“He lived life in crescendo” July 29th, 2018

Said of the prophet Joseph Smith, I hope to be worthy of those words as well. Ever onward and upward!

My departure from Texas was scheduled early Friday July 20th. The day before, I had taken in the minivan to be state-inspected. It passed, but due to not having insurance until the next day, we were told we had to bring it in the next morning for another inspection. I arrived as soon as they opened, at 7 am, and they started looking at it. After 20 minutes I was getting worried, and sure enough, after 50 whole minutes (whereas the usual car takes 15) I was told the minivan was spurting steering fluid and completely unsafe. The actual diagnosis wasn’t surprising as Mimi had said there was a problem with that, but I asked how did you miss that yesterday if its that bad? They retorted that the employee who conducted the inspection was not in fact certified to do so, which made me even angrier, because the boss who authorized it was before me listening to this. Oh well. That was the angriest I’ve been for a long, long time. Probably two years to be exact. After being inspected the previous day, we packed the car up, made final arrangements, as I needed to be in Utah on Sunday. I drove the apparently dangerous machine back home, ate breakfast, read some mechanic stuff on the internet, checked a couple things on the car, decided it was perfectly fine for now, and took it to another mechanic, who inspected it and deemed it a-ok.

And thus, I was off. Admittedly, I cried saying goodbye. I’ve had a good summer, and its hard knowing that nothing is ever the same. Nothing ever returns to how it was. I had written my route instructions on some sticky notes, I had dozens of cassette tapes, an Elvis CD and plenty of gas money from Mom. I was off.

After taking so many road trips through the years, I’ve developed some ideas on efficiency, and thought now was my turn to test them out. Turned out a lot harder than I thought to plan out stops, but I traveled with hardly any setbacks, besides a few road construction delays and detours. I loved driving through the beautiful countryside. I like going through the small Texas towns dominated by silos and co-ops. I love going through New Mexico with the green carpet stretching out for miles, framed by mountains in the background. And I love Colorado with the pine trees and conspicuous rock formations.

I had lunch packed with lots of snacks, and besides for gas only stopped in Colorado for some chick-fil-a. I made it to Uncle Zach’s house at about 10:30, making the trip in 13 hours. And I was tired! It had been a long day, exhausting mainly because of the uncertainty brought about by the failed inspection.

I enjoyed a beautiful sleep, courtesy of cousin Gabe, and the next morning was filled with lots of games, an inspection of the garden, and some moral support as Uncle Zach built some cupboards. I was impressed with the project and execution thereof. Lincoln won as my favorite for the trip. He was all smiles and giggles with lots of one-liners full of wisdom. And Uncle Zach not only made apple-pie bread pudding which was new to me, but also passed on the recipe. I do plan on returning to Colorado later this year.

By noon I was back on the road, heading up through Wyoming. The eastern half is beautiful, and I love driving through it, but the western half drags on and on and on and doesn’t have that same natural grandeur. I stopped for food at a Wyoming subway, and my scores for efficiency plummeted more, as after filling up, getting food, and returning to the interstate I was down 40 minutes. Unbelievable.

Co-pilot shout-out to Truman Madsen. I listened to hours of his tapes on the Prophet Joseph Smith, and being completely unencumbered by traffic and wanting to remember what I learned, near-perfected the art of note-taking on the steering wheel. I ended up with several pages.

I got some chills crossing the final state border and entering into Utah. Every year holds so much promise and adventure I always love coming back. Originally, I had planned to continue to Salt Lake City to catch the Pioneer Day concert, but I would have waited for tickets, and at this point I was tired and just wanting to arrive. So I meandered through Heber City which left me awestruck, and was incredibly beautiful. The city is set out nicely and the scenery is beyond compare. Utah is a lot greener than I imagined in summer. I arrived at Tanmarie’s apartment just in time to see them off to the temple and stand guard over the sleeping Nora.

They had recently moved to a new, temporary apartment and I had naively imagined, despite Tanner’s claims to the contrary, that it was quite spacious. They graciously hosted me, but within an hour of arriving I knew I would need a different place. Sunday involved lots of meetings and interviews and I was glad to be able to serve, where I am needed.

Monday morning I returned to the Crestwood and was glad to find a room I could spend the next few weeks. I immediately signed and started emptying my belongings into the new place. I have to say, my life seems so luxurious lately. I have records, I have my bathrobe again, slippers, golf clubs, etc.

All I need is a wife and an armchair. Well, and a job, but I am confident I’ll have employment by next week. It’s the other two that leave question marks.

