Feb. 24-March 1: Do you remember when we met?

The week started off incredibly. At 4:30 pm on Monday, M. came to my work and picked me up in her fire-red toyota. This was our first time seeing each other in 5 years. As freshman, in 2014-2015, we had worked together, shared many similar interests, and gone on one date to see the Count of Monte Cristo performed as a musical (quite good for the record). Soon after, I left for Texas and then on my mission. She stayed at school longer, and then went to Argentina for her mission. We hadn’t even spoken at all until a few months ago when we communicated briefly over facebook. So I was quite surprised to receive a message inviting me to go with her to salt Lake City for a law school event. M. also applied to BYU Law School and has been accepted already. This event was to wine and dine those students who have been accepted but haven’t committed. And we were schmoozed alright. After a little trouble finding some parking, we made it to the Federal Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake, where a judge and BYU law alum, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the building and talked to us about how awesome BYU is and what at he does as a judge. He was part of BYU’s first class in the 1970’s, and h e showed a perfect mix of humor and humility. We then strolled across the street to a restaurant called, Caffé Molise, to enjoy a splendid four course Italian meal. The goat cheese appetizer had me swooning, but the rest of the fare was noting to write home about. (literally). Nevertheless, if the food was blander than I expected after tasting the appetizer, (which will inspire culinary adventures for weeks to come) the conversation was anything but, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we were there. M. also coaxed the Dean of admissions, Dean Stewart into sitting next to us, and while it wasn’t the reason I went, I do think by the end of the night, Dean Stewart would remember my name and I had left a favorable impression. Which, given the uncertainty of my application, could be a huge blessing. Thank you M. And if the night could somehow be any better, the drive back was just that. This is one of only two dates I think I’ve ever been on, where I genuinely felt uplifted and wanting to be a better person. It was a great feeling, and even though our time lasted 5 hours together, I could have stayed longer. It was a truly fantastic night. M. talked about her family in a very touching manner, but also shared how sitting in class a few weeks ago, she had received the invite to the event, and hadn’t planned on going. But, my name popped into her head and she felt like she needed to invite me. I am both honored, and very grateful that she did.

I just wish that we had taken a picture to remember the night better. In my defense, we were asked to leave our cellphones behind as were in the presence of confidential documents while touring the judges chambers in the courthouse.

Tuesday couldn’t compete with Monday’s adventures, but it was a solid day by any standard. Work was very productive, and our EQ meeting was both that and a blast. I also snuck in the last debate before Super Tuesday. I’ve joked for years now about Bernie Sanders, but seeing him so close is scary and not funny at all anymore. I can’t believe he has gotten so much support. I’ve admired his passion and sincerity, but am past that now. He aims to fundamentally change what it means to be American.

On gratitude: Thursday, I was sitting on the balcony eating my lunch and I realized that I had eaten a lot of fruit that day. breakfast was brought into the office and included raspberries and blueberries. I snacked on an apple, and at lunch had a peach, nectarine, orange, and plum. I reflected back to a biographer about Horatio Nelson (disclaimer: I believe it was him, it might have been about someone else, but it was definitely a British kid around the turn of the 19th century) who 200 years ago was overjoyed to receive an orange. For Christmas. Even 200 years ago, oranges were considered exotic and the household economy was such that an orange made a worthwhile gift. It’s amazing how blessed we are. I eat a couple of oranges a week and never pause to even think about it.

Thursday was also institute. We had a visitor, James Allen, who was assistant church historian, and has written several books. He talked about why history is important, what the church historian does, and some of his experiences over the years. He is 92 years old, and in the 1950’s worked at the institute at USC in California. The stake president at the time was Howard W. Hunter, my namesake. I think this is the first time I have talked with someone who knew President Hunter to the degree that James Allen did. It made the night extra special and I had to get a picture to memorialize.

Last week, I met with Mark “America” Smith. I had offered to help him collect signatures so he can be put on the ballot for governor. He works only one floor up from me, and when I met him to pick up clipboards and forms, he gifted me a brand new suit. The next day, he informed me that he doesn’t need any help anymore, but I’ve been impressed so far with nearly all of his platform and he took the time to explain some points that we disagreed on. And I like the suit.

Here I am leaving the temple on Saturday. It’s a nice dark blue color, and fits perfect. Mark somehow got the right size without even asking. This was a ward temple trip, and it was good to be with friends standing on holy ground.

Sunday was stake conference, and thus a very busy day. It started off with a leadership session from 9:30-11:30 am. After a quick dash home for a snack, I did a ministering interview with the Jensen brothers, and headed to the general session, from 1-3 pm held in the Wilk Ballroom. Attendance for the stake was 60ish%, at about 1100 people. I met Bro. Ken Wade, a member of the Bishopric of the 91st ward, and for some reason he took an immediate liking and started trying to set me up with all these people in his ward. I asked out one of the choir members, but alas, that was not to be. He introduced me to some other ladies, and we’ll see what happens. Our ward held a munch and mingle from 3:15-4, and then it was back home, accompanied by David Kaiser. We threw together a shepherds pie, and were then joined by Porter and Cooper. This time Cooper won Settlers of Cataan, albeit a shortened version, as David and I were off to the adult stake conference session from 6-8. (attendance for this session was at about 25%) I said the opening prayer, and then sat back and took in the good word, which leads to the good life. One of my key takeaways came from the stake president who said that he has realized, every time something bad or just not what we want happens, its because Heavenly Father is preparing us to serve someone down the road. We need these experiences to be understanding and empathetic, or just to know how to help. I reflected on such times in my life, and have to agree.

