Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Caucus, the Republic and Democracy in America

In an effort to educate, define and advocate, I enter upon today's post with a heart full of hope for the future of America.

In recent weeks, circumstances that would have been difficult to foresee even at Christmas time when I reflected upon the topic of peace on earth, uprisings across the world have been sparked, ignited and are now raging in full fury. Much of the rhetoric linked to these uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya are linked to the word "democracy." This wave of unrest in opposition to dictators is exactly what Joseph Smith was talking about in the revelation cited in the link above.

Democracy as a form of government is easy to define -- in simplest terms it's whatever the majority consensus decides. Without giving an exhaustive exegesis of the history of mankind, suffice it to say the discussion over agency, the right to choose between good and evil, identified and championed by the Constitution of the United States of America as "God-given" is nothing more than the mortal equivalent of the issues that sparked the "war in heaven" before the foundations of this planet upon which we now live were laid.

According to Freedom House, in 2007, there were 123 electoral democracies (up from 40 in 1972). According to World Forum on Democracy, electoral democracies now represent 120 of the 192 existing countries and constitute 58.2 percent of the world's population. At the same time liberal democracies, that is, countries Freedom House regards as free and respectful of basic human rights and the rule of law are 85 in number and represent 38 percent of the global population. In each case we see "slaves" overthrowing tyrants and yearning for a democratic form of government to displace tyranny. As long as people are enslaved and deprived of their God-given liberties to choose, war will continue to engulf the world.

In recent weeks in the Utah State Legislature, there has been a debate raging over the definition of two words, "democracy," and "republic." The citizens are outraged over such a "frivolous" exercise when there are so many other pressing matters. But the distinctions are worthy of note.

Walter E. Williams
Walter E. Williams recently wrote a piece attempting to define the differences, which he thinks are significant. Getting the terms defined correctly at the outset helps frame the debate a little more precisely. Says Williams, "The word 'democracy' appears nowhere in the two most fundamental documents of our nation — the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Our Constitution's Article IV, Section 4, guarantees 'to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.' If you don't want to bother reading our founding documents, just ask yourself: Does our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag say to 'the democracy for which it stands,' or to 'the Republic for which it stands'? Or, did Julia Ward Howe make a mistake in titling her Civil War song 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic'? Should she have titled it 'The Battle Hymn of the Democracy'?"

I'm not certain the precise word we use is as important as the results produced and the attention the citizens give to their freedoms. The reality is more salient than the spelling.

Revolutions and Their Aftermath

If you believe in a "pure" democracy where a simple majority rules, then you do not believe in the form of government put in place by the founders of America. The rights of the minority get trampled where might makes right, where there are no checks and balances of power, and often revolutions that began on the high note searching for "democracy" and erecting freedom often descend down the scale into even more abusive governments than what they displaced. The "Reign of Terror" following the French Revolution sent somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 people to death by guillotine. Then came Napoleon, who eventually took the title of Emperor, elevating himself beyond the mere title possessed by the beheaded monarch who preceded him. Many would argue Napoleon was not much of an improvement when it came to dictatorial governance. The world has seen the same dynamic play out again and again since.

King Louis XVI of France
We went to a marvelous production the other night at the Hale Centre Theatre, "A Tale of Two Cities," courtesy of the generosity of Mark and Gayle Van Wagoner, board members of the theatre. While not nearly as lyrical and memorable a musical score as "Les Miserables," this musical production reminded me once again of the universal longing for human dignity and freedom. Set in the era of the French Revolution, Charles Dickens' masterpiece is as topical and timeless today as when it was penned. Like today, "It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times."

The novel first appeared in 1859, and depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, then the subsequent brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. It follows the lives of several protagonists through these events. The most notable are Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Darnay is a French aristocrat who denounced his title and position, moved to London, then falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature. Carton is a drunken British barrister who endeavors to redeem his ill-spent life, inspired by his unrequited love for Darnay's wife, Lucie Manette. It is filled with themes of love, morality and transcending heroism arising from the ashes of the larger world in which the characters lived and had their being, not unlike the conditions swirling around us today.

The only way to fully appreciate the "gap" between the royalty and the peasants of France in those days is to stroll the gardens and the opulent halls of the palace at Versailles.

The reason I bring it all up is to paint a clear picture of the precious truths embedded in the Constitution, critical to our understanding of how government touches our lives. I have wanted to write about the unique caucus system we have here in Utah for months, and today I finally get to it.

Why Delegates Matter

In Utah, the candidates who represent each political party are chosen by delegates at state and county party conventions. The process begins at the neighborhood or precinct level. Typically a precinct includes 1,200-1,300 homes, so a precinct is roughly the size of a neighborhood. There are about 3,500 Republican precincts in Utah's 29 counties.

In each election cycle, each precinct holds a meeting, called a "caucus meeting," usually early in the year of the November election (in the last year the caucus night was on March 23, 2010). During the precinct caucus meeting, people from your precinct (neighborhood) will be elected to represent your precinct as delegates to the state and county nominating conventions. As a state delegate last year I was elected with a stated position of supporting Mike Lee. I declared myself to my friends and neighbors and won a simple majority vote to be elected. It was a sacred trust, and gave me an instant appreciation for all candidates who submit to the process of putting their names on a ballot, regardless of political persuasion.

Why Delegates Matter More than Ever

At the convention, if a candidate receives 60% of the delegate vote, they automatically become the party’s candidate and move on to the general election in November. If no candidate reaches 60%, the top two candidates move on to a primary election held in June.

Last year, the incumbent was ousted at the convention and two new candidates emerged in the senate primary race for the Republican nomination, since neither was able to garner 60% of the vote in convention.

Simple Steps to Becoming a Delegate

Becoming a delegate doesn’t require you to be a politician, have extensive knowledge of political science or social issues, or be a public speaker. You are just going to be meeting with your neighbors, letting them know you are committed to getting involved and striving to make a difference for your area.