For Family Home Evening we went to the Spring Garden Retirement Home in Lindon and played bingo with the seniors there. That place was oozing money! Indoor waterfall, granite everything and, (my personal favorite) they meet and attend church in huge armchairs. I helped a Congregationalist from Idaho, and although we didn’t win, I had a great time. And I was able to scoot to Uncle Ben’s after and pick up my stuff I had left over the summer.

Tuesday, being pioneer day was filled with recreation and remembering. I ended up playing a little golf (from the black tees!) and was ecstatic to reach the 9th hole, 578 yards in two shots. Even though I three-putted. I helped my roommate, Rory, move a couch and dining room set to his new house in Springville. He’s getting married in August. From there I ran over to a picnic with Tanmarie and the Pace’s. We ate well, including Rhubarb pie Annemarie made and played frisbee golf and Kan-Jam (my first time). I bailed that evenings activities deciding to read in my room, and only listen to the fireworks.

I am thankful for all the pioneers in my family, especially my Father and my Grandparents for their decisions to accept the gospel and seek earnestly after the best things in life.

Wednesday and Thursday went by quickly. I was working on job applications and newspaper stuff. Unfortunately, we were turned down by the library for distribution, so that made our plans change slightly. With Annemarie’s assistance at Costco, I was able to take care of all my shopping needs. Over the summer, due to some pondering and the messages of some books, I had decided to cut back extensively on my meat consumption. Not that it is a lot right now anyways. However, the average American ate 4 oz of meat daily in 1970, and now that number has tripled. I think its causing most of our (nation’s) health problems. And of course, the supermarkets all have meat specials as soon as I get here. So there’s 18 pounds of meat in my freezer already. But, all packaged in neat 4 oz bags.

Wednesday night, I received a message at 10:45 pm for someone looking for a blessing. I went over to that apartment and helped, and shortly after returning to my apartment, I received another message from someone else, this one more urgent, requesting another blessing. I didn’t know who could help administer, but as I stood outside thinking about what to do, James, who recently moved in, walked by dressed in a white shirt and tie, and I thought, “that’s the guy!” We were able to go over and help, and we both had a cool experience knowing that the Lord was cognizant of each person’s needs.

Thursday I invited two friends over, John and Maddie, and we ate homemade pasta and spaghetti and sausage. I’ve long wanted to try making pasta, and it turned out okay. I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin, and it was a little thicker than ideal, but still tasty. Earlier, we had our first presidency meeting in a LONG time, and I attended institute class for the first time ever. We went over Moses 6-7.

Friday  I cleaned the car from the nearly 4,000 miles its endured the last three weeks, and enjoyed a free car wash. I helped a member of the ward run a few errands and then was interviewed by Northwestern Mutual over the phone. I’ll be going in on Tuesday for the in-person part.

And that evening I went golfing with Lydia. She had never played before, but I’ve decided that in dating I tend to focus only on buying instead of selling, i.e. learning who the other person is, instead of showing who I am and therefore golf would be an ideal activity. We went at 7:15 and the weather had cooled down sufficiently we watch the evening set against the mountains. She took some pictures and the setting was gorgeous. Provo is a big city (for me) but the golf course is on the outskirts of town and silent from city pollution. I had a fantastic time. We took turns hitting shots, catching up on summer activities and discussing what living a meaningful life would involve. And we’ll probably be going out again.

Saturday I had two mission friends over, Lawson Lighten and Kimball Hatch, both from my last area of the mission. I wondered why I was assigned to that area at the time, but its brought so many blessings and good times both while I was still there and now. We had the best Brazilian feast yet, and played Settlers of Cataan. I had told Tanner I would babysit Nora starting at 3, so we packed up the games and played for another two hours at their place before finally calling it a day. Nora slept from 3-4:20, and was the best baby ever until 6:20 when she started getting fussy. So, at 6:40 until 7:00 we walked outside and she was happy and calm again. And at 7 until Tanner came back at 7:15, she cried. And cried. And cried. Every idea I had to help backfired and made her screams even louder. Ah, the joys of unclehood.

Today, I played the organ, cranking out “O my Father,” “Father in Heaven, We do Believe,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Israel, Israel, God is Calling.” I continue to enjoy conducting interviews in EQ and we are making a lot of progress, both in becoming unified and in our ministering efforts.

I still don’t know why exactly I’m here. I know the Lord wanted me back, and like I told Uncle Zach, I don’t know if it was to help the Elders Quorum, for a relationship, or for a job, but I hope its all three. One week in, and I’m no closer to reaching a conclusion. But that’s okay. Boyd K. Packer related once how he went to Harold B. Lee seeking counsel, and was told “The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.”

I suppose I’m like that. I think it would be nice to know the outcomes before they happen. However, as trying as it can be, I really do know that the joy is most often in the journey. To say nothing of adventure. See here we go, off into the unknown.

