Friday, July 31, 2009

Senator Bob Bennett's Healthcare Petition

Now there is a chance for you to do something in opposition to President Obama's sweeping proposal to erect a government-sponsored and run healthcare program.

Senator Bob Bennett is gathering signatures on a petition to oppose the government-run proposal, and here's your opportunity to get involved.

Please join me in signing the petition, then forward it to everyone you know. The grassroots effort to stop the runaway train of deficit spending seems to be the only hope left.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alpine Food Storage

I want to introduce you all to a food storage solution you may not yet be aware of -- Alpine Food Storage. (See their webpage at:

Dave and Chirine Wadsworth are dear friends of many years. Chirine started this little business in their garage when they were living in Wisconsin. They are still serving a growing list of people interested in acquiring their food storage -- their e-mail list exceeds 4,000 and continues to expand.

They offer over 2,400 items to assist you in assembling, using, rotating and expanding your food storage needs and I endorse their approach without reservation.

Check them out, buy some bulk fresh produce -- you'll find it's the best thing out there for freshness and quality.

Tell them Dave sent you.

ObamaCare and why it won't pass

I noted in today's newspaper a growing suspicion even among liberal Democrats that so-called "ObamaCare" will be doomed to fail despite last minute attempts to jam it through. It seems the American people in growing numbers are finally putting their foot down in protest. (See

Mitt Romney weighed in today, also, with his insistence that President Obama needs to be more thoughtful and deliberative in his approach, rather than ramming another hastily constructed bill down the throats of members of Congress. He advocates (no surprise here) the approach he took as Governor of Massachusetts. (See

Also not surprisingly, Karl Rove has an opinion on ObamaCare and isn't the least bit complimentary. The findings of the Congressional Budget Office are in this article. (See

Defeat of the proposed health care reform initiative may mark the first setback for this president, who up until now has seemed to get nearly everything passed through Congress that he has set before them. Charles Krauthammer says the Democrats will get something, but not the sweeping package Obama originally wanted. (See

Peggy Noonan, a respected Reaganite speechwriter and one of Reagan's biographers (When Character Was King) also gives this perspective in the July 25 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

Let me throw forward three other things that I suspect lessen, or will lessen, support for full health-care reform, two of them not quantifiable.

The first has to do with the doctors throughout the country who give patients a break, who quietly underbill someone they know is in trouble, or don’t charge for their services. Also the emergency rooms that provide excellent service for the uninsured in medical crisis. People don’t talk about this much because they’re afraid if they do they’ll lose it, that some government genius will come along and make it illegal for a doctor not to charge or a hospital to fudge around, with mercy, in its billing. People are afraid of losing the parts of the system that sometimes work—the unquantifiable parts, the human parts.

Second, and this is big, some of the bills being worked on in Congress will allow for or mandate taxpayer funding of abortion. Speaking only and narrowly in political terms, this is so ignorant as to be astounding. A good portion of the support for national health care comes from a sort of European Christian Democrat spirit of community, of “We are all in this together.” This spirit potentially unites Democrats, leftists, some Republicans and GOP populists, the politically unaffiliated and those of whatever view with low incomes. But putting abortion in the mix takes the Christian out of Christian Democrat. It breaks and jangles the coalition, telling those who believe abortion is evil that they not only have to accept its legality but now have to pay for it in a brand new plan, for which they’ll be more highly taxed. This is taking a knife to your own supporters.

The third point is largely unspoken but I suspect gives some people real pause. We are living in a time in which educated people who are at the top of American life feel they have the right to make very public criticisms of . . . let’s call it the private, pleasurable but health-related choices of others. They shame smokers and the overweight. Drinking will be next. Mr. Obama’s own choice for surgeon general has come under criticism as too heavy.

Only a generation ago such criticisms would have been considered rude and unacceptable. But they are part of the ugly, chafing price of having the government in something: Suddenly it can make big and very personal demands on you. Those who live in a way that isn’t sufficiently healthy “cost us money” and “drive up premiums.” Mr. Obama himself said something like it in his press conference, when he spoke of a person who might not buy health insurance. If he gets hit by a bus, “the rest of us have to pay for it.”

Under a national health-care plan we might be hearing that a lot. You don’t exercise, you smoke, you drink, you eat too much, and “the rest of us have to pay for it.”

It is a new opportunity for new class professionals (an old phrase that should make a comeback) to shame others, which appears to be one of their hobbies. (It may even be one of their addictions. Let’s stage an intervention.) Every time I hear Kathleen Sebelius talk about “transitioning” from “treating disease” to “preventing disease,” I start thinking of how they’ll use this as an excuse to judge, shame and intrude.

So this might be an unarticulated public fear: When everyone pays for the same health-care system, the overseers will feel more and more a right to tell you how to live, which simple joys are allowed and which are not.

Americans in the most personal, daily ways feel they are less free than they used to be. And they are right, they are less free.

Who wants more of that?

That's Peggy Noonan's take. No matter how you feel about health care in this country, one thing is perfectly clear -- it's the envy of the world, and tampering with it indiscriminately without giving it a deliberative and carefully balanced hearing is irresponsible.

But then again, everything this Congress has done under this administration is indicative of doing things in a rush with blinding speed, responsible or not.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

God on Mute

Steve Harris handed me an extraordinary book for my 60th birthday, entitled God on Mute, written by an English evangelical Christian named Pete Greig. In 1999, Greig co-founded the "24-7 Prayer" community that now spans the globe.

The book chronicles the personal quest of Pete and his wife Samie as they have coped with her diagnosis of first a brain tumor, then ongoing epilepsy seizures. It's a towering work of hope and anticipation for that final day of victory and fulfillment that continues to elude them, as with all of us, who must engage the reality of the silence of unanswered prayers.

I can only speak for myself, though Steve and I have discussed this topic a thousand times in the last several years, when I say that my whole soul resonated with every page of this book, and especially the concluding "Afterword" provided by Samie:

"This really is the book I was looking for when I first found myself crying out for some hope, help and answers following my diagnosis. So my prayer is that our honesty in the hard times (although in this I do think Pete has described me more favorably than I deserve) can help someone, somewhere, who is struggling with his or her own unanswered prayers. I don't always understand God's ways in my life, but I'm absolutely certain that He can be trusted." (Samie Greig in God on Mute, "Afterword").

I know there are days in the lives of every human being when you wonder if it has all been worth it -- this extraordinary journey through the adversity of long-sought goals and plans, when the heavens seem like brass overhead as we pray, as we work as hard as we can, when we earnestly long for an outcome we believe to be worthy and desirable, and then nothing seems to happen. For each in our individual journeys the path sometimes turns into an epic struggle, an odyssey of monumental proportions never imagined as you began.

For some the journey is laden with insurmountable health issues, as it was for the author and his wife. Others wage a lonely fight for survival as single parents. For others crushing debt and financial burdens seem unbearable and never ending. Still others' dreams and hopes are stampeded by the sins and terrible consequences that extend into the lives of innocent loved ones. Parents are left wrestling with wayward children who can never seem to find the path to lasting happiness and joy because of their destructive choices. In each case prayers are offered, but no relief seems to come.

To all these I offer hope today, when all seems lost.

God sustains us all with gentle whisperings of assurance of what is possible to those who believe in the potential for good the gospel posits. To you who struggle against all odds toward the success you seek, goes my undying and fiercest loyalty for your leadership and example in the wake of seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against you. I've always hoped my meager efforts could improve those odds some, including the comfort of this blog page if it is possible to reach out to you. But to God, ultimately, goes all the glory because none of it would be possible without His divine guidance through it all.

Like Samie, I have come to know that He can be trusted, and in my more faith-filled and rational moments (or is it that I have finally arrived at the borders of insanity?) I do not believe He leads us down these long and often lonely roads of mortality only to have it come to a dead end in a box canyon. He always provides a way for our escape if we remain faithful and attuned to His Spirit. When one door closes, it is usually in preparation for something better yet to come that is still unseen.

Whatever the outcome in your individual quests, I am content with the lessons learned in our collective "wrestle before the Lord" these past several years, and for that I am most grateful to you who struggle onward and upward for your vision filled with possibilities.

Gethsemane means "The Oil Press" and, as I'm sure you know, olive oil was one of the great resources of the ancient world. Back then, it was not only used in cooking (as it is today) but also as a fuel -- a source of light -- that was burned in lamps in every home and as a source of health, used in various medicinal treatments of the time.

In fact, in the Qur'an, Muhammad lists no fewer than 70 conditions that he says should be treated with olive oil.

The Israelites also used olive oil in worship, pouring a fresh measure each day into the seven cups of the golden menorah that was kept burning continually at the heart of the Jewish life in the temple and in the homes of the faithful.

