a copy of the Book of Mormon and basically a first discussion.  Sometimes I feel I am not as bold as I once was.  Honestly, it seems that one relies upon their companion so much to bear testimony and Amanda had no clue of the missionary ways that I think that is the only reason it felt pretty weak.  Sadly, I think both of us relied on trying to convince too much rather than just bearing testimony and letting the Spirit drive it to the heart.  Amanda left thinking we had been too bold and I left thinking we had not been bold enough.  She called us a few days later and made sure we were still planning on coming back.  Either way, we don’t seem to have offended.  I look forward to a return visit and whether or not she read any of the newly introduced sacred scripture.
Tonight I paid a visit to the Family History Library outside my normal working hours.  We had a pretty severe thunderstorm this evening and the two ladies working inside decided to go watch the storm for a minute.  Sadly, they left their keys in the library.  I rushed down thinking I would find two drowned older ladies.  Luckily enough they had only locked themselves out of the library, and not the building.  So I spent some time visiting with them about the Merrick’s of Maine/Massachusetts.  They decided to leave early so I played the piano and practiced some singing until a member of the Stake Presidency appeared to practice basketball.
Tuesday night at the library also proved to be interesting.  For the second week in a row a young man who is a recent convert came into the library to do some research.  He appeared with his laptop last week with PAF newly downloaded.  He started putting in his family.  He is preparing to go to the temple and wanted to do some of his own names for baptisms in about two weeks.  He never even knew who his Dad was last week.  This week he came back with dates and places and interestingly, was able to link him into the Cosby line.  Once we did that we were able to take him back to Jamestowne and even followed the line back 1,000 years.  He comes from a noble line in England.  He was amazed to find ancestors on both of his lines whose temple work had been done.  Some as early as 1932 in the Mesa, Arizona Temple.  I look forward to seeing him this coming Tuesday when we run these names through TempleReady.
Last Sunday we had our Stake Priesthood Meeting.  We were introduced to the new Mission President, President Millburn.  I prefer him much more than the last one.  He seems much more humble and able to connect with an audience.  In addition, he gave a great talk on fishing.  He is an expert at it, that is for sure.  Who else uses a stomach pump on a fish?  President Mullins (who interrupted my singing and playing tonight) gave a talk about various topics.  One was that individuals in the stake are not carrying their weight in fast offerings.  I thought that was interesting.  None of the other talks I remember.  However, the power in the singing was easily felt.
Today I was branded again at work due to a broker’s dishonesty.  A man gave me a complete sob story about why an appraisal was sufficient.  He manipulated my inexperience in working someone else’s loan, added with the other person not recording what they had done, and my not being thorough enough to catch the little red flags has now cost the bank a loan which is considered a risk and investors will not buy it.  Due to my approving of an updated appraisal, that wasn’t really updated, and the bank always standing by their word somebody got away with money that probably would not have been approved.  Like speeding tickets with points, I have now gained my first and hope they will wear off over time…  It is a good thing I no longer have access to that broker’s information for I would surely give him a phone call and let him know how sorely disappointed I am in him.  At any rate, “Let God choose between me and thee and reward thee according to thy deeds.”
Terry McComb’s funeral is going to be this coming Saturday.  I so wish I could be there.  Alas, we can’t do everything we want in life.  His obituary appeared today in the Times News.  I looked at it this morning at work.  I am looking forward to having my own clipping from the newspaper for my records.  I guess I will just have to pay a visit to the cemetery next time I get back to Idaho.  I so planned on spending a day or two in Branson on the way home for a lesson or two.  I guess I won’t now, at least stay for lessons.
We are headed up to Washington, DC again this weekend to attend the temple.  I am very much looking forward to it.  I have very much felt my faith increase this week and my soul feeling greatly nourished after some experiences in the scriptures.  2 Peter 2 and Ether 12 were powerful this week.
We received the Church News today and I read the parts about the new Brazil Temple.  I was thinking how excited President Faust must be to have the temple dedication coming up and realized he had passed away.  I guess he will be there at any rate, but not with a mortal body.  I wonder who will be called next.  I surely hope it is someone independent from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  I certainly think tradition and order are a good thing but it is always nice to shake things up from time to time.  Too often people get so rigid about the way things should be done we forget the role of inspiration being mixed in the bag.  I would really like to see a President of the Church not be the most senior Apostle.  How would that be for shaking things up?  We need more John Winder’s, Reuben Clark’s, Jedediah Grant’s, Hyrum Smith’s, and Charles Nibley’s in the world.
Lastly, I will end on a political note.  I haven’t had a political candidate really catch much of the sympathies of my heart.  They seem so canned and stale I can’t stand it.  However, Obama gave a comment this week about opening up government.  Boy, if reading an article ever stopped my heart, that was one of them.  A candidate willing to give full disclosure to the public?  If that becomes his whole purpose in life, I will most certainly vote for that man.  Well, that is only after he drops universal health care.  After my experiences in England,  will never support government ran health care.  But open disclosure?  How refreshing.  That requires more effort.  That requires doing things you know the whole country can be privy to.  Where would Bill Clinton be if he had known that?  How would things be different with Bush?  Either of them?  Watergate?  Iran-Contra?  New Deal?  War?  How would the world be different?

