Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Losing" Adrienne

Adrienne Goates -- 1992

When a child dies, we often say, "We lost our youngest daughter Adrienne to SIDS."  She was seven weeks old, exactly forty-nine days, seven weeks of seven days, a perfect symbol of fulness and completeness in Jewish tradition, and she was perfect in every way.  She went to sleep one night, and when we arose in the morning as a family she had quietly passed away during the night while we all slept.

I don't think about the agony of it much anymore.  It was December 9, 1992.  I was scheduled on a business flight to Chicago that morning.  Patsy was tired that night and Adrienne had been fussing, so I offered to stay up with her and comfort her until she quieted down for the night.  I sent Patsy to bed, thinking I could sleep on the flight the next morning.  I never did that. 

At around 2:00 a.m., Adrienne finally settled down and I was able to go to sleep too.  When we awakened as a family the next morning, Emily was the first to make the horrible discovery.  I have heard screams in my life, but never one like that.

As I said, I don't remember to think about those events on a conscious level anymore.  Only when prompted by a reflection, a current event, or a person who asks about what it was like to "lose" a child do I reopen that subject.

But last week two things happened to bring it all back to the fore. 

I read an article in the Deseret News about a young couple who "lost" their daughter in a freak accident at sacrament meeting in Park City in 2008.  The writer described the tragedy in sensitive and comforting terms, and talked about how this mother had dealt with her grief by starting to blog about their "loss" in a blog page she dubbed "A Good Grief." 

The title intrigued me.  I checked it out.  Emotion welled up within me, as I recalled so many similar feelings about Adrienne's death.

Because I was the last one to be with Adrienne, the feelings of guilt were almost unbearable.  There had to be a cause.  That's the first thing a rational pragmatic male thinks.  What is the logical explanation for her death?  Why did this happen?  What did I do (or not do) that caused her death?  I know I'm a sinner and totally unworthy of the blessing of her life, so it must be my sins that caused this death.  And then "rational," "reasoned," and "logical" pieces of my existence were totally shattered in the ensuing moments and the flood of possibilities.

The details are not as important after all these years.  There was an autopsy.  The results were normal.  I was comforted, strangely somehow, in being vindicated, but still perplexed about the "Why" question.  Absolutely no logical explanation suggested itself. Reason was defied.  Rational thought escaped the medical professionals who examined her body in the post-mortem.

And that is how her death got classified as a "SIDS" death, or "sudden infant death syndrome." 

The medical explanation was there was no explanation.

She just died.  

I said there were two events this last week prompting my recollections to suddenly come bursting to the surface.  The second was a visit last night from a dear friend who had "lost" her husband at a relatively young age in a tragic car accident a year and a half ago. 

I wrote about her husband, Dan Howells, in a previous blog post a year ago when I was recalling those events of his passing and his funeral.

We talked after dinner for awhile, and for some reason I opened my heart and shared the feelings and experiences I dealt with in Adrienne's passing, perhaps prompted by what I had read in the accounts on the blog.  I loved that title, "A Good Grief."  As anyone who has grieved will tell you, that title is oxymoronic in the highest expression of the word. 

I was always open about her death, I dealt with her death.  I don't think I left any stone unturned.  I played the tape of her funeral every day for months afterward.  I felt stuck.  I had a hard time moving on. 

I learned about all the steps of grieving one cannot avoid.  I got great counsel from everyone to comfort me.  "You just have to move on," was a favorite.  But nobody could tell me "HOW?"  I learned that grieving involves anger, helplessness, loss of control, deadness of spirit, lack of will, gradual acceptance, a gnawing sense of futility in everything that comes after, and a host of other emotions, thoughts and feelings with which I had never been previously acquainted.

As I spoke to Amy last night, I found myself doing all the talking, something rare for me.  I'd much rather listen, because I learn more.  But I talked and she listened.  As I poured out my heart and soul to her, I became aware I was saying things I hadn't really ever voiced to anyone out loud.  I felt as though Dan wanted all those things said, for whatever reason, to Amy.  But I didn't understand that until later last night when I pondered why I had done something so foreign to my basic nature.

Through all my grieving steps, I told her, I never lost my faith in God, in my Savior Jesus Christ, nor in my hope for eternal life.  That faith was rock solid throughout the ordeal.  But the one piece I simply could never dismiss in my grieving was the physical separation from that little baby girl who was "snatched" so suddenly out of our arms as a family.

She was our youngest child, the 13th of 13, our "baker's dozen" child.  Everyone at the time of her death offered, "But you have all those other children to comfort you, so you won't miss her."  That seemed like such an empty platitude to me.  Didn't they know this little girl was her own little person?  "Losing" her was a loss impossible to replace with all the other twelve.  She was unique to herself, and all those other children combined still could not assuage the sense of that physical separation from her. 

There was still a big hole in my physical, mortal heart that couldn't be repaired.

Life in mortality is filled with temporary farewells and partings.  Merilee has been away working this summer in the Bay area.  Andrew was away on his mission, as were six other siblings in their turns and seasons.  Families of our children and grandchildren come and go today, as they have this summer.  With each visit they are welcomed, then we say our farewells until we see each other again.  Life is all about separation, reunion, greetings and farewells. 

Our faith should dictate to us -- the spiritual part of our natures -- that death is nothing more than a parting for a season.  We can accept that as spiritual reality.  The reality of Christ's resurrection locks faith and hope into place in the very fabric of our souls.  "He is not here, He is risen."  We know it, we testify of it, and when these events we call death occur our faith usually sees us through.

Ask anyone, I don't care from what church they come or what their faith tradition may dictate, even if they profess NO faith whatsoever, and most will confess they hope their love for each other in marriage will somehow transcend the grave.  All the love songs ever written and the movies ever made, and the collective wisdom of the poets and philosophers are laced with the core hope love does not die, that it lives on into eternity, however that is defined.

But all that aside, some struggle mightily when the winds of adversity and premature death strike at us with the finality of a funeral, a casket, and a burial.  The one so loved and cherished is physically separated from us as the dirt fills the hole and we somehow attempt to pick up the pieces of our lives and move on.

No matter how hard we try, I explained last night to Amy, that hole in our heart never is fully healed.  There is always an empty place we go to when events remind us.

The passage of time helps a lot.  Life eventually does pick up a full head of steam again and hope re-emerges eventually.  Some measure of control is restored.  Gradually anger and blame subside.  It's no longer God's fault as we try to come out of the fog.  God still loves us, His Spirit is still alive within us to give comfort and guidance, peace and assurance all will be well if we are faithful.