Fittingly, as part of the Restoration, Joseph Smith introduced olive oil as the symbolic and tangible ingredient for anointing the sick in preparation for healing blessings pronounced upon the sick in priesthood administrations.

Furthermore, olive oil was used for anointing the kings of Israel. As such, it had particular resonance for Jesus in Gethsemane, because the very word "Christ" means "anointed one," referring to this Jewish custom of touching the forehead of a prince with olive oil.

This inestimable resource -- important for cooking food, lighting homes, curing diseases, maintaining worship and anointing kings -- could only be acquired by crushing the fruit of the olive tree to a pulp. Without intense pressure and the destruction of something good, there could be nothing better.

It is relatively easy for us in retrospect to see the potency of these images in Christ's suffering in Gethsemane. He alone endured such pressure that night in Gethsemane that He became the everlasting Light of the World, the Healer of Nations and the anointed King of kings. Sometimes, however, we lack the perspective to identify precious oil that can flow in our lives too from the crushing experiences of mortality we are called upon to endure.

We see, nevertheless, powerful testimonies of this precious oil flowing in the resilient faith of our pioneer forefathers who crossed the foreboding plains of America to settle in the communities of the Rocky Mountains. It is evident in the rich texture of faith in African-American spirituals born out of slavery. We see it in the stories of Holocaust survivors, who somehow found faith through the horror of the concentration camps.

We may not always see any such beauty in our own lives, and perhaps this is good. But in our heart of hearts we know that there is an anointing -- an authenticity -- that can only come to us through the darker trust of unanswered prayer. It is an illumination both in us and through us that can only come through suffering. It is a healing that we can only minister to others when we have ourselves been wounded.

We are, if we are faithful in the crushing defeats of this life, becoming something better, a work of creation more fit for eternal glory. Pure gold is never refined in an air-conditioned chamber.

Bitter irony in unanswered prayer often confirms in resounding silence that dross and filth is being burned out of us.

Ultimately, though we do not always detect it with our mortal eyes, we know deep in our souls there is a sevenfold, even an hundredfold worship more precious to God than any other. It is the full-measure offering of a broken heart and a crushed and contrite spirit that prays, "Abba, Father, everything is possible for Thee. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt."

Friday, July 24, 2009

William Goates, Our Pioneer Ancestor

It is a long-standing joke in the Goates family that no one would ever think of naming one of their male children "William" to avoid the obvious references to "Billy Goat" that would surely arise. However, the first progenitor to join the Mormons was indeed named "William." To compound the seeming blunder, the surname "Goates" was originally rendered "Goats" and was not changed apparently until the family emigrated from England.

On July 24th, 2009, we gathered at the Ranch (most of us) for a quick picture as we were honoring our ancestors with our own family reunion. We are descendants of solid stock on the Goates side.
William Goates, Sr., was born according to his own handwritten statement, on 11 May 1817, at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England. He was the sixth of ten children born to his parents, James and Anne Goats, Wimpole.

William's father, James Goats, was christened at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, on 2 February 1783 and died on 26 June 1843/44. James Goats was a professional landscape gardener by trade. William's mother, Anne Dockery [Docura], was born at Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England, on 3 February 1785, and died on 4 August 1859.

William spent most of his boyhood days working with his father. The beauties of nature especially appealed to him while yet a small boy. He loved trees and fruits, as well as shrubs and flowers. Under the able tutorship of his father, he became expert in their care and cultivation.

His father worked on the estate of Lord Hardwicke at Wimpole, where the Wimpole Hall Mansion is located. The enormous grounds of the mansion covered some 300 acres of lawn, shrubs, and flowers. Since William was later to become one of the chief landscape gardeners of this estate, its present state is interesting.

Wimpole Hall Mansion was begun in 1632, by Sir Thomas Chicheley. Sir Thomas, however, was a firm Royalist, and his house and estate were sequestered by Cromwell during the English Civil War. Sir Thomas regained possession later, but was crippled financially in doing so. After the Restoration, he became Charles II's "Master of the King's Ordnance," and was knighted in 1670.

Later, Sir Thomas was buried at the Wimple Mansion. Sir Thomas sold the estate to Sir John Cutler in 1686, whose daughter married Lord Radnor. In 1693, they inherited the mansion and its 11,000 acres. Radnor spent an enormous sum of money altering and enlarging the house, and planted elm avenues which are such a feature of the whole grand setting.

Eventually, in 1710, Lord Radnor sold the Wimpole mansion to the Duke of Newcastle. This owner's occupancy was very short. He died the following year after falling from a horse. The estate was inherited by his daughter Henrietta, who married Edward Lord Harley, in 1713. It was this Lord Harley who subsequently became the second Earl of Oxford. The Oxford family owned much property in London, and Wimpole Street in London was subsequently named after Wimpole Hall.

Lord Oxford expanded the estate even further, but he was no businessman. By 1740, he was obliged to sell the house and the estate. He had an incredible collection of art and a vast collection of books and manuscripts that went to the British Museum. The estate was purchase by the first Earl of Hardwicke, the Lord Chancellor. It remained in his family for 150 years. The collection at Wimpole which was later set up by the Hardwickes carefully preserved a library which was quite typical of that earlier period.

Lord Chancellor Hardwicke further enlarged the house, but his son, the second Earl, made several internal alterations, including the domed Yellow Drawing Room, the Book Room, a large sunken bath, a great dome over the main staircase, and a new staircase at the west end of the house. Nineteenth Century additions to the house included huge east and west wings, and also a porch over the front entrance.

In 1843, young Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed at Wimpole, and a ball was given in their honor. The two-mile avenue with elm trees was named after her, as was also the drive on the Cambridge Road leading to the mansion.

The Hardwickes continued their long tenure until 1897, when the fifth Earl sold Wimpole to Lord Clifton, also known as Viscount Clifton, the name coming from Irish royalty. Clifton had two sons, and the younger, Victor was wounded during World War I. He invited his wounded comrades to convalesce at Wimpole, among them the only son of England's famed Poet-Laureate Rudyard Kipling.

While visiting her wounded brother, Kipling's only daughter, Elsie Kipling, met George Bainbridge. They fell in love, married, and she persuaded her husband to purchase the estate. George reportedly died on the estate, when he contracted influenza in opposition to his doctor's orders not to go out on the estate to hunt birds.

Elsie Kipling Bainbridge, later known as Lady Bainbridge, was the next owner of the Wimpole Hall Mansion. She was a millionairess even before she collected on the full royalties from her famous father's poetry and writings. At age 60, she was required to go to America to retrieve the fortune from her father's estate. She demolished the two wings, retaining the main structure, and sold off thousands of acres surrounding the estate, reducing it to the 300 acres that remains.

What happens next is a sad story. The estate was conscripted by the American forces for use as a base to launch an invasion force across the English Channel when World War II broke out. The mansion was used as a base hospital. When the war ended, Lady Bainbridge grew embittered and sued the Americans to have the estate restored to its original condition, thus adding to her unpopularity in Wimpole and the neighboring town of Orwell. Eventually, she donated it to the National Trust before her death.

She was a bitter old woman by the time my father, mother and I approached the front door of the mansion in February 1969, following my mission in the North British Mission. She still displayed her violent dislike for Americans, and was indignant at the violation of her privacy when she opened the door to us. She commanded us to leave the premises at once, and watched our retreat through her binoculars until the American strangers were out of sight. That unwelcome greeting, however, did not deter us from visiting the graveyard on the estate where we located the headstones of some distant progenitors before we departed. When we later met some of our local cousins who still remained in Wimpole and we told them of our approach to Lady Bainbridge and her rebuff, they were visibly shaken that we would be so audacious. Her reputation as a curmudgeon was well entrenched in local lore.

It is believed that William Goates' conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints probably happened as a result of a street meeting in Wimpole where he likely encountered missionaries for the first time. He was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church in England in December 1840, by Elder William Pierce. On the same day, he was ordained an elder and sent on a mission to Cambridge to preach.

He established the first branch of the Church in Cambridge, under the direction of the Bedford Conference president, over which he was appointed to preside. Through his earnest labors and untiring efforts, Cambridgeshire afterwards became a conference. William no doubt found his most important convert living there, Susan Larkin, whom he later married on 7 June 1844, then baptized her a member of the Church in July 1844. They had eight children, the youngest of which was my great-grandfather, George Hyrum Goates, born 12 May 1863, in Lehi, Utah.

At the time of his death on 23 October 1895, William Goates' posterity numbered 408.

