Sunday, May 27, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again

About eight years ago, when Merilee (now serving as a missionary in the Washington D.C. South Mission) had two older siblings serving missions at the same time, I wrote a letter to them and made reference to a letter I had just written for Merilee.

The date was June 28, 2004. I found it buried in the archives of, and as I reviewed it today it seemed timely.

Dear Sister Mel & Elder Jake:

I was thinking yesterday as I sat in Church that no one even acknowledged the 160th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail. We seemed to be focused in the sacrament meeting on the upcoming July 4th weekend. I sang with the ward choir, and we performed “America the Beautiful” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It was a good program, but to let that day pass without even so much as a reference to Joseph and Hyrum’s ultimate sacrifice seemed strange to me.

I wrote a letter to Merilee (to be delivered to her this week by the “Pony Express” while they are out in the wilderness trek), and as I wrote to her to try and give her an appreciation for the sacrifice of her ancestors I was struck again with how much we have today because of those who have gone before us. I was also struck with how little we truly understand of the lives of those forefathers – how difficult it is for us to comprehend their existence!

Imagine the hardships of wagon train travel – heat and cold, wet and dry, extremes that vary so dramatically from our “controlled environmental range” that never varies that much from 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t know what to make of it all, only to express gratitude that our situation today is what it is in relative ease comparatively.

I believe we are uniquely positioned in this late date in the dispensation to recognize our “time and place” circumstances. Indeed, where much is given, much is required (D&C 82:3-4; that verse 4 is especially sobering). I have struggled to keep in perspective all that we know is coming in the years ahead in these last days.

There is a lot to be happy about in what we know – that good will ultimately triumph is sufficient in so many ways. But, nevertheless, there are some bone-chilling realities that the world is going to become yet more wicked. Who are we in the midst of these realities? We are the children of light, according to my good friend Paul (see 1 Thessalonians 5):

"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."

I’ve got to tell you, that’s about as timeless a piece of scripture as there is. It especially applies to our day.

Here’s another sobering reality that struck me again as we studied it recently in our family scripture study. It’s King Mosiah explaining to the people that he will serve as their king only until the end of his life, then admonishing them to abolish kings for these hauntingly familiar reasons in our day as we witness from the front-row seats what it takes to overthrow a wicked king in Iraq (see Mosiah 29:16-27):

"Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you. For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage. And were it not for the interposition of their all-wise Creator, and this because of their sincere repentance, they must unavoidably remain in bondage until now. But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him. And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood. For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God; And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness. And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you. Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord. Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law — to do your business by the voice of the people. And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land."

Once again, the prophets nearly nail our present world to the wall. Oh, let’s see – that would be because we’re dealing with an all-knowing God who reveals the future to inspired prophets who write it all down – now I remember. Despite all the evidence to the contrary right now in this political presidential season, the good news is that there is good news – it will all work out! Truth will prevail and flourish – it will even pierce through the mists of darkness. I am constantly humbled by the goodness of your lives, your desires to do good, and your ever-present ability to seek even more improvement.

I love you both,


Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Congressional Budget Chairman Paul Ryan

Eight short years later after writing this letter, little did I suspect we would have a POTUS who is openly advocating for same-sex marriage, we have a SCOTUS debating the constitutional merits of an unpopular healthcare law not favored by the people, and we have the Catholic Church suing the federal government over its mandate forcing the Church to provide contraception through their various medical plans provided by their church-owned entities. And let's not forget $5 Trillion in new debt in just the last three years, more than at any other similar period in our history. Once again, after last year's downgrade in its credit rating, America is faced with another downgrade this year. It's deja vu all over again, according to today's Deseret Morning News editorial page.

Who says things can't deteriorate quickly? However you choose to define and quantify the phrase, "it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right," you may rest assured that Americans are increasingly aware of the loss of their liberties through the imposition of the tyrannical rule of the federal government. The slow erosion of moral values seems to be picking up momentum, and it's not so slow anymore. Much of it has come about in eight short years since we were laboring as a country in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein from power.

Now the tables seem to have turned and we have a tyrant here in this country determined to regulate and tax everything that moves in America. We have a Senate that has not passed or even offered so much as a counter-proposal for a federal budget for over three years, though the House has sent them one for the last two years. We used to call that malfeasance in office, and now we are told it's just "good politics."

But hopefully there is a counterbalance at work also. We are witnessing a "Mormon moment" having the potential to produce nothing but more good for the economy, the institutions of government and the righteousness of the people who hear and learn more about the gospel in its fullness in these last days. One can always hope for good things to come.

There is much to remember this Memorial Day weekend. We can give thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice that we may have and be what we are today.

We can give thanks for the patience and long-suffering of God despite the abuse of agency by His children.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Steve Smoot, Champion of Mankind

Steve Smoot
This week, we were reminded at the funeral of a much-beloved uncle, Stephen Parkinson Smoot, a life-long activist Mormon Democrat, that in the spirit world where he now resides there are no political parties. A life of contradictions and dilemmas was now resolved. Think about it - how many Utah Mormon Democrat activists do you know? There's an oxymoron for you to ponder and remember on this Memorial Day weekend of 2012!

The fact of the dissolution of political parties in the spirit world and beyond will not come as such a dramatic revelation to anyone who believes in an afterlife, I suppose, but coming from one of Steve's dear old friends, Elder M. Russell Ballard, it's a reality worth noting in this political season.

From the moment I first joined the Hewlett clan way back in the late sixties, Steve Smoot was my hero. There never was a man of more compassionate, caring and likable disposition than Uncle Steve. I don't think I ever heard a word of unkind criticism about an individual ever escape his lips. That's a tall order for some who are not similarly inclined to such restraint, but it was true of Steve.

Fort Smoot
Patsy and I were his closest neighbors who were in his extended family in Pine Valley. Our home resides in what later became the "Smoot neighborhood" at the Ranch. I watched him laboriously build "Fort Smoot," stone by stone carefully laid into mortar mixed by hand on site. It took years to complete that little one-room structure, but it was always a labor of love for him and it didn't seem to matter how long it was taking. Bigger and finer structures would eventually rise from that humble start, but I cherished every opportunity to visit with the neighbors when they were in residence. I loved Aunt Marilyn and all her quiet confidences she reposed in me, especially toward the end of her life. Steve undertook the task of carving out their home in the mountains cheerfully without complaint to prove up on his free water right before it expired.