Of all the well-wishers who came, who showered us with love and affection, who sent cards and notes of comfort, there is one phone call that still gives me the greatest peace.  It was a dear friend from a former ward, a deeply spiritual woman who was a paragon and tower of unshakable conviction.  She and her husband had also lost an infant daughter.  She said simply, "Now you have your first celestial child who will show all the rest of you the way home." 

I was filled with an image in her words.  I referred from that day forward to Adrienne as "Our Lighthouse in the Storm."  Those were the words we chose for her headstone.

The day we buried her on cemetery hill in Woodland, there was a snowstorm raging outside the chapel.  The wind was whipping snowflakes against the windowpanes throughout the service.  The Spirit in the meeeting was palpable.  But we knew the short trip to the cemetery would be challenging. 

It was a wintry day just like the morning she had died.  When we stood over the open grave, however, and dedicated her final resting place, the storm dissipated suddenly and the sun was shining brilliantly through the clouds for just those few moments.  When we were finished, the storm regained its fury and the snow continued to fall.

Last night Dan was whispering to all our spirits around that table, I think, that no one who dies is ever really "lost," because death is only a door into the next room -- a door through which each will pass in time.

Time is measured only to men.  Whether early or late by our feeble calculations, death will visit each of us.  But in death there is no victory because of Christ's atonement.

Our physical pain of separation now is all swallowed up someday in reunion.  What we feel here and now is conquered there and then.

Here and now we walk by faith not knowing the answer to the "Why" question.  But Dan knows, so does Adrienne, and so does everyone else you know who has passed that portal of death and awakened to their next stage of existence. 

It's universal.  The plan is perfect.  Hope lives on in each of us despite the temporary farewells.

Democrats Underestimate the American People Once Again

Repost from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
Thursday, July 29th at 4:24PM EDT

Clearly, the Democrats think they have something here tying together the Republican Party and the Tea Party. However, it seems to me that this political miscalculation is exactly why Congress’ approval rating is at 11%.

What the Democratic Leadership doesn’t seem to understand is that the Tea Party isn’t a political party; it’s a set of ideas shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans.

The Tea Party is made up of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Constitution Party members, and apolitical Americans.

They are mainstream folks who love our nation and who wish to see America return to policies of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and strictly adhere to our Constitution. After all, these are the fundamental principles of our founding and represent the character of America.

For the Democrats to portray these fundamental principles as radical and a hindrance to public policy shows just how far out of touch they are from the political pulse of this country.

I hope the Democrats’ latest messaging campaign reaches far and wide because it will do nothing but distance them further from Main Street America.

* * *

One more voice making sense in America. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Allen West, healing America

This is a candidate, Allen West, running for Congress in Florida.  He's a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel. 

Here's his website.  I've been following and admiring his campaign for the last few months.  I wish he could be cloned in every Congressional district across our great nation. 

He's way too pragmatic, way too committed, way too sensible, and way too principled for the average Congressman in Washington today. 

He's EXACTLY what the doctor ordered for turning over control of the House in November. . . and healing America.


Monday, July 26, 2010

The pendulum swings right and then left. . .

The struggle between political philosophies has been raging since our founding as a nation.  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams started tangling soon after the Constitution was signed over something so simple as how the new country would address President George Washington. 

Jefferson as Secretary of State favored no titles, and Adams as Vice-President (and President of the Senate) made a fool of himself trying to come up with high-sounding titles nobody liked. 

That's how we ended up with "Mr. President" as the appropriate title. 

Adams was at the head of the "Monarchists," with Jefferson heading up the "Federalists" (convenient labels, but meaningless) in that debate, and in spite of it all they began and ended as tried and true friends.  Adams became the second, then Jefferson the third president of the United States.  The political divide has always been part of our American fabric.

This one has made the rounds before. It's a classic political cartoon from a 1934 edition of the Chicago Tribune (in case you missed it) -- "PLANNED ECONOMY OR PLANNED DESTRUCTION?"

The caption on the sign in the bottom left reads: 
Plan of Action for U.S.
Spend! Spend! Spend
under the guise of
recovery -- bust the
government -- blame
the captialists for
the failure --
junk the Constitution
and declare

The more things change, the more they tend to remain the same!  Keep smilin' . . .

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Joseph Smith, the Prophet

Joseph Smith (1805 - 1844)

A few years ago in recognition of the 200th anniversary of his birth in 1805 on December 23rd, our stake held a youth fireside at the end of the year honoring the Prophet Joseph Smith.  I was asked to be the keynote speaker.

I assembled many notes for that talk, most of which I never used.  This morning I discovered them in a deeply buried archive file on the computer, and share them here with the readers of this page. 

Joseph Smith was a remarkably candid and forthright speaker and writer.  He pulled no punches, it appears to me, particularly in his own self-appraisals.  Most of what I have gathered below comes from his History of the Church compilation (hereafter HC), some 3,200 pages in total.  (Many of these statements have also been compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.)  Today legislation in Washington can be cobbled together approaching that many pages with ease and speed (it's frightening how fast), but in Joseph's case this compilation of his history was laborious and done with quill pens and parchment paper by those who recorded it.  His own words reveal far more about him than anything else.

As one of her first gifts to me when we were still in college, and knowing of my love for the Prophet Joseph, Patsy spend a goodly sum of money to buy me my own seven-volume set.  I treasure those books.

Joseph, an eighteen-year-old, was promised by the angel Moroni that "my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people."  (JS-H 1:33).  Despite the chilly prospect of what that declaration must have portended for his future, it is obvious Joseph Smith was a spirit not easily deterred, knowing what he knew.

I read a statement from Hugh Nibley several years ago that startled me.  It came from Eduard Meyer, the great German historian.  He made a comparison of Joseph Smith and Mohammed. He concluded Mohammed had to be ranked higher by his standard because from the records Meyer discerned Mohammed experienced periods of self-doubt, vagueness, and misgiving in developing his religious views.  On the other hand, said Meyer, he felt Joseph Smith never showed any signs of those despairing thoughts. The comparisons between Islam and Mormonism are fascinating, and this is just one among many.

I thought about that a lot.  It was true.  I never found any evidence in his sermons or writings that the Prophet Joseph Smith ever had doubts about the divinity of his calling or his message, and despite his adversities he was rarely discouraged.

"Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pits of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top." (Quoted in My Errand from the Lord: A Personal Study Guide for Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, 1976–77, 175–76).

