Friday, February 29, 2008

Going, Saying, Doing

By Kristine John

In my teenage years, music was a powerful influence in my life.

I would spend much time pondering the meaning of lyrics, and if they were meaningful to me, I would then memorize them so that they would always be a part of me.


As I have "matured" (and had multiple children) the luxury of pondering over the lyrics of a song is gone.

In fact, I am lucky if I can catch the words of the chorus...let alone the general meaning of the entire song!

I'm more influenced by the meaning of the song than how it sounds, and without spending the time to understand a song, I don't gain the same level of power from a song that I used to.

It is because of this fact that I have not made music a high priority in my life.

(Although I hadn't ever spent the time to contemplate why...behold the power of writing!!)


Sunday, however, I was deeply touched during our rest hymn.

(Funny, how even with kids crawling and walking all around me on the bench I was able to catch the power of these words.)

p 270

I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go
Verse 2


Perhaps today there are loving words

Which Jesus would have me speak;

There may be now in the paths of sin

Some wand’rer whom I should seek.

O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide,

Tho dark and rugged the way,

My voice shall echo the message sweet:

I’ll say what you want me to say.



[Chorus]I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,

Over mountain or plain or sea;

I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;

I’ll be what you want me to be.



It made me think a lot about not just the spoken word, but of the written word, and how often lately I have felt compelled to send someone a note so that they understand that their life is having an impact on mine.

I truly believe that the Lord has a purpose in giving me the ability and desire to write...and although I have struggled to find the specific path He desires me to take, I am finding that if I daily try to do His will, I end the day feeling as if I have accomplished something.

It may not be a "big" thing in anyone else's eyes...but when I say what He wants me to say, I know I have been an instrument in His hands, and I want to do more.

I truly do want to be what He wants me to be.


(originally posted 4-17-2007 on my personal blog)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Scriptures - Our Personal Notes From Home

By Kari Diane Pike

The Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward introduced a recent lesson by asking his wife to share a testimony building experience of their twelve-year-old daughter. Lyndsie was feeling the frustrations that come with being sandwiched in between a couple of obnoxious brothers and, trusting the messages she was getting from her Young Women leaders, decided to read her scriptures and ask Heavenly Father for help. One evening, Lyndsie burst into her parents’ room and exclaimed she finally knew that Heavenly Father really does understand each of us individually and truly knows what we are experiencing. Then she read the scripture that turned that light on for her. It was 2 Nephi 2:1 “…And behold, in thy childhood thou has suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.”

I love it! I laugh when I read it, but I also feel the love that Lyndsie must have felt as she felt the Spirit witness the truth to her. Heavenly Father does love us. He does know us on an individual basis. The scriptures teach us that we existed as Intelligence before the world was created. (D&C 93: 29…Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither can be.) Our Father clothed our intelligence in spirit and created this earth so that we could obtain these physical bodies. D&C 93: 36 then teaches us, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” We are His glory…we are light and truth. Our divine nature, our inner core, is full of light and truth!

One of my own personal experiences with the personal nature the scriptures take on as we diligently study them, came when I was particularly frustrated with my own children. I wondered why children, whom we love more than anyone, can bring us the most misery. Then I read 2 Nephi 2:23 with a new perspective. “And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew so sin.” We have children so that through them we come to truly know joy…through misery. Our Father in Heaven has a great sense of humor.

And then there’s the youth that justified their practice of TP’ing houses as fulfilling Biblical prophecy: Zechariah 5:1 “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.”

I don’t think you can get more personal than that!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hereafter

by Anna Arnett

Yes, I know, I know, and I want you to know that I know that yesterday was my day to blog, and I didn’t do it. Instead, when I sat at my computer to compose something brilliant, no thoughts would come. Not even mediocre ones. Well, I take that back. I had plenty of thoughts, but didn’t want to write them. I wanted to be up-beat, uplifting, clever. Yet, all I could think of regarded the hereafter.