On Left, Pine Valley's 1st Solar Panel
He was "progressive" in all the best attributes of that word. How else could you classify the first man to install a solar electrical panel on his home in Pine Valley? Before that he lobbied for years among the resistant family members until there were five "progressive" cattle guards along the Pine Valley Road to replace the antiquated old "Mormon gates." Every time I drive over one I praise his name (and will forever). If you want to leave a lasting legacy on people's lives, do something like Uncle Steve did for me and all the rest of us.

The man became a paragon of quiet dignity fighting for the downtrodden, the underprivileged and the outcasts in the Utah Mormon society. He was always years ahead of his time, it seemed, because his only driving motivation was the betterment of his fellow human travelers in this life. I have consistently disapproved of government being the end-all, be-all solution to curing those societal ills, but when it came to his individual motivations and the execution of his beliefs on a personal level there could be no disputing the example, sincerity, sensitivity and passion of the man.

At the funeral, his son Steve spoke of an early childhood incident few of us knew about. Having been working on a snow/ice igloo structure of some kind with one of his boyhood friends, he was called into dinner. As a parting gesture, in good-natured fun, he threw a "projectile" at his friend, striking him in the temple. The boy died later that night in the hospital. When I heard that story it gave immediate insight into Steve's nature, his character and his personality. He must have surely carried the pain and guilt of that experience his entire life. His gentle spirit, his solicitude of others, and his watch care for all those souls among whom he labored for eleven years in the inner-city mission in Salt Lake City, was much easier to understand. Who wouldn't be indelibly stamped for life after such a boyhood tragedy in such an innocent playtime moment?

I never saw Steve without a smile on his face. He was always so gracious, so gentle and so sincere. I said to Patsy when I first joined the family I thought he was the "coolest" extended family member in that expansive Hewlett clan, and I think I can say it even today without much fear of contradiction from any of the Hewlett cousins. His radiance came shining through in every situation where I observed him. His wisdom was much sought-after and valued by so many. I have known few people in life who seemed to me to have no guile, no bitterness, and no judgments to hand out. He was the personification of goodwill and patience.

I don't know what he was like as a father, but I know and love all his children. In them I see the reflection of his fathering, his forbearance, and his unconditional love. Aunt Marilyn always told me she didn't think her children could handle all the freedom (agency) Steve seemed so willing to grant them, preferring that he should have taken a firmer hand in disciplining them. However, I knowingly and consciously adopted Steve's fathering model in raising my own children. In that sense we were kindred spirits. I taught them as well I as could, and championed their agency, believing they would get it right in time without the heavy hand of discipline. I think it's the way Heavenly Father "raises" all of us.

I say it without reservation: Steve's children are the extraordinary product of his parenting philosophy (and I wouldn't exclude Marilyn's influence one whit). Each was showered with love from their parents who exuded constant encouragement and support, and their parents' influence will live forever within each of them in boundless proportions. Steve's and Marilyn's has been a rich harvest, and we love Shauna, Steve, Sherm and Allison and all their families. Patsy and I feel closer to them in so many ways than our own brothers and sisters.

No offense is intended in that statement, but when you live in such close proximity and you spend as many years together as we have, the bonds are deep and abiding. There's something about "pioneering" year-round living in Pine Valley that will do that to you! Steve's son Steve and I were the first to try it together in the winter of 1988-89, then eventually other families joined ours. How can we forget all the snow-blowing, the snow days off from school and work, and the stranded vehicles? But those are stories for another day.

When the much-anticipated and long-awaited priesthood revelation finally came in 1978, the first person I thought of was Steve Smoot. I knew how much he had yearned for the day when all male members of the Church could have all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob without restriction.

His treatment and his unstinting love for all Heavenly Father's children was embodied in that announcement. Until the moment of his death he was still hoping to improve the lot of the LGBT community within the Church and lamented he didn't have more time to champion their needs. Sherm said it best, "My Dad was color-blind and gender-blind." He saw their plight as analogous to the blacks and the priesthood, but there are obvious glaring distinctions from a doctrinal perspective, and I have addressed those in the past.

Whatever our differences on those doctrinal issues may have been, I honor him for his steadfast and unwavering dedication to the leadership of the Church. He chose the path of discipleship, he chose to obey without hesitation and without public criticism, though his private views often contradicted the stated position of his leaders. He served quietly in the trenches, went about doing all the good he could for as many as he might touch.

I'm grateful he touched me within the circle of his love. His parting leaves a big hole.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Any Questions?

I've said it before, and I'll likely say it again between now and November 6th, 2012, but the contrasts between these two candidates for POTUS this year could not be more clear.

I call it a "no-brainer" decision - this cartoonist calls it "Bain" vs. "Bane" - the contrast is worth noting again. Here's an article that exploits that word play.

This election isn't about who can be labeled the most attractive to this or that segment of the population. The truth is America is equally divided based on current polling data. Instead, this election is going to be about leadership. Which of these two candidates is better suited to lead? I don't expect perfection in politics. Rather, I'm looking for incremental improvement and we've seen none of that by pursuing the economic policies of Barack Obama.

This week at the gathering of the G-8 leaders we heard Mr. Obama once again reject austerity measures, and spout rhetoric favoring "pro-growth" policies. In other words, the rhetoric can be distilled as nothing more than "tax and spend," rejecting any and all attempts to get deficits and debt escalation under control. The political bet is that no one really likes the bitter medicine of austerity and cuts in entitlements. The masses take to the streets when you slash the doles.

This administration has not put forward a serious budget since Obama became president, and for the first two years he could have done anything he wished with control of both houses of Congress. What did he do instead? He went down the path of borrowing and stimulus spending, undertook sweeping and expensive healthcare "reform" and unleashed massive waves of uncertainty in every market, not just healthcare. He amassed $5 Trillion in debt. This summer (soon) we will learn the opinion of the Supreme Court on whether his miscalculations on healthcare will be considered constitutional or not.