Basic things to remember:

1. Determine your voting precinct

2. Find your neighborhood precinct caucus location (contact your county's Republican party officers for help if needed)

3. Identify people in your precinct who will vote for you (reach out to as many family, friends, and neighbors as you can)

4. Attend your caucus meeting

No prior experience is required, you will enjoy the process and you will make a tremendous difference.

I made a determination early in January of 2010 that Mike Lee was the right U.S. Senate candidate for Utah and for the nation. He is now in Washington and is making an instant impact and producing real results during an important time for the United States. I like to think I got that one right, and I am so grateful for the invitation extended to me by my friends to get involved.

Now I am extending that same invitation to each of you as you witness the escalation in the fight for freedom globally. You cannot change the world overnight, but you can distance yourselves from the apathetic and inertia-bound tendencies seeming to grip us on matters political and religious. Now is the time to step up and to be counted in the precious free exercise of your beliefs.

The Utah Caucus System is Superb

Utah’s system of electing delegates to county and state conventions system is under constant attack. The arguments were heard again and continue unabated. Those who lose contend it is "government by the few, the rich, the extreme or the political elite." Others say it is "closed, controlled and unfair" as it allows only a few to cast ballots for candidates who eventually appear on the November ballot. Still others will tell you the caucus meetings happen too early in the cycle when the average person is not thinking politics.

On the other side of the argument where I reside, many constitutional experts would agree this is the best and most constitutionally-correct system in America. In case you hadn't noticed recently, Utah is receiving a lot of "pub" because of Lee's outspoken alignment with a traditional and "strict constructionist" point of view of the Constitution. In so many ways, Utah is emerging with a powerful voice on the national scene.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
I love the Utah caucus system because it is so inherently and fundamentally grassroots by nature. It's how a guy like Mike Lee can mount a campaign and spend 1/10th of what the entrenched incumbent does and win! The process is totally controlled by the citizens who care enough to attend their neighborhood caucus meeting and get elected to make change they believe in. Those who choose to stay home, of course, have that right, but they can never say thereafter they were somehow "cheated" out of their representative republic.

Elected delegates to the county and state conventions then have the responsibility of nominating the candidates who will appear on the November ballots for their respective parties.

Utah Epitomizes the Representative Republic

Thomas Jefferson
In my view, our system in Utah comes closest to the fulfillment of representative republic envisioned by the founders than any other I've seen. We elected representatives to vote on our behalf, rather than a direct democracy where a simple majority rules. The whole idea is captured by Thomas Jefferson in The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, No. 1685, p. 193, where he wrote, “The Constitution was meant to be republican, and we believe it to be republican according to every candid interpretation.”

Clarification:  That's not Republican with a capital "R" -- it's "republican" as in "representative republic" with a small "r." Never forget the difference.

The average Utah/U.S. citizen typically does not take the time to study issues and candidates as thoroughly as one who puts himself/herself up for consideration as a delegate to the nominating conventions. It is presumed delegates will make informed choices based upon their best judgments and that trust is imposed by their friends and neighbors at the caucus meetings at the lowest level of government imaginable. Some feel disenfranchised because they have to work on caucus night, or they are on vacation, or they forget to attend. Whatever the reasons, they may still voice their opinions among their friends and neighbors and encourage and persuade others face-to-face to their point of view in whatever honorable way they desire, even if it's just a simple conversation in the grocery store check-out line.

It is not my belief the founders would have approved of the current system comprised of incumbent career politicians. Bob Bennett promised he would never become one, then continued to run again and again. Orrin Hatch  (currently in his sixth six-year term) is in the same category, having served twice as long as Bennett. Neither has demonstrated the wisdom to step aside voluntarily. That's why only citizens at the ballot box in America are empowered by the Constitution to impose term limits on their elected officials. A passive and indifferent electorate, however, leads to the tyranny the founders feared most. You may think your senator is the finest senator on planet Earth today, but the intent of the founders was never to send people to represent their neighbors who would then get automatic annual pay raises, perks and multi-million dollar pension and gold-plated health insurance plans at no cost to them personally.

The caucus system makes it much easier and less expensive for citizen candidates from the grassroots to unseat an incumbent through the caucus system. The only vocal opposition I've heard against it comes from those who favor the incumbents. I proved to my own satisfaction that my voice last year DID make a difference.

In states that have a direct primary election, the choices of who will run in the final elections are made on a "pure democracy” idea. That was exactly what the founders were trying to avoid because of its tendency to eventually empower tyrants after the revolution.

The founders gave the citizens of the United States of America a government designed to protect against the intrusion on their God-given rights by all powers, foreign and domestic. However, the implied trust is a presumption that in a free representative republic the citizens would remain vigilent and actively engaged. The inherent weakness in our form of the representative republic is that we may lose those protections if we don't.

I'm writing about it today looking back on what happened in 2010 as a testament to what can happen when we are awake, alert and on task as a free people. I have every confidence the trend will continue into the election of 2012.

We really have no other choice as the guardians of freedom's flame.

Returning Sanity to the Political Discourse

This interview with Congressman Allen West (R-FL) should give all Americans renewed hope that fiscal sanity and spending restraint can actually happen. It's not a matter of "if" we can and must do this, it's only a matter of "how much." When he was running for office last year, I wished this man and others like him could be elected in every precinct in America. You'll understand why when you listen to him articulate his positions:

A new era has finally dawned. The work ahead is not going to be easy. America, however, will get this fixed. There just isn't any other alternative if freedom for us and the rest of the world is to be preserved.

Economics 101, Professor Rand Paul

This exchange between freshman Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and David Letterman tells you everything you need to know about snarky liberal comedians and Tea Party/Republicans. It's Econ 101 for beginners in simple understandable, non-technical terms. The audience, however, applauds in all the wrong places:

I'm not certain how long it's going to take, but the liberal agenda is on full display here and those who are preaching small government and private sector are eventually going to prevail.  Why?  Because when Letterman and other liberals keep saying "tax the rich" to pay for everything under the sun there will come a day when the rich will no longer be able to afford the agenda.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Deep Dark Secrets

A recent tragic story has dominated the headlines and newscasts here in Utah. The 5 Browns is a talented family group of gifted pianists, perhaps the first and only quintet of pianists, who have realized tremendous commercial success together. They are comprised of two brothers and three sisters from the same family, and they are magnificent performers if you haven't seen them or heard them play together.