(Edited by Marsha to reflect Wednesday's date, because she--Marsha--really messed with the blog this week.)

I wasn’t thinking of the old joke about going into another room and wondering what I had come in here after (though I’m guilty of that more often than I care to admit). No, these thoughts were of death and funerals, and all that goes with it. Morbid thoughts, I guess you’d call them. Not depressing. Not even uncomfortable. Actually, rather cheerful, comforting thoughts, but I couldn’t bring myself to write about them. Instead, I left the computer desk and stared at the TV while I knit one and crocheted two dishcloths, added six inches to a knit leper bandage. Still unready, I read a chapter or two in Jen Griffith’s delightfully light-hearted (so far) book with a setting at Utah State, where I began my college education way back in 1944. Still, I wasn’t ready to blog. So I read some in the awesome “Mister God, This is Anna” by Fynn. It deepened my thoughts about moving on.

I suppose these feelings surfaced with the death and burial of a beloved prophet who seemed destined to last forever. At least, he set a record for longevity among our prophets. I quietly marveled at the ease with which another great man stepped into his place, and life goes on. It does, you know.

Then we heard that former governor (and Julia Griffin’s uncle) Evan Meacham died, and his funeral will be this Saturday. We worked on the same shift in the Mesa Temple with Evan and Florence for several years, and her locker was next to mine. I loved and appreciated them.

Yesterday, a fairly long column in the obituaries told of Bob Payne’s passing. Bob and Audry, from the Duncan (AZ) valley, served with us in the Sydney, Australia, temple back in the late ‘80’s. They became very close friends, and I read with interest. “There’s something I hadn’t thought of,” I told my husband. “I could write an obit column for each of us.”

“There’s no hurry,” he countered. “Besides, when would you date it?”

My funeral thoughts came to the fore several years ago when I wanted to buy something frivolous, and my husband objected. “We have to save up for our funerals,” he said. “ They’re terribly expensive.”

“How much do we need to save?”

“I don’t know, but lots.”

“Let’s go right now and find out.”

A couple or three hours later we left a mortuary feeling happy, light-hearted, and curiously smug. Arrangements were made, caskets chosen, and we’d made a down payment on an insurance plan (long since paid in full) that would immediately cover all costs except flowers. We were ready for the hereafter. Now all we had to do was ‘endure to the end.’ (And don’t forget; another objection to my spending had been erased.)

The surprising part is that it’s been a real comfort to both of us to know we’d made one more thing easier for our children. I remember reading of a Chinese woman in a Pearl S. Buck novel being so comforted by having her children bring a casket to her as she lay dying, so she could approve it. It seemed unbelievable to me when I read it, that something so morbid could possibly bring pleasure, but now I understand.

Please do not misinterpret all this. I’m still planning on being around and writing for at least another decade. Life is still wonderful – very desirable, and delicious to the taste. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. But there is a wonderful experience still waiting. I hope to be ready.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seeking the Light

by Betsy Love

Seeking the Light

We, like moths drawn to the porch,
seek the light,
But not understanding we beat our wings
against the bulb
And fall wounded to the ground.

Did we fail the lamp
or only ourselves?
Are we meant to lie fluttering
hopeless on the cold stone?
Gossamer wings leaving grey stains
as reminders of our own self-glory.

In whose wings do we find
our salvation?
Whose net snares our safety?
Only when the moth flickers in the
moonlight do we behold the beauty
of an otherwise ugly creature.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Monsters Who Live Under My Bed

by Rene Allen


An entire colony of monsters lives underneath my bed. Last week one of them crawled out and bit me. In fact, it’s 3 AM right now, and I’m sitting at my computer writing because they were restless and woke me up.

These monsters give me anxiety and make me feel helpless although there are a few predictable, old ones I have learned how to handle. Money worries is one. I’ve learned I can toss that old beggar a scrap of serious and rational thinking: “Hey, I can budget you old bear. And if push comes to shove, I’ll use that twenty-five year old wheat I’ve got stored in the basement. I’m looking for something to do with it anyway. Now go back to sleep and leave me alone.”