We don't need perfection in our politicians, we just need a little honest and true leadership. Some are now saying the only reason they don't want to vote against Barack Obama is that they don't want to reject the first black POTUS in our history. This election has nothing to do about who's the white candidate and who's the black one. It has gone (or should have gone) way beyond racism. This election is about whose policies will help us get back to some semblance of fiscal restraint and economic responsibility.

So far in four years we have seen nothing but an amateur at the helm who has no idea, apparently, about how destructive his policies have been. Merely taxing the rich is sophomoric and promotes class warfare. Oh, and it's stupid. If you CONFISCATE, not merely tax the wealth of ALL the wealthiest Americans, you might be able to fund a voracious government appetite for a few days or weeks at best.

This administration has co-opted nearly every productive element of society, dipped into every regulatory bucket it could find, spread its tentacles into every little kid's lemonade stand in America, and never seems to be content until it has touched everything in society. The ostensible purpose of all this intervention is what? To create a level playing field? To make society more fair for the disadvantaged? To give something to everyone? To make individuals more dependent upon the great mother government? It is insanity.

The only other explanation is that Barack Obama is brilliant and he has intentionally done what he has done to undermine and compromise America. In either case we continue to languish as a nation.

Some analysts are predicting another ten to fifteen years of lackluster economic performance. I don't know who they think they are, frankly, because no one really knows which factors are going to play out, do they? As long as borrowing rates are as low as they are currently, the sense of urgency is lacking and apparently so too is the political will to get things done to address the salient issues before us.

I know this much. The only way to put the economy back on track is to find true leadership in policies that will promote entrepreneurial risk-taking, favorable tax environments, sustainable and predictable healthcare costs, and massive and consistent reform of entitlement programs. That's the kind of leadership we have lacked in the past four years.

It is time to reverse course, and THAT has nothing to do with the color of one's skin.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Waiting Patiently On The Lord

On this Mothers Day 2012, I awoke with the title of today's blog post on my mind. No one learns patience like mothers do. First, she learns she is pregnant. Her immediate reaction is one of joy and the anticipation of holding that new little infant in her arms. Then as the months go by she waits patiently for the fulfillment of her initial reaction. She encounters dramatic but slow and unwelcome changes in her body. Then comes ample doses of discomfort and pain. The waiting becomes nearly unbearable. The signs of the baby's imminent birth are obvious, but still the waiting continues. Finally, the baby is born, all the sorrow and uncertainty is swept away in an instant when that little one is finally laid in her arms for the first time.

So it is with each of us. It seems we spend much of our mortal existence waiting. After high school, those who go on to college wait for acceptance to the college of their choice. They wait for grades to be posted at the end of every semester as though it takes eternities to learn whether they have done well. That first degree seems as if they wait forever to graduate.

Sometimes we interrupt our college education to serve a mission for the Church. We wait for months to discover which mission in all the world where we may be called to serve. Then we enter the MTC. We are overwhelmed with how unprepared we are for the task ahead. Everyone around us seems better prepared than we are. They are so smart, so mature, so accomplished, and we wonder if we will ever be good enough. Then at the end of two years (or eighteen months) of serving, loving and working through hard and difficult challenges we emerge at last as one of those finished and accomplished missionaries we first admired, and others see us as being exactly what they wish they were. Little do they realize all the patient waiting upon the Lord we did as we learned through our sorrows, fears and occasional victories exactly what went into our transformation.

Pahrump, Nevada
I remember doing some estate planning for a man who had become an "overnight" success in business. He had pioneered real estate acquistion and development in a small town in Nevada. He waited patiently for the growth of Las Vegas to spill over the mountain into their little community where he had painstakingly developed a god-forsaken desert into his own mini-empire of motels, laundromats, car washes, strip malls, an asphalt paving business, motor home parks and restaurants. He only became an "overnight" success after forty years of blood, sweat and tears, linked in the harness to a patient wife and hardworking children and grandchildren. His was an authentic American success story, and I used to tease him with the "overnight success" moniker whenever we met.

There are few successful things in life that happen only because the lightning strikes us, however. There are few lottery winners in mortality. Most of us face the necessity of doggedly believing our dreams will come true over time, and some have to forfeit temporal success and be content with what comes after this life. We are called upon to wait, to learn patience, and to exercise our faith in what often seem protracted campaigns of endurance. We sometimes weaken in the journey. Often in our extremities it seems the only thing we can do is endure.

And sometimes we do not endure our trials well. We murmur. We curse God. We blame others. We may have no vision of the future left to cling to. We may wonder why we ever undertook a certain course that proved to be an empty hole when we expected a gusher. Even when we have no idea what the final cost in suffering or sacrifice may be, we can do this much - we can determine to never give up trying. We can learn that in our simple act of "doing" whatever we choose, there is no worthy task so unreachable nor road ahead so arduous that will not yield to our perseverance. We can cling to the promise of Zion despite the ever-flowing evidence its realization seems so far-fetched in our present circumstances.

My friend the "overnight success" would tell you excellence is not achieved in a flash of brilliant lightning that just happens to strike in the right place at the right time. When he determined to open his first restaurant it was a disaster. His head chef was ordering food in the front door and selling it at a profit out the back door. His pizza oven didn't work, so he tore it out and replaced it. The fountain in the center of the dining room splashed the guests, making an unsavory dining experience for his early patrons. He couldn't find reliable help. He often worked early, long and late to perfect his menu. He went to other restaurants to study what they were doing right, then he continued to push for excellence in his offering. But it didn't happen overnight. Excellence in everything tends to be elusive, and does not yield itself to casual wishes and fleeting dreams of sweepstakes. Opportunities always come disguised as hard work. This is true of missionaries, strong and loving marriages, and rewarding personal relationships founded upon truthful interactions with one another. Nothing of lasting value - nothing - comes without significant sacrifice and effort. Intrinsic in it all is learning patience. I have observed that most of the "hoped-for" outcomes in life seem like they take a long time to be realized, including but not limited to, mortgage modifications from Bank of America/Fannie Mae.