The tragic story to which I allude is the revelation that the father of this talented family had sexually abused his three daughters when they were younger women. He appeared in court the other day and pled guilty to the charges in a deal that will result in a long prison term.

I do not know the Brown family, and I do not presume to know what happened except for the scant details that have surfaced in the media reports.

What I am familiar with is the dynamic we see repeated here of attempting to hide our deepest, darkest secrets from God.

President Spencer W. Kimball
"There are no corners so dark, no deserts so uninhabited, no canyons so remote, no automobiles so hidden, no homes so tight and shut in but that the all-seeing One can penetrate and observe. The faithful have always known this. The doubters should take a sober look at the situation in the light of the electronic devices which have come into increasing use in the last few years and which are often delicate and tiny but so powerful as almost to annihilate man's personal privacy. . .

"In the light of these modern marvels can anyone doubt that God hears prayers and discerns secret thoughts? A printer's camera can make a negative three feet square. What magnification! If human eyes and ears can so penetrate one's personal life, what may we expect from perfected men with perfected vision!" (President Spencer W. Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, 110-11).

This attempt by fallen mortal man to hide our sins from God is as old as Adam and Eve. "I hid myself because I was naked." As the mortal offspring of Father Adam and Mother Eve, we have inherited that nasty tendency to think we can hide from Him. The truly tragic reality of our mortal existence is our deepest, darkest secrets are rarely hidden from others. We only have the mistaken perception they are. Have you ever noticed how piercingly accurate your awareness is of the mistakes and faults of others? At least you think you know. Then suddenly, as with the Browns, a deep dark secret unknown to their peers emerges and then we become aware of just how little we truly know about each other. But sooner or later truth rises and everyone knows what you thought was hidden away and neatly disposed of in the recesses of your mind and the memories of those you have offended.

We may deceive others for many, many years, but God does exist, He does know us, and we are all accountable before Him. These are absolute truths from which we cannot ultimately escape. We will all die. We all stand before Him to be judged. We learn by experience, there really is no other way, and what we learn compels us in time to trust Him. We learn His mercy through the atonement of His Son Jesus Christ is sufficient for each of us.

President Spencer W. Kimball testified some years ago. "That is an absolute truth. All. . . of the children of men on the earth might be ignorant of him and his attributes and his powers, but he still lives. All the people on the earth might deny him and disbelieve, but he lives in spite of them. . .  In short, opinion alone has no power in the matter of an absolute truth. . .  The watchmaker in Switzerland, with materials at hand, made the watch that was found in the sand in a California desert. The people who found the watch had never been to Switzerland, nor seen the watchmaker, nor seen the watch made. The watchmaker still existed, no matter the extent of their ignorance or experience. If the watch had a tongue, it might even lie and say, 'There is no watchmaker.' That would not alter the truth." ("Absolute Truth," 1977 BYU Fireside and Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Publications, 1977], 138). I wrote recently about these absolute truths we know as Mormons.

When stories like the Browns' surface, there is something salacious and almost magnetic about it that also says something about us. We are drawn to these very public and embarrassing disclosures as part of our "human nature." It is as though we are anxious to discover something about ourselves. Can we hide ourselves from God much longer, or will we, like Keith Brown, think we can sin and remain free from judgment? On the day he appeared in court, his attorney said, "Today was the next step in a very long process of accountability for a reprehensible act." He said the plea deal will minimize the harm a public trial would cause the family. We look upon this train wreck and secretly wonder to ourselves, will I be different? Can I escape accountability for my hidden works of darkness? Can I escape the all-seeing eye?

In our mortal journey there is one indispensable gift for which we must seek. It is the gift of discernment. I don't mean the gift to discern between right and wrong, because the acquisition of that gift is assured at birth, and it is referred to as the "light that lighteth every man" -- the light of Christ. (D&C 88:4-13).

Rather, I speak of the spiritual gift to discern between what is good, better and best. Few people would entertain thoughts of sexually molesting their children. There is a natural barrier between fathers and daughters and mothers and sons over which the vast majority of fathers and mothers will never step, nor are they ever even tempted with the thought to violate that natural barrier. I wonder if a gift of discernment that helps us choose primary over secondary causes isn't really more valuable.

President Boyd K. Packer
President Boyd K. Packer warned: "As we test the moral environment, we find the pollution index is spiraling upward. . .  God grant that we will come to our senses and protect our moral environment from this mist of darkness which deepens day by day. The fate of all humanity hangs precariously in the balance."

C. S. Lewis
There is a classic exchange in the C. S. Lewis masterwork, The Screwtape Letters, which has one of the archdevils, Screwtape, giving instruction to his nephew, Wormwood, about how to deceive those who have become Christians: "The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And.' You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing." (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters [New York: Touchstone, 1996], 115-16; italics in original).

The devil, except in rare instances like this isolated deep dark secret in the Brown family, doesn't need to persuade us to steal or lie or molest our children or commit adultery. All that is necessary for Satan to deceive us is to have true believers merely undersell, understate, minimize and thus underestimate the awesome powers, appropriateness, and relevance of the restored gospel as the antidote for sin in these last days. The magnitude of the sinning suggests we need to step up our game too.

As a society we have made quantum leaps in our ability to harness information, discovery, and technology. I have witnessed young people who have mastered texting on their cell phones to the degree they are doing it with each other in a living room setting, as though a real conversation is somehow passe and antiquated. At the office we chat electronically to co-workers who are a few feet away and we tend to manage by e-mail as a substitute for human interaction.