Generally, though, until you train them like circus animals, the Monsters under your bed are unreasonable, illogical and persistent.

Such is the one that woke me up this morning. It had been snarling all night that I should tell my grown-up children what to do so I won’t worry so much about the things they decide to do themselves. This monster is particularly mean because it makes lists of really bad things that can happen if I don’t get involved, or even if I do but too late. It predicts dire things such as bankruptcy, death, and divorce and places no stock in their abilities to make decisions for themselves. Obviously, I am still training this particular monster because I’m not at this moment in bed asleep but sitting at my desk writing.

(BTW- writing is an excellent way to train monsters.)

Now, about the one that bit me last week: this is a new monster. He is shaggy, gray and particularly unrelenting and viscous. There is a collar around his hairy old neck with the words “Age and Inevitability” written on it. The old boy took up residence under my bed after I was in the ER with the flu and the doctor told me my EKG was abnormal. “Nothing acute,” he said. “Just some non-specific changes.”

“I am a doctor. What does that mean?”

“Well, you’ve got some Q-waves.”

“And . . .”

“And, I thought they would have come from a myocardial infarction. You haven’t had one have you?”

“Not that I know about,” I said and tried to sound both definite and defiant. How dare he even suggest it? I exercise. I watch my diet. For Pete’s sake, I even eat tofu and quinoa.

That exchange in the emergency room was the precise minute this new monster moved in. He’s so clever. He took the truth about my family history – yes, indeed, there is heart disease and diabetes, grabbed it with his yellow teeth, shook it to a pulp and gave me enormous anxiety.

That was why last week I found myself in the basement of University Medical Center, getting a shot of radioactive “whatchmacallit” and put under a scanner. I went upstairs to the fourth floor where Cardiology Diagnostics is and a nurse named Laurie hooked me up to a 12-lead EKG then injected adenosine which dilated my coronary arteries. Meanwhile, I ambled along on a treadmill with legs that felt so heavy I thought they might fall off. I also watched as a surge of anxiety-induced adrenalin from my own sympathetic nervous system rocked the monitor. My systolic blood pressure was 180 mm Hg! At home it is 125. That’s how I knew the monster bit me.

Well, I survived the test and will find out the answer next week. If I’m in serious jeopardy, I trust someone will call me. Meanwhile, its business as usual which includes the gym, except for this major pest under my bed who just won’t quit bothering me.

I’m working on a training program for the beast. The problem is, like it is with all monsters who give you middle of the night anxiety, he has a lot of truth. Aging does change you. Some things about life and about your life in particular, are inevitable. And much of these physical and mental changes come with unpleasantness such as nuclear pharmacological stress tests that make you wonder if your health and very existence are beyond your control.

One of my physicians, this one for a neck problem, said “Signs of wear and tear in the body mean you’ve been busy. Now, aging means its time for dignity and courage.” I believe I heard a choice. Choosing dignity and courage beat not choosing any day of the week.

Choice is the heart of any good training program for monsters who live underneath beds. Another key point, oddly, is acknowledging they are there. If you care about someone or something, you also have fear which is a normal response, and one that may move you to action when nothing else will. (It did get me to the heart lab which was a good thing.)

Aging and its inevitable changes in ones life are tough. I’m not ready for a wheelchair and mashed potatoes, however. The question becomes how do I traverse this time without so much anxiety until, who knows, I am ready? And can I accept that day with the same pragmatic attitude I’m looking for now? I want ideas. Dignity and courage . . . Choice . . . Making the most of what I can do today . . . Realizing joy in the life I have . . .They all sound good to me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

27 Random Questions

by Marsha Ward

I borrowed this set of questions from Christopher Bigelow's
Rameumptom. Chris is the publisher of Zarahemla Books

WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Not someone, but the month and time of my birth: March at dawn. Marsha Dawn

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? When President Gordon B. Hinckley died

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Sliced turkey breast

IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Yes, if I could get through the reserved nature to the real ham

DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Not a whole bunch, but some

DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Are you nuts? I’m not!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Special K

DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No. I’ll undo the Velcro, though

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, I’m getting older, but spiritually, I think so

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? New York Super Fudge Chunk

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Boost Nutritional Drink

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The hums of an electric space heater and my computer fans

FAVORITE SMELLS? Wood smoke from a fireplace, but not from a wildfire!

WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? A writer friend

FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Ice skating, ski jumping, winter sports

FAVORITE FOOD? Mexican

SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings

LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? The last part of Gone With the Wind--hmm, not a happy ending.

SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer where I now live, winter where I used to live

WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Inside Delta Force by Eric L. Haney

WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? It’s plain gray

WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? A program on Appalachia

ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles

WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Venezuela

DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Writing and music

WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Phoenix, Arizona

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Writer's Conferences

by Margaret Turley

I just finished attending the Desert Nights, Rising Stars 2009 ASU Writers Conference that is put on by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. The main attraction for me was that Orson Scott Card was giving a reading and this morning he taught a a class titled "All Fiction is Genre Fiction." He spoke about how universities fossilize learning and that any Live Literature requires writers and readers that are in dialogue with each other - unmediated by academia - which really teaches literary anthropology. (Please excuse me if I got this wrong, Brother Card - I was an entranced listener - not a short hand taker - and I didn't have a tape recorder.)

OSC talked about how Live Literature needs to change over time - it needs variety within the genre - "cozies." He explained why there are no metaphors in Science Fiction - because in Sci-Fi everything can be real. How academic Literary Fiction readers have trouble reading Sci-Fi because they only have the tools they were fed by their professors. And he stated something about his writing being professor-proof literature - Hooray! (that's from me.) And one thing that made me feel good was when he said that Chic Lit is better than Conformist Literature - Romance, due to editorial regulation, has become pornography - but Chic Lit still has the true love story element. I personally read from almost every genre - and OSC claims that reading all genres is necessary to be able to grow in your writing.

I tried to attend the rest of the conference with an open mind and heart to learn what the greats and the award winners and the academics said needed to be included in my writing to make it publishable.

I am sad to say there were only two other instructors that I could listen to and enjoy. Michael Stackpole had a reading on the same night as Orson Scott Card and shared his "Titanium Turtle" that is available on his website for purchase - not in any stores. It was a good laugh and very engaging. OSC read a few of his poems - which I now absolutely need to find a copy of to buy, and a story he wrote for his wife, "The Porcelain Salamander." The other reader that I thoroughly enjoyed was Laurie Brooks who is Terry Brooks sister. Her novel will come out in October and is about Silkies. Very delightful. I also need to purchase more of his short stories. They'll be great reading that won't keep me up all night.

On the first day I listened to a reading by a "creative-non-fiction" travel writer, Jeff Biggers, that was absolutely entertaining. His presentation gave me a better appreciation for the history of the Sierra Madres. In general I'm not a history buff. I was turned off reading history during high school because it was written in a very boring manner. Ever since Gerald Lund came out with historical fiction that was fascinating, I have been more open to reading about history in fictional form. Perhaps now I'll give it a try. There may be something out there that isn't as dry as chalk.

Other presenters / instructors gave exercises that were informational and gave lessons I will keep in my reference files for "how to's" and "prompts." But mixed in with the batch, in greater than 50%, were Gays and Lesbians touting their garbage. I don't care how many awards they have won - they don't get my vote. Not because they are Gay and Lesbian - that is their privilege - but because their writing is full of obscene, sexually gross, and lurid words and phrases that I do not feel constitute anything worthy of my time or use of my brain cells. Their books were available for purchase next to the others. The covers don't give anything away. But if you crack the book open and scan the contents - or sit through a reading all the way through because it would be impolite to get up and leave to go throw up - the language is intolerable.
For this reason I have dropped my ambition to obtain an MFA in creative writing. I don't want my mind filled with that trash.