In our urgent need to have all our prayers answered in an instant, we routinely confront delays, detours and disappointments. Nowhere is this truer than in "orange cone" season on Utah's highways and byways. We say there are two seasons in Utah - winter and orange cones. Often in our lives we are tempted to conclude no one in the history of the world has ever had problems as difficult as ours. When people tell you the world is more wicked today than ever before, you would do well to remind them this world has ALWAYS had a tendency to wickedness. It's perspective that is needed. Reject the temptations when challenges come your way to say, "This work is too hard. The burden is too heavy. The road is too treacherous." You get to decide what you will do. Your agency to act and not to be acted upon is in place because of a patient Father in Heaven. (See 2 Nephi 2:26). Do not decide to quit or give up.

We are admonished by the Lord, "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days." (D&C 64:33-34).

We must choose here and now not to give up, "for [we] are laying the foundation of a great work." That "great work" is us — our lives, our honor, our posterity, their future, the very achievement of the dreams and goals we set for ourselves. Remember, we chose our here and now, and we are choosing our future every day in our determination to see them through to fruition no matter what the pain. Our "great work" is the essence of our existence. It is what, with effort and patience and God's help, we can become. We are temples of the eternal spirit creation that dwells within us, and we are in the temple building business every day of our lives. When the days are long and difficult, when our problems seem insurmountable, we must do as my friend did - stay in the harness with our spouse and children and keep pulling. We are all promised we will someday "eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days," but it will require our whole heart invested in the work of salvation and a willing mind. It will require that we keep trying.

Sir Winston Churchill
I am frequently reminded about a man I once called "the Bulldog of Britain." On May 10, 1940, with the Nazi war machine moving steadily toward the English Channel, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was summoned by his people to become the head of government as prime minister of England. He hastily formed a government and on May 13 (I was reminded of the anniversary today) went before the House of Commons with his maiden speech. He declared:

"I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.'

"We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all our strength that God can give us. . . That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory — victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be." (Churchill: The Life Triumphant, American Heritage, 1965).

Six days later he took to the radio airwaves and spoke to the whole world. He said: "This is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. . . Behind us. . . gather a group of shattered States and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians — upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall." (Churchill, 91).

In what seemed like a role only this one man on earth could fill, two weeks later he was back before his own Parliament. "We shall not flag or fail," he fiercely declared. When life itself seemed to hang in the balance, "We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." (Churchill, 91).

I love the audacity of those lines spoken under duress with little more than a vision of what might be if he could rally the people he was destined to lead. In Churchill I have found an unfailing source of inspiration and hope, courage and grit, determination and persistence. Few will ever utter again such lofty words in the English language. His is a matchless example upon which we can rely for our own moments of doubt and fear.

In our Mormon history we need look no further than that luminous visionary, Brigham Young. From the writings of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland we glean this valuable lesson of persistence and faith:

President Brigham Young
On July 28, 1847, four days after his arrival in that valley, Brigham Young stood upon the spot where now rises the magnificent Salt Lake Temple and exclaimed to his companions: "Here [we will build] the Temple of our God!" (James H. Anderson, "The Salt Lake Temple," Contributor 6 [April 1893]: 243).

The temple, whose grounds would cover an eighth of a square mile, would be built to stand through eternity. Who cares about the money or stone or timber or glass or gold they didn't have? So what that seeds were not even planted and the Saints were yet without homes? Why worry that crickets would soon be coming — and so would the United States Army? The Saints just marched forth and broke ground for the most massive, permanent, inspiring edifice they could conceive. And they would spend forty years of their lives trying to complete it.

The work seemed ill-fated from the start. The excavation for the basement required trenches twenty feet wide and sixteen feet deep, much of it through solid gravel. Just digging for the foundation alone required nine thousand man days of labor. Surely someone must have said, "A temple would be fine, but do we really need one this big?" But they kept on digging. Maybe they believed they were "laying the foundation of a great work." In any case they worked on, "not weary in well-doing."

And through it all Brigham Young had dreamed the dream and seen the vision. With the excavation complete and the cornerstone ceremony concluded, he said to the Saints assembled: "I do not like to prophesy much, . . . but I will venture to guess that this day, and the work we have performed on it, will long be remembered by this people, and be sounded as with a trumpet's voice throughout the world. . . . Five years ago last July I was here, and saw in the spirit the Temple. [I stood] not ten feet from where we have laid the chief corner stone. I have not inquired what kind of a temple we should build. Why? Because it was [fully] represented before me." (Anderson, Contributor, 257-58).

But as Brigham Young also said, "We never began to build [any] temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring." (Discourses of Brigham Young, Deseret Book, 1973, 410). No sooner was the foundation work finished than Albert Sidney Johnston and his United States troops set out for the Salt Lake Valley intent on war with "the Mormons." In response, President Young made elaborate plans to evacuate and, if necessary, destroy the entire city behind them. But what to do about the temple whose massive excavation was already completed and its 8' x 16' foundational walls firmly in place? They did the only thing they could do — they filled it all back in again. Every shovelful. All that soil and gravel that had been so painstakingly removed with those nine thousand man days of labor was filled back in. When they finished, those acres looked like nothing more interesting than a field that had been plowed up and left unplanted.

When the threat of war had been removed, the Saints returned to their homes and painfully worked again at uncovering the foundation and removing the material from the excavated basement structure. But then the apparent masochism of all this seemed most evident when not adobe or sandstone but massive granite boulders were selected for the basic construction material. And they were twenty miles away in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Furthermore the precise design and dimensions of every one of the thousands of stones to be used in that massive structure had to be marked out individually in the architect's office and shaped accordingly. This was a suffocatingly slow process. Just to put one layer of the six hundred hand-sketched, individually squared, and precisely cut stones around the building took nearly three years. That progress was so slow that virtually no one walking by the temple block could ever see any progress at all.

And, of course, getting the stone from mountain to city center was a nightmare. A canal on which to convey the stone was begun and a great deal of labor and money expended on it, but it was finally aborted. Other means were tried, but oxen proved to be the only viable means of transportation. In the 1860s and '70s always four and often six oxen in a team could be seen almost any working day of the year, toiling and tugging and struggling to pull from the quarry one monstrous block of granite, or at most two of medium size.