I wonder sometimes if we are letting go of that which is fundamental and loosening the fasteners day by day that anchor us to the simple truths of the gospel. Some things as long as the earth shall stand will never change, however. I believe those are situations, tangled Gordian knots of human conflict and seemingly impossible resolutions, that can only be realized through divine intervention. The Apostle Paul said in Christ "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:9-10; italics mine). Only in Him can all knots be eternally done and undone.

I bear witness that the real hope of the world is Jesus Christ, who is the Mender of all broken things. He is the "Wonderful Counselor" (Isaiah 9:6). He succors us because He knows us, knows our deepest, darkest secrets, in fact, has already suffered the consequences and the penalties for them and awaits our acceptance of Him as our personal Savior. The road to our self-awareness and acceptance of our accountability before the Almighty God does not have to be "long" and tortuous for our reprehensible acts or even for our choices that tend to mire us in the thick of thin things. I am convinced it can be easy and the burden light, because He promised us it would be if we would come unto Him for our healing. (Matthew 11:28-30).

Having said that, I am acutely aware of mental or social-emotional problems resulting from a chemical imbalance, addictions and other counseling needs that may require intense and extended therapeutic intervention. But I can also assert that even these are not ultimately healed based upon charismatic human personalities or the theories and philosophies of men and women, even men and women of good will. Rather, I rely more upon the blood of Christ, His transforming power to love even the vilest of sinners, the Spirit of God, and the blessings of the holy priesthood. I am eyewitness to miracles I cannot deny despite all the healing man can offer, knowing how therapeutic and helpful they can be. We are warned specifically not to take lightly the things we know through the revelations published in the Book of Mormon and other Holy Writ. (D&C 84:54-61).

I wonder if the "taking lightly" isn't just as good a victory for Screwtape, as a public and embarrassing disclosure of child sexual abuse.

President Ezra Taft Benson
President Ezra Taft Benson said it this way: "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. . .  Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world." (Italics mine).

President Harold B. Lee reminded us way back in 1970, "We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation. . .  The power of Satan will increase; we see it on every hand. . .  We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet. . .  There will be some things that take patience and faith" (in Conference Report, October 1970, 152).

President Harold B. Lee
Then President Lee added a warning when he went on to say that we may not always like what comes from the authority of the Church, because it may conflict with our personal views or interfere with some of our social life. However, if we will listen to and do these things as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, we will not be deceived and great blessings will be ours.

We can give up not only our deepest, darkest secrets to know Christ, but we can keep ourselves aligned with His servants and focused on the things that matter most, are best, and ultimately secure joy and peace for our families.

Remember, the final outcome in the struggle between good and evil is already known, and it is clearly revealed. There is only one question -- on which side of the line do we stand? It was English philosopher Edmund Burke who said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
As we discern carefully and learn to sift through our choices, we may set aside both the sordid and the secondary. As I have given father's blessings to my children, I am often reminded of their goodness and their righteous desires. For them it is not so much a choice anymore between good and evil, but more a choice between an array of good things, some better, some best. They routinely humble me with their goodness and their excellent choices. On those sacred occasions when I lay my hands upon their heads, I feel like Moses, who was told, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." (Exodus 3:5).

For each of us, that "holy ground" can be wherever and whenever we are knit together in faith and love as a family. In those moments we stand revealed before God and each other, and whatever deep, dark secrets remain may be blasted away in a burst of light and truth.

Darkness has no power.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Calf's Tail

"So I said to Barack, I knew Abe Lincoln, and you ain't no Abe Lincoln!"
On this Presidents Day weekend, language used by politicians is worthy of comment.

We used to observe Lincoln's birthday on February 12th and then Washington's on the 22nd. Wouldn't you know it was the commercialization of their birthdays that prompted a change? Led by automobile dealers in the late 1980s, their need for a long weekend in which to hold a sale is what eventually produced "Presidents Day." It splits the goalposts between Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays and gives us three days and a shopping weekend mid-winter. Now it's not just those two we cite, but every president.

President Bill Clinton
I'm always fascinated with what presidents say and have said. Perhaps the most famous use of language and how it could be parsed was Bill Clinton's lamentable, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Or when questioned under oath, his "That depends on what your definition of 'is' is." I'm almost certain Bill Clinton said some things that are far more astute than those two statements, but they will forever be attached to him as the most memorable.

Jimmy Carter had a memorable quote along those lines long before Bill Clinton acted upon his thoughts and temptations, however. Carter once gave an interview for Playboy Magazine, in which he famously said, "I've looked on many women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me."
President Jimmy Carter

No matter what their political enemies may say, most U.S. Presidents have an abiding love for this country, its heritage and its values. Carter underscores that idea with this statement: "The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself -- always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested by adversity."

Three years into his failed presidency he was on national television giving what later came to be known as his "Crisis in Confidence" or "malaise" speech in which he said, "I promised you a President who is not isolated from the people, who feels your pain, and who shares your dreams and who draws his strength and his wisdom from you."

Then along came Ronald Reagan who asked voters a simple question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" They went for Reagan in a landslide election a year later in 1980.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
There's a story attributed to Abraham Lincoln, when he was faced with some thorny issues. He would ask his opponent who thought a question could be settled with a twist of language or a slight abuse of power, "How many legs would a dog have, if we called the dog’s tail, a leg?" Confident of simple math, Lincoln's opponent would respond, "Five,” to which Lincoln would respond, "No, calling a dog’s tail a leg, doesn’t make it a leg.”

The genesis of that story is interesting. Because it has been so widely quoted, most have assumed the use of the dog in the metaphor is accurate, but I found a source this morning that is the most credible I've seen in print. This source contends beginning on page 241, continuing into page 242, that the animal was actually a calf and not a dog.

Here's the source for the quote: Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by distinguished men of his time / collected and edited by Allen Thorndike Rice (1853-1889). New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1909. The University of Michigan has the entire text on-line, in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, an on-line source whose whole text is searchable.

President George Washington
George Washington, hailed as the Father of our Country by his peers, and fully aware that every move he made was being logged into the history books for future generations, observed, "I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent."

Knowing there would have been no agreement on the Constitution without leaving the question of slavery untouched and having to pragmatically kick the question down the road for another generation of Americans to deal with, Washington lamented:  "I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery."