One of the things I learned attending my first non-ANWA writer's conference is that perhaps you don't want the whole package. Research out the instructors and presenters before wasting your time and money. There can be some superior knowledge imparted and there certainly was opportunity to improve technique and broaden the horizon. But I won't be herded like cattle through a chute and come out bawling the "new" dogma that isn't worthy of the paper it's printed on or the cyberspace it occupies.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Son

By Rebecca Talley




My baby turned two-years-old a few days ago. It's hard for me to believe that two years have passed since his birth. He thoroughly enjoyed his birthday cupcake, smearing it all over his face, arms, and chest (I was smart enough to remove his shirt before giving him his cupcake--at least I've learned something from raising 10 kids).

The next day, he kept me going from one end of the day to the other. He threw a pencil in the toilet and I had to fetch it. Thankfully, it wasn't a used toilet :). Next, he found one of the potted plants and turned it upside down. Since I had just watered the plant, a nice pool was created in the hallway and he promptly took a little swim in all the muddy water. He then went on to find some packing paper and rip it to shreds all over the floor, turn the trash can upside down, and pull all the pots out of the cupboard. He loves to sit in front of the oven and watch himself make faces and dance. He also likes to lick the oven door and leave little "love smears." To finish off the day, he tossed his spaghetti noodles on the floor. I didn't want them to dry and "glue" themselves to the floor so I began picking them up. As soon as I was within reach, he grabbed my hair and left a deposit of spaghetti sauce on the top of my head (okay, so maybe I haven't learned as much as I should've with 10 kids).

Typical two-year old stuff. While I don't love all the messes, I'm so grateful for them. I'm thankful each and every day that my son can make the messes and act like a two-year-old because I wasn't sure he ever would.

Shortly after his birth, he was diagnosed with Trisomy 21, commonly called Down syndrome. I was shocked because none of the prenatal ultrasounds indicated any abnormalities. My only familiarity with Down syndrome was that I'd seen people with it. With the diagnosis, I feared my son would be a blob in the corner and life would pass him by. I thought he'd never enjoy a "normal" life. I was alarmed at the pages and pages of medical conditions associated with Down syndrome that I found on the Internet. I was afraid that I'd spend most of my time in the hospital and wondered how I could possibly raise my other children. I not only had a lot of misinformation about Down syndrome, I also had many unfounded fears.

If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have worried for a moment. My son is anything but a blob. He interacts with all of the other kids, he plays games, he shows off, he has likes and dislikes, he loves music, he plays with toys, and none of us could imagine life without him.

Prejudice is usually born of fear and ignorance. We don't understand someone or something and we let our lack of knowledge dictate our attitudes. Some feel pity for me because I have a child with a lifelong genetic condition. Others just feel grateful that they don't have to have a child like mine. Attitudes born of ignorance. The truth is it's an honor and a privilege that Heavenly Father chose me out of all the other women in the world to be my son's mother. He is a gift and though he may take a little longer to do what others take for granted, he deserves as much respect and love as any other child. He should never be judged by his extra chromosome. He has talents and strengths like everyone else. No one knows what he may accomplish in this life and he deserves the opportunity to do and be whatever it is that he desires.

Some seem to be content to place a child with Down syndrome into a "box" and only expect certain things from that child. "He'll never do this." "She'll never be able to participate in that." I don't believe any child should have limitations set on him or her. What a disservice we do when we limit someone for any reason. A principal once told me in a PTA meeting that the children in our school would never read very well because the socioeconomic level was low and poor people don't read well. Huh? Talk about limiting a group of children. (For the record, many children at this same school read well above grade level, some even read 5 years or more above grade level).