My grandfather, Lesley Goates, was the ninth of fourteen children.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Conversion story from Ohio

We were reminded today that the members of the Church are to be the finders of investigators, and the missionaries are to do the teaching. Andrew sent us his usual Thursday e-mail earlier today. In it, he told this recent conversion story. Opening our mouths and sharing the gospel often yields spectacular results. This is about as "textbook" as it gets:

This week has been a crazy one with such exciting developments. We had a family, the Christensens, this week that showed a prime example of just opening your mouth. They got home from church two weeks ago and the neighbors noticed their clothes. They began to ask where they go to church and mentioned that they had been looking for a church because they had a bad experience in their last church. An hour and a half later -- Lynn and her son Josh had a BoM, a conference Ensign, and had accepted the invitation to attend church and to meet the missionaries. The rest is pretty amazing. They loved church, the ward was great at fellowshipping and welcoming. We taught them on Monday night at the Christensen's home and it was simply amazing. They accepted the invitation to be baptized in Aug. The Lord is constantly preparing his children to recieve the gospel -- we just need to wake up sometimes and SPEAK UP!

The Impossible Gospel

There are some false traditions that have a tendency to creep in among the saints of the latter days. If we are seeking to acquire spiritual power through zealous compliance to the long list of commandments, practices, rituals and policies in the modern Church, we are pursuing an “impossible gospel.”

Have you ever spoken to a little child about Jesus and marveled at their perfect faith in him? Children love stories about him. They believe his teachings. They trust him implicitly. The faith and humility of little children characterize the greatest folks in the kingdom of heaven. (See Matthew 18:1-5). We were all little children once, and to enter the kingdom of heaven we will each return to our childlike faith. Occasionally, prophets have to remind us of our true status when we forget who we are and where we came from. (See Mosiah 2:23-25).

“The Gospel”

We are deceived in this world as we partake of the forbidden fruit of Satan’s lies, and we are taught something called “the gospel” as the antidote. Frequently, however, we define the gospel incorrectly as a long list of commandments. We should teach compliance and observance of the commandments in the Church, but too often we witness people who have become discouraged with their quest for perfection. One slip, they think to themselves, and all is lost. Their lives enter a vortex of sin sometimes only because they misunderstood the principles of the atonement. The task before them to live this false gospel seems impossible. This assumption is just as faulty as the one that we can sin knowingly, then repent to our Church leaders at the appropriate time to get a temple recommend when needed. Only after we have gained sufficient seasoning to acknowledge our repeated failed attempts to measure up to the lofty expectations of the impossible gospel of checklists, it seems, do we learn the true gospel. (See D&C 18:11; 76:40-42).

The long list of commandments and outward ordinances is not unlike the “preparatory gospel” of the law of Moses in an earlier time -- to give Israel a “type and shadow” of the spiritual blessings inherent in the atonement of Christ. The law was never to become the salvation it typified (see Mosiah 13:30-31; 16:14-15), but as sin escalates our lists grow longer to hedge up the way. We zealously admonish one another that not one must be lost. We learn to measure performance and compare relative compliance. Instead of feeding the sheep, the danger is that we become adept at merely counting them.

The Savior reserved His most excoriating criticism for the leaders of Judaism in his day who exhibited inexhaustible zeal for long lists. (See Matthew 23). He despised those “who make yourselves appear unto men that ye would not commit the least sin, and yet ye yourselves, transgress the whole law.” (JST Matthew 23:21). They had their image to think about.

Paul told the church in Rome that living the law in and of itself will not justify us regardless of how righteous we may appear to other men. The outward sign of conformity to the law in Paul’s day was circumcision. In our day it is baptism. Speaking to modern saints Paul might say, “To be a Mormon is not just to look like a Mormon, and baptism is more than a physical ordinance. The real Mormon is the one who is inwardly a Mormon, and the real baptism is in the heart ‑‑ something not of the letter but of the spirit. A Mormon like that may not be praised by man, but he will be praised by God.” (See Romans 2:25-29). Not surprisingly, President Benson said the same thing frequently. (See Ensign, May 1986, pp. 4-7; also Ensign, May 1988, pp. 4-6).

Receiving Not Earning

Two valiant prophets, Nephi and Stephen, rebuked their persecutors as “uncircumcised of heart.” (See Helaman 9:21; Acts 7:51-53). Their tormentors had been circumcised, and yet remained uncircumcised of heart. The circumcision of heart, a spiritual rebirth, had eluded them even though they had complied with the physical ordinances required by the law. Abinadi agrees with Paul: “Salvation doth not come by the law alone.” (Mosiah 13:28).

Lehi tells Jacob redemption comes through the Holy Messiah to those who have a broken heart and contrite spirit, and that “by the law no flesh is justified.” (2 Nephi 2:4-9). Unto “none else,” says Lehi, can the ends of the law be answered through the “merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.” Only Jesus and little children qualify as perfect.

In our public teaching in the Church today we sometimes give the impression there are some preconditions imposed by the law before men and women can receive the Holy Spirit. However, Paul teaches it is futile to suppose the works of the law will bring the Holy Spirit of promise to the saints. Let us always remember the Holy Ghost comes to us as a gift after we exercise faith in our Savior’s atonement for our sins, and not as a reward for our good works. Paul posed the rhetorical question, “Was it because you practiced the Law that you received the Spirit, or because you believed what was preached to you?” (Galatians 3:2-5).

Paul speaks of the preparatory gospel as being insufficient to save us from our sins. The outward works of the law are of “none effect” if not linked to a spiritual conversion by faith. (Romans 4:14). Paul says, “All that law does is to tell us what is sinful,” and we must “go on unto perfection” in the doctrine of Christ without our dead works. (Hebrews 6:1).

Abinadi echoes Paul’s teachings. We often consider gifts and grace as troublesome doctrines, thinking in our Protestant ethic that we must earn everything we receive, but remember prophets speak and write to those who have already received the initial outward ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. The ordinances are essential for salvation, but “all mankind were lost” because of the fall, and would have been “endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.” (Mosiah 16:3-5). Nowhere do prophets speak of any preconditions for salvation except faith in Christ’s atonement, repentance, and baptism. Outward ordinances only typify inward spiritual realities, they guarantee nothing. Those who cannot humble themselves in repentance for their sins before their Redeemer “remain as though there had been no redemption made,” despite their empty works of compliance without the spirit.

Now examine Amulek’s teachings as another witness: “All are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atone­ment which it is expedient should be made.” (Alma 34:9). Through the redemption of Christ little children have escaped accountability for sin. The ordinances at age eight symbolize what happens to us later when we have partaken of the forbidden fruit and the effects of the fall are complete. That is what is meant by the baptism of the heart -- it is spiritual not physical.

How many of us assume we are saved merely by our nominal membership in the true Church? Too many of us perform closure on our spiritual progress, thinking we have all the knowledge we need in the law. Paul taught the outward ordinance of baptism has no power to save. Only faith in Jesus Christ “which worketh by love” results in the desired goal of salvation. (Galatians 5:6). This deception of focusing our efforts on outward behavioral checklists breeds self-righteousness and spiritual complacency, collective sins of the chosen people who are not yet “born again.” (Alma 5:14).

“So what becomes of our boasts?” demands Paul. “There is no room for them. On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do.” (See Romans 3:27-31).

Faith Like Abraham’s

Paul cites Abraham’s faith. Though it seemed Abraham’s hope for posterity could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed. Through doing so he became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised. Nothing could shake his faith. Since God had promised it, Abraham refused either to deny it or even to doubt it, but drew strength from faith and gave glory to God, convinced that God had power to do what he had promised. There are many in the Church today whose faith and hope in an eternal posterity seems in every particular as impossible as Abraham’s. This is the faith that was “considered as justifying him.” Our faith too will be “considered” if we believe in him who was put to death for our sins and raised to life to justify us. (See Romans 4:13-25). It is easy to confess our faith in God once or twice in a lifetime. We only receive the blessings of Abraham as we live each day like Abraham.

Would Paul have us abandon the requirements under the law for the outward ordinances and commandments of salvation? Not at all. He says the law is not sufficient to save us -- he does not say the law is disposable. But the law, even if it could be lived perfectly as Paul says he lived it, does not save.

Salvation is perfect faith in Christ as our personal Savior, not perfect compliance with the checklist of commandments demanded by the law. Our doctrine is the doctrine of Christ. Once innocent children, we have all ingested the forbidden fruit of Satan’s lies. (D&C 93:37-40). Paul’s testimony was, “I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith.” (See Philippians 3:4-14).

Alma taught the same doctrine. Each had a keen awareness of his fallen condition and his need for redemption. Each knew his deliver­ance from the bondage of sin. They were saved in the abyss of their sin and folly by faith, not because they were living the law perfectly. Alma’s salvation came “not of any worthiness of myself.” (Alma 36:2-5). Salvation for each of us comes as a gift of grace “after all we can do,” but we are commanded to teach our children “the deadness of the law.” (2 Nephi 25:23-30).

Too often, instead, we advocate the merits of the law, insist upon compliance from our children and never teach them the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We deny the twin doctrines of the fall and the atonement when we concentrate on their outward performance, and we rate them “good” or “bad” against a false standard. Therefore, our judgment of them is faulty.