Here's what he said about his life's mission:

“I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it. . . " (JS-H 1:25).

“I was called of my Heavenly Father to lay the foundation of this great work and kingdom in this dispensation, and testify of His revealed will to scattered Israel. . . ” (HC 5:516).

“If any person should ask me if I were a prophet, I should not deny it, as that would give me the lie. . .” (HC 5:516).

Knowing who he was and what he was about, Joseph spoke powerfully “as one having authority.” (HC 5:356)

“I know what I say; I understand my mission and business.” (HC 5:259).

“In relation to the power over the minds of mankind which I hold, I would say, It is in consequence of the power of truth in the doctrines which I have been an instrument in the hands of God of presenting unto them, and not because of any compulsion on my part. . .  I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Repent ye of your sins and prepare the way for the coming of the Son of Man, for the kingdom of God has come unto you. . .’ ” (HC 6:273)

“I defy all the world to destroy the work of God; and I prophesy they never will have power to kill me till my work is accomplished, and I am ready to die.” (HC 6:58).

There is little doubt Joseph Smith was not easily intimidated.  He had an indominable spirit.  Confident and fearless, his allegiance was first and always to God. “I never knew what it was, as yet, to fear the face of clay, or the influence of man,” he wrote to James Arlington Bennett. “My fear, sir, is before God. I fear to offend Him and strive to keep His commandments.” (HC 5:157).

Declared Joseph on another occasion: “The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what He tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular. I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it.” (HC 6:223).

In another letter to Bennett he wrote, “The whole earth shall bear me witness that I, like the towering rock in the midst of the ocean, which has withstood the mighty surges of the warring waves for centuries, am impregnable, and am a faithful friend to virtue, and a fearless foe to vice. . .  I combat the errors of ages. . . ” (HC 6:78).

Some critics have concluded Joseph Smith was arrogant, impressed with his own self-importance, but that is not the case.  “God Almighty is my shield,” he told the Saints. (HC 5:259).  “I am His servant.” (HC 6:305).

He knew his role:  “I realize in some measure my responsibility, and the need I have of support from above, and wisdom from on high, that I may be able to teach this people. . . ” (HC 4:230).  “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my Great Counselor.” (HC 6:93).

It is impossible to calculate all he learned and never taught.

“I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” (HC 5:402).

The Prophet loved “the learning and wisdom of heaven.” (HC 5:423). His focus was how to reveal sacred truths. “It is my meditation all the day, and more than my meat and drink, to know how I shall make the Saints of God comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind.” (HC 5:362).

Impatience at times overtook him: “When things that are of the greatest importance are passed over by weak-minded men without even a thought, I want to see truth in all its bearings and hug it to my bosom. I believe all that God ever revealed. . . ” (HC 6:477).

Many conspired against him within and without the Church.  He was committed to the law, the Constitution and due process despite all the opposition he and the saints encountered.

“It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race. Love of liberty was diffused into my soul by my grandfathers while they dandled me on their knees. . . ” (HC 5:498).

“I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled.” (HC 5:340).

“I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further;’ which I cannot subscribe to.” (HC 6:57).

“I will spill my heart’s blood in our defence. They [the Missourians] shall not take away our rights. …” (HC 5:473).

Joseph the Prophet was likewise a patriot:  “I would ask no greater boon, than to lay down my life for my country,” (HC 4:382) he told the Nauvoo Legion. Having described himself as a “patriot and lover of my country,” (HC 5:159) he once proclaimed, “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth. In my feelings I am always ready to die for the protection of the weak and oppressed in their just rights.” (HC 6:56-57).

Four months later he said, “I feel it to be my right and privilege to obtain what influence and power I can, lawfully, in the United States, for the protection of injured innocence; and if I lose my life in a good cause I am willing to be sacrificed on the altar of virtue, righteousness and truth, in maintaining the laws and Constitution of the United States, if need be, for the general good of mankind.” (HC 6:210).

Despite the steel in his spine, there was velvet in his touch: “Sectarian priests cry out concerning me, and ask, ‘Why is it this babbler gains so many followers, and retains them?’ I answer, It is because I possess the principle of love. All I can offer the world is a good heart and a good hand.” (HC 5:498).

“. . . my heart is large enough for all men.” (HC 6:459).  “I have no enmity against any man. I love you all.” (HC 6:317).

One cannot plumb the depth of that love in these statements:

“I love to wait upon the Saints, and be a servant of all. . . ” (HC 4:492).

“I am not learned, but I have as good feelings as any man. O that I had the language of the archangel to express my feelings once to my friends! But I never expect to in this life. When others rejoice, I rejoice; when they mourn, I mourn.” (HC 5:362).

“I hope I shall see them [his friends] again, that I may toil for them, and administer to their comfort also. They shall not want a friend while I live; my heart shall love those, and my hands shall toil for those. . .” (HC 5:109).

“As I grow older, my heart grows tenderer for you. I am at all times willing to give up everything that is wrong, for I wish this people to have a virtuous leader.” (HC 6:412).

“The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father,” he said to the Relief Society sisters, “the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders. . .” (HC 5:24).

His journal records these words: “. . . those holy doctrines. . .  I cherish in my bosom with the warmest feelings of my heart, and with that zeal which cannot be denied. I love friendship and truth; I love virtue and law; I love the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. . .” (HC 5:108).

He knew his own limitations and warned his followers: “A prophet is a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.” (HC 5:265).

Even in a public setting Joseph Smith was ever candid in his self-evaluations:

“I am subject to like passions as other men, like the prophets of olden times. Notwithstanding my weaknesses, I am under the necessity of bearing the infirmities of others. . .” (HC 5:516).

“I told them [the Saints] I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities. . .  I would likewise bear with their infirmities.” (HC 5:181).

Like Nephi, Joseph Smith’s sins were not "magnificent," he said, “. . . a disposition to commit such was never in my nature.” (JS-H 1:28).

His famous words en route to Carthage and certain death reveal much about his character:

“I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men.” (HC 6:555).

He was refined in adversity:

“I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women — all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty, who will give me dominion over all and every one of them, when their refuge of lies shall fail, and their hiding place shall be destroyed, while these smooth-polished stones with which I come in contact become marred.” (HC 5:401).

“Excitement has almost become the essence of my life,” reported the Prophet on another occasion. “When that dies away, I feel almost lost.” (HC 5:389).

His faithfulness resulted in these declarations by God that he would be exalted. (See D&C 121:8; D&C 122:9.)