Salt Lake Temple, 1877
During that time, as if the United States Army hadn't been enough, the Saints had plenty of other interruptions. The arrival of the railroad pulled almost all of the working force off the temple for nearly three years, and twice grasshopper invasions sent the workers into full-time summer combat with the pests. By mid-1871, fully two decades and untold misery after it had been begun, the walls of the temple were barely visible above ground. Far more visible was the teamsters' route from Cottonwood, strewn with the wreckage of wagons — and dreams — unable to bear the load placed on them. The journals and histories of these teamsters are filled with accounts of broken axles, mud-mired animals, shattered sprockets, and shattered hopes. I do not have any evidence that these men swore, though surely they might have been seen turning a rather steely eye toward heaven. But they believed and kept pulling. And through all of this President Young seemed in no hurry. "The Temple will be built as soon as we are prepared to use it," he said. Indeed, his vision was so lofty and his hope so broad that right in the middle of this staggering effort requiring virtually all that the Saints could seem to bear, he announced the construction of the St. George, Manti, and Logan Temples.

"Can you accomplish the work, you Latter-day Saints of these several counties?" he asked. And then in his own inimitable way he answered: "Yes; that is a question I can answer readily. You are perfectly able to do it. The question is, have you the necessary faith? Have you sufficient of the Spirit of God in your hearts to say, yes, by the help of God our Father we will erect these buildings to his name? . . . Go to now, with your might and with your means and finish this Temple." (Anderson, Contributor, 267).

So they squared their shoulders and stiffened their backs and went forward with their might.

When President Brigham Young died in 1877, the temple was still scarcely twenty feet above the ground. Ten years later, his successor, President John Taylor, and the temple's original architect, Truman O. Angell, were dead as well. The side walls were just up to the square. And now the infamous Edmunds-Tucker Act had already been passed by Congress disincorporating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the effects of this law was to put the Church into receivership, whereby the U.S. Marshal, under a court order, seized this temple the Saints had now spent just under forty years of their lives dreaming of, working for, and praying fervently to enjoy. To all appearances, the still unfinished but increasingly magnificent structure was to be wrested at this last hour from its rightful owners and put into the hands of aliens and enemies, the very group who had often boasted that the Latter-day Saints would never be permitted to finish the building. It seemed that those boasts were certain to be fulfilled. Schemes were immediately put forward to divert the intended use of the temple in ways that would desecrate its holy purpose and mock the staggering sacrifice of the Saints who had so faithfully tried to build it.

Salt Lake Temple, 1893
But God was with these modern children of Israel, as he always has been and always will be. They did all they could do and left the rest in his hands. Then the Red Sea parted before them, and they walked through on firm, dry ground. On April 6, 1893, the Saints as a body were nearly delirious. Now, finally, here in their own valley with their own hands they had cut out of the mountains a granite monument that was to mark, after all they had gone through, the safety of the Saints and the permanence of Christ's true church on earth for this one last dispensation. The central symbol of all that was the completed house of their God. The streets were literally jammed with people. Forty thousand of them fought their way on to the temple grounds. Ten thousand more, unable to gain entrance, scrambled to the tops of nearby buildings in hopes that some glimpse of the activities might be had.

President Wilford W. Woodruff
Inside the Tabernacle President Wilford Woodruff, visibly moved by the significance of the moment, said: "If there is any scene on the face of this earth that will attract the attention of the God of heaven and the heavenly host, it is the one before us today—the assembling of this people, the shout of 'Hosanna!' the laying of the topstone of this Temple in honor to our God." (Anderson, Contributor, 270). Then, moving outside, he laid the capstone in place exactly at high noon.

In the writing of one who was there, "The scene that followed is beyond the power of language to describe." Lorenzo Snow, beloved president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, came forward leading forty thousand Latter-day Saints in the Hosanna Shout. Every hand held a handkerchief and every eye was filled with tears. One said the very "ground seemed to tremble with the volume of the sound" which echoed off the tops of the mountains." A grander or more imposing spectacle than this ceremony of laying the Temple capstone is not recorded in history." (Anderson, Contributor, 273). It was finally and forever finished.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
The prestigious Scientific American referred to this majestic new edifice as a "monument to Mormon perseverance." And so it was. Blood, toil, tears, and sweat. The best things are always worth finishing. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). Most assuredly we are. As long and laborious as the effort may seem, we must keep shaping and setting the stones that will make our accomplishments "a grand and imposing spectacle." We must take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow, dream dreams and see visions, work toward their realization, wait patiently when we have no other choice, lean on our sword and rest a while, but get up and fight again. Perhaps we will not see the full meaning of our effort in our own lifetime. But our children will, or our children's children will, until finally we, with all of them, can give the Hosanna Shout. (Jeffrey R. Holland, However Long and Hard the Road, 122-127).

In each of us there is a "great work" to be accomplished. Have you undertaken it yet? Do you know who you are? Have you made the determination to start and to never quit until it is a finished piece of magnificent artwork you can present without apology to the God who gave you life?

It will take time. It will not happen overnight. Like my friend, you will not become an "overnight success" without arduous and consistent effort. But with enough patience and perserverance you will inevitably see it come to pass. Remember this stunning promise as it applies to Zion, and remember it applies to you as one of its inhabitants in time:

Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.

They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion —

And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled. (D&C 101:16-19).

And it is in the "waiting patiently" upon the Lord's promises to be fulfilled that we are sanctified day by day.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Mormons and Life After Death

This morning I taught the gospel doctrine class. The scripture block we covered was Mosiah 12 - 17. It's the story of Abinadi, preserved by the hand of his only convert, Alma, one of the corrupt high priests in wicked King Noah's court.

I told the story popularized by President Gordon B. Hinckley about the impact of one convert baptism. We send missionaries all over the world for two years, and sometimes many of them return from that experience having made only one convert. Missionary work is not easy. It harvests one convert at a time. It's slow work, but it rewarding work. Here's President Hinckley's story:

Elder Charles A. Callis
“You don’t know how much good you can do; you can’t foresee the results of the effort you put in. Years ago, President Charles A. Callis, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, but who previously was president of the Southern States Mission for twenty-five years, told me this story. He said that he had a missionary in the southern [United States] who came in to get his release at the conclusion of his mission. His mission president said to him, ‘Have you had a good mission?’