I have no idea what the future holds. I don't know what struggles my son may experience or what prejudice he'll face simply because of his chromosome count. I only know that Heavenly Father has blessed me beyond measure with a child that will surely teach me more than I will ever teach him and I will continue to hope that people will see my son the same way that I do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stereotyping, right or wrong?

by Terri Wagner

Today, while traveling to work, I was listening to a book on cd when it made an obscure reference to an event in the Bible. Although, this is my third or fourth time listening to this delightful series (Midford and Father Tim), it was the first time I noticed the reference and wondered how many people reading this book would get it. Which led me to thinking back on our Sunday School lesson which for us was “I Know in Whom I Have Trusted.” And our truly inspired teacher talked about how to live in world conditions and yet not be of the world. She discussed how in the end, Nephi and his people had to actually separate themselves from the others to even be able to live in a righteous manner.

Which brought me full circle to writing. What does it mean to be in the publishing world but not of it? My editor writes an article for each issue. Most of the time, he sticks to industry specifics; however, he is quite opinionated and occasionally wanders into areas best left for political or social commentary. His predecessor, our founder, was notorious for somehow working his rather left-of-center ideas into his commentaries. The fact that I sometimes disagree with their assessments, only makes for interesting gab about the office.

What bothers me most is when they are actually insulting to one particular class or group of people. As a member of the church, I cringe when I read the words even when it pertains to say drunks. I personally have never been comfortable demeaning any group of people. There are some I would cheerfully consign to outer darkness, but I wouldn’t necessarily insult them.

So when we are writing “in the world” how do we avoid stereotyping people in an insulting way? I may be going out on a limb here, but while Mitt Romney was still in the presidential race, I found myself explaining his stance on gays. I tried endlessly to entreat my fellow Christians to “love the sinner, hate the sin,” which rightly or wrongly, I felt was Romney’s position. It’s easy to point fingers, stereotype in a story any group of people we disagree with; it’s much harder to put a human face on them and yet avoid the “first, we pity, then endure, then embrace.”

This is especially difficult to avoid in genre writing. For example, in fantasy, the dwarves are almost always ugly and fearsome; fairies are cute, delightful and somewhat inclined to mischievousness; and elves are always stunningly beautiful and arrogant. On second thought, maybe I should just stick to fantasy where the stereotyping is considered good form and mixing it up makes for a very bad story, ha!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Presidents and Prophets

by Joyce DiPastena

(I’m typing and posting this on Sunday night for my Monday post, because I’m going to the Renaissance Festival tomorrow and won’t have time to post it before I leave!)

In honor of Presidents Day, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I learned recently while reading the book Presidents and Prophets, by Michael K. Winder. I hope you’ll excuse my extensive use of quotes. For time and length’s sake, I’m going to stick with the 20th Century.

President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) “honored President Joseph F. Smith [and two apostles] by having them join him on the reviewing stand at the World’s Fair parade in St. Louis, Missouri” in April 1904. Many LDS leaders “felt that Roosevelt was seriously interested in Mormonism and one of the Presidents most receptive to Mormon theology.” Following Roosevelt’s death, President Heber J. Grant said to Apostle and US Senator Reed Smoot, “I believe that Roosevelt felt that we were right. I think he was nearer converted to the truth than any man who ever occupied the presidential chair.” In 1925, Apostle/Senator Smoot initiated the temple work for Teddy Roosevelt and personally served as Roosevelt’s proxy. (p. 196)

President William Howard Taft (1909-1913) visited Salt Lake City in October 1911 and stayed overnight at the new Hotel Utah. “Every President through Ronald Reagan follows Taft’s lead by staying at the Hotel Utah at least once” during his administration. (The Hotel Utah is now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.) On October 21, 1921, “President Heber J. Grant and [Apostle/Senator] Smoot call on now-Chief Justice Taft, [who says]: ‘There is in my heart a warm feeling for your people… I have great respect for them and I want you to call on me whenever you are here.’ President Grant presented Taft with a copy of the Book of Mormon.” (p. 203)