President Ronald W. Reagan
Ronald Reagan, recently confirmed once again by American citizens (as he has been for the last twelve years in eight different polls) as the "greatest president in U.S. history," left many memorable quotes in the history books. This is one of my favorites: "Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."

Reagan recognized, as few ever have, where the horsepower behind America's economic engine comes from: "Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States."

Ronald Reagan was always warning about the fragility of our heritage as free people: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."

Reagan was the people's president. He had an uncanny ability to tap into their psyche and he routinely used his sense of humor to poke fun at the politicians we love to hate. This is only one of his many gems:  "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."

President John Adams
Readers of this page will understand my affection for John Adams, who said, "Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society."

In his defense argument of the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre in 1770, where his clients were acquitted, Adams famously observed, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

To all the bloggers in our enlightened age, Adams would say, "Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write."

Like most of the founders, John Adams had a reverence and a complete awareness of what they were creating in the American experiment. Lest we forget in our day, he reminds us, "I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth."

President George W. Bush
In more recent years as the politicians have sparred, criticized and lampooned (get ready, it's coming again soon in the run up to the 2012 election), it was refreshing to hear George W. Bush stand down: "I just didn't want to get out there anymore; I didn't want to get back into what I call 'the swamp.' And the other reason why is I don't think it's good for the presidency for a former president to be opining about his successor. President Obama's got plenty of critics - and I'm just not gonna be one."

President John F. Kennedy was inspirational in so many ways. As a young man I loved reading his Profiles in Courage compilation. He reminds us, "A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today - and in fact we have forgotten."

President John F. Kennedy
It was Kennedy who offered the unforgettable line in his first inaugural, "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Kennedy is credited with "breaking through" the unspoken barrier of religious affiliation as a litmus test for presidential candidates when he asserted, "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President, who happens also to be a Catholic."

No matter what your political affiliation or persuasion might be, you can rest assured of one thing: Presidents of the United States of America generally do what they believe in their hearts is the best course for America. Recently, Bill O'Reilly, the number one rated cable talker in America these days, interviewed both former President George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama. He came away with the surprising conclusion that each man sincerely believed he was right, even though their policies could not be more diametrically opposed.

O'Reilly observed:

"But what happens when a person's conviction is wrong? There is no question that Saddam Hussein could have been destroyed by other means. Surely the world is a better place without him, but would most Americans support the Iraq invasion if we could do it all over? I don't think so. In hindsight, the Iraq situation should have been handled by the Air Force and Navy. Saddam's regime could have been strangled without so much American blood.

President Barack Obama
"Things are a bit murkier on the economic front. Since the Obama administration has been in power, the feds have spent an astounding seven trillion dollars. This has left the United States vulnerable in the world marketplace because we need to borrow so much money from nations like China. The massive $14 trillion debt has now become as big a threat as the economic meltdown of three years ago. No matter how you frame the issue, federal spending must be cut back, and Mr. Obama has to know this. But, like Mr. Bush, the president does not regret his controversial policies."

So let's remember the calf's tail when it comes to measuring "truthiness" from politicians on this Presidents Day honoring not just Lincoln and Washington. Just because Bush or Obama calls a calf's tail a leg, doesn't make it a leg after all.

Sometimes the statements politicians write onto the parchment of time must age a bit to be fully understood and appreciated. We celebrated the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan recently. During his presidency he was anything but beloved. People were scared to death about this "cowboy" who had his finger on the trigger of nuclear weapons and didn't seem shy about pulling it as he took on the "Evil Empire." But the one thing he had going for him was his authenticity. He connected with people, even Mikhail Gorbachev eventually. We had to have a bit of perspective as Americans before we embraced Reagan and fully credited him with the end of the Cold War.

Only time and experience will tell the whole "tale" with accuracy.

In the meantime, let us give a wide berth to political "truth" in the here and now and wait upon history to make its judgments someday.

Mike Lee on Budget Cuts

John Stossel can hardly believe it, but Mike Lee (R-UT) couldn't be more serious.  Stossel thinks Obama's proposed budget is a laugher when it comes to cutting the budget.  The proposed cuts don't even make a dent.  Lee and others are suggesting going much deeper, including the ridiculous funding of the Department of Education and farm subsidies.  When the cupboard is bare and there isn't any money left, Lee says stop the intergenerational theft and impose "straight jacket" restraints on federal spending. 

He comes to Washington with no obligations to anyone but the voters who sent him there.  No one I know can even imagine these words and this level of commitment coming out of the mouth of his predecessor.  It's why Utah sent "Mr. Smith" to Washington.

Make no mistake about his intentions and his resolve.  Mike Lee will get this job done, as new leadership emerges and the junior senator shows everyone the path back to fiscal sanity.  He intends to lead a filibuster if necessary on the pending proposal to raise the national debt ceiling until there is an up or down vote on his balanced budget amendment.

Good for you, Mike!

Here's a story discussing the struggle to define the Constitution.  The struggle for freedom from oppressive government intervention in the lives of America's citizens goes on.  Nothing has changed since the document was first penned.  David Brooks, once an unabashed and vocal fan of Obama, now writes in The New York Times that he is dismayed, that Obama is not the leader he had hoped he would become because his current budget merely "kicks the can" down the street and does not address the systemic weaknesses we now face because of our irresponsible spending and debt as a country.

Brooks concludes, after noting what a failure Obama has been in his leadership, "So the mantle of leadership has passed to Capitol Hill. While Obama asked for patience yet again, Eric Cantor announced that Republicans will put entitlements on the table. It may be politically risky, but it looks more like leadership to me."

All I can say to Brooks is "me too."  Stay tuned as the debate on Capitol Hill rages into 2011 and beyond.  Count on Mike Lee to be right in the middle of it and putting forward the leadership David Brooks and the rest of America is so hungry and desperate to discover.  .