Jesus taught only God was “good.” (Mark 10:18). So did Paul. (Romans 3:10-12). Eternal life is attainable only because of our faith in Christ’s atonement. We earn nothing as fallen beings, because any good in us comes from God. Either our good works are inspired by the Holy Ghost, or our works are merely works of men inspired by Satan and they perish. (3 Nephi 27:10-12).

No advocate of the gospel was as faithful and fearless as Paul following his vision of the Lord, yet his writings disclose he continued to struggle with temptation all his life. He referred to his mortal weakness as “a thorn in the flesh,” and each of us is blessed with similar thorns. He was silenced in his thrice-repeated petition to have the thorn removed with, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The thorn is our corruptible mortal flesh we must submit through repentance to the sanctification of the Lord’s grace. Paul finally learned there was no glory in achieving his own worthy goals under the law. Rather, he found the source of his spiritual strength in his dependence upon Christ to deliver him from his temporal infirmities. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). It is a lesson for us. Spiritless checklists and self-determined goals are powerless to save.

Moroni was weak in writing, and feared he would be mocked by the gentiles who received The Book of Mormon in the latter days. “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness,” promised the Lord. He did not mean He gives us our many mortal weaknesses and temptations. He reveals our true weakness as fallen mortals to humble us, a weakness we never overcome until death (the end of our probation if we have been faithful). His grace strengthens us in mortality, not our vain exertions to remove our own thorn. “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me,” was the sweet whispering of the Holy Spirit to Moroni, who testifies, “I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith.” (Ether 12:26-29). He lived like Abraham, and so must we.

We exchange our sins for His love, the “grace” or “charity” spoken of in the scriptures. His grace is his enabling power given as a gift to make salvation possible for the penitent. Charity for others is obtained by our faith in Christ’s redemptive power to save us from sin and death, which gives rise to the hope that our faith will not be in vain and our sins will be forgiven. We cannot give the love we have not yet received.

Moroni tells us the gift is given only when we “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (Moroni 7:48). That is what James meant by the necessity of good works to go with our faith. (James 2:20-24). Praying with “all the energy of heart” and acting on the answers is just the kind of good hard work James had in mind!

Every covenant we make with God condemns us, because we all fall short of perfect performance. The weight of the law if borne alone will crush us. That is the purpose of the law -- to teach us we are weak and need help shouldering the load. The real joy and peace of living the gospel lies in the infinite possibilities if we know how, what and who to worship, not in keeping score on our checklists hoping to prove ourselves worthy. (D&C 93:19).


Why is perfection in the law so impos­sible in the flesh? “All that the law does is to tell us what is sinful.” There is no salvation in living the law of carnal commandments perfectly, said Paul. Salvation consists in being perfected in Christ through our faith on him as our personal Savior. He is our only hope for perfection. (Moroni 10:32-33). Our doctrine is, “if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power,” only then are we sanctified.

Jacob taught a daily spiritual walk for the believer, not a one-time profession of belief. He said those who would claim salvation in Christ must “consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility.” (2 Nephi 9:41-42). Each day the true disciple denies himself all ungodliness and every worldly lust, takes up his cross, and follows the Savior. (JST Matthew 16:26). It becomes a way of life for the true disciple, not just a well-meaning slogan.

Nephi promised, “if ye will enter in by the way [baptism], and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show you all things what ye should do. Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ.” (2 Nephi 32:5-6). He spoke of “my doctrine,” when Jesus said, “whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved, and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child.” (3 Nephi 11:31-40).

Even the gates of hell shall not prevail against true disciples who build upon his rock. “This is my gospel,” taught Jesus when he invited us to “repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost.” (3 Nephi 27:19-21). The law, though always intended to yield a spiritual result, operates in a natural, carnal, and temporal world. The Holy Ghost is the supernatural sanctifier of the natural man. (Mosiah 3:18-21).

“This is my doctrine,” saith Christ, “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” (D&C 10:68). God give us the wisdom to avoid making “more” of the gospel than it is. King Benjamin taught the disciple “should put his [her] trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life. . . This is the means whereby salvation cometh,” and there is no other way. (Mosiah 4:6-8).

Paul’s teachings on grace and the futility of excelling in the works of the law are simple. The doctrine of Christ applies today, and “shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life.” (D&C 19:29-32).

The impossible gospel of searching for power by blind adherence and faith in our checklists under the law is just another false tradition with no power to save. Jesus never taught it, “for my commandments are spiritual.” (D&C 29:34-35). Only the Holy One of Israel can supply the perfect fruit of the tree of life. (1 Nephi 11:8-36; 2 Nephi 9; 25:23-30; 31:16-21). “Mercy cometh because of the atonement, and none but the truly penitent are saved.” (Alma 42:23-24). Rather than our own perfection in mortality, our quest must be for the mercy of our Redeemer.

Little children know the doctrine of Christ. They love Jesus. They know his love for them. As we wash our garments in his blood we become like them, “holy and without spot.” (Alma 13:11; Moroni 10:33). The possible gospel, the true gospel, is a very short list. It is so simple only little children understand it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Glorious Blessing of Inadequacy

This is an article from one of my all-time favorite writers, H. Wallace Goddard. He is a regular contributor to Check him out in their archives.

As a society, we celebrate competence. We give awards for excellence. We prize innovation. We worship individual accomplishment.

God is different. He chooses the inadequate. He honors the humble. He works through the meek. He makes the last first. He prefers broken hearts to sturdy competence.

Models of Inadequacy

Consider the following statements by some of God's great ones:

Brother of Jared: Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; ... we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; (Ether 3: 2)

Paul: Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities ... (2 Corinthians 12:9)

King Benjamin: Can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay, Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; ... And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; (Mosiah 2:25-26)

Ammon: Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; (Alma 26:12)

Alma: I do not glory of myself (Alma 29:9)

Moses: I know that man in nothing, which thing I never had supposed. (Moses 1:10)

Helaman: O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. (Helaman 12:7)

Enoch: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant? (Moses 6:31)

Joseph Smith: I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; (TPJS, p.304)

Jesus: The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do. (John 5:19)

Did pre-conversion saints make these seemingly gloomy statements? Is this self-abnegation a manifestation of spiritual immaturity?

No. These statements were made by some of this world's most mature disciples. This attitude is the doctrine of the kingdom. This is the mindset God recommends.

Doctrine of the Church of Modern Thinking

Such humility is heresy in the Church of Modern Thinking. The believer in such doctrine is worthy of scorn. The true believer in humanism “raises up hands in praise of his own bright artistry” (Paraphrased from the World's Fair introduction to Man's Search for Happiness ).

Secular humanism argues that we need no god because we are gods in our own right. In stark contrast, the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that we are nothing without the God of heaven.

Maybe there is no place where the doctrine of the world is so much at odds with the doctrine of the Kingdom as in our dependence on God. This should be no surprise. This starting point makes all the difference. We who are large in our own eyes, will be small in the eyes of eternity.

And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands. (Helaman 4:13)

What a shame that any of us would voluntarily limit ourselves to our own puny power!

It is those who are small in their own eyes — the Brother of Jared, the apostle Paul, King Benjamin, Ammon, Alma, Moses, Moses, Helaman, Enoch, Joseph Smith, and Jesus — who are the pivot points for eternity.

Doctrine in the Church of God

The gospel doctrine is clear:

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:31, cf 2 Nephi 4:34)

None is acceptable before God save the meek and lowly in heart. (Moroni 7:44)

Do not say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren; but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy — yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times. (Alma 38:14)

Most of us gladly give lip service to humility. “Sure we must trust God. But He expects us to be anxiously engaged. He wants us to do all that we are able.”

Yes. Satan is subtle. Yet the doctrine is clear: “Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet” (D&C 76:61).

Making the Doctrine Personal

Let's make this painfully personal: In what way am I trusting in my own ability? In what ways do I seek adulation, praise, or prominence? In what ways do I compare myself to others to evaluate how well or how poorly I am doing in my calling or my spirituality? In what ways do I take credit (“glory”) to myself?

The language of God may sound foreign to our earthly ears. Consider how our attitude and language might be different if we understood His doctrine and His language:

I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve Him.
I am thankful for the blessings He bestows.
I can see God shining through you.
He is able to do His work.
I am humbled that He would let me be His messenger.

As our spiritual roots tap into wellsprings of living water, our attitude changes. We want to excel only to the extent it will bless, only to the extent it will advance His work. We do not seek any glory. Rather we recognize that anything that is good comes from Him. We rejoice, not in what we are in our own right, but in the amazing fact that He would do His work through us.

When someone honors our efforts, we do not necessarily make a scene by protesting and discounting the kind person's statements; we simply express thanks. But in our hearts we offer all glory, all honor, all praise to the source of life, light, and truth. We know where all goodness originates.