Addressing Gettysburg

As the title seems to denote, there has been a visit to Gettysburg.  It turned out to be a good experience and things really cannot have gone better.  There are a couple of pictures added to the Virginia Living Album.  As usual, I don’t know if you can take a good picture of me.  Well, at least as long as the sun seems to be attempting to burn your eyes out of your head.  I take on a scary brow which raises the cheeks and I don’t think I resemble myself or a really a human for that matter.  Enjoy the pictures of the scenery and a beautiful wife.
We met with Matt and Sarah Harris over dinner on Friday to plan our trip.  We were to meet at their house at 6:15 AM and we would begin the drive to Pennsylvania.  Sarah and Amanda decided they would listen to Harry Potter all the way up and back.  I instantly knew my ears would be hurting and I would be sleeping on the way up.  Amanda and Sarah did the driving duty up.  Matt and I passed out in the backseat and did not wake much until we passed into Pennsylvania hours later.
We drove to the visitors center and got a bit of a grasp of what was happening for the day.  We walked to the Cyclorama and watched two films.  Once definitely with the flowery language of the 60’s with the grainy picture to match.  The second film was a History Channel special that was much more up to date and easier to pay attention to.
We wound our way to the back patio of the Cyclorama and caught a tour of Cemetery Ridge.  It was interesting to have a park ranger give the history lesson.  We walked clear out to the Copse of Trees and the Angle and listend to what took place there.  It really was a tragic story on the part of the Confederates.  Everything that could go wrong did that day.  It was interesting to listen to Matt afterwards and how he was taught at BYU the Union was meant to win and heaven’s power was on their side.  I am not so sure if I agree with that especially since my understanding of history is that the Saints were praying for the South more than they were for the North.  Funny our take on history now paints that the North was the one we were praying for.  Times change right and so does our interpretation of history.
Perhaps I should qualify that statement.  Not stepping into the racism issue but purely from a Constitutional standpoint.  If a group of people wanted to live their life their own way, especially according to the dictates of their religion it should be granted to them.  The Saints had fled the country and wholeheartedly believed it was their choice to leave their country in order to openly practice their religion.  They were against slavery, despite what others might say against the church for the race issue, as Joseph Smith proved by making it a core tenet of his running for the Presidency.
Anyhow, back on the subject.  We enjoyed the tour of Cemetery Ridge and also enjoyed a ranger giving us history at Little Round Top.  We went and visited all the large monuments the various states have put up.  You can see the pictures of the largest ones that we visited.  A couple of them like Pennsylvania are huge compared to others.
On a side note as we were driving through Gettysburg we turned down Reynolds St rather than Reynolds Ave.  Trying to figure out what was going on and getting back on the right track, grabbing myself a handful of Cheez-ums, and trying to pay attention to three others in the car I accidentally ran a stop sign.  Of all the luck in the world, there was a police car waiting at the intersection who clearly saw my inattentative driving.  Of course she pulled me over and issued a citation.  Yep, what would have been a $30 trip to Pennsylvania increased $107.  By the time our visit with Officer Powers ended we were laughing and having a good time.  Glad I could help with public funds in Gettysburg.  Not that I am stingy, I just don’t hope to be making more of those donations in the future.  Good thing I just secured the insurance rate on the car for the next year!
In closing, I will remark there are some Harry Potter photos in the album I just uploaded as well.  They are pictures from our attending the Harry Potter release.  We went with the Nathaniel and Robin Givens and Madison McLean met us there.  It was a good occasion.  I settled down in the biography aisle and read about half of a biography on Richard Nixon.  They finally found me and I was not able to finish before the official release.  Oh well.  Amanda finished the book by Saturday evening and I read it piecemeal until I finished in Wednesday evening.