“He said, ‘No.’

“‘How is that?’

“‘Well, I haven’t had any results from my work. I have wasted my time and my father’s money. It’s been a waste of time.’

“Brother Callis said, ‘Haven’t you baptized anyone?’

“He said, ‘I baptized only one person during the two years that I have been here. That was a twelve-year-old boy up in the back hollows of Tennessee.’

“He went home with a sense of failure. Brother Callis said, ‘I decided to follow that boy who had been baptized. I wanted to know what became of him. …

“… ‘I followed him through the years. He became the Sunday School Superintendent, and he eventually became the branch president. He married. He moved off the little tenant farm on which he and his parents before him had lived and got a piece of ground of his own and made it fruitful. He became the district president. He sold that piece of ground in Tennessee and moved to Idaho and bought a farm along the Snake River and prospered there. His children grew. They went on missions. They came home. They had children of their own who went on missions.’

“Brother Callis continued, ‘I’ve just spent a week up in Idaho looking up every member of that family that I could find and talking to them about their missionary service. I discovered that, as the result of the baptism of that one little boy in the back hollows of Tennessee by a missionary who thought he had failed, more than 1,100 people have come into the Church.’

President Gordon B. Hinckley
“You never can foretell the consequences of your work, my beloved brethren and sisters, when you serve as missionaries” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 360–61).

* * *

At Sunday dinner this afternoon, we were discussing our lesson, and Patsy's 90 year-old mother Peggy commented, "I remember Elder Callis." She went on to talk about many of her associated memories of others, including President Heber J. Grant's death coinciding with the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and how memorable it was to her. Both died within weeks of each other in 1945. That prompted a memory of a story I had heard my Grandfather, President Harold B. Lee, tell about the death of Elder Charles A. Callis.

The Quorum of the Twelve, about 1944, next to the Salt Lake Temple. Seated: The Quorum of the Twelve, about 1944, next to the Salt Lake Temple. Seated: George Albert Smith (quorum president), George F. Richards, Joseph Fielding Smith, Stephen L Richards, John A. Widtsoe, Joseph F. Merrill; standing: Charles A. Callis, Albert E. Bowen, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, Mark E. Petersen (newest member).
Elder Charles A. Callis had presided over the Southern States Mission for over twenty-five years prior to his being called to the Council of the Twelve and was virtually "sainted" in the hearts of Church members living there. The assignment to create the first stake of the Church in the South had been long contemplated in 1946, but was reserved for Elder Callis to perform when his failing health permitted him to travel. At the beginning of 1947 Elder Lee was assigned to accompany this mighty Apostle and on January 11 the Lees departed for Jacksonville, Florida.

Elder Callis arrived in Florida a day ahead of the Lees to clear up a personal matter with a dear friend. Once this was taken care of, Elder Callis told Elder Lee, his junior companion, that he was willing to leave the details of organizing the stake in his hands. In the course of the interviews, however, some difference of opinion arose concerning whether Orlando and some of the other mission branches should be included in the new stake. Differing from Elder Lee and some of the local priesthood leaders, Elder Callis was insisting that Orlando, Florida, ought to be included.

Eleven years later Elder Lee used this experience to teach an important characteristic of prayer to seminary teachers of the Church. He recalled:

When Mission President Heber Meeks and President Douberly from the Orlando Florida Branch and I all disagreed, it worried President Callis. That was always a rather serious situation to me, too, to not be in agreement with Brother Callis. He was a man of strong, vigorous, and powerful thinking.

He said finally, "I will have to sleep on this." With that statement he dismissed me. The next morning he called me into his room, and as he pulled his chair close alongside mine, he said to me with an impressiveness which I shall never forget, "Last night I talked with God, and he has given me to understand that you are right and I am wrong." (From an advanced course in theology at Brigham Young University, July 6, 1956.)

As they concluded their interviews they overheard the choir practicing in the chapel. When the choir began singing the hymn "O My Father," Elder Callis broke into tears, and said to the brethren, "Take care of your wives; I haven't and she's gone." His emotions were close to the surface, and it became apparent to those who were with him that he was preparing for the end of his life. He ordered a room in the church fitted up as a bedroom, and he insisted upon spending two nights alone in that room. He told the brethren that everywhere he went he saw Sister Callis. Elder Lee wrote:

I had the impression, and so expressed myself to Sister Jenkins, that Brother Callis wanted to die and had wished it could take place in that room, by himself. He had us drive him to the old chapel and to the home where his twin sons were born and died. He seemed to be reliving these experiences for the last time.

Members of the Church came to Jacksonville, Florida, from as far away as Miami and Charleston, South Carolina, with 789 in attendance at the morning session and 1,043 present for the afternoon session of the history-making event. The spirit of prophecy was upon Elder Callis as he presided at the conference, all the time very near his departed loved ones to whom he made frequent reference.

A Perfect Parting

After the announcement of the new stake presidency in the Sunday morning session, Elder Callis seemed to have suffered a mild heart attack, but grew stronger during the day. He spoke with great emotion to the Saints he loved and paid tribute to Sister Callis, declaring that she and others who had labored as missionaries in the South were in attendance at their meeting that day. He prophesied that there would be other stakes organized in the South, and that eventually a temple would be built there that the younger members of the stake would live to see. The fulfillment of his prophecy came on June 1-4, 1983, with the dedication of the first temple to be constructed in the South, in Atlanta, Georgia.

After setting apart sixty-four ward and stake officers, the visiting authorities were guests for dinner at the home of Brother and Sister O. H. Hawkins. The Lees left at 9:00 p.m. for St. Augustine, where they spent the night. Elder Callis, in excellent spirits that night, requested his host, Brother Hawkins, to retell a famous fight story. Later in the evening he asked Brother Hawkins to arrange for his return trip to Salt Lake City the next day.

The following day, driving toward Miami, Elder and Sister Lee were stopped by a highway patrolman who informed them that he had a death message for them. They learned then that Elder Callis had died suddenly the night before of a heart attack.