The Latter-day Invitation

We can be a sword in God's hand — having no will but His will — or we can be a snake in His hand — wriggling and wanting our “freedom.” When we wriggle and resist, we are not useful for His purposes and can do nothing of ourselves.

That is one of the great ironies: The more we submit our will to His, the more we become free. As contradictory as the idea sounds, those who have felt God's power moving their lives know it is true. Freedom comes from setting aside our agendas and filling ourselves with Him. We listen. We follow. We rejoice.

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh —

But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

That faith also might increase in the earth;

That mine everlasting covenant might be established;

That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. (D&C 1:19-23)

As we trust God, we gladly embrace our inadequacy. We know that He is the One who changes everything. We invite Him to act through us.

Steve Harris -- "Feeling the Atonement"

I have been blessed immensely by my association with Steve Harris, my partner in Omega Financial Group, LLC, and the one (among many) who has been engaged with me in the pursuit of Legacy Now. He has taught me a lot about the atonement, and has allowed me to share his recent insights on this page.

"Feeling the Atonement"

Sacrament meeting talk, Steven W. Harris, March 8, 2009 (used with permission).

The immensely quotable J. Golden Kimball said in a 1927 General Conference address:

I do not know that I have ever had a greater desire in delivering a message to the people that the Lord will burn into their hearts. After years of experience, I have learned that it is not what you say that counts, it is what you feel. It is not what the speaker delivers, it is what he thinks.

Brigham Young once said:

I wish to see the Elders get up there and manifest their spirits and speak as they feel when they are alone in their meditations. . .

I would ask that the Spirit be here in rich abundance. I, like J. Golden Kimball, have a profound desire this morning that you, my beloved friends, might feel what I have to say. I sincerely want to follow Brother Brigham’s advice that I might speak as I feel when I am alone in my meditations. My talk this morning is entitled “Feeling the Atonement.” Over three months ago I received a call to serve out at the County Metro Jail located just off of 3300 South and 900 West. This “prison gig” of mine, three hours every single Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, has totally blown my mind and has caused me to reflect upon and feel the Atonement of Jesus Christ in new and very powerful ways. I will never be the same person. I want to share with you some of the experiences I have been privileged to have at County Metro Jail.

But before I tell you exactly what I do out at the prison and a little about the jail itself and the inmates, let me set the table for this talk by telling you a couple of stories that might seem unrelated at first glance to my calling at County Metro and to my topic. A number of years ago a beloved former member of the ward family once told me something that I have never forgotten. Somehow the topic of children, wayward children specifically, came up between us. I knew that one of his children had gone through a very rough time, a time in which this particular child had broken more than a few major commandments. I will never forget his response to my question when I asked him how he had reacted when he had learned this child had taken a substantial detour from the strait and narrow path. With uncharacteristic emotion this beloved former member of our ward started to tear up as he told me with emotion: “It made me love my son even more.” In many ways the men and women inmates at the County Metro Jail and all other fellow travelers here on earth paralyzed and bound by sin are our wayward sons and daughters whose afflictions must afflict us and whom we must love with an increase of unconditional love.

Now for the second story. As many of you know, two of my great heroes are my great-grandparents, F. F. & Marie Samuelsen. They joined the Church in December of 1891 by being baptized in the icy cold waters of Arhus Bay at midnight to evade the ever vigilant Danish police and Lutheran clergy who would have loved to disrupt the baptismal service. These great grandparents of mine showed incredible courage as they joined the Church. I am profoundly grateful for them. They were first cousins. Their mothers were sisters. My great grandfather loved his Danish family. He spent the last 10 years of his life, the 10 years he spent in the United States doing temple work in the Salt Lake Temple for thousands and thousands of his deceased Danish family members. Yet, for some odd reason the temple work for my great grandparents’ maternal grandfather was not completely done. All temple work on this particular line stopped for this common grandfather of theirs. Why? On a couple of different occasions over the years I commenced concerted efforts to solve the mystery, but my efforts had ended in abject failure.

In a very difficult time in my life I received a strange but powerful prompting that “we will help you if you will help us.” The “we” in that prompting meant my kindred dead, specifically this dead end family line. Needing the help I dove back into the heretofore fruitless search to complete temple work for my 3rd great grandfather. This time I enlisted the inspired aid of Jim and Rosalind Hoggan. Slowly but surely, thanks to the Hoggans, a long lost Danish cousin in Copenhagen and the miracle of the Internet I was able to crack open the case. For reasons I will not bore you with I was convinced -- very plausibly I might add -- that this seemingly forgotten 3rd great grandfather of mine was a direct descendant of titled, noble Danish warrior stock. As it turns out the truth was much more sobering and was initially more than a little depressing. As it turns out, this 3rd great grandfather of mine did at least three separate stints in Danish Prisons in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s. We think it is highly likely that he actually died while in prison. Some of his sons, great-great uncles of mine, also did time in Danish prisons. I learned that this family of indigents received food and other aid from the City of Copenhagen. Some of my 3rd great grandfather’s daughters, probably including the mothers, my great-great grandmothers, of both FF and Marie, were taken away from the family by the City of Copenhagen and sent to live with farm families. Talk about a dysfunctional family! My pipedreams of having a noble 3rd great grandfather were blown to smithereens. But somehow from the loins of my troubled 3rd great grandfather my beautiful, valiant great grandparents emerged. Go figure.

After just a few moments of soaking in the fact that this ancestor of mine was a hardened, recidivist Danish jailbird, my heart was suddenly flooded with unconditional love for him. I was washed over with waves of unconditional love for him and his unfortunate family. Just like our beloved former ward member was filled with additional love for his wayward son, I was inundated with a tsunami of unconditional love for my troubled ancestor. I wanted to go back in time and rescue him and his family from the clutches of grinding poverty and crime. I wanted to teach him the Gospel of Jesus Christ that his grandson and granddaughter so courageously accepted with all their hearts in 1891. I have reflected long and hard about the trials and tribulations that he and his family must have gone through. I wondered what the conditions were like in the Danish prisons he spent time in. Was he just trying to provide food for his large family? Did he have problems with alcohol? I am convinced that my hero/great grandfather has already preached with great love and tenderness the gospel of Jesus Christ to him in the Spirit world. Life is so much better for him in the Spirit World. I just happened to be reading a passage from the Book of Isaiah a short while after I learned of my ancestor’s Danish rap sheet that hit me like a thunderclap:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (Isaiah 61:1).

Through the Atonement of the Savior my 3rd great grandfather’s broken heart has been mended, liberty has been proclaimed to this Danish convict and the prison doors of poverty, crime, loneliness and perhaps alcoholism have been blasted apart. I am confident that my troubled ancestor is no longer bound by his sins because of the
Atonement and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the discovery a couple of years ago that my ancestor had “done time” in Denmark helped prepare me for my current calling out at the prison. Just like my ancestor, my new-found buddies out at County Metro can have their broken hearts mended, liberty proclaimed to them and the prison doors of substance abuse, sexual addiction and self-hatred blown off the hinges by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written that: “We cannot really feel charity -- Christ’s love for others -- without at least tasting His suffering for others, because the love and the suffering are but two sides of a single reality.” Elder Hafen went on to say that we must be “afflicted in the afflictions of other people.” A father must be afflicted with the afflictions of a wayward son. We as ward members must be afflicted with the rather sudden inactivity of one of our ward members. We must be afflicted with the afflictions of the least of those among us, such as the guys and gals out at County Metro, if we are to feel the Atonement, to feel the love that Christ has for us.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a world full of hopelessness and despair. We see it all around us. The scriptures teach us that in the last days “men’s hearts shall fail them.” (See Moses 7:66; Luke 21:26; D&C 45:26; D&C 88:91). The Apostle Paul described the people of our day when he wrote:

. . .in the last days shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, without peace, slanderers, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, Traitors, stubborn, puffed up, and lovers of pleasure more than of God. . . (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

What’s a disciple of Christ to do? As the hymn says “Where can I turn for peace” in tumultuous times like these? Let me give you the short answer -- Christ. It is no secret that we live in a world saturated and aflame in sin. It is hard not be tainted by this sinful world we live in. It is very important that we recognize and come to understand the powerful, paralyzing effects of sin.

“The greatest burden a man or woman can bear in this life is the burden of sin. Sin estranges. It alienates. If allowed to remain and thus not repented of it leads to hopelessness and despair. (Moroni 10:22).” (McConkie and Millet The Holy Ghost, 77).