Here’s something I do know as a result of this week:

A few years back, I conducted a long and extensive study on charity and concluded that charity is acting with someone’s eternal worth in sight. Regretfully, I used that to rationalize some stingy behavior. I still think charity could involve denying and does involve the long-term view. However, now, I understand that charity is doing for someone what they can’t do for themselves, as the Savior atoned for our sins.

I am so grateful to have a Savior who loved me enough to die for me, and hope that through my actions I can reflect at least a small portion of that love to mankind.

 

Avante, Avante Para a Vitoria!

That was my mission’s theme,

Brethren, shall we not go forward in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and ON, ON TO THE VICTORY!

And may it ever be our mantra as well! It’s said that to be successful, a man needs something to live for and somebody to live. I am so thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This last week has been one of transition- with the ending of old, and the starting of new. It was nice to rest a little from the summer trips and ever increasingly I am realizing I am not a traveler. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy seeing new places and making the occasional vacation. Yet, deep down I look forward to putting roots down and becoming a part of a community. One’s outlook does change, knowing that they are tied to a place. I want to feel like the land is mine, I want to feel connected deep down, to help build a town, and I even want to feel invested in every local bond issue that arises.

Bro. Bach suggested we call the white van, “The Great White Hope” for it’s death has been exaggerated far beyond Twain’s. This week saw it start and run for the first time in over a year. And for me, it’s been three years since I was behind the wheel. It sputtered, but stuck, its strength increasing, as I idled and then cautiously took it for a neighborhood tour. White smoke billowed as water or old gasoline burned off and I strained each turn as the power steering was out. The next day I took it in for an inspection knowing it would fail. And fail it did, but with passing colors! For again, there would be no immediate death, as all the problems were fixable. The plastic windows were ok, the bumperless front presented no problem, and the bent side was perfectly fine. However, there is a slight electrical problem, and we currently have no brake lights or blinkers. That’s on the menu to fix tomorrow. I’ve checked all the fuses so it must be a wire or ground problem.

On Thursday, I went with all the kids to visit the Merritt’s in Tyler. Amidst brewing clouds we took off, and by the time we made it to Dallas, the rain was absolutely pouring, we had our windshield wipers going at 100% and traffic crawled along at only 35 mph due to our inability to see beyond the brake lights of those in front of us. Thankfully, the weather cleared up for the last hour of our trip and we encountered no difficulties. It was again a weekend filled with lots of games and fun. Although this trip against Aunt Janel my record in ping-pong was 0-4 and it is quite frankly getting embarrassing.

Saturday morning we left the Merritt’s and helped at the temple grounds clean-up service activity. From there, Sawyer drew the short straw and while the rest of the family headed to Trader Joe’s and then home, he joined me on my excursion to Josey Record Store. Situated in a huge warehouse, they have tens of thousands of records and cds. Running short on time and  funds, I picked up 7 old records out of the bargain area (totaling $8) and two cds.

That evening, I worked for Mr. Clark one last time, weedeating for 2 hours. It’s such a blessing to be able to do that type of work, and not worry about poison ivy.

Sunday I taught again in Elders Quorum, facilitating the discussion on meekness, based off of Elder Bednar’s address from April’s conference. Here are two key takeaway’s that I had:

In Matthew 11:28-30, the Savior says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I find it very instructive that the Savior, among all the attributes that he so perfectly emulates, describes himself as meek.

Second, in my mind there was no differentiation between humility and meekness. Elder Bednar helped me understand the difference by saying, “Whereas humility generally denotes dependence upon God and the constant need for His guidance and support, a distinguishing characteristic of meekness  is a particular spiritual receptivity to learning both from the Holy Ghost and from people who may seem less capable, experienced, or educated, who may not hold important positions, or who otherwise may not appear to have much to contribute. ” Humility deals more with our relationship to God, while meekness is more about our relationship with our fellow men. Which makes Christ’s statement even more powerful. While our Savior, he still displayed incredible meekness listening to weak and fallible people.

Finally, I finished a book by Pres. Nelson and want to share this: In his BYU devotional (given some 30+ years ago) “Obedience and Sacrifice” he talks about how the word sacrifice literally means to “make sacred.” He then traces the history of sacrifice in the Bible, talking about animal sacrifices and the Atonement. I really liked this thought,

No longer do we think in terms of shedding blood or sacrificing animals. Rarely should we focus in terms of “giving up” time and means. Instead, we should now revert to the original meaning of the word – that we “make sacred.” For us to sacrifice, we should “make sacred” every thought, every action, and our very character…. The giving of our time and means should be the end in itself, but a means to the end of making ourselves sacred. Each, by living a saintly life, can present to the Lord one more sanctified soul to the honor and glory of his Creator.