These are only flashes of the brilliance of the Prophet's character in his own words about himself.  His name lives on as a testament to the God he loved and served.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Fulness of the Gospel

The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel.

Gospel is a word one hears tossed loosely about in our modern world, but its meaning is defined in numerous ways. One fact remains -- the word is linked with scriptures and churches.  The Hebrew definition is simple.  It is usually translated as "glad tidings of great joy." The Greek translation is "good news." So what is the "good news" all about?  It's the redeeming blood of our Savior Jesus Christ as the integral centerpiece of a "plan" given to us by Heavenly Father.  The plan involves creation, birth, the fall, the atonement, redemption from the fall and our eventual return to Him.  Principles and ordinances of the gospel are involved.  We are invited again and again to enlist our full participation and involvement in the plan.

Many of these principles and ordinances are called "saving principles and ordinances."

Many have asked me over the years to define "the fulness of the gospel."  I always defer to the Prophet Joseph Smith in answering this question because of the knowledge he received in restoring those saving principles and ordinances.  What I think it means is never very useful. 

I have heard some sagacious high priests opine on this topic and conclude The Book of Mormon does not contain all the doctrines of the Restoration like temple marriage, the three degress of glory and baptism for the dead.  Therefore, they claim, the fulness of the gospel cannot be found therein.  They point to the Doctrine and Covenants as a more complete record teaching the fulness of the gospel.

If words mean anything, Moroni revealed to Joseph Smith "there was a book [The Book of Mormon] deposited, written upon gold plates. . . that [contained] the fulness of the everlasting Gospel. . . as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants" of this continent (Joseph Smith History 1:34). In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says several times The Book of Mormon does contain the fulness of the gospel (D&C 20:9; D&C 27:5; D&C 35:12, 17; D&C 42:12).

First reference to the fulness of the gospel in The Book of Mormon occurs when our resurrected Lord  commands the Nephites to record his words.  The purpose, He explained, was so His words could be brought forth among the Gentiles in the latter days so "the fulness of these things shall be made known among them." (3 Nephi 16:4, 7).

We are warned in the record the latter-day Gentiles would sin against the gospel and reject the fulness of the gospel.  He mentions specifically what those sins would be and describes them as "all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations" and clarifies the rejection of the fulness of the gospel will cause Him to bring the fulness of the gospel from among them (3 Nephi 16:8-10).

I've often pondered what that would look like.  Would it mean our missionaries would be withdrawn from certain places in the last days because the people reject them?  Are there gentile nations who would so fully reject the Word, causing us to withdraw?  Even as I write this I note there are many European missons currently being combined and consolidated, as the Church redeploys finite missionary resources into more fertile fields of labor.

References from Moroni, the Doctrine and Covenants and The Book of Mormon itself all show The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By letting the scriptures define our terms, the fulness of the gospel and the gospel are used interchangeably in The Book of Mormon.

The term gospel is defined by the Savior in 3 Nephi 27:9-22 as His coming to the earth to do the Father's will. As He was lifted up on the cross by men, so will all people eventually be lifted up and judged by the standards the Savior laid down for them as He taught them in person.

There are four specific conditions set forth for those who would obtain salvation from the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve:  (1) They have washed their garments in His blood through faith in His atoning sacrifice; (2) they have repented of all their sins; (3) they have been baptized in His name, which implies by the proper authority and method He outlined for them; and (4) they have been sanctified by receiving the Holy Ghost.

Those who meet the conditions He set forth and subsequently endure in their faith in His redemption to the end of their mortal lives will be "lifted up" at the last day.

This definition of the gospel or the fulness of the gospel is totally consistent with three of the Lord's definitions of the gospel we find in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 33:11-12; D&C 39:5-6; and D&C 76:40-43).

While the high priests who continue to debate the point are somewhat accurate in that there are some principles of the gospel and doctrines which are not included in The Book of Mormon, all that is necessary -- the fulness of the gospel -- to lead a person to salvation in the celestial kingdom is included.  In the Doctrine and Covenants we have additional revelations coming later through the Prophet Joseph Smith about entrance into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. These doctrines of exaltation include eternal marriage, salvation for our dead ancestors, and three heavens or degrees in the celestial glory (D&C 131:1-4).

Though they cannot be found in The Book of Mormon, some of these doctrines are implied.  (See 4 Nephi 1:11; also 3 Nephi 25:5-6; Ether 12:32).

have written before about the difference between power and authority in the priesthood, so a lengthy explanation is not needed here.  But when the blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Holy Ghost are bestowed upon men (and women as outlined in previous posts), they may obtain through their faithfulness the power to receive all things the Father gives to His children. The doctrines of exaltation are bestowed through these powers. The Book of Mormon teaches the necessity of man's receiving both the priesthood and the Holy Ghost, noting all mankind may be exalted through these powers. (Alma 13:10-12).

In the great debates among the high priests (and they are many), the problem is too much repetition of only casual and occasional readings of the scriptures tending to mislead. If we did nothing more than embrace the fourth Article of Faith we would find a perfect recitation of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel as taught in The Book of Mormon. All the steps of the fulness of the gospel are mentioned there and are ongoing, demanding a lifetime of dedication and effort to complete.

When are we done with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, burying our old man of sin and walking in a newness of life in obedience to the promptings of the Holy Ghost? 

The initial embrace of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel only places us on the path leading to eternal life. Perpetual feasting at the banquet table of the doctrines contained in The Book of Mormon empowers us to the fulness of the gospel.  We continue our journey of unknown length and complexity in the path of mortality until we are granted eternal life.

The Savior's own definition of the gospel, as He gave it to the Nephites, amplifies the path to eternal life. He testified He came into the world to do the will of the Father -- He "be lifted up upon the cross." (3 Nephi 27:13-14). His being lifted up on the cross at Golgotha was the culminating event of His ministry following His agony in Gethsemane. John corroborates this conclusion by recording that Jesus, after being lifted up, knew all things were now accomplished. (John 19:28).

We are faced with this unavoidable reality as fallen mortals:  The Savior told the Nephites "no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; . . . nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith."  We can only hope to enter his kingdom if we are clean, and we can only be clean through our faith in His perfection.  His garments were stained by His own blood as He voluntarily took upon Himself the stain of our sins, leaving our garments white and pure. This washing was done through "the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end." (3 Nephi 27:19).