Elder Lee reported the death immediately to President David O. McKay in Salt Lake City, advising him that the Saints in the South were desirous of holding services in Jacksonville for their beloved leader, before the Lees left with his body for Utah. Elder Lee cleared the proposal with President George Albert Smith, and memorial services were delayed in Salt Lake City until after funeral services were concluded in Florida.

Twelve years later, while teaching a group of student leaders, Elder Lee drew on an experience he had at Elder Callis's funeral to illustrate the importance of praying for each other:

I was the one to conduct Brother Callis's funeral service in Florida. It was a sorrowful trail that I had followed. I loved Brother Callis. My heart was tender. In the quiet of my hotel room I shed some tears; I tried to prepare. Finally the day came. It was Thursday, January 23, 1947. The funeral was to start at 10:00 a.m. in the Jacksonville Ward Chapel.

Speakers were President D Homer Yarn. President of tile Georgia District; A. E. Jenkins, senior member of the high council and dear friend of Elder Callis; President Heber Meeks, president of the Southern States Mission; and myself.

As the first two speakers concluded it was now about a quarter to eleven, and as the song was being rendered, before the president of the mission and I then were to conclude the service. a Western Union messenger arrived with a telegram for me. When I opened it, it was a message from the First Presidency requesting that I read it at the service. I arose to read it and I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with some kind of a great feeling that I couldn't quite understand. It wasn't sorrow. because I had conquered that in those two days preceding. And then I began to think, "This is Thursday." What was it that I felt? Suddenly when that telegram came it was as though I was just as close to the Council of the Twelve and the Presidency as though they had walked in and taken their seats on the stand behind me. Up to that time I had felt so much alone, with such a heavy responsibility. Twelve o'clock in Florida meant it was 10:00 a.m. in Salt Lake City, and knowing the way the Council meeting is held, at 10:45 a.m. every member of the Twelve and the First Presidency would be dressed in temple clothing surrounding an altar in the place nearest to heaven on earth. And I said. "Now I know what is happening. They have offered a prayer for me. and this is the answer. I am receiving the answer of the prayers of the First Presidency and the Twelve."

When I returned home, my first question to President George F. Richards was: "Brother Richards. in your temple meeting last Thursday do you remember whether or not at the prayer at the altar there was a prayer offered for me particularly?" He thought a moment and said: "Yes, Brother McKay led us. And he prayed that the Lord would bless you down there all alone so that you would feel the strength of the Presidency and the Council of the Twelve to be with you." I said: "I received it in one of the most dramatic experiences of my life."

I was taught by that experience how important it is to receive the prayers of the faithful.

Elder Lee entered this final comment in his journal about a sacred moment at the conclusion of the services for Brother Callis in Jacksonville: "As the services ended and I went to Brother Callis's room in the Church to get my hat, I seemed to hear him say to me, 'Well done, son, well done' - and I felt satisfied."

On January 28, 1947, a funeral service was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for this powerful missionary-Apostle so revered in the South. Nearly four thousand persons attended, despite a snowstorm. At the following Thursday meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Lee voiced Elder Callis's opinion that other stakes in the mission should be created, rather than further dividing the mission. He then repeated in the presence of the First Presidency the prophecy made by Elder Callis that other stakes, and one day a temple, would grace the Southern States.

At the meeting of the Twelve on April 24, 1947 it was decided to organize two new stakes from the missions, one centering at Columbia, South Carolina, which partially fulfilled the prophecy, and another one at Spokane, Washington. (Harold B. Lee, Prophet and Seer, L. Brent Goates, 205-09).

* * *

My re-telling of that story prompted more memories from Peggy, who was reminiscing about many of the contemporaries of Elder Callis. She recalled the friendship of Elder Melvin J. Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and the father of present-day Apostle, Elder M. Russell Ballard and President Edward J. Wood, who served many years as the President of the Cardston Alberta Temple. There are few readers of this page who would know Edward J. Wood, so I include a brief biography here:

Edward was called on three missions to Samoa. One as mission president at only 30 years old. During his first mission at 25 because of his knowledge of the Samoan language he was asked by the mission president to write a series of 12 gospel pamphlets in the Samoan tongue. In 1901 when only 35 years old he was called to Alberta Canada to take charge of the Cardston Co-op. In 1903 while only 37 he was called to be the president of the Alberta Stake covering a vast area. This office he held for 39 years. He spearheaded the building of the Cardston Tabernacle started in 1904 and completed in 1912. He spearheaded the Cardston Temple which was started in 1913 and dedicated ten years later in 1923. He was called as the first temple president the calling he held for 25 years at the same time being the Stake President. He officiated at every session. His Stake had the highest attendance and other activity in the Church for a number of years. He was Alberta Stake Patriarch for 9 years afterwards. He worked under the direction of a number of prophets including John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, and David O McKay.

Death of His Oldest Son

Glen was President Wood's oldest son was 39 years old and Bishop of nearby Glenwood. In his earlier years, like his father before him, he also had been a missionary to Samoa. President Wood writes:

Glen came in to the hospital with a carbuncle on his neck causing blood poisoning and he is very sick.

“June: Glen kept getting worse. We called three other Doctors from Lethbridge at different times to help our local doctors Mulloy and Braton, Drs. Roy, Campbell and Fowler, but he didn’t respond to any treatment and the whole Stake and especially Glenwood and our Temple workers fasted, but all to no avail — he passed away very peacefully Thursday at 5:00a.m., June 8th. Lala, Mary Ann and I had been at his bedside nearly all the time but he seemed better, and we left Forest, Dale, Vi and Glen Nielson to be with him and to our great sorrow and surprise he left us. He seemed to know from the first he would not recover. He told me that he and I were in the sealing room in our Temple where I officiated, and that a ‘messenger’ told me he could not be healed. He told me in native Samoan he was going on ‘a malaga fou’ — a new journey. He told me several times that Frank Smith [Edward and Mary Ann’s son-in-law, decease husband of Fern] and others had been to see him and at the last he told the boys not to delay him — he had to go.

