Saturday, January 21, 2017

Donald Trump is NOT my President

It's time to finally turn the page into a New Year.

L. Brent Goates
Since my last entry much has transpired. Chief among the events in my life was the passing of my father, L. Brent Goates, on November 20th. It was surprising how many of his contemporaries and others seemed to pass during this holiday season. On the way to the cemetery in the mortuary limo, Patsy observed that it seemed so many people were dying, and she asserted most people seemed to die over the holidays. I challenged that statement, observing that people die every day. A brother-in-law, quick on the draw with Siri, queried, "What day do most people die?" The immediate response was a graph showing that Christmas Day, December 25th, is the number one day of the year on which people die. Who knew?

Dad lived a long and productive life. It seemed so appropriate that he died the week of Thanksgiving. We planned the funeral events for the Saturday following Thanksgiving, and providentially all our children and grandchildren except one family were in attendance. The night before the funeral, November 25th, we had a visitation for friends and family on what would have been my Mother's 91st birthday were she still living. Our missing family was sending a missionary off to Mexico and simply couldn't be in two places at once.

Dad's passing lifted a burden from my shoulders that was unexpected. He was the last of his generation on both sides of the family to pass on, and I felt all the uncertainty of his situation resolve in an instant upon his death as they rolled the gurney carrying his body down the sidewalk to the waiting mortuary van. It was the end of an era. I was so happy for him I could hardly contain my exuberance. Some people may not understand that emotion, but it arises from my certain faith in a life after death and a reunion with all his loved ones on the other side. Coupled with that I felt the moniker of "Skipper" that had attached to me in my childhood by my Grandfather had finally been erased. The release was tangible and welcomed.

He had reached a point in his existence where living became a burden for him. His body was slowly deteriorating day by day and the dilution of his physical, mental and emotional energy was palpable. Finding the exit door to mortality had seemed so elusive. He kept asking me, "Does everyone have to go through this? Why is it so hard?" Of course, those are rhetorical questions no one can answer except those who pass through the portal, and once they are gone it's impossible for them to tell their tale.

Despite his demise, because he lingered so long we had ample opportunities to discuss everything and to say our farewells until we were fully satisfied. I miss him a lot. I find myself reaching for the phone to talk to him, then realize he isn't here any more. But I rejoice in his escape from his decrepit physical frame. He and we were blessed that he maintained his sense of humor and his quick wit right to the end, an outcome for which he prayed continuously.

Just before his passing the Cubs triumphed in the World Series. Later the Utes would fade to number 21 in the final college football standings after losing to Washington, so in that one case things DID get worse.

And then the improbable election of Donald J. Trump happened. He received no help from me, and neither did Hillary Clinton. I've heard so many say since then, "Donald Trump is NOT my President." However, I am not one of those people. I was as gracious and accepting of Barack Obama when he was first elected and then re-elected as I knew how to be, but surprisingly I have not had such magnanimous feelings for Trump. Why? I guess it's because no one can predict with any accuracy where we're headed from here. On the one hand I believe his agenda more closely resembles mine, but on the other hand at least I knew what we were getting with Obama. After eight long years, the Republic survived, an outcome many doubted when he first took office. That's what leads me to hope we just might survive Donald J. Trump too. America is resilient, if nothing else.

On the day of our 47th wedding anniversary, December 19th, Packsize held its annual Christmas party. We're actually more politically correct than that, so it's now called a "holiday celebration." Because of the conflict in our calendar, I excused myself and took Patsy on a date to celebrate our anniversary. When we returned home later that night I was surprised (shocked, more accurately!) to learn that I had been voted "Person of the Year" at Packsize by my peers. It was a humbling recognition. My first reaction was to wonder if we had somehow lowered our standards as a company.

Donald J. Trump, 45th POTUS
I watched the inaugural in part on Friday, January 20th. "The most important election of our lifetimes" had mercifully come to a conclusion. I was mostly underwhelmed with Trump's inaugural address, seeming as it did a compilation of his campaign stump speeches with little or no substance I could discern in it. I remain convinced that our political system in this country is beyond help. Time will tell if it can be rescued, but don't hold your breath. I plan to look to inspired Church leaders and the scriptures for guidance from here on in. There won't be any political saviors anytime soon, though we all seem to cling to that hope. I'm still turned off by the media coverage, and the harder I seek to avoid political coverage the more pervasive it seems to be.