Let me repeat, “The greatest burden a man or woman can bear in this life is the burden of sin.” People in this swanky and sophisticated world of ours do not like to talk about “sin.” It just isn’t cool. It isn’t politically correct. As a matter of fact, the biggest problem we mortals face on Planet Earth is not global climate change, diminishing oil reserves, nuclear warheads in the hands of crazy third world despots or even the fact that the Mountain West Conference is not automatically included in the BCS bowl selection process. Without a doubt the greatest problem we face stems from two sobering facts. The first fact, the Lord tells us in D&C 1:31: “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” Stephen Robinson has written how the Lord really feels about sin: “. . .he can’t stand it, he can’t tolerate it, he can’t blink or look the other way, or sweep it under the rug. He can’t tolerate sin in the least degree.” The second fact is: I sin and you sin. What is a sinner to do? Inquiring minds wanna know. How can a sinner like me and a sinner like you, along with all the inmates out at County Metro Jail ever get back to the presence of our Heavenly Father??? Short answer: the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I believe that we totally underestimate the power of the Atonement in our everyday lives and in the lives of our fellow sojourners here on Planet Earth. We all need to feel the power of the Atonement in our lives.

This crazy world of ours does not recognize the all encompassing power of the Atonement. This crazy world of ours believes the cure for what ails us is self-esteem. If we just loved ourselves a little more; if our kids just had more self-esteem they wouldn’t use drugs and engage in risky, promiscuous sexual activity. The world would have us believe that the thing the 6 million inmates need the most is to have more self-esteem. Self esteem makes the world go round. “Things as they really are,” as revealed by the Holy Ghost, practically shout at us that what we really need is the healing balm of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Recognizing the fact that we are all sinners and that we all are desperately in need of the Atonement seems in the world’s eyes to be provincial, quaint and hopelessly outdated. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. In a terrific book, Reason for God, the author, Timothy Keller, writes that because of all of our sinful natures we all ought to be more excited about achieving “low self-esteem” rather than having “high self-esteem.” Keller refers to an author and professor at Columbia University, Andrew Delbanco, who was doing research on Alcoholics Anonymous and was attending AA meetings around the country.

One Saturday morning in a New York City church basement he [Delbanco] was listening to a “crisply dressed young man” who was talking about his problems. In his narrative he was absolutely faultless. All his mistakes were due to the injustice of others. He spoke of how he going to avenge himself on all who had wronged him. “His every gesture gave the impression of grievously wounded pride,” Delbanco wrote. It was clear that the young man was trapped in his need to justify himself, and that things could only get worse in his life until he recognized this. While he was speaking, a black man in his forties, in dreadlocks and shades, leaned over to Delbanco and said, “I used to feel that way too, before I achieved low self-esteem.” Delbanco later wrote in his book, The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope:

This was more than a good line. . . As the speaker bombarded us with phrases like ”got to take control of my life,” and “I’ve got to really believe in myself” -- the man beside me took refuge in the old Calvinist doctrine that pride is the enemy of hope. What he meant by his joke about self-esteem was that he learned no one can save himself by dint of his own efforts. He thought the speaker was still lost -- lost in himself, but without knowing it.

By “low self-esteem” the man in the dreadlocks did not mean that the young man should come to hate himself. He meant that the young man was “lost in himself” until he could admit he was a very flawed human being, a sinner. He would never be liberated to see his own flaws in their true light, to forgive those who had wronged him, or to humbly seek and receive forgiveness from others. The Christian doctrine of sin, properly understood, can be a great resource for human hope. . .

I think Keller is really on to something. I think the Book of Mormon agrees with Keller, particularly one of the most spiritually mighty men in all the scriptures, that amazing straight arrow and man of God -- Nephi. As I read 2 Nephi 4:17-19, tell me if you think Nephi “suffers” from “low self esteem” --proper and godly “low self esteem.”

17 . . .my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

If sin is truly the greatest burden we mortals can bear. If sin results in hopelessness and despair answer me this question: Why is it that every single week I go out to County Metro I feel the spirit so strongly? Why does the Spirit practically hit me over the head with a lead pipe, especially when I go into maximum security and go cell to cell? Shouldn’t hopelessness and despair hit me over the head rather than the Spirit? Why, why, why? Let me read you an excerpt of a recent letter I wrote to my missionary son, Winston, in Argentina:

Surprisingly, there is a tremendous spirit that exists at prisons. I feel it every single time I go out to the prison. Charles Colson, a former top aide for President Nixon during the Watergate fiasco, ended up doing time for some of the stuff he did while he was an aide to Nixon. His seven-month stay in prison totally changed his life, it led him to start Prison Fellowship Ministries. He travels to prisons all over the world. He said this about bringing the gospel to prisons:

When I go into prisons and talk about the fact that people can be forgiven, the people I talk to know that they are sinners, I mean, there’s no pretense in prison. I love to preach in a prison. I’d rather preach there than in any of your best churches in the country, because the people in prison understand that they need God’s grace and forgiveness. They need to know if it’s possible to have a new life.

I would agree with Colson, there is no pretense in prison, the prisoners know they are sinners and they want to believe that Christ offers them a second chance. Heck, the Atonement offers us unlimited chances. I have learned that it is very wrong to put limits on the Atonement. When I am out at the prison, I really FEEL the Atonement and I FEEL the hope that Christ brings to all of us. We are all sinners, and we all fall short of the mark. All of us need the Savior. Many of us think that we can be our own savior by earning our way back into the presence of Heavenly Father by doing good deeds. The unvarnished truth is that none of us can earn our way back to Father. All of us must allow Christ’s infinite Atonement to wash over us. We cannot be our own savior.

My attitudes towards inmates, people in general and the Atonement has been powerfully and permanently changed. This was certainly what happened to Colson.

. . .who’d want to go to a prison? My idea of a prison was a place where you locked up rotten criminals, throw away the key, left ‘em there and forget about ’em. That’s how most American people think.

But as Christians, we shouldn’t feel that way, because Jesus Himself told us that what we do for the least of these, we do for Him. And so when we visit a prisoner, we’re visiting Jesus. We should have the greatest compassion for those who have sinned the most and who therefore most need to hear the gospel.

Spending ninety minutes going cell to cell in maximum security sure looks and feel different if I have the mindset that I am visiting Jesus in each cell. It makes you look at each and every “cellie” differently if you truly believe you are visiting Jesus. I feel like my heart, like the heart of the Grinch in The Grinch That Stole Christmas, has grown a couple of sizes larger through my nine weeks at the prison. This is a very good thing. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ, especially through the powerful teachings about the Atonement contained in the Book of Mormon, enhances what we know to be true about the Atonement and about the Savior.

Let me give you a quick answer why the Spirit is so strong out at County Metro. The Savior in 3 Nephi 12:6 says:

And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

It is important to note that the word “all” precedes the phrase “they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Everybody who hungers and thirsts after righteousness can rightly expect that they will be filled with the Holy Ghost. It is a promise. It doesn’t matter whether you live on Willow Bend Drive or whether you find yourself spending 23 hours out of 24 hours with your cellie. The scripture does not read “all those who are righteous.” It includes those who are not righteous but who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Hungering and thirsting after righteousness is the key. The Savior promises us, even my buddies out at County Metro, that we all will be filled with the Holy Ghost if. . . we/they “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Wow. God is so generous.

Let me now take you on a whirlwind tour of County Metro Jail and tell you briefly what I do each Sunday. Let me tell you about a couple of the inmates I have met, whose names have been changed -- to steal a line from Dragnet -- to protect the incarcerated. Finally, let’s finish up by talking about feeling the Atonement in our

The County Metro Jail cost $63 million to build and was completed and ready for incarceration in January of 2000. It is a big place. It has 668,000 square feet and houses a little over 2000 male and female inmates. It has more inmates than Brighton High School has students! On an average day, 96 people are booked into Metro Jail. Each year over 34,000 people are booked into Metro Jail! 34,000! The average cost per day for each inmate is $73.25. Each delicious meal of prison gruel served up to the inmates costs a mere $0.76. In this prison complex are over 400 hidden surveillance cameras. Big Brother is always watching you. There are over 700 sworn officers and civilian staff working out at the Metro Jail. There are also close to 400 volunteers currently serving at the prison.

It is estimated that 85-90% of the inmates out at Metro Jail are there because of substance abuse and other addictions. I have always believed that keeping the Word of Wisdom was a smart thing to do, but after serving out at the prison for over twelve weeks I now believe that the Brethren should call the “Word of Wisdom” the
“Words of Catastrophic Consequences.” The dangerous and devastating effects of violating the Word of Wisdom aka “The Words of Catastrophic Consequences” CANNOT be overestimated. I wish I could shrink all of you, put all of you in my coat pocket and sneak you into maximum security with me to see firsthand why we should NEVER even think about violating the Word of Wisdom. The phrase: God can change our desires -- only God can change our desires -- plays over and over in my head as I observe upfront and personal the vast human carnage and collateral damage caused by an addiction to drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs.