“I’m quite satisfied that often when brothers and sisters are called from this sphere of action to pass into eternity, it is to respond to a call that’s made for them to fill in the spirit world. Our son, Glen, was taken sick. Nothing very serious we thought, but we got him to the hospital and we all went down and administered to him, he finally told me the next morning, ‘Now, Father, you don’t need to worry at all about me. I’m never going back to the ranch anymore.’ I had spoken to him about it — he had charge of the stock and family interests — and I was wondering if he wanted to [tell me about the ranch]. He told me not to expect him to return to the ranch because he was called to go to the spirit world to visit in the part of the spirit world where the Samoans were now staying; that he was called on a mission to go and visit them; that he wouldn’t get better; and for me to go home and tell his mother and others of the family. So we left and the next morning, he felt worse. The doctor said it looked like his condition had turned into blood poisoning and it was a very serious case. As I was standing at the foot of the bed in the hospital, with the doctor, he started talking native [Samoan], and he was talking to native people just like he was on the island. The doctor said to me, ‘He’s kind of delirious.’ I said, ‘That isn’t delirious to him. He’s talking in the Samoan language where he labored between three and four years among the natives.’ So he finally quit talking to them and talked to us and told me to get his things ready and have the folks come down and say good-bye to him because he was to leave and take up his mission in the spirit world with those Samoan people who had visited him. So the next day he passed away and it was quiet testimony to all of us that our passing out of this life into the spirit world is the next [step], at least it was in his case. Sure enough, he just sat up and shook hands with us and said good-bye and went back down on his cot, turned over and went into a deep sleep. And that was his death.”

* * *

That story prompted another recollection from Peggy, something to do with the passing of Elder Melvin J. Ballard that was linked to President Wood and the Cardston Temple. I did a little research at the table with my iphone and discovered her memory is still pretty sharp. Here's what I found:

The last time apostle Melvin J. Ballard attended an Alberta Stake Conference he was greeted by Mary Ann Wood [Edward's wife] and he replied, “I am glad to see you too, and you’ll never see me again.” Sister Wood, who was deaf but could read lips very well, wondered if she was going to die. In the temple the Apostle spoke for twenty minutes. Mrs. Wood heard every word and told him how wonderful it was to hear him speak. He answered, “That is very good, and you’ll never hear me again.” After the conference was over there was much contemplation as to the meaning of the Apostle’s words to Mary Ann. Sometime later in the temple, President Wood said he saw in a vision a group of people in the Celestial Room. He asked, “Who are you waiting for?” They replied, “Brother Ballard.” “He is not here,” replied the President. He said that as he then turned around, “Brother Ballard came through the veil in his temple robes.” President Wood interpreted this vision to mean that Apostle Ballard’s kindred dead were waiting in the temple for him to join them, for this happened on the day of Brother Ballard’s death. (Melvin S. Tagg, The Life of Edward James Wood Church Patriot, an unpublished Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1959, 111).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mormons and Political Neutrality

There's a simple reason The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes such a point in every election year about maintaining its neutrality position on politics - to do otherwise would threaten its tax-exempt status.

In every election year in my lifetime there have always been statements issued by the Church's leaders encouraging members to become involved in politics. However, leaders never tell members how to become involved, which party to support or how to vote. This year in particular with a Mormon heading the Republican ticket, the Church has come up with a creative way to illustrate its position:

I have no idea how Mitt Romney will fare in the general election in November. Frankly, there are days I am almost ambivalent about the presidential race. I don't fear the attacks on the Church, and I am quite certain Romney will be a great candidate. What concerns me more is taking back a majority from Democrats in the Senate, which would depose another Mormon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

If anyone needs an illustration about how bi-polar Mormons tend to be as a voting block, one need look no further than Harry Reid vs. Mitt Romney.

Even more surprising to me is how heavily-Mormon Utah in 2010 could elect Mike Lee, tea party favorite, and now in 2012 be clinging to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Anyone who thinks Mormons vote in lock step in a block this way or that, simply doesn't know how convoluted their thinking politically can be. I have many friends who have remained independent in red Utah, claiming to vote for "the man" rather than the party. I took that position for many years as a registered independent so I could vote in whichever primary suited me that year.

Then Mitt Romney ran for president the first time and the only way I could cast a vote for him was to finally declare myself as a Republican. You're looking at a guy here who voted twice for Ross Perot in Utah where my vote literally makes no difference since in both cases the state went Republican as it always does.

This year we have a lot of interesting things happening. Peter Cooke, retired Mormon general Democrat is trying to generate some enthusiasm among Democrats to siphon off Republican support for Governor Gary Herbert. It's an attempt to revitalize the two-party system in Utah, but Herbert is a popular governor, having trounced his competition in the nominating convention and winning enough delegates to avoid a primary.

Mia Love
Mia Love is running in the general election for the newly-created 4th District seat against Jim Matheson, who changed districts for a more favorable demographic. I can't say I blame him. He's survived many attempts to oust him from office, but I've voted for him in the 2nd District in years past because I felt he was the best available candidate, until I became agitated and aroused. I backed Morgan Philpot last time around.

Matheson would become a six-term Congressman, but this year he may have met his match in Mia Love. How will he run opposed to a black Mormon woman who's smart, savvy and unafraid of anything with the name of Love? My prediction is that Utah is ready to elect her without any reservations in the 4th District.

So why can't Utah kick Orrin Hatch (78 years old) to the curb and deny him his seventh six-year term? He has served as a Senator longer than any other Utahn (36 years), and would become another Robert Byrd or Strom Thurmond who might serve until he dies in office. Dan Liljenquist is certainly a qualified and acceptable replacement for Orrin Hatch.

The answer: Utah Mormons are just a bi-polar bunch when it comes to their politics. It's no wonder the Church would never attempt to impose its will on their members.

It's kind of like trying to herd cats.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Packsize and On Demand Packaging

"We can put a man on the moon, but we can't make the right-sized box?" asks Hanko Kiessner, CEO of Packsize. His CTO, Niklas Pettersson, is the creative genius behind the company. Together they have come up with one of the truly disruptive technologies that changes our world for better:

Mitt's Top Ten Reasons He Lost in 2008

It was funny four years ago, still funny today: