Sunday, October 5, 2014

 Nancy and I took a couple of days to take a road trip and just spend time together to relax.  This is the oaks restaurant which is up Ogden Canyon.  Nancy has always wanted to go to Huntsville, so we went.  It is a charming place with a lot of nice homes and beautiful vistas.  
 We also took some time to go to the Ogden Temple which has recently been remodeled.  It is a beautiful temple and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit there.  After the temple, we took the opportunity to do the "I-fly" thing.  This is a wind tunnel that mimics the sky diving experience.  Nancy has found her sport!  She was a real natural.  We enjoyed doing this together.  
We took a drive around the Idaho side of the Tetons.  The colors are beginning to change, but will get more vibrant with a little more time. 

 This is part of the Teton River that flows through the Driggs Valley.  We scouted it out for a retreat that I will take my department on next week.  We will canoe a stretch of this river then go to a lodge for some meetings.  I think it will be fun.

This little trip was very fun.  We love spending time together. 

Now, for those who are interested, here is a talk I gave a few weeks ago about the commandments:

I’m often misunderstood.  For example, a few months ago I went to the doctor for a checkup.  I like to keep my weight under 170.  When I stepped on the scale, I was surprised to see that I weighed 174 pounds.  “Why don’t you just take off the four?”  I joked to the nurse’s aide as she looked at me funny and made a notation on my chart.
A few moments later, my doctor came in and flipped through the chart.  “I see you’ve lost weight,” he said.  “You’re down to 17 pounds.”  (adopted from Reader’s Digest)

So, I hope the Holy Ghost will help us understand one another as I speak.

As in all things, Jesus Christ is our example.  He says: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10). 

We all face challenges in mortality, but the Savior gave us reason to have great hope even amidst the greatest challenges as we keep his commandments.  Listen to some of the things he says will happen if we strive to keep his commandments:

 “Let your heart not be troubled” (John 14:1)  “your heart will not be troubled.”

“You shall be given another comforter to abide with you forever” (John 14:16)

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”  (John 14:27)

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”  (John 8:32)

Hymn number 241 in the hymnbook says:  “Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your many blessings; see what God hath done.”  Although we all have real challenges in our lives, we also have many things to be thankful for. I hope we are taking the time to reflect on those things often.  As we reflect on and count our many blessings, I hope we are counting the commandments among them.

Commandments are a great blessing in our lives—in 1831, Joseph Smith received a revelation for the people of Zion in Jackson County Missouri.  This revelation is recorded in D&C 59.  Versus 3 and 4 read:

3.  Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength.
4.  And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.

It’s interesting that one of the blessings that those who obey the gospel will be “crowned” with are commandments . . . and not a few.”
Keeping the commandments results in blessings.  Today, I’ll talk about three of those blessings.  First, safety.  Second, direction.  Third, an avenue to express love and friendship.  

I had a wonderful childhood growing up in San Jose, California.  My Father taught high school and as a result we had long delightful vacations every summer.  These were not expensive vacations, but they were memorable family vacations.  Many summers as soon as school was out, we would go to Filer, Idaho to spend the summer on my grandparent’s farm.  These were my mother’s parents and our grandma and grandpa were affectionately known to us as Mamo and Papo.

Mamo and Papo ran a small 80 acre farm.  They grew sugar beets, beans, grain, and hay.  Along with the crops that they grew, they always had cows.  In the early years Papo milked the cows, but as time progressed he simply raised them for beef.  But we could tell that he really loved his cows. 

As kids, my brother, cousins, and I loved adrenaline and thought it was risky, adventurous fun to catch and ride the cows.  Our strategy was to chase the cows into a corner of the corral where they had little room to maneuver, close in on them slowly, single out one of the cows, and then one of us would jump on its back and ride until we got thrown to the ground.  It would really get our adrenaline flowing, and we viewed it as a great experience that we would never have back in San Jose.  Papo would shake his head back and forth, tell us not to chase the cows, and playfully mumble “city slickers” under his breath.

Even though we were told not to, when Papo was in the fields we would chase and ride the cows anyway.  One time, however, we got over zealous in our cow chasing and the cows got fed up with our shenanigans.  Instead of stopping in the corner, they ran half over/half through the wooden rail fence of the corral.  Boy, were we surprised.  That certainly was not in our plans.  Who’d have thought you could chase cows right through a fence?

The cows trickled through the fence like water through a leaky dam. They spread out everywhere.  Some went to the hay field, some to the front lawn of the house, and others to the highway that bordered the house and had speeding gravel trucks at regular intervals on it. We had no idea what to do or how to get the cows back.

It took a while, but when Papo found out he immediately jumped in his blue pick-up and raced up the lane leaving a trail of dust behind him.  When he got to the house it was easy to tell he was not a happy farmer.  He was especially worried about the cows on the highway and in the hay since they were in the most danger of being hurt.  We understood how a speeding truck might not be good for a cow, but apparently, we learned, it is possible for cows to eat too much fresh hay which can also kill them.
Papo was a lot worried and a little angry, but he didn’t take time to discipline us.  He just got things organized, and after a long time got all the cows safely back in the corral.  Then he sternly told us not to chase the cows because it put them in danger. 
I always thought that fences were a bit cruel and designed to keep unwilling cows locked up like prisoners against their will. What I learned, however, was that fences were meant to keep the cows safe. 

The analogy is that fences are like commandments.  Our Heavenly Father gives us commandments to protect us and keep us safe.  Even though they might seem restrictive at times, they are given to us out of love.  I don’t fault the cows for running through the fence when we chased them, but I hope we are smarter than the cows.  Whatever ideas, people, or things might chase us around in life, I hope we will just keep moving and stay inside.

As the primary song says: 
Keep the commandments;
Keep the commandments!
In this there is safety;
In this there is peace.

In Mosiah 2:22 King Benjamin reminds us -
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

Oklahoma Trip, hiking, and Directions

I recently took a 20 hour road trip to Bartlesville Oklahoma where my son and his family live.  I’ve been there before, and pretty much know the way, but I still use my GPS every time I go.  I like the way the GPS guides me little by little and tells me where to go one step at a time and how long before I get to the end of each leg of the journey.  Then, when I successfully get to the end of one leg it tells me where to go for the next step of the trip.  This continues until I reached the final destination to enjoy my son, his wife, and their three little girls.  Even if I take a wrong turn, my GPS can get me back on the right way.   I like the way it gives ongoing directions.

When this same son was younger he and many members of our family and extended family hiked the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Mountains of California.  We finished at the top of Mt. Whitney in the Southern Sierras.  One day, he, his sister, and a cousin wanted to go ahead of the main group of hikers.  They were given permission to go ahead at their own pace with the direction to wait at the bottom of the mountain by a river we would have to cross. They happily agreed and took off at high speed.  On their way, they went straight down the mountain instead of staying on the trail cutting switchback after switchback until they got to the river where the trail crossed and they stopped and waited.  They knew they were far ahead of the second group and had some time to relax at the river.  What they didn’t know was that as they cut the trail they ended up on a different trail than the one they were supposed to be on.  It still took them to the river, but to a different spot on the river.  So the kids, thinking they were on the correct trail, waited at the river like they had been instructed to do.  The second group who knew they were on the right trail eventually arrived at the river, but the first group was nowhere to be seen or heard.

It took a long time, a lot of worry and frustration, and a lot of prayer, but eventually the two groups found each other and we were able to continue our journey.   

In this situation, there were no ongoing directions.  Had they had some directions at the bottom of every switchback, and followed them, they would not have gotten lost.  Unfortunately, this is not the way the trails work.  Fortunately, however, this is the way the commandments work.

In D&C 82:8-9
8.  And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you;
9.  Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.
10. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

Isn’t it interesting that we really do receive ongoing directions as we move forward in the gospel.  First we make the baptismal covenant and keep commandments connected to that covenant, then with each new ordinance all the way up and through the temple we are given commandments (or directions) all along the way.  If we listen and keep the commandments, or directions, all along the way we will continuously and consistently reach the desired benchmarks and receive new directions to continue the next part of the journey to the next benchmark until we have successfully journeyed back to our Heavenly Father.  It is part of His “amazing grace” and love for us that we are given commandments/directions.

In the Book of Mormon, the Liahona gave ongoing directions as long as Lehi and his family had faith and followed the directions given to them.

So, the second blessing of having commandments is that they provide ongoing directions for us.

Then, In Matthew 22, Jesus was talking to a diverse group of people which included not only his disciples but the chief priests, pharissees, scribes and lawyers.  Remember one of the lawyers asked him a question saying “Which is the great commandment in the law?”.  And Jesus said unto him . . . (37-38)

Matthew 22:35-38
35.  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36.  Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37.  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38.  This is the first and great commandment.

So, there is a question I always end up asking myself when I count my many blessings.  It is, how can I let my Savior know how much I love him?

In John 14:15 it says:  “If ye love me keep my commandments.”

It is a great blessing to have a way to express our love to our Savior.  When we keep His commandments, He recognizes our love for Him. 

And wouldn’t it be great if we could be friends with our Savior?  In John 15:14 it says, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

So, the third great blessing of commandments is that they give us an avenue to express our love to our Savior and to create a relationship with him that results in being called his friends.

Conclude --

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Yesterday we took Courtney to Logan to pick up her "new car", which is actually Allison's old car.  We spent the day with Allison and Clayson and had a fun time.  Just being together was fun.  The big news is that Clayson will not be going to Chicago for his job.  The company met and decided to leave the Utah part of the company in Logan, so he will stay in Logan!

We had a picnic in the park and played a little two on two football.  I'm not sure who won, but it was fun, and a beautiful day.  We went to get Aggie ice cream and then walked around Utah State as we wound our way back to the park where we had left the car.  We called cousins to see if we could drop by, but they were all out doing other fun stuff.

After our visit, Courtney got in her car and left for Draper where she will be doing a paid internship for the summer.  She will live with Grandma and Grandpa.  She is very excited to spend the summer with them.  Nancy and I enjoyed our drive home through the spring hills of Idaho.

 We took one car to get Aggie ice cream.  We left it there and walked back through campus to the car we left at the park where we had our picnic.  It was a nice (long) walk.
We walked through the cemetery on campus as we wound our way back to the car.  It was really pretty. 

That's it for today.  Below is a talk I gave a couple of months ago in church about faith.  Feel free to read it if you want to, or not.  As I wrote it I had good memories of our visit back East with Logan and his family and all those involved.  It was a blast!

Have a great week!

I thought about several titles for my talk.  Faith in Every Footstep, Keep the Faith, Move Forward in Faith, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Doubt Not Fear Not, Things hoped for But Not Seen, and The Seed of Faith.  All good titles, but  . . . 

The title of my talk is “Help Thou Mine Unbelief.”  This comes from the story in Mark 9 about the father who brought his diseased son to Jesus to be healed.  Jesus said, “. . . all things are possible to him that believeth” to which the father replied “help thou mine unbelief.”

As I prepared this talk I was reminded that faith is a gift from God and that it is to be diligently sought after as one of the best gifts.  I should always be praying for help with my unbelief, and engaging myself in actions that would allow my faith to grow.
A few years ago we went to Niagara Falls as part of a family vacation.  I’d always known that Niagara Falls was big, but being there brought a new appreciation for the size and the beauty of the falls. 

Charles Blondin was a famous tightrope walker.

“His greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times... each time with a different daring feat - once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!

A large crowd gathered and the buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oohed and Aahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across - one dangerous step after another - pushing a wheelbarrow holding a sack of potatoes.
Upon reaching the other side, the crowd's applause was louder than the roar of the falls! 

Then, he asked for the participation of a volunteer.  He addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?"

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, "Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!"

"Okay," said Blondin, "Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow."

Not one person volunteered!

This unique story illustrates a real life picture of what faith actually is. The crowd watched these daring feats. They said they believed. But... their actions proved they truly did not believe.  (  Stories about faith).  

Apparently, they did not really have full confidence and trust in Blondin’s abilities.
The fourth article of faith tells us that the first principal of the Gospel is Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In his book “The Articles of Faith,” James E. Talmage says that faith as used in the scriptures means to have full confidence and trust in the being, purpose, and words of God (Talmage pg. 96).  That confidence and trust is often displayed by our actions.

The other night, my wife Nancy and I were watching bible videos on for family night.  We noticed that many of the miracles of Christ depended on the actions of faith from the people involved. 
For example: 
1.     John 9:1-41; Remember when Jesus healed the man who was born blind.  After making clay and putting it on the man’s eyes Jesus told him to: “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.”  And then, the scriptures tell us the man’s action of faith:  “He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”
2.     John 5:2-12; When Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath he said, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk.”  “. . . and immediately the man took up his bed and walked . . . “  That was his action of faith.  He had to pick up his own bed and walk.
3.     Mathew 4:18-22; Jesus said to Peter and Andrew “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  Peter and Andrew’s action of faith is then recorded:  “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”
4.     Mark 2:1-12; And remember the actions of faith of the friends of the man who was stricken with palsy.  Jesus was in a crowded house teaching and the man’s friends “. . . uncovered the roof where Jesus was:  and. . . they let down the bed . . . “  so Jesus could heal him.  These were definitely good friends and definitely actions of faith.  These friends had faith that Jesus could heal their friend, but they also had faith in the man who was to be healed.

It’s a given that none of us are perfect and we each, like the man on the bed, have our own afflictions and challenges to be healed of.  We all carry burdens.  Wouldn’t it be great, in spite of that reality, if we were friends like the friends who carried the bed, and had faith in the man on the bed?  When we express that faith in each other through actions of love, support, tolerance, and understanding, we show faith in the atoning sacrifice of our savior.  Faith that we can change, that we can endure, and that good things will happen as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As it says in James 2:17, “Faith if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
Recently we’ve had the opportunity of attending tithing settlement with our bishops.  Many of us paid our tithing as an expression of love and obedience, but we also had faith that through the action of paying tithing, the windows of heaven would be opened to us, and we would be blessed. 

Just this week I went to You tube and watched “The Windows of Heaven”.  A church video about the time of President Lorenzo Snow.  The church was in debt at the time.  Recognizing that debt meant bondage, President Snow was impressed to take a trip to Southern Utah.  He wasn’t sure why.  But, when he got there, he was impressed to preach the doctrine of tithing.  There was a drought in Southern Utah at the time, and he promised the saints that if they paid their tithing that the windows of heaven would be open to them in the form of rain.  

As you remember, the people believed and had faith in the prophet.  When they showed their faith through their action of paying tithing, it rained. 

I testify, and you know that we are all blessed in different ways when we pay our tithing.  Just as we are blessed when we keep any of the commandments.

I believe the miracles in the bible and other scriptures really happened, but sometimes they are on such a grand scale that I fail to make a personal connection.  I know that keeping every commandment is required, but I also know that there is a personal plan for each of us and we show our faith through simple, difficult, and unique actions based on our circumstances.  

Experience from serving as a bishop twice and once as a transient bishop, and life in general has given me the opportunity to meet with many great people.  Perhaps you might identify with some of them.  For example:
1.     A good, faithful priesthood holder who has lost his job and has a family to support.  His action of faith is to continue searching for a job while being humble enough to accept help from those who love him, including the church.
2.     A clinically depressed person who suffers from bipolar disorder and is homeless and separated from her family and friends.  Her action of faith is staying alive every day.
3.     A young woman who lived in her car because if she went home her father would beat and abuse her.  One of her action of faith was to continue going to school to get an education.
4.     A man who was excommunicated from the church.  His action of faith was to do all that was required to return to full fellowship.
5.     A young person who has doubts about the church and what it teaches, but is striving to understand and build his faith.  His friends are relentless in making fun of him for wanting to remain faithful while he searches for a testimony.  His action of faith, as was Paul’s, is not to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
6.     A man who fights the urge to stay in bed every day all day because he wonders if he can make it through another day.  His action of faith every day is to get up, get going, help someone, and believe that he is a son of his Heavenly Father.
7.      A widower who misses his wife dearly and wants nothing more than to be reunited with her.  His action of faith is to keep living and serving until he is called home.
8.      People old and young who have broken serious commandments.  Their action of faith is to visit with their bishop and get back on the right road.
9.       Finally, people from foreign non-Christian lands who have come to know Christ.  Their action of faith was to be baptized against all their cultural and family norms.
The list could go on.  

As I’ve associated with these good people, I’ve come to recognize that they have some things in common.

First, they are surprisingly cheerful and optimistic.  At various levels, the abiding faith of all these people was and is that God lives and has a plan for them.  They have faith that The Lord Jesus Christ is their savior, and that the atonement, no matter how difficult to understand, is real.  Their faith is demonstrated by their actions, and their actions bring them hope and optimism to continue on in good cheer.

Our faith helps us understand who we are and where we are going, and gives birth to our ultimate hope which is eternal life.

In January of 2000 Billy Grahm told this story.  He said “I'm reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who was honored by Time Magazine as the 'Man of the Century.'

Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his ticket, so he reached in his trouser pockets. It wasn't there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn't find it. 

The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are.  We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.'

Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry, I know who you are No problem. You don't need a ticket.  I'm sure you bought one.'

Einstein looked at him and said, 'Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going.'"  (End Quote)

Brothers and sisters, we have been blessed to know who we are and where we are going.  We are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us.  Someday, we are going back to Him to experience eternal life.  When we show through our actions that we have full confidence and trust in the being, purpose, and words of God (faith), our hope will increase as will our cheer.

Remember Niagara Falls and the tight rope walker, and liken that to our Savior and ourselves.  We need to do more than just believe he can do it, we need to get in the symbolic wheel barrow and trust him to get us to the other side safely and happily.  When we engage in actions of faith we will be buoyed up by hope that will enable us to live our lives cheerfully.

Of course, this is often easier said than done.  Just as getting in the wheel barrow at the edge of the falls was difficult even for those who really thought Brondin could do it.
That’s why it’s important to remember the father of the sick son in Mark when he said to Jesus  . . . “Help thou mine unbelief.”  He was asking for the gift of increased faith.

James Talmage says, We should always remember that though it is within the reach of (everyone) who diligently strive(s) to gain it, faith is nevertheless a divine gift.  (Talmage pg. 107)  

May we seek the gift of faith, show that faith through our actions, and have faith in each other so we can move cheerfully forward together.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thanks to Grandma Hill, we were able to spend lots of time with immediate and extended family recently.  This was surely Grandma Hill's wish and gift for all of us.  Even in death, she managed to bless our lives with joy and happiness.

Grandma Hill's funeral was on Friday April 18, 2014.  She was an example to all of us.  Truly, she let her light shine and has influenced all of us for good.  Thank you grandma.  We love you.

Nancy (grandma) teaching primary in the hotel room about Easter, the resurrection, and Great Grandma Hill.

It was so good to see everybody.