Even before the atonement had been made, knowing that it would be made (see Mosiah 16:6), all mankind are commanded to repent. (3 Nephi 27:19-20). This principle is expanded in The Book of Mormon. Amulek taught Zeezrom, "the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins." (Helaman 5:10). Repentance from all sins is clearly an ongoing process.  That's why a one-time confession of the need for Christ is simply insufficient.

I have observed over a lifetime this unavoidable and sometimes uncomfortable truth -- the more I learn about the gospel the more my knowledge expands of the things for which I need to repent.  That ongoing process is what brings us closer to sanctification in the blood of the Lamb.  Nephi expressed it beautifully, and from the time I first read his words as a teenager until now there is always instant recognition of myself.  He spoke of "the sins which do so easily beset me." The sins which agonize his soul are he slackens his strength because of his afflictions and is angry because of his enemies.  (2 Nephi 4:15-29). That's a highly developed sensitivity to the things of the Spirit that would never afflict one who is ambivalent or careless in his privileges with the Spirit. 

That's why it's a process and we partake of the emblems of his death in the sacrament once a week in order to retain a remission of our sins.  (Mosiah 4:26).

When we obey the initial commandment to repent, we learn the commandment also includes coming unto Christ and being "baptized in [his] name." (3 Nephi 27:20). The Savior gave the Nephites explicit instructions regarding baptism. He had also given them authority to baptize, taught them immersion was the proper method of baptism, and gave them the exact wording to be used in the baptismal prayer. (3 Nephi 11:21-27).

In his definition of the gospel, the Savior specifies the purpose of baptism:  It is to receive the Holy Ghost. The gospel plan is that the person on whom the Holy Ghost is conferred "may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost" and thus stand spotless before Christ at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:20).

We must be born again through a baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 9:20). Baptism places us on the path to eternal life.  After than, we must then press forward as led by the Spirit. (2 Nephi 31:17-20; Moroni 8:25-26). Through obedience to the principles and the saving ordinances of the gospel administered by the priesthood, we are sanctified. To become sanctified is to become "pure and spotless before God."

This means being pure in thoughts and actions, not being able to "look upon sin save it were with abhorrence." (Alma 13:11-12). However, there is a difference between looking on sin with abhorrence and looking on the sinner.

Recently, in our Professional Placement Program networking meeting on a Monday morning, a transsexual appeared at the door for the first time.  Participants in the room observing her entrance were at first startled, then amazed at the warmth and solicitude with which she was greeted by the professional staff, all of whom are volunteers.  She was invited to participate and receive all the workshops and tools with which we equip job seekers.  Many participants commented later how kindly she was received and encouraged.  She explained her bishop had invited her to attend the meeting.  May God bless the patient and loving bishops in this Church!  Later that week in our staff meeting we all commented on our abhorrence about her obvious choices, but not one had anything but the desire to help this child of our Heavenly Father as a person in her pragmatic need to find employment.

When the meeting was coming to a conclusion, I observed a man on the front row and approached him to say the benediction at the close of the meeting.  He demurred at first.  "I can't."  Pressing gently, I asked why.  "I've been excommunicated," he explained, "I shouldn't even be here."  Then I had a chance to invite him nevertheless to offer the prayer.  "We don't keep a scorecard here."  In our networking meetings sponsored in the dedicated building of the LDS Business College, we invite everyone to participate, regardless of religion, race, ethnic origin, or membership status.  That includes excommunicated Mormons.  With obvious emotion he thanked me for the invitation and offered a sincere and heartfelt expression in a public prayer.  I do not know how long it had been since he had prayed publicly in a dedicated Church building, but it was obvious he was grateful for the opportunity and accepted the invitation. 

All our Father's children, regardless of their current situation in mortality have access to the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.  The evidence this is true is as fresh as the last networking meeting.

In the words of Joseph Smith, "God does not look on sin with allowance, but when men have sinned, there must be allowance made for them." (TPJS, 240-41).

The fulness of the gospel, as the Lord Jesus Christ defined it to the Nephites, means a lifelong process of seeking eternal life.  It involves choices and accountability, but it also allows for abundant mercy and love.  There is obviously far too much "breakage" along the way, and ample provision has been made by our Savior to reclaim ALL of Heavenly Father's children.

After defining what the gospel is, the Savior taught the Nephites to continue doing the works in his church which they had seen him do. (3 Nephi 27:21). He commanded them to write the things he had taught, which would judge the world. (3 Nephi 27:23-26). His teachings are the path for living in happiness. His teachings include enduring to the end of our mortal lives. (2 Nephi 9:24; 2 Nephi 31:15-16, 20; Alma 32:13, 15; 3 Nephi 15:9).

It has been said enduring is a fifth step in the gospel plan, but it is really part of the fourth step of becoming pure and spotless before God.

These examples of following the Savior and His Apostles in their teachings were recorded in the Bible, but since the Bible has lost many plain and precious parts (see 1 Nephi 13:23-29; also TPJS, 327 and the eighth Article of Faith), the Lord has provided The Book of Mormon, the most correct book, to outline more clearly the plan given by our eternal Heavenly Father to return to His presence.

Although the world rejects The Book of Mormon as scripture, a prayerful examination of its contents will prove to the sincere seeker of truth it absolutely qualifies as holy scripture.  There can be no other explanation for its origin.

Friday, July 23, 2010

USS New York

USS New York
Motto:  "Never Forget"

This was forwarded to me earlier today. . .

USS New York. . . it was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center.  Note the "twin towers" in the design of the ship.

It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft.

Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite (ay-MEET), Louisiana, to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on September 9, 2003, "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence," recalled Navy Captain Kevin Wensing, who was there.  "It was a spiritual moment for everybody there."

Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the "hair on my neck stood up."

"It had a big meaning to it for all of us," he said. "They knocked us down.  They can't keep us down. We're going to be back."

The ship's motto?  "Never Forget"

* * *

What I will never forget is a First Presidency Message written for the Ensign by President Spencer W. Kimball, "The False Gods We Worship." 

The occasion was the upcoming 1976 bi-centennial celebration of the United States of America's signing of the Declaration of Independence.  It was published in the June 1976 edition of the Ensign, when everyone else was focused on the greatness of America's 200-year old on-going "experiment" with freedom.  The widespread reaction to the article was indifference, if not total denial.

(For an in-depth treatise on the topic, see Hugh Nibley in The Prophetic Book of Mormon.) 

The living prophet at the time, however, struck a completely discordant view, when he said in part:

And so it often seems to be with people, having such a firm grasp on things of the world — that which is telestial — that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade them to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets them in his grip easily. If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up for ourselves a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.