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mike Lee on the Balanced Budget Amendment

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) on the Balanced Budget Amendment he is offering, one competing with Orrin Hatch's (R-UT), et. al.  Good for you, Mike!  May the best BBA win.

Why will it work?  Because the American people will demand it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Blacks and the Priesthood

Much has been made over the years of the Church's stance of withholding priesthood blessings from the Blacks. I have been asked by many people why Harold B. Lee was so "obstinate" in his opposition about extending those blessings. That's a perception that is wholly inaccurate. What is accurate is that we are led by living prophets imbued with the spirit of revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and directs the decisions made in the Church.

I have written about this topic before, but it seems there are never enough words to fully describe the times. Many who would revise the history of the sixties if they could will not now admit that racism was an ugly and unrelenting chapter in American history, and the Church was routinely singled out and thrown into the political witches' brew as a stereotypical example of it. For me, however, it was always a matter of pending revelation rather than policy, anchored in my belief in living prophets.

President Harold B. Lee
President Harold B. Lee said it this way: "Now I want to impress this upon you. Someone has said it this way, and I believe it to be absolutely true: 'That person is not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire.' Until the members of this church have that conviction that they are being led in the right way, and they have a conviction that these men of God are men who are inspired and have been properly appointed by the hand of God, they are not truly converted." ("The Strength of the Priesthood," Ensign, July 1972, 102).

A year later he would say: "And so I come to you today, with no shadow of doubting in my mind that I know the reality of the person who is presiding over this church, our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. I know that he is. I know that he is closer to us than many times we have any idea. They are not an absentee Father and Lord. They are concerned about us, helping to prepare us for the advent of the Savior, whose coming certainly isn’t too far away because of the signs that are becoming apparent." ("Stand Ye in Holy Places," Ensign 1973, 121).

Many members of the Church, and especially those outside the Church who are prone to accepting criticism directed at the Brethren, fail to understand a basic principle of how the Church is governed. The decision making among Apostles does not work as it does in business. One Apostle does not "lobby" a position and seek to gather votes among his peers on the "Board of Directors" until he has enough of the majority to work his will. The living Apostles move forward together as one body unanimously, including the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency, or not at all. Of necessity and by design decision making among the Brethren is often slow, deliberative, thorough, and comes through individual revelation one by one until there is perfect harmony and unity.

We have no finer illustration of this process than in the revelation that extended the priesthood blessings to the Blacks universally and without any restrictions. We may rest assured for those reasons, as they wait upon the Lord for inspiration to move ahead, mistakes are seldom made.

Discussions among the Twelve and the First Presidency about the extension of the priesthood blessings dated back into the early days of President David O. McKay's administration, and continued in earnest among the Brethren until the inspiration finally distilled upon President Spencer W. Kimball, who was sustained by all his brethren in the revelation that eventually came.

President Spencer W. Kimball
Harold B. Lee's personal copies of his scriptures are filled with transcribed minutes of meetings among the Twelve and the First Presidency on this topic. It was a topic with which he was intimately familiar, sensitive and, it appears from the number of entries, all-consuming. Toward the end of his life, credible death threats against him became a growing concern and prompted the beefing up of Church security. He felt as President Kimball did, who said, "I told the Lord if it wasn't right, if He didn't want this change to come into the Church, that I would be true to it all the rest of my life and I'd fight the world against it. I would be loyal and true to the program if that's what He wanted." (Quoted by Edward L. Kimball in This People, Summer 1988, 22).

For President Lee and for President Kimball, it was not a matter of "if" -- only "when" -- the Lord would give His revelatory sanction to lift the ban. President Lee waited upon the Lord, believing the matter was out of his hands, as the Church's critics continued their withering attacks against him and the Church. Despite what others outside that circle of living Apostles have said about it, rest assured the principals involved got it right, precisely at the time the Church and the Blacks were prepared to receive those priesthood blessings.

President David O. McKay
President McKay had first become aware of the growing concern in South Africa, then Brazil. It was a matter over which the Brethren had pondered for many, many years. Under President Kimball's administration near 10,000 faithful native Africans had joined the Church in several separate congregations as the fulness of the gospel began to illuminate that benighted continent. Each hoped and prayed they may someday receive the priesthood. But like their leaders in Salt Lake City, they were compelled to wait patiently upon the Lord for that day to come.

I have always loved the way it was described by Elder Bruce R. McConkie and President Gordon B. Hinckley, but President Boyd K. Packer also published his version in this way:

President Boyd K. Packer
At the same time the LDS edition of the scriptures was being prepared for publication another matter was weighing heavily upon the soul of one of the Lord's great watchmen, President Spencer W. Kimball. Other latter-day prophets had wrestled with the same dilemma: that of obeying the divine command to preach the gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people, while being keenly aware that, because of race, some of those people were denied the full blessings of the gospel -- that is, denied the priesthood and the temple ordinances. Thus these prophets had pleaded mightily with the Lord for answers to the problem, and none of them more intensely than President Kimball. Yet always the Spirit had indicated that the time had not yet come.

Now this prophet, small in physical stature but a spiritual giant, wrestled again, seeking and pleading in behalf of the faithful among all priesthood-denied people. Not only did he struggle, seek, and plead, but his brethren in the highest councils of the Church did so as well.

One day, during the Thursday temple meeting with his Counselors and the Twelve, President Kimball, who was pondering that matter, discussed it with his brethren. When it was Elder Packer's turn to speak, he read a scripture: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings" (D&C 124:49).

A few days later President Kimball asked Brother Packer where he would be the next Saturday. Elder Packer told him he would be speaking Friday evening at the Dixie College baccalaureate but would return by plane early on Saturday.

"Will you come to my office?" the President asked.

"Of course," Elder Packer responded.

Upon his return about one o'clock on Saturday, Brother Packer went directly to the Church Office Building. The security officer on duty said that the President was at home and wished Elder Packer to call as soon as he came into the building.

Reaching President Kimball by phone, Elder Packer offered, "I'll come right up."

"No, I'll come down and meet you."