 

The City of Sleaze

Yep, I’m talking about Seattle. My flight was without incident, and Alaska Airlines left a good impression.

I met up with half the students at the airport, and we took a shuttle 90 minutes to the Seabeck Conference Center where we stayed. It’s all the way on the other side of the bay from Seattle, and is located beautifully. Everywhere is green, rainforest-like luscious, except with lots and lots of pine trees. And of course different animals. We were 100 yards from the ocean, and there was also a pond on the property. I went boating almost every day, and saw deer on the shore as well as a majestic bald eagle flying overhead. Lovely.

The scenery was scintillating, but the purpose was politics. Daily, we dived into discussions debating liberalism. “What is liberalism? Has it failed?” That was the theme of the conference, and the professors who presented overwhelmingly declared, “I don’t know exactly” and “yes, and no” in response to those questions. Helpful, right? In all honesty, I learned an incredible amount. The topic is so nuanced an actual definition is tough, but I left feeling very comfortable with the opinion that I had formed and my understanding of it. I won’t bore with Jules Verne dry details of each day, but here are some key takeaways:

-Liberalism is constantly changing and advancing. (which makes it hard to define, because various groups like liberalism up to a certain point, while others are “progressives”.) We heard about 9 waves of liberalism, which showed how each wave is advancing a new freedom, except they are all in tension, and thus each new wave lessons the freedoms of the previous waves.

  1. Freedom from religious persecution
  2. Freedom from foreign domination
  3. Freedom from civil war
  4. Freedom from arbitrary rule/tyranny
  5. Freedom from government interference in the economy
  6. Freedom from rule by another
  7. Freedom from tyranny of the majority
  8. Freedom from exploitation by sub- political groups (both in the economic and social sphere)
  9. Freedom from biological necessities
  10. Freedom from ??????

What will the tenth be? I’ve an idea, but would love to hear any others. Basically, man has given up building a literal Tower of Babel, and instead is trying to become god, by freeing himself from God. Won’t turn out good.

Interestingly, 90% of the group this year (and every year) is Catholic. They have a philosophical tradition which is absent or nearly so in Protestantism.

Shout-out to my friend named Theodore ********, whom i met at this conference.  This week he went by Rod. This was his bio he submitted for the conference

“is a rising senior at Villanova university studying literature and oceanography. Hailing from Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, he frequents service trips which have taken him all over the globe, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Wilmington, Delaware. At Villanova, he takes great pride in his position as First Mate of the Carpathia Society, dedicated to locating the true wreckage of the RMS Carpathia at her watery grave in Davy Jones’ locker.”

Hilarious. What other kid would think about showing up at the airport with a sign that read “ISI’S meeting here.”

That said, I was disheartened by the lack of creative or original thinking. Everyone, with the exception of a handful of students, was clearly repeating what they’ve been taught.

Thursday we took the day off from discussion and went into Seattle. Instead of driving around the bay again, this time we drove to a nearby town and took an hour long ferry ride to the city. I stood on the bow and loved every second. On the way back, D+C 61 was hanging around in the mind and made it less enjoyable, but this was still one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire trip.

I visited the Pike’s Place Market, famous for its fresh fish but even more impressive with all the fresh produce being sold. Ranier cherries = 10/10. As were the golden peaches. There was so many jams that I taste-tested for an hour. There was also an “eastern medicine” boutique that I walked past and then ran by realizing immediately that this was not a place to buy essential oils. Oh no.

Then, a group of students and I walked into a bookstore. Which happens to be an extreme left-wing bookstore. The general title went something like this “How to start a revolution with no money and Defeat Capitalism.” Those two shop encounters in the space of 10 minutes crushed a lot of my american naivete. Add to that more gay pride than I’ve ever seen and innumerable homeless people, and it felt distinctly different than any city I’ve ever visited.

We split up, and I went solo, walking along the harbor, visiting the Klondike Gold Rush museum, the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks stadiums, Amtrak train station, a waterfall garden, the original starbucks store, another bookstore (only dealing with architecture thankfully) and some city parks. At 5, we met up at the harbor and enjoyed a group dinner at “The Crab Pot.” I ate some salmon, and finished the night off by bringing rhubarb cake and ice cream on the ferry back.

Above everything else, I was amazed that with all the discussions we held at the conference, no solution was available without a nationwide understanding of our identity as sons and daughters of God. We must understand that being “endowed by [our] Creator” is an essential part of being American.

I find it very informative that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in their testimony said

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

They testified first of God, and then our relationship to Him. I am thankful to know that we are all children of the Most High God, and draw strength knowing that He loves us and wants the best for us.