In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had — in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people — a condition most repugnant to the Lord.

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44–45).

We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us — and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Nephi 1:7) — or he will fight our battles for us (Exodus 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chronicles 20), and when Elisha’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17).

Enoch, too, was a man of great faith who would not be distracted from his duties by the enemy: “And so great was the faith of Enoch, that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch.” (Moses 7:13).

What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies.

We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.” (D&C 64:24).

* * *

Those pesky prophets -- they're just so contrarian!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pioneering in 2010

"To Them of the Last Wagon"
Painting by Lynn Fausett

This is the time of year when I pause to reflect on all the asphalt "trails" I cruise every day in air-conditioned comfort.  I did not blaze those trails in the dusty barren wilderness.  I drink from wells I did not dig.  I partake of food that comes to my table each day with ease and abundance.  And I had little to do with all the systems, processes, and packaging that goes into it so I have no need to hunt, skin and cook it over a meager fire made of "buffalo chips" along the way.

It is the annual celebration of the Mormon pioneers who accomplished those mighty feats about which I know so little and can only read.

My ancestors were among those noble souls who came as immigrants from Europe with little but the clothes on their backs.  Out of the alkaline soil of Lehi, they somehow scratched their existence as sugar beet farmers, they survived and gifted to me and my family a legacy of faith, grit and determination not unique among others like us.

Today's Deseret News contains its annual tribute to the definitive pioneer talk given by President J. Reuben Clark, entitled To Them of the Last Wagon.  The link will take you to a podcast and a transcript of the talk.  His thoughts are my thoughts, expressed so eloquently.

I commend the whole thing to you, but this paragraph was particularly poignant to me tonight:

"But back in the last wagon, not always could they see the Brethren way out in front, and the blue heaven was often shut out from their sight by heavy, dense clouds of the dust of the earth. Yet day after day, they of the last wagon pressed forward, worn and tired, footsore, sometimes almost disheartened, borne up by their faith that God loved them, that the restored gospel was true, and that the Lord led and directed the Brethren out in front. Sometimes, they in the last wagon glimpsed, for an instant, when faith surged strongest, the glories of a celestial world, but it seemed so far away and the vision so quickly vanished because want and weariness and heartache and sometimes discouragement were always pressing so near."

In so many ways each of us is in the last wagon at times in our lives.  Like those in the last wagon, when despair and hopelessness seem our common lot we too must press on into the night knowing only that our efforts, meager and scant as they seem, will someday be acceptable.  While our challenges are not theirs, I often wonder if any of them would have changed places with us in 2010, given the option.  Would we have relished their lot? 

I like hot showers, warm breakfasts, and comfortable beds.  Camping, hiking, hunting and pulling a handcart, are not welcome thoughts.

What is obvious to those of us who now travel the trails, drink the cool water from pure mountain wells, and partake of food in excess with so little effort expended, is that someone who loved us very much went before us and paved the way, made the sacrifices and did it all with an eye to improving the lives of their posterity for generations yet unborn.

There is still room in today's world for that pioneering spirit. 

Let us go and do likewise.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Obama: The Anti-Employer

Didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw this earlier today. . .  so I'll just pass it along without further comment.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Political Quote of the Day

I was confused until Vice-President Joe Biden cleared it all up for me in this priceless quote.

Nobody understands what's actually in these "gigantic packages," and that's okay.  It's regulatory reform.

Now I get it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dodd-Frank: "The Economic Recovery Prevention Bill"

That handsome trio in the middle of the picture are my three least favorite people in Washington.

The one in the picture in the background is my very favorite person in Washington, and he's been dead way too long.

I dare you -- in fact, I double-dog dare you -- find ANYONE with an independent voice in America who thinks this piece of garbage is worth the 2,300 pages it's written on.  The Deseret News opined today

No surprise, they hated it too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just Write The Book of Mormon

Go Ahead – Just Write The Book of Mormon. . .

Joseph Smith some 170 years ago said he translated some gold plates that were given to him by an angel by the gift and power of God. Supernatural, to be sure! Some people, however, still doubt the authenticity of The Book of Mormon. Many of Joseph’s critics continue to explain the book’s existence some other way. So the next time you confront one of those doubters, send them to this blog.  Even if you doubt it yourself, print it, read it, then ask yourself if you can come up with a better explanation than Joseph did:

Business affairs had to be settled on Monday, but on Tuesday, April 7, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery sat down in earnest to begin the translation. In Oliver, Joseph had a twenty-two year old, vigorous, young man who could work long and tedious hours and someone who had already consulted the Lord about the plates.

The next three months, April through July 1829 would be some of the most significant in the Restoration as translation progressed rapidly and priesthood and baptismal gifts were bestowed by heavenly messengers. It appears that it only took some 63 to 70 working days to complete the entire translation, a complex religious history covering 2,000 years and more than five hundred pages.

To demonstrate how astounding this is, Hugh Nibley once asked his Book of Mormon class at Brigham Young University, "Since Joseph was younger than most of you and not nearly so experienced or well-educated as any of you at the time he copyrighted the Book of Mormon, it should not be too much to ask you to hand in by the end of the semester (which will give you more time than he had) a paper of, say, five to six hundred pages in length. Call it a sacred book if you will, and give it the form of a history. Tell of a community of wandering Jews in ancient times; have all sorts of characters in your story, and involve them in all sorts of public and private vicissitudes; give them names – hundreds of them – pretending that they are real Hebrew and Egyptian names of circa 600 B.C.; be lavish with cultural and technical details – manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, rites and traditions, include long and complicated military and economic histories; have your narrative cover a thousand years without any large gaps; keep a number of interrelated local histories going at once; feel free to introduce religious controversy and philosophical discussion, but always in a plausible setting; observe the appropriate literary conventions and explain the derivation and transmission of your varied historical materials. Above all, do not ever contradict yourself! For now we come to the really hard part of this little assignment. You and I know that you are making this all up – we have our little joke – but just the same you are going to be required to have your paper published when you finish it, not as a fiction or romance, but as a true history! After you have handed it in you may make no changes in it (in this class we always use the first edition of the Book of Mormon); what is more, you are to invite any and all scholars to read and criticize your work freely, explaining to them that it is a sacred book on a par with the Bible. If they seem over-skeptical, you might tell them that you translated the book from original records by the aid of the Urim and Thummim – they will love that! Further to allay their misgivings, you might tell them that the original manuscript was on golden plates, and that you got the plates from an angel. Now go to work and good luck!" [Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989) pp. 220-21.]