Arriving shortly after this, the President entered his office. Elder Packer recalls his saying that he had "this thing" on his mind and wanted to talk about it. "There was no need to explain what this thing was," Elder Packer recalled. "We both knew how it was weighing upon him.

"He handed me his scriptures and said he'd like me to read to him from the revelations. So we started with the one from D&C 124:49 that I had read in the temple. For a couple of hours we just moved back and forth through the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price, and then talked about what we read.

"The spirit of revelation seemed to be brooding upon the prophet that day. He asked me, assuming that the revelation was to come, how it might best be announced to the Church, and asked that I put something in writing. This I did and handed it to him a day or two later. He had asked one or two of the others to do the same."

On Thursday, 8 June 1978, in the Salt Lake Temple, the revelation was reaffirmed when the First Presidency and the Twelve approved the announcement that was to go out to the world. It was further reaffirmed in the temple on 9 June 1978 by all of the General Authorities available. They too unanimously approved the announcement.

The long-sought pronouncement that "all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color" had become official. (Doctrine and Covenants, Official Declaration-2, 293-94).

On 30 September 1978, at general conference, the assembled Saints voted unanimously to sustain the motion. (Ibid.)

Those of the Lord's watchmen who were present at those historic times will recall and have borne witness to the Spirit of revelation that attended them, and each has expressed gratitude for being part of the momentous experience. And none of the Twelve was more grateful for that day than Elder Boyd K. Packer. (Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower, Lucille C. Tate, 225-27, emphasis mine).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who had earlier stated categorically that the Blacks would never receive the priesthood in this life, and was prepared to defend that position "until the day I die," would then say after the revelation came:

There are statements in our literature by the early brethren that we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, "You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?" And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whosoever has said in days past, that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don't matter any more.

It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. (Priesthood, 131-32, emphasis mine).

Elder McConkie bore his testimony of that sacred occasion as follows:

The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet. The message was that the time had now come to offer the fulness of the everlasting gospel, including celestial marriage, and the priesthood, and the blessings of the temple, to all men, without reference to race or color, solely on the basis of personal worthiness. And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord. . . .

In the days that followed the receipt of the new revelation, President Kimball and President Ezra Taft Benson — the senior and most spiritually experienced ones among us — both said, expressing the feelings of us all, that neither of them had ever experienced anything of such spiritual magnitude and power as was poured out upon the Presidency and the Twelve that day in the upper room in the house of the Lord. And of it I say: It is true; I was there; I heard the voice; and the Lord be praised that it has come to pass in our day. ("The New Revelation on Priesthood," in Priesthood, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1981, 128).

President Gordon B. Hinckley
President Gordon B. Hinckley also was present that glorious day. In a talk given May 15, 1988, in a Churchwide fireside commemorating the restoration of the priesthood, he spoke movingly about the experience. Said he:

The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to [President Kimball] an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage. Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. It was a quiet and sublime occasion. There was not the sound "as of a rushing mighty wind," there were not "cloven tongues like as of fire" (Acts 2:2-3) as there had been on the Day of Pentecost. But there was a Pentecostal spirit, for the Holy Ghost was present. No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls. (Ensign, October 1988, 70).

When one reads those accounts, it seems reasonable that we may glimpse into the culminating process of many, many years as the living Apostles wrestled mightily and waited patiently upon the Lord for the time to come. Premature attempts would have worked the will of men in opposition to the manifest will of the Father and the Son. Through the long years of waiting, the voice was heard that day. It was the voice of the Spirit, inaudible to physical ears but indelibly imprinted into the minds and souls of those present. It was with them as with the Nephite prophet Enos, who recorded: "And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind." (Enos 1:10). It is also clear that the event had a profound, lasting effect on all those involved.

Said President Hinckley: "Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that."

And I would add, none of us was either.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sleepovers with Nana

Growing up, I was routinely asked by others outside the family, "What's it like to be the grandson of Harold B. Lee?" Now it is my children and grandchildren who are asking. Today's post is another installment in partial answer to their questions.

Fern Lucinda Tanner Lee
 When I was a young boy around the age of eight, I often went to stay with our “Nana” on weekends. Grandfather Lee was routinely away from home on stake conference assignments and mission tours, and Nana remained home alone most of the time. "Nana" was our name for Fern Lucinda Tanner Lee. She was a small and very petite (almost fragile) woman. I wasn't very old when I could look her straight in the eye, then most of her grandsons passed her in height and she started calling us her "big boys." We all loved her very much.

Nana had two daughters, and she was delighted as the grandsons were born because boys in that family were a rarity. Five grandsons later, she finally got two granddaughters, Martsy and Jane, then three more grandsons followed. We were a very close family -- cousins were more like brothers and sisters.

I was her oldest grandson. At some point, Nana and Mom conjured up the idea of having her "big boy" David come to stay with her on weekends to keep her company. These were long weekends. Jet travel had barely been introduced. The General Authorities often left home on Friday to travel by train or car to their stake conferences which were held over two days – all day Saturday (two sessions, morning and afternoon) and all day Sunday (two more sessions). Often they travelled home on Mondays, so they were gone for four days out of the week.

Mom would drop me off at her home, 847 Connor Street in Salt Lake City, usually on a Friday night after school. We would settle in for the night after she made dinner. She was a marvelous cook. I learned early and often just how skilled she was, and it was apparent where my mother had learned her homemaking skills.

In those days, television was in its infancy and it was still in black and white. Her very favorite TV show was “Perry Mason,” a series about a defense attorney and the stories about his clients. There was a very hard-nosed police detective named Lt. Tragg, who was always gathering evidence against Perry’s clients so they could be prosecuted in court. The District Attorney was Hamilton Burger. Mason was always matching wits against both. He had Della Street, his secretary, and Paul Drake, a private investigator, on his side. They made quite a team as they matched wits each week with Tragg and Burger. They would investigate the facts, Mason’s client was accused and charged with a crime, more investigations would continue. Then the trial would begin and in the climactic courtroom scene Perry Mason would introduce new evidence and often get a courtroom confession from the real lawbreaker who was never Mason’s innocent client.