Old Journals

Time has been flying by lately and I have been thinking or watching for something to write about.  It seems that some of it is so common knowledge, I wouldn’t dare post it here.  I still find so much of the ordinary as little miracles.  It seems so mundane that I would not want to bore the reader (which I have already started).
Then there are the little things that keep happening around us.  Anna Nicole Smith died.  The Colts won the Superbowl.  The Presidential contenders already starting.  Snow in New York.  Storms in Florida.  Sabateurs and terrorists in Baghdad are to be strangled.  Pelosi wants a plane.  Debate over whether the holocaust happened.
In the little world of Paul, everything marches to a different tone.  I suppose I just don’t see the world the same as others.  In fact, I seem to have the complete opposite of ideas about everything.  Since there always seems to be such a stark contrast, I don’t bother writing it.  Perhaps it is the fear of sarcasm.  Probably more of looking the fool.
For a note of news.  I received my journals in the mail this week.  The journals that were taken as evidence in my mother’s murder trial.  They were taken for what reasons I don’t think I will ever really know.  So, it has been since before 25 October 1998 that I last saw these journals.  Opening them, I feel like I am opening an old book from the 60’s.  Indeed, they smell like my Great Grandma Jonas’ journals.  (Which I am half through her last one)
Wow, I caught a glimpse into the mindset of a boy who turned 18 in the first book.  I found a boy who was getting ready for his first big move.  The first move from home.  The first move from family.  I was dying to get out and petrified at the same time.
I read of my wonderful, amazing, loving roommates.  They are still my dearest friends even today.  We communicate less, but I love them dearly.  I see into the mind of a boy who was very innocent and pure.  I feel the emotions of a boy who is disowned by his mother.  Stressed and devastated by the divorce of his parents.  Enthusiastic and zealous in learning a new religion.  Eager and a little too anxious after the girls.  There is the life of a young man whose stupidity is embarrassing.  In the same pages I am astonished by the insights of a boy who I would aspire to be.  Some of the mundane details are frightening that are noticed.  Yet, as dates come and go, I wonder why some of the most important events of life were not recorded.
I honestly see this person as so far away, foreign, and alien.  Yet I feel, somehow, the deepest intimations of the words.  Even the placing and style of the words on the page are familiar.  It scares me.  I laughed, I cried, and my heart swelled.  It was interesting to read the entries of others.  Some personally placed, others who were dictated to for the daily entry.  I read of the littlest events that were huge and read nothing of some of the largest.
Horrifying was to try and decipher what the investigators placed a marker for.  Some of the notes were damning to my father.  Sadly, some very important details and rumors which put him in a very bad light.  Perhaps I forgot them, perhaps I repressed them, perhaps time drifted them with time.  Other notes were of terrible destructiveness to my mother.  I record outlines of conversations with her on the phone which make me shutter in memory.
There were some events which were so extreme I could not seem to comprehend them now.  How after one conversation, I literally wept for hours.  My roommates horrified knew the details of what was taking place.  My heart broke into a million pieces.  My whole life crashed in one night.  It was with detail I emerged from that room to find my roommates sobbing as well.  They did not know what to do.  I sat at the piano and started to play.  James sat by me and told me he loved me.  I started sobbing and went to hide in my bedroom again.  He grabbed me and hugged me in the hall.  There I stood, embraced by James, bawling.  Within seconds I felt another embrace, and another.  Altan, Tom, James all held me tight.  We cried together that night.  They were my dearest friends and my world at that moment.  We all sat down afterwards and read the scriptures.  The Spirit manifest at that point was something I will never forget.  The love that enveloped us.
I describe my love for Kyla, Jennalyn, Amanda, Trisha, and a whole score of girls.  I talk of my heros and greatest examples.  Duncan, Tateoka, Christiansen, and Jentzsch families.  I had my first personal visit with my Grandparents and came to know them.  It was the first time I came to know my Grandma in a new light.  My life was beginning to be flooded with light despite the deep darkness hovering in all the pages.
It was a spiritual experience to read these pages.  They don’t even seem real to me.  Only hours later did my heart swell as wide as eternity in happiness and joy that I was this person.  I inspired myself.  Yet at the same time, realized what I had lost.  I have lost too much of that innocence.  I am now too mental, too cathartic, too doubtful, too old.  It was with a certain horror to witness what life had done to me and some of the decisions I have made.  I must needs repent.
Anyhow, it was a new experience.  In the end, I only scanned the last two books.  I lost interest and my memory became more keen.  It was so much as a story as just rehearsing something I already knew.  It is like learning to crawl again.  You just don’t have much patience for it after a while.
There were 4 journals they returned.  One is missing.  The good news is that it was the last.  I had just started it and was only into it about a month when it was taken.  It was probably 30 pages full at the max.  I am somewhat disappointed as I think those would be some of the most interesting.  What did I realize as things drew closer.  I knew things would break loose.  What was my reaction the night Dad told me he was going to engage Meta?  What was my feelings the night before the farewell?  What about shopping with Meta?  What did October and part of September hold that are now lost?  The Jerome County Sheriff insists they returned all the journals.  What happened to #4?  (There was another journal not placed in the numerical order.  An apocryphal one if you will.  Oh, I am currently on journal #17).
What does the next 10 years hold?  Will I read then of now and think similar things.  How stupid I am, yet how innocent.  How inspired and zealous?  I sure hope not.  Perhaps in 10 years, I can look back and say I was such a pitiful stig.  I complain, think too much, and am pathetic.  I have to change a few things to return to innocence.

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.