The following is the statement of the Prophet’s wife Emma. No one was in a better position to evaluate Joseph’s work of translation than Emma. The process occurred under her nose often in the same room as she worked about the cramped quarters. Many years later even after she was instrumental in helping her son establish the Reorganized Church, she stated her position without reservation:

Q. Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin of the Book of Mormon?

A. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity – I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this, and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible." (Saints' Herald Journal, "Last Testimony of Sister Emma", October 1, 1879, as quoted in Porter, "Origins," p. 152. This statement is from Emma Smith to Joseph Smith III, February 4-10, 1879.)

42 Questions for Sunday

A few years ago I spoke in one of the wards in our stake as the regular third Sunday high council speaker.  With ample time to develop a topic (a rarity) I felt impressed to revisit the 5th Chapter of Alma. 

As the president of the church and also the head of government as chief judge, Alma decided to appoint another chief judge and go out among his people to ". . . pull down by the word of God all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them."  (Alma 4:19).

Later in the day on that Sunday afternoon, I received a call from an older, venerable and kind brother in that ward who declared, "That was the greatest talk I have ever heard in my whole life."  All I did was ask Alma's 42 questions. 

It might be a worthwhile Sunday activity today for you and your family to consider your answers.

ALMA 5 – How Would You Answer These Forty-two Questions if the Prophet Asked You?

1. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?

2. Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them?

3. And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?

4. And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed?

5. And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed?

6. And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved?

7. Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation?

8. What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

9. Behold, I can tell you – did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi?

10. And was he not a holy prophet?

11. Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?

12. And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God?

13. Have ye received his image in your countenances?

14. Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

15. Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?

16. Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?

17. I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

18. Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say – Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth – and that he will save you?

19. Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?

20. I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?

21. I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?

22. I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?

23. And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness?

24. Behold, what will these things testify against you?

25. Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, yea, and also that ye are guilty of all manner of wickedness?

26. Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?

27. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

28. Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God?

29. Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?

30. That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?

31. Behold, are ye stripped of pride?

32. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?

33. And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?

34. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye?

35. Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this?

36. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself?

37. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

38. And now my beloved brethren, I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?

39. Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance – Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?

40.  For the names of the righteous shall be written in the book of life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand.  And now, my brethren, what have ye to say against this?

41. For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?

42. Behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out?

And the last summary verse (62) in this chapter says:

"I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Pioneer Concert

Getting a ticket to these events is something akin to winning the lottery, but this is the clean Mormon version.  The good news is the tickets are free, but you've got to ask on line to get them.  To date, Patsy and I have never been "lucky winners," but we have a lot of good friends and family who have shared their success.

That said, we scored some tickets from some generous ward members Thursday night, and we were excited to participate last night with 21,000 of our closest friends as the Choir celebrated 100 years of recording excellence.  The history of the recording industry finds it orgins with the Choir, and every major advancement in the technology has featured the Choir along the way.  We were rewarded spiritually again last night.

I watched a lot of Klennex being shared all around, and the standing ovations were plentiful throughout.  For me, it is always a spiritual feast to hear the Choir.

We certainly were well fed last night.  The Choir is simply beyond words to describe, but Carma Wadley tried in this morning's Deseret News.  No matter where you sit in that magnificent Conference Center, as you listen you are transported into spiritual realms transcending the bounds of earth. 

President Thomas S. Monson expressed it well, "We are richly blessed by this choir and orchestra, which stands shoulder-to-shoulder with choirs above in singing praises to a just God."

The orchestration is superb, the arrangements awesome, the harmony sublime, the choir flawless.  You can understand and hear every word perfectly.  I'm not sure how that's even possible to master the acoustics in such a large venue, but somebody has figured it all out.

It was a panoramic stroll down memory lane, a feast for the soul, a drink from the fountain of eternity.

Brandt Page, CEO of Launch Sales & Marketing

I'm often asked what I'm doing these days.  What follows explains in part the answer to that question. 

People wonder why I am so fixated right now on all the regulatory legislation in healthcare, the automobile industry, the financial sector and virtually every other segment of society that touches our lives with overbearing government control.  It's because with every fiber of my being I honor, promote and respect the entrepreneurial spirit that continues to help America thrive and prosper.  I hope and pray it never gets stifled into extinction by excessive government intrusion, but the threat is real. 

It is astounding to me how few people in this administration actually have business experience.  That may be the reason the economic recovery is still so stagnant -- we're being led by academicians and attorneys who have no idea what it is to hire people and have to make a payroll and pay taxes every two weeks.  They are creating an atmosphere that is dampening rather than encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit. 

Jobs are NOT created by Barack Obama, government stimulus and regulatory reform bills.  Jobs are created by entrepreneurs.  (Click the link).

Here's the most stunning and immediate example I can think of: 

In the aftermath of the worldwide economic meltdown of 2008 and 2009, it takes a young man with rare visionary capacity to start a business on next to nothing. That's exactly what Brandt Page did in early 2009. He'll be the first to give credit to Jordan, his wife, who added her paycheck to the venture to help him get out of the ground.

After graduating from BYU, Brandt announced his plans to his family. "I'm going to start my own business," he declared.

His grandmother exclaimed, "What? But Brandt, you're too young. You've just graduated from college, and now you need to find a real job!"

Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you similar stories about how they started. They are surrounded by legions of well-meaning friends and relatives who think they never should have taken that first fateful step into the unknown.

But Brandt Page is a pragmatic visionary, and he began small. He set up a card table in the front room of his townhouse condominium, hooked up an automated VOIP dialer to his computer and started calling. He found a company that was willing to pay him for cold calling other companies they were targeting for their products and services. Brandt jumped right in with both feet -- sometimes stockinged, sometimes bare -- while he began selling over the phone.

After early success, confident now that others would pay him for doing what they didn't want to do, he began attracting others to his ideas. He'll tell you he owes a lot to his Junto Partners mentors, Alan Hall and Greg Warnock, owners of Mercato Partners. He learned their lessons well. The evidence continued to roll in -- people were actually paying him for his performance and soon he needed more help. A good friend joined him, then some former roommates who believed he was on to something.

After some early rookie mistakes, budding entrepreneur Brandt was off to the races. A few months later he recognized the need for some changes. He didn't hesitate. He jetisoned his original plan, modified his offering to scheduling appointments instead of trying to sell his clients' products, then hired experienced, credible and more mature professionals. The ample supply of displaced professionals from "the worst recession since the Great Depression" (how many times did President Obama use that phrase?) was exactly the model he needed. He learned quickly and implemented changes boldly, bootstrapping his technology with the combined experience of subsequent additions to his fledgling company.