President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) was “the first US President to appoint a Latter-day Saint to a subcabinet position…when he names James Henry Moyle to serve as assistant secretary of the US Treasury.” (p. 210) When President Wilson suffered a stroke on November 27, 1919, “[he] became the only President blessed by name in a temple dedicatory prayer [the Hawaii temple]. President Heber J. Grant prays, ‘We pray to Thee to bless Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States. Touch him with the healing power of Thy Holy Spirit… We pray that his life may be precious in Thy sight, and may the inspiration that comes from Thee ever abide with him.’” (p. 212)

President Warren G. Harding (1921-1923: Apostle/Senator Reed Smoot gave a copy of the Book of Mormon to President Harding in 1921, and they discussed LDS beliefs on several occasions. One night, when Mrs. Harding became very ill, “Harding telephoned Smoot late at night…and recalling Smoot’s description of the Mormon healing ceremony…requested Senator Smoot to come to the White House and perform the rite. Smoot went immediately, taking a bottle of consecrated olive oil…and administered to [Mrs. Harding].” (p. 219) President Harding later remarked, “I do not know but what Brigham Young was right in his religion.” After President Harding’s death, Reed Smoot was baptized for President Harding, and President Heber J. Grant stood proxy for Harding’s temple endowment. (p. 218)

President Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): After the death of Apostle/Senator Reed Smoot’s wife, President Coolidge invited Senator Smoot “to stay at the White House for a week or so in order to provide the Apostle with a change and to spend quality time with him.” Shortly before Coolidge’s death, Senator Smoot visited the former-President. As Senator Smoot was about to leave, “the President said to me: ‘Senator, there is some plan in your Church, isn’t there, where men administer to the sick and pray for them?’ I said, ‘Yes, Mr. President. We call that administering to the sick.’ He said, ‘Can anyone in the Church administer to anyone outside of the Church?’ I told him, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Reed, I wish you would administer to me.’ I did so, and I want to say to you…I never felt happier in my life than when I laid my hands upon him and asked God to bless him.” (p. 228)

President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933): Following Apostle/Senator Reed Smoot’s remarriage to Alice Sheets, they “spend their two-week honeymoon as guests of the Hoovers at the White House.” (p. 235)

President Harry S Truman (1945-1953): Elder Ezra Taft Benson and his wife visited President Truman in 1949. During their visit, President Truman expressed a desire for a copy of the Book of Mormon, which Elder Benson later mailed to the White House. “When President George Albert Smith visited Washington, D.C., [he] called on Truman. [During his visit], Truman opened his desk drawer in the Oval Office and said, ‘Look, President Smith, I’ve got my Book of Mormon right here.’” President Smith’s secretary, who accompanied him, suspected that the book of scripture had only been placed there to make President Smith feel welcome. (p. 267) (But I still think it’s a cute story!)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-961) was the first US President to appoint an LDS member to a full cabinet secretary position (Apostle Ezra Taft Benson). When Mrs. Eisenhower underwent surgery, “the First Presidency and Twelve pray for her in their regular Thursday meeting. Touched by this gesture, Ike tells Secretary Benson that it was a Thursday when his wife took a turn for the better.” (p. 274) President Eisenhower “’knew of our custom of having a family hour one night during the week, and…expressed a wish to see how it was done. So we (Apostle/Secretary Benson and his family) put one on just as if we were at home…. The President and his party participated and seemed to enjoy it.’” (p. 279

President Gerald R. Ford ((1974-1977) spent some time during the United States Bicentennial celebrations in 1976 “with President Spencer W. Kimball in the Oval Office. President Kimball explained the purposes of the Church, the loyalty Latter-Day Saints had for their government, and several of the Church’s unique programs. After the meeting, President Ford and President Kimball moved to the south lawn of the White House, where a hundred LDS Primary children sang for the President, ‘I Am a Child of God’.” (p. 331)