3rd Nephi 18:17-21- growing up in a culture of prayer.

This week, I finished reading Clayton Christensen’s book, How Will You Measure Your Life. The idea of living more intentionally and with written down goals has been something I’ve worked on this year, and this book strengthened a lot of those desires. Here is a quote I liked from Edgar Schein that was in the book:

culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful. 

This doesn’t apply to a culture in a country, or a business. It applies to all culture, such as the culture of a family.

I am blessed to have been raised in a culture of prayer. I can remember many times walking into a room at night to find my parents praying. 3rd Nephi 18:17-21 admonishes:

17 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:

18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.

19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;

20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.

21 Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”

I know that we have a loving Heavenly Father, and he wants to hear from us. I have had so many prayers answered, and I know that as we pray to God, we will have greater strength to resist temptation and greater understanding as to what we should do in our lives.

 

Feb. 17-23: La Vita è Bella,

Reading Into Thin Air, I learned two new words to be employed at a scrabble game coming soon. Cwm, and nak. Cwm, pronounced koom, is a welsh-term meaning valley, and has been adopted by climbers internationally. Nak is a female yak. I’m ready to play!

This week, everything has pointed towards consecration.

Tuesday, I left work and went to Buffalo Wild Wings. There, I met up with Kevin, a roommate from my freshman year. We ate some wings and caught up. It’s impossible to stay uber-close, but its good to stay in touch with friends. Kevin moved back from California a few months ago, and I enjoyed our time at the restaurant.

Wednesday was a busy day. That night, I was invited to attend a talk by Sharon Eubank, the democratic debate was happening, book club was going on, and the church released its new handbook which I really wanted to read. I missed Sis. Eubanks talk, but staying up later than normal, managed to squeeze the rest in.

Thursday I went to Institute. This was right after going to the gym so David Kaiser went with me. The class was good, and we socialized a bit afterward. What was really touching was what happened after that.

Last week, a woman came up to me and asked me for a ride. She looked kind of homeless, was missing most of her teeth and couldn’t really look you in the eyes. I said yes, I’d be happy to, but it would be 10 minutes as the Lambert’s were playing an audio clip from Pres. Eyring’s funeral address for Clayton Christensen.
She said ok, no problem, and said she’d wait outside the classroom and eat the snacks brought to institute. After the 10 minutes, I left and couldn’t find her. I walked all around the church building twice before finally giving up and going home.
When I saw her this week, I offered to give her a ride for which she was most grateful. David came with me, and we drove her up to the Provo Temple.
In some ways, not everything is right. She has some disorder. Yet, in the most important ways, everything is right. I felt sanctified being with her, as she continually shared her testimony. The church is her life. She hails from Tonga, and has been in the US for 8 years. Her parents both are dead now, and she has been working in the Salt Lake Temple as a cleaner. When the temple closed, she was out of a job, and moved down to Orem and cleans the Provo temple nightly, Monday-Saturday. She was so gracious and thankful and continually wished us the best and blessings for helping her. Little does she know, I was so truly blessed to meet her and listen to her and see her dedication to the Lord.
Friday, I left work and the sun was shining, and as often happens in situations like these, I ended up missing my exit and driving straight to the golf course. It’s still being renovated, but I enjoyed putting and being outside.

 

Saturday I had a date with Emma. She came over at 6 and together we made dinner together. We made rice, rolls, squash, and tried a new recipe that was bubbling around in my brain. It was peaches lightly sauteed with beet tops. We mixed it in with the rice, and it was delicious! Much better than I expected. We talked non-stop and it was a really fun time. The date would have lasted longer, but at 8:15, I walked her home as some ward members were coming over for Movie Night 2.0. We had some peaches, some ice cream, shed some tears, shared many laughs, and just had a good time while watching “La Vita é Bella.” (Life is Beautiful). A truly great movie. It was in Italian, subtitled in english. It’s a love story told in the shadow of the Holocaust and the main character illustrates what consecration to family looks like.

Porter and Cooper made it over for a pot roast that lives in dreams, and Porter again left as victor, beating us in Settler’s of Cataan.

I gave a talk on Sunday, and told 5 stories to help convey my message on consecration. First, I talked about backing up and crashing into another car while on my date December 8th, and heading up to the Christmas Devotional. The takeaway: I was distracted by the little things, causing me to miss what really mattered.

Second, I recounted a bit on the Alamo. Sunday was February 23rd, and it marked 184 years, going back to the year 1836, when Santa Ana had his troops surround the Alamo and begin a 13-day siege that ended with all of the defenders dead. Among them was George Washington Cottle. At the time, he was 24 (my age now) and was married. His wife was pregnant, and after his death, would eventually give birth to twins. He was given the option along with all others in the Alamo to surrender and leave alive. He chose to stay and fight, knowing that he would almost certainly die and never see his wife again. Yet, there are some things that are worth fighting for and dying for. I don’t think we can fully live until we decide what we are willing to die for. George Washington Cottle is an example of consecration to me.