He found experienced people with years of combined sales and management experience. He's still the youngest employee of the company. He jokes that the average age of his staff is 44, and he's the only one who still drags the average down!

Brandt will tell you there were a few tight spots. Cash flow was unpredictable but bootstrapping is what he's all about, turning down offers from angel investors.

"I would much rather have the advice and counsel of my advisors than their cash," he explains.

He's had others offer to help him for a piece of the action, but he's content to make it on his own.

"Most young bucks like me think they need a business plan that's perfect, and then they go to venture capitalists looking for money for an idea they haven't proven. That never made any sense to me. I've always believed the idea has be proven and tested first." His closest advisors have confirmed his determination of going it alone.

The growth metrics continue to confirm Brandt's instincts -- his revenues and his client list continue to grow organically.

Today, Brandt Page isn't likely to hear what most young entrepreneurs hear: You're not a “proven” team with “proven” technology in a “proven” market.  He's not asking to hear it, he's just routinely going about his business exceeding expectations.

Or, your company may simply not be a “VC deal” -- that is, something that will go public or be acquired for a zillion dollars.  He's just not pitching anybody who says that -- yet -- but the day will come.

Instead, Page's model is a simple service business that works: "We fill up our clients' salespipes with qualified appointments. Our clients pay us directly for each appointment, and we hand off warm leads to their inside sales teams so they can do what they do best: close more sales." Simple. Scalable. Workable. Manageable.

Page subscribes to an interesting counter-intuitive idea -- that too much money too early is worse than too little for most organizations. The federal government could take a "page" out of Page's playbook for success. That's not to say he wouldn't like to stand in the sunshine of stunning financial success someday and have someone buy him out. Until that day comes, the key to his success has been "bootstrapping."

At Christmas last year, Page bought and distributed Guy Kawasaki's classic book for entrepreneurs, The Art of the Start.  I don't think he even finished reading it, because he's so focused on what he's doing, but I devoured it in two nights, couldn't put it down, and observed that a lot of what Brandt's been doing is modeled after Kawasaki's advice.  I recommend the book.

Here are some fundamental back-to-basics pearls of wisdom from this up and coming CEO, Brandt Page, and it's sound advice for the seasoned professionals too:

Focus on cash flow, not profitability

You pay bills with cash, so focus on cash flow. If you know you are going to bootstrap, you should start a business with a small up-front capital requirement, short sales cycles, short payment terms, and recurring revenue. It means passing up the big sale that takes twelve months to close, deliver, and collect. Cash is not only king to a bootstrapper -- it's the queen, prince and court jester.

Forecast from the bottom up

The bottom-up forecast goes like this: “We can add five new clients a month," thought Page in the early going. That adds up to sixty clients in a year. So our first year sales will be 5 new clients per month x whatever size campaign they ask us for per client per month and we'll realize something achievable by the end of the year. Rather than reaching for a small percentage of a huge market Page knows is unlikely with the top-down approach, can you guess which number Page thinks is more likely to happen?

Deliver first, then perfect later

In a service business like Launch you don't sit around inventing the perfect business plan. "Instead," says Page, "you deliver the best product you have available at the moment and you constantly improve your offering as you grow." What? Deliver first, then perfect later? Unthinkable! But that's how bootstrappers do it and it works. When your service is ”good enough,“ get it out there to your clients because cash starts to flow when you start delivering. "It's definitely a tradeoff," says Page. "You stake your reputation against your cash flow. You have to deliver on what you say you'll do, even if it isn't perfect at first." When you prove to others you can deliver, your reputation remains in tact and cash flows.

Forget the ”proven“ team

Great companies often are built with ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Winners can be trained. They can be coached to greatness. When you've got an idea that works, you will attract hungry talent. "Like the perfect product," adds Page, "proven teams -- people you've predicted will succeed because you think you know them -- are over-rated." People who worked for a billion dollar company for the past ten years are not accustomed to stretching and improving. They didn't have to. "Look for people with startup experience who aren't afraid to take out the trash, and clean the toilets at first to save expenses." The bootstrapping lifestyle isn't for the fainthearted who are in search of a 401k plan and a fat pension they're accustomed to.

Focus on function, not form

Once again, stay with the basics. Business cards with the perfect logo that brands your startup isn't nearly as significant as getting from point A to point B, and if that navigation includes a paperless trail that's more efficient, so much the better, according to Page. Page has a printer in his office, but he still has 3/4 of the first ream of paper to go in it a year later. Beyond the printer, his staff has a "can do, no excuses" attitude that breeds success and persistence. "They sweat out the details until they get it right," observed one client.

Get good stuff for free

While you're building an online brand like Page has done, look for doing the right thing for free -- that includes press releases, speaking engagements, bargain coupons for everything from food to golf he can use as "spiffs," seminars, offering free advice to others, and targeted messaging that fills up social media sites. Within a matter of months after starting Launch, Brandt Page was tapped by American Express as one of 50 people in America to follow on Twitter for sales advice. Why? Because he shares the wealth of his learning experiences with others, and it's usually sound, reasoned and practical advice that's quickly actionable and understandable. He's naturally inquisitive by nature and asks a lot of questions. Guess who learns.


Praise, train and coach your small but eager staff. Get the most out of them before making the next incremental hire. "Have you leveraged the most out of your people," Page asks, "or can you spread just a little thinner before adding more fixed overhead?" Like most successful sales entrepreneurs, Page is upbeat and positive -- he's just fun to be around. He may not be able to pay his top performers as much as he would like today, but his abundant compliments for their performance and a positive work environment that is supportive and cheerful goes a long way in the bootstraping stage.

Keep an eye on Brandt Page and Launch Sales and Marketing. He's already turning heads and being cited as an example for others to follow.  Recently named as the Utah Technology Council's Emerging Executive of the Year, he continues to shine brightly as a rising star.

As the name implies, they've "launched" successfully and if they continue to "eat their own dog food" as Launch founder Brandt Page is fond of saying, they'll soon be in a predictable and self-sustaining orbit.

He's the "anti-Obama antidote" -- he and others like him across this great nation of ours will continue to lead the way to sustained economic recovery. 

That much-needed leadership is clearly NOT coming these days from Washington D.C., where the best educated, presumably smartest people in the world reside.  It's coming from unlikely places like South Salt Lake, Utah.