I can't conclude without a passing tribute to God for the prodigious amounts of snowfall that have landed in our front yard this year. In the thirty years we've lived in Pine Valley at 7333 feet above sea level, we have never seen so much snow so early in the winter as we have experienced this year. It culminated two weeks ago with snow each day and mechanical failures in the equipment owned by the man who plows our road. The snow kept piling up, drifting in, and once I got out one morning I could not get back in for over a week. Patsy remained behind snowbound in the house, and I camped out night after night at my father's home in Salt Lake. Finally, we secured the help of a local excavator with a robust 4x4 front loader who was able to scoop out the road so we could be reunited. This is the first year I have heard the term "atmospheric river," and I can validate it's a "real thing".

Any discussion about snow at our house is always a conversation against self-preservation. If I express gratitude for all the snow, I am expressing hope in the coming summer when we so desperately need the water from the reservoirs so we can drink and water our livestock. On the other hand moving this amount of snow around and navigating through it can be challenging (and expensive).

So those snow events led to the purchase of another gas-guzzling SUV with more clearance, more power and 4x4 muscle than my environmentally friendly Prius. I kept the Prius and now I have a 4Runner to bail me out on the dicey snow days.

We begin 2017 with hearts filled with hope and happiness for what the future may hold this year. For me at least, it is the beginning of a new era as we embark on an exciting and unknown future.

And like it or not if you live in America, Donald J. Trump most certainly is your President.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Could It Get Any Worse?

I have really been working at putting myself out of range in this election season, as I mentioned in my last post. Instead, I have been filling my time with far more productive activities, like following the Cubs through the playoffs. How great is that story? After 71 years of futility they are going back to the World Series. I am so happy for them and all their long-suffering die-hard fans. I suspect there are overnight now more Cubs fans than at any time in their history.

And how about those Utes? Now 7-1 overall, and tied for the the lead in the PAC-12 South. Their 52-45 shootout with UCLA yesterday in the Rose Bowl where Joe Williams smashed the single game rushing record with 332 yards was poetry in motion on a football field. They got some love in the coaches poll today, moving up to number 16. Even the Cougars from the school down south have been fun to watch. Their record doesn't reflect how close they've come to being undefeated. Even Utah would be undefeated with a few more inches that fell short on the final drive in their single loss to California.

So, believe me when I say these have been pleasant diversions from the nightly news. Speaking of that, aside from the politics, I have wearied of the nightly crime blotter - murder, adultery, theft, burglary, armed assaults, and all that goes with it. As a product of the Sixties, I have always been a television addict, but those days are now gone as my television time has been self-restricted. I hate commercials. God blessed the man who developed the "Hopper," and I praise that man's name now.

I am continually reminded of the ancient record as found in Mormon 8. Mormon was the father of Moroni, and one of the last survivors of an ancient nation state that once thrived in the Americas. But his civilization was destroyed by wickedness. He writes here in about 400 A.D., with a prophetic vision of the times in which we live today:

 35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

 36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

 37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

 38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies — because of the praise of the world?

 39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?

 40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?

 41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.

I want to be clear - I have always thought of myself as an optimistic person. I really don't want to believe in secret combinations that are set up to get gain, murder the innocents for power, and grind the faces of the poor into the dust. I don't look for the anti-Christ under every bush. I want to believe that people are basically decent, hard-working and honest with one another. I really don't want to let myself go there with conspiracy theories about "rigged" systems of government or business that pollute our inheritance as free people in America.

But, that said, the conditions, the rhetoric, the back and forth of the political dialogue to which we have been exposed this election cycle have been so reprehensible that if I had small children at home I would have no choice but to unplug the television. Even with sports, I record the games, fast-forward through the endless commentary and commercials and reduce my watching to the actual plays. That Utah-UCLA game yesterday took four hours. Watching it the "Hopper" way I do takes a little longer than a half-hour.

Elder David A. Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Filtering out all the "noise" is exactly what Elder David A. Bednar was speaking about here. The search for truth isn't difficult if we ask ourselves these two important questions posed by Elder Bednar.

Some are simply too young to remember the Clinton era when Bill was the POTUS and his whole presidency seemed to be one sexual intrigue after another. Stains on a blue dress, parsing of tortured definitions of what constituted "sexual relations" in front of a panel of the House of Representatives convened to impeach him for lying to a grand jury, and the lies that were told, then refuted and corrected with hard evidence to the contrary; all were the "highlights" of those years. Impeached in the House, but a conviction lacking in the Senate, Bill Clinton skated, though he was impugned and lost his license to practice law. And now he's back running for "First Gentleman," whatever that may come to mean. He is anything but a "gentleman."

This year the Clinton legacy has all been brought to the forefront once again, accompanied by the allegations of the escapades of one Donald J. Trump, man of the world if ever there was one. It seems our national moral compass has been demagnetized. We are no longer shocked by anything that once would have immediately disqualified these two candidates in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Our true north is whatever a scheming politician says it is. I noticed the other day that the polling done last week puts Clinton and Trump in exactly the same place they were a year ago when this all started - in other words, nothing has been settled yet. I guess we should be grateful they are both the most loathed candidates ever put forward to run for the presidency.