Third, I told of how Clayton Christensen didn’t play in the championship game for his basketball team while at Oxford: It’s easier to be 100% committed to principles than 98%, as life is a series of extenuating circumstances that will constantly try our resolve to stay true.

Fourth, I told of another Clayton Christensen story, talking about how he spent an hour nightly reading scriptures and praying over every single page. That sacrifice of time seemed like a significant and untenable amount as he was studying full-time in a demanding program and had many demands socially on his limited free-time. Yet, Clay would say that he now uses advanced econometrics maybe once a year, but he uses the testimony he gained during that time, many times every single day. Every day we are investing our time, and investments in Christ and his Gospel will bring much more happiness now and down the road.

Finally, I talked about a lesson that struck me from reading Into Thin Air. The book tells the true story of the Everest Disaster of 1996. In short, before making the final push to the summit, the guides had the climbers promise to turn around when the guides said to. At 1 pm, they should be going back down, to make sure that they would return to camp before nightfall, when the temperatures dropped dangerously low, and the oxygen canisters would be empty. If someone was close to the summit, they could continue on, but at 2 pm, doesn’t matter if you are 50 ft from the top, you MUST turn around and go back. On the final day, some people stayed late, pushing towards the top until 3 pm. They caught “summit fever,” making previously unthinkable decisions in an attempt to reach the top and satisfy their desire. So it is with us. We often say we’ll do something, but if a better-looking option comes along, we’ll drop our previous commitment and go off after our desires. For me personally, this happens a lot at night, when I need to study something or visit someone, and instead I think “I’m worn out, I’ll read something easy for now, and I can always visit them tomorrow.” Or, I’ll open my computer to do family history, and instead spend an hour playing chess online. The problem is, tomorrow didn’t come for most of the climbers who stayed out too late. 8 died that night, their bodies being added to the collection already on the mountain, of those who didn’t do what needed to be done.

The invitation I left for my ward, and the one I’ll leave here, is to change one thing to be more fully consecrated to Jesus Christ. And once you decide that one thing, commit to it like you are on Mt. Everest, and your life depends on it.

The consecrated life is a beautiful life.

Feb. 10-16: Lupercalia Lunacy

Tuesday, amidst other activities, I eagerly watched the results of the New Hampshire primary come in. Bernie Sanders pulled out the win, and is in prime shape to become the nominee for the Democratic Party. Part of me likes him because he is honest about what he is trying to do, passionate, and seems to have the nations best intentions in mind. On the other hand, I can’t believe that roughly 1/4 of our nation is voting for a socialist and I don’t think his policies would help, but rather prove to cause great harm. Regardless, I do love politics and have enjoyed every debate so far.

In Book Club, we read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; the play starts off by talking about the festival of Lupercalia. This is a fertility festival, but I didn’t realize it was celebrated February 13-15th. The exact connection to Valentine’s Day remains unknown, but there was enough to make me dislike Valentine’s Day more. Women would run through the streets naked while being whipped by mn with leather thongs, believing this would make the women fertile.

Regardless of the origins, this was perhaps the best Valentine’s Day I’ve had. We organized an Elders Quorum activity and had a feast at the Bishop’s House. While 30 minutes away, I’m glad we had it there. Dillon smoked ribs to die for, along with bacon-bit macaroni and cheese, I brought four pies (2 chocolate, 1 coconut, 1 banana), some salad, and Reigen brought garlic mashed potatoes. Bishop and Sister Miner told the story of how they met and their courtship, and even sang an original song while playing the guitar for us. The rest of the night was filled with ping-pong and casual conversation.

Saturday, I went to the Provo City Center Temple with Tatiana. During a ministering visit, she asked us to help keep her accountable with her temple attendance as she is trying to go every Saturday. It was a great time.

Sunday dinner included only Porter and Cooper, and we ate corn chowder and butternut squash, while playing Settlers of Cataan together. Porter pulled out the win this time.

Clayton Christensen died a few weeks ago and I’ve enjoyed reading the tributes that have been written as well as reflecting on what he’s taught me. Admittedly, I remember meeting him at baby Ben’s funeral and afterwards at Mimi’s house, while Tanner was conversing maturely with him, I butted in and said something so stupid I immediately felt intense shame. I remember reading The Innovator’s Dilemma in high school and not understanding much. Most importantly, a few key lessons have stood out, that struck me when I first heard them and remain important principles I think of often and try to live by to this day. I’ll share one here. While at Oxford, he was the starting center for the basketball team. In England’s equivalent of the NCAA tourney, they were cruising through the competition when Clayton realized the final was on a Sunday. He had made a promise not to play on the Sabbath years before and was worried about this dilemma. In the semifinal, the back-up center suffered a dislocation and now there was even more pressure on Clayton to play. He prayed and asked the Lord if he could play on Sunday this one time, as surely this counted as an extenuating circumstance. He recalls how the answer came immediately and it was along the lines of, “why did you ask? you know what is right.” The coach told Clayton he expected him there, but Clayton stood by his convictions and the Sunday of the championship he was at church. Here are the main lessons: it is easier to be true 100% of the time than 98%. Once you yield, the next time becomes easier. Also, Clayton relates how he thought that the championship game was an extenuating circumstance, but has since realized that life is a series of extenuating circumstances. There will always be reasons to loosen up or lower standards. The older I get, the more I realize how extenuating circumstances do seem constant. Sometimes its ourselves saying “just this one time,” and other times its friends and family who are telling us, “just do it, this is a special case.” Stay true to your standards, 100% of the time.