Nana loved it. I think she loved it so much because the “good guys” always won. She loved the innocent person being let free at the end. What you always knew is that Perry Mason’s client was never the guilty party. All that remained was to discover how he or she would be proven innocent. She often guessed the plot in advance, and would tell me who the real guilty person was going to be. She was seldom wrong. I used to think she was brilliant, and wondered why she hadn’t been an attorney.

“Dragnet,” a police drama, was also a favorite. Nana would finish her Friday evenings by watching the variety shows that included song, dance and skits. They were very popular and she loved several performers. I especially remember that Diana Shore, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar and Milton Berle were among them. She also liked “I Love Lucy” with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It was called “The Golden Age of Television.”

The stars of Dragnet were Jack Webb and Harry Morgan (long before he achieved fame in M*A*S*H as Colonel Sherman T. Potter). If Nana had lived long enough, she would have been hailed as a prophetess. She told me as a young boy, observing all the smoking on television, that people could die by smoking cigarettes. Jack Webb later died of lung cancer.

Her TV was a good companion when Grandfather was gone. TV was much more innocent and fun than it is today. But I remember her moaning with disdain over Fatima Cigarette commercials (the sponsor of Dragnet) before they were banned from TV. She asked aloud, "How could anyone think smoking cigarettes is attractive?" She saw it as a filthy disgusting habit, and she embedded a dislike for the products in me as a young lad so the temptation was never appealing to me.

She would tuck me into bed down the hall from her bedroom by reading me stories just as my mother did in our home. Then we would kneel down together and we would take turns praying together. I loved to hear her pray. Her prayers were to a Father with whom she was on intimate and familiar terms.

The next morning she would always be up before me making breakfast. She called it a “big boy breakfast,” and it included EVERYTHING: pancakes or French toast, toast with peanut butter and jam or honey, eggs cooked any way I wanted (scrambled or “sunny side up or down”) and orange juice or apple juice and milk or hot chocolate if it was winter. Sometimes she would even cook oatmeal or put out cold cereal I liked. Grandfather suffered from ulcers much of his adult life, so fixing "stuff" for her big boys was particulary exciting for her, since Grandfather's diet was often restricted to milk toast and soft foods that didn't irritate his ulcers. At an early age I associated ulcers with stress and pressure -- that's how they always explained Grandfather's ailment.

President Harold B. Lee
While we're on that topic of food, I am often amused when I read in books what the favorite foods of the Presidents of the Church were. I have no doubt about Harold B. Lee's favorites: milk toast, apple pie a la mode (with vanilla ice cream), and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Favorite fruit -- apples, of course.

During the winter after breakfast, I would go outside and shovel the driveway and the sidewalks. In the summer I mowed the lawn and raked leaves in the fall. They had stately elm trees in the backyard and the leaves were gigantic, easy to rake and gather up into the compost pile Grandfather would use for mulch in the spring. That pile always smelled bad as it decomposed, but Grandfather loved it when he could spread it around his rose garden in the spring. His roses were planted in two rows with a decorative pedestal holding a round shiny blue ball anchored by a piece of rebar so it wouldn't fall off. I often helped him prune the roses, and he taught me that cutting them back every year assured more robust blooms. She was very particular about how I did all the yardwork, knowing how important a well-kept yard was to Grandfather. She always made sure I did it her way.

Newlyweds, first home
 One year, she and Grandfather had been to New York City together while he attended board meetings. They attended the opening run of “My Fair Lady” on Broadway, starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. They came home with the original playbill (program) and a stereo 33 1/3 RPM record of the soundtrack. (You younger folks may be forgiven for not even knowning what that has reference to). They had recently purchased a large (probably six feet wide for good speaker separation) stereo console. It's an antique now, but they were delighted with the sound it produced, a quantum leap up from radio. Grandfather would instruct me where to sit in front of it to get the full stereo effect. Dad found that old playbill among Nana's treasures in her cedar chest recently, and knowing of the special connection with it I had shared with Nana, sent it along to me as a loving memento.

She would play that record on their stereo in their living room night after night. At one point it was the ONLY stereo record they owned, and she loved it. She warned me in advance to cover my ears when Rex Harrison blasted out his, "Damn, damn, damn, damn" in the introduction to "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." She did not want me to be tainted by the "bad words." And yes, our mouths were washed out with soap if we ever repeated them. I would listen to it with her, and often fell asleep on their plush white carpet in front of the stereo with a pillow and blanket. I learned every song and every word because I heard it so frequently. I don’t ever remember hearing her play any other record, though I am certain they eventually must have added to their collection.

Those were magical years for me as a little boy growing up. She loved us all, but I always knew I was her favorite. As my brothers and cousins grew older, they often came with me, or got their own turn to stay with her. And then I learned the sad reality -- they all thought THEY were her favorite too. The reason this was so important to her was that Grandfather’s work as an Apostle took him out of town so often and she welcomed the company on weekends when he was gone.

I still remember his description of jets when they were first introduced. He said it was like “hedge hopping.” He described the airplanes taking off in a much steeper angle, almost “straight up” it seemed to him, then by the time they reached their cruising altitude it seemed like they were coming back down because it was so much faster than train and car travel. He believed jet travel was the most incredible advancement to the work of the Lord in the last days because it meant the General Authorities could get to the people so much easier. Now, of course, we have so many other modern tools like the Internet and computers to broadcast conferences and keep the General Authorities closer to the people.

I couldn’t wait until the time when I turned sixteen so I could drive Nana wherever she wanted to go on the weekends. She didn’t like to drive very much, and Grandfather left his white 1960 Buick Electra in the garage while he was gone most of the time. Favorite car:  Buick. Never owned anything else. He had a good friend who was a Buick dealer in Tooele and he was loyal. And yes, he liked the fins on that beauty!

Grandfather loved Nana very much. However, she died in 1962, when I was fifteen.  He was so sad when she died. I loved her very much too, and I missed our sleepovers when she was gone.