I think the counsel of this priceless hymn is worth repeating - If the way be full of trials, weary not. . .



And so, in answer to my question, "Could it get any worse?" I answer yes - the Cubs could lose the World Series, and the Utes could lose to Washington next week and get little or no respect in the national rankings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Memo to Utah: We are NOT a "Swing State"

In this election cycle we've just about heard it all by now. The latest flavor of the month has been that Utah might figure prominently as a "swing state." Here are the reasons why Utah is NOT:

1. The predominance of the Republican party has not changed, and it won't for this election cycle.

2. Yes, people hate the thought of voting for Donald Trump, but enough Republicans will vote for him that he will win Utah without much effort. He's up comfortably in the polls today.

3. It's hard to imagine the hated Hillary Clinton winning enough cross-over votes to change that outcome.

4. Just because there are two minority parties who have chosen Utah as their headquarters does not signal a mass uprising among the citizenry.

5. Even if Evan McMullin or Gary Johnson were able to somehow win Utah's six electoral college votes, that won't be enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives to determine the election.

6. In the grand scheme of national politics Utah isn't even a drop in the ocean.

7. One person's vote in Utah is almost immaterial because the outcome is always so predictable.

8. Whenever a viable third-party candidate has emerged, I have always voted for that person, as I did twice for Ross Perot. Why? Because my vote really doesn't matter much and I have always known it.

9. "But the Supreme Court hangs in the balance," I hear routinely from others. See above.

10. This might be the most important election of our lifetimes. See above.

Image result for the lesser of two evils

I won't stay home and not vote for anyone. Instead, I will immediately fill in my mail-in ballot as soon as I receive it and be done with this election cycle.

I have unsubscribed from every single e-mail request from every single campaign that has solicited my donations.

I have rudely hung up on every pollster who has called my home.

I have turned off all the political coverage on the news channels.

I will tune out the debates whenever they pop up. Watching NFL football will be a welcomed relief by contrast. Shoot, watching ANYTHING else would be acceptable to me this year.

I have never seen a time in my life when the political process has produced such dismal choices. The two-party system has given us the worst outcomes I can imagine. I am boycotting and denouncing the two major candidates, and I will not vote for either one.

Others will tell me to adopt such a stance is un-American or irresponsible and my vote will not count or be meaningful. And they would all be right, because my vote in Utah is essentially meaningless. See above.

So who will I vote for? The one guy who's standing up for America. The most logical would be a vote for Evan McMullin. At least he most closely aligns with how I think and believe. I actually have several options. I could write in my wife's name, as Mitt Romney suggested he might do a few weeks back. Or I could vote for Thomas S. Monson or Joseph Smith or Mickey Mouse. I've even thought about writing in my home teacher. Any one of my sons and daughters would also be a good alternative.

Far from throwing away my vote in Utah, it will give me the satisfaction of taking a stand against the corrupt two-party system and the two corrupt candidates represented by the major parties. Both Trump and Clinton have headquarters here in Utah this year. It won't move the needle much either way, I predict.

I would love to hear anyone's comments about why I'm wrong. Go ahead, take a shot and convince me your one vote makes even a scintilla of difference in Utah.

I have often joked that this year I would write in the name of a righteous young man whom I love and trust as my number one choice, even though he isn't old enough to serve based upon the Constitutional requirements for office. In fact, I have several grandsons that fit that bill. And even more granddaughters!

If you live in Utah this year, you don't have to choose the lesser of two evils. Trust me, plenty of people in Utah will do just that and blindly drink the Trump Kool-Aid to prevent Hillary Rodham Clinton from winning. And Trump will win Utah. And he will garner enough voters to do it.

I just won't be one of them.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Inspiration of the Moment

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after we are baptized we are invited to "receive the Holy Ghost." It is not a bestowal of a gift from a hand-to-head conveyance that is automatic. Rather, it comes in the form of an admonition to accept the proffered gift from a loving Heavenly Father. It requires aligning our thoughts with His.

Almost from the moment the gospel was restored to the earth through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith, many and varied have been the ideas associated with the Holy Ghost. Speculations about who, what, and how the Holy Ghost ministers to men and women continue into our day. I could make a very long post with a summary of all those opinions, but I will refrain.

Joseph Smith
When President Martin Van Buren asked Joseph Smith "wherein we differed in our religion from the other religions of the day, Brother Joseph said we differed in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. We considered that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost." (History of the Church, 4:42).

After his martyrdom, the Prophet Joseph appeared to President Brigham Young and said of the Spirit:

"Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world." (Watson, Manuscript History of Brigham Young).