Feb 3-9: Khovanshchina

I meant to include this in the last letter: February 2nd was a fantastic day. After church, I picked up Cooper, Porter and Kevin, and we went to Uncle Ben and Aunt Joy’s house where other cousins had gathered and we feasted on burgers and fries. Then brownies and ice cream. ‘Twas delicious, and a great way to end a fast. By 5:30, I was home and because it was Super Bowl Sunday, completely free. I caught up on some personal reading and writing and truly enjoyed a day of rest. Now, back to the week in question.

Paperwork is such a struggle. This week, I had the goal to finish my law school application to BYU. Given that I’ve had since November to do this, it was more than doable. And it didn’t happen. The plan was to submit the application when I got my LSAT score from test #2 on Thursday. I got my score, but didn’t even start the application until Wednesday night. No bueno. My score increased by 1, not what I was hoping for. When I left the test in January, I thought it would increase by 2-3, based on how I was feeling. Alas. Tanner is being a big help, editing my essays and guiding me through the process.

Tuesday, we had our weekly presidency meeting and it was a blast. Jacob West, my counselor last semester moved back home to save money as he will be getting married in the near future. I knew this was likely, and while I was in Texas over Christmas break, I found out it was officially going to happen. I had a couple days to think about who I’d like to call as a counselor and two names were on my mind. However, when I returned home to Utah, I prayed asking who it should be and clear as day, I received my answer. Reigen Jensen is the man. I hadn’t been thinking of him at all, but the prompting was so strong and it was a time where the Lord answered my prayer immediately. He has been a boon to the entire quorum since then, and become a very good friend. Together with Dillon, I think the three of us make a good team.

I was feeling down a few weeks ago and couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong, (and thus couldn’t fix the problem,) so I broadened by a large measure the stats I keep on myself. There are 19 questions grouped into 3 categories, physical, spiritual and emotional. It’s all subjective, I just ask myself how I did in matter during the week, and score myself from 1-10. Since starting this, I have noticed a big difference! One of the questions is, “How was my sleep this past week?” and I few nights I’ve forced myself to put a book down earlier than I would have otherwise as I know I’ll be graded later. Another question is, “How have you done meeting new people this week?” Because of this question, I went to a conference, detailed below, that I would not otherwise have attended. My weekly averages have ranged between a 5.47-5.82. Its not easy to improve above the average! The 3 categories have ranged in scores from 4.57 and 6.33. If its under 5, I mark in red and focus on getting the score up, as I think if a 5 is average, anything under is dragging me down. 5-7 is acceptable and marked baby blue. I haven’t had a single category average higher than a 7, so I don’t have a color for that yet.

The conference I attended Friday was called, “Promoting Healthy Relationships.” It was put on by two friends who are over a nursing club at BYU. I expected 30-40 people, and didn’t know if I would even stay the entire time. Turns out, I stayed. The event was amazing! Just over 180 people who attended, there was breakfast and lunch and every speaker did a fantastic job. Plus, one of the reasons for my going, was to meet new people, and I did that as well. An unexpected tender mercy was seeing B—-. He was in my ward last spring and summer. I didn’t reach out enough to form a foundation of friendship, so that when he needed help, I couldn’t do as much as I would have liked. Ultimately, he left the ward and while I’ve tried to stay somewhat in touch, I haven’t done well, so it was a blessing to see him, see that he is doing well, and let him know that he still has friends here who are willing to help and support him. The conference lasted from 8-1 and I am glad that I decided to go.

I’m again attending institute this semester, and have enjoyed those Thursday evening respites from the world. Bro. and Sis. Lambert are leading our study of the Doctrine and Covenants. This week, they related how as mission presidents in North Carolina, they met with Elder Marvin J. Ashton who was visiting to call a new stake president in the area. They asked him what qualities he looks for, and he mentioned personal righteousness then good judgement. Good judgement is of course closely related to the gift of discernment. Reflecting on this, I can immediately think of a few people who have good judgement, and pondered on how I might improve in this regard, because I don’t think that I do have the best judgement and its such an important quality to develop. That day in work, I felt like I was quickly reaching my limit and hearing this story convinced me to put my plans to open a pancake-house in Brazil on hold. Heaven only knows I’d be flipping flapjacks in a favela right now if it wasn’t for Elder Ashton’s words.

I guess the food industry does still have a lot of pull though. For family dinner Sunday, I was joined by Tanmarie, Nora, Cooper, Porter, Abbey and Michael for taco salad. I came into possession of some catering supplies and set up an impressive and professional looking display.

Sunday was a busy day, as besides dinner, after my normal morning meeting with Bishop Miner, I extended 5 callings, went to church, then had 6 setting aparts, and 3 ministering interviews. Thank heaven for secretaries who do their job. Jacob D. and Brandon W. have been lifesavers.

Here is the a quote from Elder Ashton on spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 expounds on some gifts, then Elder Ashton adds this:

Let me mention a few gifts that are not always evident or noteworthy but that are very important. Among these may be your gifts – gifts not so evident but nevertheless real and valuable.

Let us review some of these less-conspicious gifts: the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgement; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.

I know that each and every person in the world has a gift of the Spirit, and I know that as we share our gifts with others, we ourselves will be blessed and we will help build up the Kingdom of God. If you don’t know what your gifts are, ask those who know you or pray to God to know. Once we know what we have been blessed with, we can then bless others.

 

Jan. 26-Feb 2nd: Journey to the Promised Land

Monday was the start of our revamped FHE. My roommate Spencer is leading our group, and we had 23 show-up. Impressive attendance and a good time was had as we played a get-to-know-you Kahoot game.

Book club this week had the biggest turnout I’ve seen so far, with 9 people showing up. It was a crowded room, and we delved into Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.

On Thursday, I held a “Nachos and Nacho Libre” night. Some of the ladies we minister to had wanted to do this, so we planned it and had delicious oven-baked nachos while watching the movie, Nacho Libre. We all had a really good time. It amazes me how sometimes the simplest things can make a world of difference. I regret not taking a picture. After such a good time, Ashkia and Kellie both want to go to Zion National Park, and we tentatively marked February 28-29th to visit.

The Utah Tech conference, Silicon Slopes. was held on Thursday and Friday. A few execs at my company bought passes ($200 each) and went on Thursday. They had no interest in going on Friday, so at 3 pm, Glenn Daniels, Tanner Litchfield, and I went for the end. We walked around checking out some of the booths, which were already packing up, and visited the insane arcade area where professional videogamers were battling it out on all sorts of games. The fluorescent lights, rapidly moving games, and vibrant announcers were enough to induce a headache in minutes.

The conference was in the Salt Lake Convention Center, and the arcade area took up an entire hall. There was the main game going on in the center, and being broadcast, while countless smaller games were happening on the sides.

Here is the main contest, with video and announcers on both sides.

We left the arcade area to go see the conference keynote, where Mark Zuckerburg did a Q+A. He did a great job, and his answers showed a lot of thought, vision, and sincerity I didn’t expect. I left not disliking him, even a little bit of a fan. While his answers were logical and well-reasoned, he didn’t/couldn’t play to the crowd at all (about 10,000 people crammed into the conference hall) and communication/connection is obviously a struggle for him (ergo why he invented Facebook in the first place).

Me and Glenn. He drove us up. Both Tanner and Glenn have been good friends at work.

I also enjoyed hearing from a few of the tech pioneers in the area. They have done an absolutely incredible job building a community where no one views it as a zero-sum game, and everyone is helping their neighbor succeed in business. The camaraderie is inspiring. While I won’t be part of the scene much longer, I do believe that there is something special happening with Utah tech.

Watching the masses exit at the conclusion of the Q+A.

(On my way back walking from the temple, walking the one mile, I ran into some non-denominational evangelicals and we talked for an hour on the sidewalk)

About 10 1/2 years ago, in early July 2009, I went on a trek with the Boston Stake. Of course, I didn’t want to go. Begged not to. I’m so glad my parents made sure I did. I recall walking about 24 miles over the three days. Camping out two nights. Getting to know the other people in my little “family,” the 7-8 other youth and adult “ma” and “pa” there watching over us and helping direct. We were (somewhat) dressed as pioneers would be, as they crossed the plains by handcart between roughly 1847-1856.

The entire trek was wonderful, and an experience I’ll never forget. I am very thankful, that while Tanner and my Mom and Dad, were in a different handcart, they were still on the trip.

All that being said, the reason I remember it, and think of it as being so formative, is because of what happened the very last day. We only had around three miles to go. It would be a short day, and at lunchtime, we’d make it to the finishing area and meet family members for a big lunch.

We re-enacted the Sweetwater River crossing. After everyone made it to the other side, we had a testimony meeting. I can still remember vividly sitting there thinking, “this is what the Holy Spirit feels like.” The Spirit was incredibly strong. I was crying listening to these youth talk about what they knew to be true and talk about their experiences the last few days. I remember thinking, this is how I want to feel all the time.

We might not feel like pioneers, but we can live like them. I think the key to their ultimate success, is their willingness to sacrifice. They gave up so much to follow God. Years later, when someone was criticizing the Willie and Martin Handcart companies, an old man stood up and shared his experience. This is what he said:

“I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts … give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife … too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but … we became acquainted with [God] in our extrem[i]ties.

“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. … I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company”

Let us not shun tribulation. Usually, it is in our extremities, our times of trial that we do come to know God.

January 13-19: Rejoice ye in that day and Leap for Joy

Monday was LSAT try number 2. I think it went better this time. The sections lined up perfectly. Of course, a large degree of uncertainty remains because I don’t know which of the 5 sections was experimental did not count. As long as the first section was not the experimental one, I’ll end up a few points higher I think. I didn’t study between the tests except for a one hour session in early December, and felt refreshed and fresh, ready to go. By the end though, the struggle to concentrate was intense, and I didn’t finish as strong as i would have liked.

My gym time has become more productive as I’ve focused on the compound exercises; i.e. bench press, pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, military press; and try to do each of those exercises two different days per week.

As some of my goals for the year, I’m taking health more seriously, and besides changes to the gym routine, I’m also eating healthier, with lots more veggies. This last week, I bought and ate 12 different types of fruits/veggies. Meat is restricted to Tuesdays and Sundays.

Exceptions are made for when we’re having an EQ presidency meeting on Wednesday and Bro. Sutton the high councilor brings in buckets of KFC. This was in fact what happened this week. We feasted together. I look forward to our meetings every week. Its half an hour of business, then its always time to eat, listen to some knee-slapping jokes, and enjoy good conversation.

Friday January 17th marked the 100th anniversary of the start of Prohibition. It is crazy to imagine what would have happened if Prohibition would have continued until today. Thousands of innocent victims killed by drunk driving could be alive. I doubt that marijuana would be so freely used, and the debate over legalization of drugs in general wouldn’t be happening.

The following is something I shared on Facebook on Sunday the 19th. To preface, I should say that over Christmas, my mother mentioned getting a keyboard. I figured that I might as well get an organ instead of a keyboard, and am in the perfect spot to do so. There were dozens if not hundreds listed for sale in Utah, with most going for $50-100. Most people don’t want them as they are outdated and bulky. Both of which happen to be two of my nicknames, so I was glad to find one for free in Sandy, which Porter helped me pick up. Now the post:

“I’m overfilled with gratitude. One of the reasons I stayed in Utah after graduation was to be near my siblings. They serve me, bring me joy and inspire me to be better. While I am lucky to spend time with them weekly, Porter’s 22nd birthday was a catalyst in helping me realize how truly special they are. Saturday, Porter spent 2 hours helping me bring an organ from near Salt Lake to my house. Cooper provided a feast for both me and Porter that night for dinner. Then Tanner edited my law school application and AnneMarie lent me a book I’ve been dying to read and as always shared her positivity and non-judgmental spirit that makes all of us kinder in turn.

Today, we celebrated Porter’s birthday with an incredibly delicious Italian smorgasbord and a gorgeous cake that Annemarie made. Tanner hosted a Jeopardy game that was incredibly well put together and Cooper shared a new card game that had us all in tears, and then, just to cap everything off, I went to Porter’s apartment where he led 20some people through a scripture study, and bore his powerful testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I am truly blessed.

10 years ago, I could not have imagined the scene that has been this weekend. Similarly, I have no idea what 10 years from today will look like.

But this I do know, as any person strives to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ, their present will be filled with peace and their future will contain more happiness than they could ever imagine.”

January 5-13: Wonder

Sunday, January 5th, was a life-changing day. Let me explain. There has been this lady I wanted to go out with for some time now, Hannah M. She is a student at the law school, works at the MTC, is in the stake RS presidency, and has a shift at the temple. In one word, BUSY. Finding a time that would work was tough. Finally, the stars aligned, and we set up a date for Sunday January 5th, right after break and before things became crazy again. She lives just a few houses down, and after picking her up, we were off to the nursing home to sing. While driving there, and as we were having an already mature conversation, she turns and asks me, “So Hunter, what are your goals for the new decade?”

I had nothing. Sure, there are some longer-term goals I have, and that I shared to adequately answer her question, but I realized that I did not have anything, I repeat, not a single goal that I wanted to accomplish by 2030. It was a HUGE wake-up call for me. I knew that I was coasting too much, and needed to set better goals. Goals with defined action plans and with a clearly defined timeline.

We had a great time singing, then went to my Robert and Hailey’s new apartment in Orem for some games and cookies. We played Boggle and Bananagrams. I won a few and held my own against some tough competition. I’ll skip ahead and say that I had a great time, and was thoroughly impressed by Hannah. She has her life together. Alas, while she said it was the perfect first-date, and she enjoyed our time together, when I asked her out a few days later, the reply was negative as she is not looking for anything serious at this point with everything else going on. Timing, that fateful friend has spoken again.

Nevertheless, I think that I received exactly what I needed: a big kick to the behind to be more productive and planned. The rest of the week I spent serious time thinking about what I wanted to accomplish this decade. I added additional goals for the rest of this year and really tried to imagine where I would like to be on December 31, 2029.

As part of this exercise, I looked back on some past goals from when I came home from off my mission, which was the last time I set longer term goals. The crazy thing is, I accomplished almost every single one. And the list was long. Some whimsical, some much more important, and that I’m quite proud of.

Read 50 books per year: check

Make my own salad dressing: check

Make my own deodorant: check

Bench press 225 pounds: check

and on and on it went.

Goals make a difference. If it’s not written down, it’s only a wish.

As I pondered, I realized that without goals, you move from crisis to crisis. There will always be something calling for and trying to claim your time. Goals can supersede these expediencies and help us to rise above them.

I started on my first goal almost immediately. I went to the storehouse in Lindon and started buying food storage. I’ve done well at having enough food to last me a month or two, keeping about 75 pounds of floor, 10 pounds of potatoes, and 20 pounds of rice on hand. Now, it’s time to get serious. I bought enough unground wheat, beans, and oats. all stored in metal #10 cans, to last me 6 months. I wanted to research a few things, and next week I’ll get the rest of the supplies to last me a full year.

On Tuesday, after going to the gym, I was running on BYU’s campus and guess I didn’t see a ??? and completely messed my ankle up. At that time, my car was parked 50 yards away. It might as well have been miles. I stood in the cold on one leg wondering if I should try to make it, or call someone for help. Eventually, I hopped over and made it the short drive back home. I didn’t go to work the next two days and my roommate bought a pair of crutches for me at DI. I couldn’t put any weight on it. Conclusion: 1. The pain lasted for weeks. I ran for the first time this week (Feb. 8) more than one month later. Definitely the worst injury I’ve had. 2. I’ve long wondered if I was still flexible enough to do a somersault, and when my ankle rolled, I straight crumpled, falling down and naturally going into a roll. Kind of wish that part was film. In my mind, it looked pretty cool, and my question has been answered. In the right scenario, I’ll be ready.

Random thought: There was a recently discovered consequence of moving schools so much. I haven’t kept up with anybody from Massachusetts and almost no one from Texas. It’s amazing to look at some of my classmates and see where they are now. Thank you facebook. The world shrinks if you let it.

The thing is, I don’t fit in anywhere. While in Utah, I say I’m from Massachusetts. Basically, I generally choose the farthest place possible from where I’m currently at. If I move back to New England, will I say I’m from Utah, from Texas, from Ohio? I know I won’t say Massachusetts. Again, the truth is, I know more about the culture of Ohio/West Virginia or Texas than Massachusetts.

It’s another, perhaps the final opportunity to redefine myself. I just wonder if the reality is different than the expectation. I don’t know entirely what to expect. The idea that I could be wrong is scary.

Right now, leaving Utah is in itself scary. I’m comfortable. It’s easy. I’m used to everything. I know what I like and what I don’t like. Very few question marks remain, and if I want to, those are easy to avoid. In conclusion, it’s easier to think about doing something, even regretfully thinking about what might have been, than to put your shoulder to the wheel and go after it, knowing you might fail. Because that means you failed. The only question is, when that day comes, because it will for every single person, what will you do?

Reading Alma 24:20, I was struck by a new insight. The Anti-Nephi-Lehites famously gave up all of their weapons so that they would never fight again, and could know Christ. This is admirable and noteworthy. Here is the verse:

“And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they anever would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and bcovenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would cgive up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.”

The takeaway reading this time for me was the line, “rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him.” It is not enough to only get rid of our sins. We must be willing to relinquish ALL, that we might be able to truly know Christ. These people didn’t immediately give up all, they gave up their sins, but were WILLING to give up all. If we aren’t, then whatever we are holding back is more valuable to us than Christ. As has been said previously, if the Kingdom of God is not first, it doesn’t matter what is second.

Dec. 22-Jan. 4: E Pluribus Unum

-dino track pictures

-schenewark gravestone

 

-art museum

Here are some highlights from Christmas vacation:

-being together as a family. Sometimes (usually) its the simple things that mean the most.

-Wedding for Robin and Moriah. This happened on on December 28th. An unforgettable day. Robin quickly won me over, and I hope to be able to spend more time with him sometime. The wedding was at the Green Acres Baptist Church, and I thought the ceremony was wonderful. The pastor did a fantastic job, the location was set-up well, and the ceremony and reception mixed some german traditions in nicely. Truly a wonderful day. Here’s the link to the video recap:

 

-Sawyer’s basketball game. Over the last few years, I’ve tried to stamp out some of my competitiveness and have done quite well. I almost didn’t recognize the feelings I had while watching Sawyer play. It was hard to stay calm. Basketball is such a physical game. Here’s my coach’s report: Watching Sawyer was quite different than watching Miller. Sawyer will go head on and drive into you. He’ll dive for the ball. He’ll go up for the rebounds. I struggled because I wouldn’t do any of these things. Miller still does it better than me, but the contrast is obvious, as he’ll still try to go around people (more work, requires fanciness to pull off) instead of being more physical like Sawyer.

-Tarleton Basketball. This was Phi Slamma Jamma. Well, for one team. Officially labeled an exhibition, the game featured the Tarleton (D-II) team going up against a small university that was part of a D-II christian university league. Watching the warm-ups I felt confident I could play for the opposing team, and sure enough, by halftime Tarleton was up by 30, and on its way to over 100 points. On our way there we ate at Grumps and enjoyed their burgers.

-Tradition! This word demands to always be said like you’re on the set of “A Fiddler on the Roof.” Whether its the Yule Tide logs, or caroling, or simply opening up Christmas presents, I love participating in Christmas traditions.

-Game nights. We played lots of games. A favorite this go-around was Scatagories. Definitely a family of future lawyers. Also unforgettable, Scrutineyes (sound like scrutinize). Breyer would walk around carrying it, asking, “Who wants to play Screw-tinies?”

-riding a horse. I really wanted to do this, as its been years since I’ve ridden a horse, and that was on our camping trip to Gettysburg, and ended up as a very contained trot more than anything. This was freedom. This was speed. This was sunshine and samba. I loved it. Sure, my thighs were sore and worthless the next day, but in the moment, I could have gone for hours longer. The Gammons were very kind to facilitate that. Here’s some pictures of me and Pumpjack:

-frisbee golf. We went and played the local course, making it through 16 holes. The dog came too and we went frolicking around. I’m appreciative of being able to do that in December.