We are referred to by some of the guards and some of the inmates as the “God Squad.” Solid. Out at Metro Jail, we God Squad members are under very strict rules. First of all, to all the prisoners I am known merely as Brother Steve or as just plain old Steve. We are under strict instructions not to reveal personal or family information to the inmates that might be used by the inmates and their friends on the outside to possibly exploit me or my family. There is not supposed to be any physical contact between me and the inmates. We are not to shake hands, hug or pat on the back any of the inmates. This is harder to do than you might think. Sometimes your heart melts when you sense the loneliness and shame that the inmates often endure in jail. A natural human reaction to such things is to want to reach out and provide appropriate human contact. We are not supposed to bring anything into the jail that has not been approved by Metro Jail and we are subject to searches by jail personnel at anytime. We are only allowed to bring in pencils without metal tops because apparently some of the guys are skilled at turning ink pens and other seemingly innocent items of personal property into dangerous sharp metal objects known as shanks. Cellmates are called “cellies," as in “Me and my cellie are getting along well.” The world we live in here in the Salt Lake Valley outside of prison is referred to the “outs,” as in, “I wonder how my family is doing in the outs” or “How is the weather in the outs?”

I have led a very sheltered, white bread kind of life. Dorothy, Toto and her family lived next door to me in my childhood home in what seemed to me to be the great plains of Kansas . In my formative years only guys who were in the Navy had tattoos. Well, County Metro ain’t Kansas and my personal discomfort with tattoos has quickly gone by the wayside. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like tattoos, but it is a little difficult not to become a bit of a tattoo connoisseur because of the sea of “ink” that is found at County Metro. Some of the guys are walking talking kaleidoscopes of ethereal inky creations -- living, breathing cornucopias of tattoos. Some are magnificent and some are pathetic. My favorite tattoo so far was a nicely rendered BYU tattoo with a snarly cougar coming through the Y on an inmate’s forearm: Stunning, and more than a little incongruous.

One of the great benefits of this Church gig is the guys I work with. There are a lot of former bishops and wonderfully solid priesthood brethren, people with hearts the size of Montana, men full of wisdom and mercy. I am the least among them. I am honored to serve with each of them. For many of us, if not all of us serving out at County Metro jail is the highlight of our week. Another wonderful benefit to serving out at the jail is that according to my 16-year old son, Andrew, I now have more street cred[ibility] than my 20 year old missionary son, Winston, will ever have! All my life I diligently sought after street cred[ibility], with little or no luck, now I find myself swimming in it as I serve at the jail. Go figure.

The three hours I spend at the jail are spiritually very intense. The time goes by like [snap fingers]. All of us serving in the afternoon shift meet for a quick meeting a few minutes before 1:00 pm. We stand, sing a hymn together, kneel and have prayer together and then we receive our assignments. We spend the first ninety minutes literally going cell-to-cell in maximum security. We are hustled out of maximum security promptly at 2:30 pm. We then gather in a room and take a short break before we get up and meander over to minimum security to teach a “non-denominational” Sunday school class to inmates in minimum security. We are promptly hustled out of our classes at 4 pm so that the inmates can enjoy their sumptuous $0.76 meal. Only on Fast Sunday do the smells wafting from the dinner wagons even remotely smell enticing.

My favorite part of my three hours out at the jail is going cell to cell. Odd, huh? Maybe it was the countless doors I knocked on in Finland as a missionary. It is so ironic that I enjoy much greater “success” going cell to cell in maximum security than I ever did going door to door in Finland. It is in maximum security that I “feel” the atonement the most. Whenever I press the button to be admitted to maximum security I am always a tad nervous. When I walk through the automatic doors into maximum security I am always bowled over by the Spirit. Always. When you walk into maximum a raised platform manned by 2 prison guards is directly in front of you. There are no bars in each of the cells, a floor to ceiling Plexiglas sliding door allows anyone to immediately ascertain what is going on in each cell. When we enter maximum security all eyes are upon us. There is always a rather spectacular collection of tattoos to view from afar and up close as we start going cell to cell. There are two levels of cells, a lower level and an upper level. It is like visiting the zoo, except instead of the animals in the cages there are two “cellies” in an 8 x 10 foot cell. These guys spend 23 hours out of 24 hours in their cells with their cellies. Each cell contains a metal bunk bed attached to the wall on the left. The toilet with a smallish modesty wall is in the left back corner of the cell. In the right back corner of the cell is a rather small triangular desk with a non-descript metal desk chair. That’s it. To describe the cell accommodations as “Spartan” would be an understatement. Most everybody in maximum security, if they aren’t sleeping, is up to visiting. We have been told that when we enter maximum security the inmates are much quieter than they normally are. As I left maximum security last week I overheard one inmate express his fond hope to another inmate that he might be able in the future to walk up behind the other inmate and put out his burning cigarette on the back of his neck. Well, maybe not everyone is hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

My usual opening line to the inmates in each cell is “What can I do to help you?” Inevitably the inmate will smile and say “Can you get me out of here?” Most will ask if I a have message for them and will request that I pray for them and their families. One Hispanic inmate told me he wanted to feel the presence of the Lord. No pressure. A lot of times I share with them one of my all-time favorite scriptures, Ether 12:27 from the most powerful book on the planet, The Book of Mormon. In this verse the Lord Jesus Christ himself is talking with that amazing prophet/general, Moroni. These are literally the words of Christ:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Keep in mind that 85 to 90% of the inmates in County Metro have a huge weakness for drugs and alcohol, a weakness that has started them down a life in crime and that has landed them in jail. They are all ears for the words of counsel of the Savior to Moroni and the stunning promise that Christ will “make weak become strong unto them.” I ask the inmates if they would like to make, with Christ’s help, weak things become strong. This verse is so powerful: God can change desires; only God can change desires.

I always leave a prayer at each cell. As I leave one cell to go to another one we do “bones” through the Plexiglas. On occasion, I will even give a priesthood blessing through the Plexiglas to an inmate. I am always struck by the love that Heavenly Father has for each and every one of His inmate/sons. Never underestimate the love that God has for each of us.

It has been my experience that Church callings seldom come at comfortable times for service. I actually seriously considered turning down this opportunity to serve at the jail because I knew I would be forfeiting my beloved Sunday afternoon nap. Service does not come easily for me. I can be quite stingy with my time. I am so glad I decided to forego my weekly Sunday nap for service out at the prison. As I go cell to cell I am reminded of what I believe is a wonderful eternal principle. This wonderful eternal principle is perfectly articulated by President Lorenzo Snow:

When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.

Certainly, if you are in maximum security you are not in a good place, in fact you are in a really bad place. When I have attempted to help these inmates in max I have found, just as President Snow promised, that my gloominess is blown away and I feel light and illuminated. All my problems are put in their proper perspective and I feel the love that God has for these wonderfully messed up brothers of mine and the love that Heavenly Father has for me. It happens every time. God is true to His word and is so generous to us!

The fact that I enjoy my time in maximum the best does not mean that I do not love teaching my class in minimum security. Class size varies from 4 from 15 inmates. Some inmates come into my class clasping their Triple Combinations and Bibles. Many of my students have little or no religious background. I am always surprised by the heartfelt prayers that are offered up by the inmates. Some prayers are right out of sacrament meetings and some are rather awkwardly but beautifully offered up. Many times the inmates express gratitude for the roof over their head and the food they eat. On a couple of occasions the inmates have asked for God to bless their jailers because “they are suffering more than we are.” Some of the guys in my classes are pretty rough around the edges, rough but still very lovable. Of all the hundreds of classes I have taught in Church over the years it was the first time I have ever had a student answer a question with an answer that contained an f-bomb. I love to open my Book of Mormon to Alma 7:11-13 and read:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

I love to teach these brothers of mine that Christ’s atonement was an infinite atonement, that not only did Christ take upon himself our sins, but he also took upon himself all our afflictions, pains, disappointments and frustrations. I teach them the meaning of the word “succor” which means to “run to the aid of someone.” I tell them that Christ is poised to run to their aid and that because He took upon himself our afflictions, disappointments and frustrations He totally understands what is going on in our lives and He knows exactly how to help us, each and every one of us. Elder Merrill J. Bateman said something very profound about the
Atonement that further "personalizes" the Atonement:

For many years I envisioned the Garden of Gethsemane and the cross as places where an infinite mass of sin and pain were heaped upon the Savior. Thanks to Alma and Abinadi, it is no longer an infinite mass but an infinite stream of people with whom the Savior became intimately acquainted as he suffered our sins, pains, and
afflictions. I testify that he knows each of us, is concerned about our progress, and has the infinite capacity not only to heal our wounds but also to lift us up to the Father as sanctified sons and daughters.