I have always treasured these words that describe the workings of the Holy Spirit:

"I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy." (D&C 11:13).

President Boyd K. Packer has said:
President Boyd K. Packer

The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a "still small voice." (D&C 85:6). And while we speak of "listening" to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, "I had a feeling . . ." . . . Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. Nephi told his wayward brothers, who were visited by an angel, "Ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words." (1 Nephi 17:45).

The scriptures are full of such expressions as "The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened" (D&C 110:1) or "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart" (D&C 8:2) or "I did enlighten thy mind" (D&C 6:15) or "Speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts." (D&C 100:5). There are hundreds of verses which teach of revelation. (BKP, Mine Errand From the Lord, 94–05, p. 60).

Revelation comes to us through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost, synonymous with the Holy Spirit. There are some wonderful members of the Church who, in pursuit of the "greater things," or the "mysteries of God," often go beyond the mark of the simple gospel truths. I caution those who are so disposed to stay within the mainstream of the Church. Danger lies on either side of the straight and narrow path - "more than" is just as dangerous as "less than."

What do I mean by "more than" the simple doctrines of salvation? It is specious, speculative and uninspired interpretation of scriptures and old sermons written or transcribed. Some who are not anchored in the Word we have received go beyond the mark. One example: The age of the earth, how it was created and the possibility of the existence of pre-Adamites. Another: The endless debates in high priest groups about trivial minutiae never founded upon scripture, going over the top in stretching for meanings never before revealed. Another: Some talks in the Church that should be prefaced with "I will now proceed to present a discourse upon a subject about which the Lord has revealed little or nothing, and His servants have never spoken about." These are examples of "more than" the plain and simple doctrines of salvation. There seems to be a presumption among us that we must go beyond what the Lord has revealed to display our gospel scholarship. Such ideas add to the "more than" doctrine category.

"They despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall." (Jacob 4:14).


Elder Dean L. Larsen
In his October 1987 general conference address, Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Presidency of the Seventy said: "I have wondered what was actually in Jacob's mind as he wrote of 'looking beyond the mark' in describing a failing that was common to ancient Israel. . . .

"Jacob speaks of people who placed themselves in serious jeopardy in spiritual things because they were unwilling to accept simple, basic principles of truth. They entertained and intrigued themselves with 'things that they could not understand.'

"They were apparently afflicted with a pseudosophistication and a snobbishness that gave them a false sense of superiority over those who came among them with the Lord's words of plainness. They went beyond the mark of wisdom and prudence and obviously failed to stay within the circle of fundamental gospel truths which provide a basis for faith. They must have reveled in speculative and theoretical matters that obscured for them the fundamental spiritual truths. As they became infatuated by these 'things that they could not understand,' their comprehension of and faith in the redeeming role of a true Messiah were lost, and the purpose of life became confused."

In pursuit of the "greater things" those who chase the shiny objects have often gone far afield from where they started and lost the very things that were most precious to them - their families. At one time in my life I was one of those who sought for things I could not always understand. I know whereof I speak. And now in my old age I am content with simplicity. All the ex-Mormons for Jesus and others I once read and chased are now silenced by the passage of time as the caravan moves on toward the city of Zion. Please, do not be deceived, especially if you are among the elect in these last days. (See D&C 45:56-59). Take the Holy Spirit for your guide, and no one else.

I am grateful for the small and simple things that happen every day in the ministrations of the Holy Ghost when I am seeking guidance in my daily walk. I am not perfect by any stretch. But I am grateful for the inspiration of the moment, and cannot imagine life without it.

The workings of the Spirit within us are so fragile, so transient, and so subtle we must never take them for granted nor discount them when they come to us. If we are attuned to the Infinite we may rely upon that inspiration and grow in light and truth day by day, year by year, seeking to stay in the straight and narrow path that leads toward eternal life.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie

"You don't have to do what Jacob said, 'Go beyond the mark.' You don't have to live a life that's truer than true. You don't have to have an excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing. What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church - keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you're on that path when death comes - because this is the time and the day appointed, this the probationary estate - you'll never fall from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure. Now, that isn't the definition of that term, but the end result will be the same." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "The Probationary Test of Mortality," address delivered at U of U Institute of Religion, Salt Lake City, Utah, January 10, 1982).


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Italian Gardener

Thanks to James Ritchie for sharing - it's an oldie, but still a goodie:

An old Italian gentleman lived alone in New Jersey . He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament: 

Dear Vincent, 
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days. 
Love, 
Papa 

A few days later he received a letter from his son. 

Dear Papa, 
Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried. 
Love, 
Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son. 

Dear Papa, 
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances. 
Love you, 
Vinnie