-darts. If you asked me if I would like to play darts, before Christmas break I would have said of course not. Turns out, I do. As part of the overall change of pace, I did like throwing darts. It’s also fun because it’s a game where we were all on the same basic level. Breyer came close to beating me, and it’s not complicated, allowing for conversation to continue.

-food. Ah, yes. It was good to be back for Mom’s cooking. Inevitably, I put on a few pounds. I weighed myself the first day I got there, and the weight was correct at 189. I mention that, because I found it hard to believe that when I left it was 196. Running a little with Wagner wasn’t nearly enough to help prevent that. I’m glad I could snag some Texas brisket too.

-movies: I save them up for the holidays and on some cold nights we watched White Christmas, North by Northwest, and Notorious. Not sure how Hitchcock trumped the usual It’s a Wonderful Life, but I enjoyed all three movies. I have a list of 7-8 movies that I genuinely want to see, and North by Northwest was on there and did not disappoint.

-burning a christmas tree with Luke. This is kind of self-explanatory. We took our Christmas tree out after the New Year, and given that it spent weeks inside drying out, the tree went up in flames crazy quick. It’s therapeutic watching it.

-Glen Rose dinosaur tracks. Aunt Janel and Luke visited Granbury and we went to a state park and hiked around. I stayed with Waggie most of the time, and we forded the river (like 100 times) and hiked up to a small peak. The tracks were very underwhelming, but being in the park was fun.

E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. The old adage, you can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed, rings true. All of us are at once a seed, and an apple. We are part of a family, and we can start a family. We act kindly towards others, others act kindly towards us. We teach or influence someone, and that persons influence carries a part of us much further than we would ever go otherwise.

I am not entirely sure of the point of that last paragraph. I just think life is beautiful. Life echoes the sound of the waves as they wash up on the shore. Back and forth. Much seems fleeting. Yet all play a part. There are seasons for everything. I am grateful for the Christmas season, to have spent time with family and to remember our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Dec. 16-21: Prelude to Paradise

(Note: events happened Dec. 16-21; I didn’t finish writing before I left for Texas, so here we are, one month later. Much of the delay can be blamed on Mr. John Grisham.)

There is a fine line between looking forward too much to the future, thereby not enjoying the present, and alternatively living too much in the present and not looking forward with an eye to the future. Both can be dangerous. This was a week where I was decidedly in the future. Saturday  I would fly home and be with my family again.

Of course, there is also the past and this is the perfect time to resurrect this classic.

Ah, yes. That era when my favorite word was paleontology and as long as I had dinosaurs in my front “pockets,” I was invincible. ‘Twas a simpler time. Of course, you could say not much has changed. I am still fascinated by dirt and the wonder of life that it conceals and helps produce.  Looking back at my scrapbook, I laughed seeing the same vest in so many of my pictures. It was my favorite outfit.

 

We had our work Christmas party at Topgolf where the food was greasy yet good, and we did a white elephant in between shots. I brought a CanopyTax hat and a tie. Mason picked my present, and I walked away with 60 double A batteries. My original choice had been a crystal serving bowl, but when that was stolen, I went with the batteries. Although I currently don’t have a single thing that uses batteries, I figured they were my best option.

I received my LSAT score from the first test. It was exactly what I thought I’d get, judging from my performance, so no surprise but some disappointment. I’m glad I signed up to take it again and won’t have to wait long until the test in January.

The trip home was relatively uneventful. I flew out of Salt Lake City at 5:30 and met Tanmarie in the Phoenix airport for the second leg of the journey. Nora is always a hoot. She pushed her little stroller all around the airport, before reluctantly boarding when the time came. We made it into Dallas close to midnight and after Dad brought us home, there were some quick hugs and hellos before we all hit our beds exhausted.

 

 

Ich bin ein Schenewark: Dec. 9-15

I’m committed to going to Germany this summer. My itinerary is slowly shaping up. My language skills are progressing. The plans are coming together. Initially, the idea was to be more of a tourist. Now, I am set on doing family history. I will travel to the hometown of the Gerken’s, the Hesse’s. And, I hope beyond hope, to find where the Schenewark’s come from. Exciting update: I believe my father will come along!

Finals have descended upon BYU and the student populace is preparing to leave for break. Which meant this past week was mostly quiet on the social front. I read and read. Attended the last week of institute, went to book club, and worked out.

 

The cinnamon roll factory was firing on all cylinders this weekend.

Deseret Industries saw me coming from a mile away. What a book!

My propensity for wearing my bathrobe to evening events is spreading. Here I am with my friend Maddie H. Sunday night at ward prayer.

Dinner on Sunday was with Tanmarie. We ate good food and I relished my time with them and on their magic carpet. When I’m over there, inevitably, I wind up on their magic carpet rug. Nora was a lot of fun and kept coming back for more tickles. I think Cooper is still the favorite uncle though.

This week I’ve been researching and writing on economic inequality. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world, and I think there always will be. Impeachment might be shelved, trade deals could be made, sweeping policies enacted, yet uncertainty will always be part of life. I am not even sure where the Schenewark line comes from. Nevertheless, if there is one thing I do know, it is that we are all children of our Heavenly Father. I love Psalms 82:6, “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” And we truly are. I know that a firm testimony of this truth will help us navigate the challenges of life, and add more truth to that foundational precept.