I learned in my first week at the prison in the Sunday school class that God plain and simply does not give up on us. One spectacularly tattooed inmate mentioned that he felt like he needed, along with his girlfriend to go back to Church. He explained that he was raised LDS but that he was not sure that that was the direction he wanted to go church-wise when he gets out because he wondered how accepting ward members would be of him and his tattoos. As he spoke in class I received a monstrous prompting that I was to tell this young man immediately after class that the Lord wanted him back in the fold. Midway through the class a guard called this inmate out of the classroom for some reason and I was confused why I had received the strong prompting to deliver the message that the Lord wanted him back in the fold. At the very end of the class the inmate came back into the multipurpose room where the class was taught and stood in the doorway and looked directly at me. He knew that I had a message to deliver to him. I walked over to him and delivered the message the Lord wanted me to deliver. Tears filled both our eyes. For some odd reason I told him how much I loved the temple and then he really started to cry as he told me his story -- he was a returned missionary -- and how much he loved the temple and how he longed to return to the temple.

Sometimes you can see the effects of the atonement happen in front of your very eyes. Perhaps the most powerful experience I have had at the jail was the opportunity I had to teach one of the inmates -- let’s call him “James” -- the missionary discussions under the direction of the Branch President. James is in his late twenties. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade. The Branch President told me, without being specific, that James had confessed his sins to the Branch President, and that it had taken two long sessions to confess all his sins. He told me that short of murder he had just about done it all. You would never know this by looking at him. He had a countenance full of light. He had read The Book of Mormon at least twice cover to cover and he not only had a testimony of its truthfulness but he also loved The Book of Mormon. James is a very intelligent and articulate guy, with an extensive collection of tattoos on his chest and arms. He had been a drug addict for 10 years and had been in and out of federal and state prisons because of his drug addictions. He came from a very dysfunctional family situation with no father in his life. On a couple of different occasions as he completed sentences in state and federal prisons he believed he had adequately prepared himself to withstand the temptations that drugs had previously offered him, only to find out that after a time he went back to old ways, old friends and old addictions. Furthermore, he found that rather than enjoying life on the “outs” he found that he did not want to be around people and he could not look people straight in the eyes when they spoke to him or when he spoke to people. He told me that the last time he was released from prison he felt like a giant load of mud had been dumped on him, that he felt bogged down and paralyzed by all this mud in his life on the outs. The mud he was struggling with was his sins. Remember:

The greatest burden a man or woman can bear in this life is the burden of sin. Sin estranges. It alienates. If allowed to remain and thus not repented of it leads to hopelessness and despair.

James told me that after he had confessed all his sins to the Branch President -- remember, it took him two long sessions to do this -- and dove into The Book of Mormon he could now look people straight in the eyes and he felt light and happy. James’ countenance was full of light. He was hungering and thirsting after righteousness. I had just witnessed the incredible power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I had felt the atonement. The majestic words of Isaiah flew into my mind:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18).

Stephen Robinson referring to this scripture wrote that, “. . .What the Lord is saying is ‘I don’t care what you did. It doesn’t matter what you did. I can erase it. I can make you pure and worthy and innocent and celestial.’"

Someone once wisely said:

A fully repentant black sheep is a white sheep.

James is becoming a white sheep through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I had seen this with my very eyes! We can become white sheep. Christ can do the same thing for our wayward sons and daughters, our wayward grandsons and granddaughters. He can do the same thing for us. Don’t put limits on the atonement in our own lives and in the lives of others. King Benjamin reminds us in his divinely dictated sermon to his people: “For behold, are we not all beggars?” (Mosiah 4:19). Put another way, “Are we not all prisoners of sin?” We may believe in Christ, but do we believe that He can make our scarlet sins as white as snow? I testify to you that He can! He did it for James and He can do it for me. He can do it for you!

Feeling the atonement in our lives is crucial to our happiness in this crazy world of ours. Elder M. Russell Ballard has written:

. . .only as we accept the Atonement in our lives and strive to live the gospel can we meet the challenges of life and find peace, joy and happiness. . . I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God. I believe our Heavenly Father’s everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. . . If we truly understood the Atonement and the eternal value of each soul, we would seek out the wayward boy and girl and every other wayward child of God. We would help them to know of the love Christ has for them. We would do all that we can to help prepare them to receive the saving ordinances of the gospel.

President Howard W. Hunter reminded us:

If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right.

Brothers and sisters we need to feel the atonement in our lives. Though we may never be able to fully comprehend how the Savior worked out the infinite atonement, nor fully understand its vast scope, we can certainly ponder and pray and express gratitude for the atonement in our lives. We can come to feel the Atonement on a regular basis in our lives. Elder Richard G. Scott has written:

Pondering the grandeur of the Atonement evokes the most profound feelings of awe, immense gratitude, and deep humility. Those impressions can provide you powerful motivation to keep His commandments and consistently repent of errors for greater peace and happiness.

I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ. The Atonement is infinite in its scope. We can become white sheep through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Scott Strong, my friend

Yesterday I attended the funeral of the mother of my dear friend, Scott Strong, where he was the concluding speaker.

He spoke of the "tender mercies" of the Lord he observed in her passing. Many will recognize Scott's name as the composer of "I'll Build You a Rainbow," a melody with lyrics that was given to him, he explained again yesterday, as a pure revelation from God. Some few have discounted it as "cheesy," but there is no denying the spirit that accompanies it whenever he sings it, and I have heard him many, many times. Knowing how it came to him, I never tire of its message and its confirming feeling of love and assurance. You can hear it now almost every Sunday when it is broadcast routinely over FM 100.3 during "Sunday Sounds" in Salt Lake City.

Scott is the firstborn of his mother and father, and he was born on a Sunday. Many years ago on another Sunday his firstborn daughter, Jamie, was an infant toddler playing on the balcony in his parent's home in Fish Haven, Idaho, overlooking the blue expanse of Bear Lake as they prepared to go to meetings. Somehow Jamie managed to slip through the balusters overlooking the room below and plunged headfirst onto the rock fireplace, severely injured and bleeding profusely. Scott did what any horrified but worthy priesthood holder would do -- he immediately administered to her and commanded her to live until medical attention could be obtained.

There are many details to the story that are significant, but suffice it to say her life was spared and she grew to adulthood as a beautiful and unscathed woman, now a mother of six and expecting her seventh (a girl) soon.

On a subsequent Sunday, sitting in the living room of his parents' home again he began strumming his guitar and a beautiful chorus emerged from the strings as he pondered the question, "What if she had died in that incident?" A voice whispered to him, "Scott, don't you get it? Eventually we all die, and that's what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about."

The melody stayed with him. He attempted to write it down, but failed again and again -- it was just implanted in his head, and he didn't know what to do with it.

Some time passed. He was teaching Seminary at Granger High School, and a young woman in the Seminary had been killed by a passing motorist. The students were grieving. He sought to comfort them, thinking his song would be the means, but he had no words. He tried to write the words, but they would not materialize. Finally, he knelt at his desk and asked Heavenly Father to help him write the words to comfort his students. When he arose the words flowed, and twenty minutes later the song was finished.

He played and sang it for his students, and soon everyone was asking for a copy. He went to a recording studio, and recorded it, pressing about 850 copies for distribution. It took off like a wildfire. Soon thereafter the Church called and asked him if they could acquire the copyright and pay him for it. He scoffed at the idea of being paid for it, but they insisted for legal reasons that he needed to be paid. He finally consented to a $500 acquisition fee, then promptly donated it to the Jordan River Temple building fund. Scott, like few I know, understands the law of consecration.

When our youngest daughter Adrienne died at age seven weeks, Scott was the speaker at her funeral. He spoke of families being forever, and he sang his song at her funeral. He has comforted millions around the world with his heaven-sent song that embodies the hope of a glorious resurrection and the reality of not only life after death but the sealing power of the priesthood that assures family associations beyond the grave.

Last Sunday, his mother passed quietly from this life at her beloved home in Fish Haven, Idaho. On the Friday night before her passing, Scott explained that she was comatose and could not physically respond to her surroundings. Nevertheless, he squeezed her hand in his and said simply to her in his final farewell, "Mom, when you get there, build me a rainbow."

In the afternoon of her passing, they blessed their youngest grandchild in a neighboring home that Scott and Jane have remodeled near his parents' home. They had dinner together, celebrating both the merciful passing of their mother and grandmother, but also welcoming the newest member of their family.

After dinner as his last son Jason and their family were leaving, Scott was standing on the front lawn. Looking up, he saw the sign of his Mother's love and cognition in those final hours of her mortal probation. There it was, right over their home -- a brilliant and confirming rainbow, as if she were saying, "I heard you, Scott, I made you a rainbow. I'm here and all is well."

There are moments in our lives when the tender mercies of our Father in Heaven are made tangible and real. My friend Scott, and his dear companion Jane and their children and grandchildren are not only the recipients of many of those tender mercies, but purveyors. To them I extend my love and my eternal gratitude for having the privilege of their association.