President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), on learning that Senator Jake Garn’s son would soon be leaving on a mission to England, once asked Senator Garn “if there was any limit on the number of letters a missionary could receive, and upon learning ‘no’” decided to write the young Elder Garn a letter. “In the letter, Reagan not only offered words of admiration, respect and encouragement, but also quoted Alma 60:11: ‘Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.’ President Reagan said, ‘I have often thought about these words. They came back to me during the campaign, especially when it would be a long day and one that didn’t go as well as we had hoped. I thought of them when I was in the hospital, and they have been on my mind since Jake told me that you would soon be leaving on your mission to England.’” (pp. 348-349)

And one more story: “While Reagan was in his post-presidency, yet before his Alzheimer’s set in, a college-age young woman from Provo was interning at the Reagan Library in California. Once when a member of her Utah home ward was visiting—who happened to be a huge fan of Reagan’s—she was able to arrange a brief meeting for them in Reagan’s office. As a parting gift, the ward member gave the ex-President a copy of the Book of Mormon, which he politely received. Days later, the intern walked into Reagan’s office to deliver a message and found him with his back to the doorway, deeply consumed in reading the Book of Mormon.” (p. 350)

There’s so much more I’d like to share (including a very cute story about a conversation between President Jimmy Carter and President Marion G. Romney about missionary work), but I’ve gone way past my word limit, so I have to stop here. If you want to know more about experiences between Presidents of the United States and Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pick up a copy of Presidents and Prophets, by Michael K. Winder. I promise you won’t regret it!

Skagit Valley Spring

By Liz Adair

Thirty years I wrote a poem called Skagit Valley Spring. A transplant from the southwest, I had just lived through my first winter in the Pacific Northwest and noted every sign of spring with the eye of someone sun-starved. I don’t remember much about the poem, except one stanza that went:

Leaden, sodden, gray on gray
Gives way to gray on blue.
Fleeting, fickle, without warmth,
The sun comes shining through.

Not a very happy poem, I’m afraid, but I have learned to appreciate spring in northwest Washington. It starts in early February with the blooming of the filbert trees, and it’s followed by pussy willows breaking out in fuzzy nodules along bare branches. If you have sharp eyes, you can spot pastel crocus just above ground level and shy snowdrops hiding in diminutive greenery nearby.

Then the show starts. By the end of February, daffodils are well out of the ground and swelling with buds, which break into blossoms all through March. Forsythia joins the yellow daffies in scattering mock sunshine through the gray spring days, and in April, tulips paint entire fields, drenching the landscape with primary colors. Azalea bushes seem to be burning with fluorescent blossoms, and massive rhododendrons are jaw-dropping in their splendor.

I haven’t even mentioned the lilacs, tulip trees, laburnum trees, or any of the other flowering shrubs that I’ve never learned to name. Month after month, from spring through fall, one blooming plant succeeds another, ending up with a flourish of dinner-plate dahlias, gorgeous flowers a full ten inches across. To someone raised in barren New Mexico, this truly seems like Eden.

We had sunshine today after about a month of rain. I took a walk and noticed some crocus and snowdrops blooming and noted the daffodils were standing about four inches high. Ah, yes. spring is coming to Skagit Valley.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Am I a Writer, an Author or Just Someone who Writes?

By Christine Thackeray

With my first book coming out, I was told it was important to establish an "internet presence" and so I have made an effort to start a website (which needs a lot more work), join forums and get to know people beyond my little comfortable circle. On hatrack.com I was introducing myself and explained that when my first son went to kindergarten, I started doing marketing analysis. The work was really taking off and I could see it swallowing up all my spare time when I had a moment of clarity. I quit and decided to chase my dream of becoming an author.

Well, apparently I really struck a nerve from the responses I got. One person said there weren't any authors, there only people who liked to write. I thought of Kristen's wonderful column about the driving force in her that constantly flows through her mind creating a stream of brilliant words that must be written down and balked at my own abilities. I have another friend who loves to write stories. Her manuscripts are impeccable, not a single typo, well-written and exciting. She has four or five completed stories of over 120,000 words each and has never so much as sent in a query letter. She is a fabulous writer. When I met her, we decided to start a writer's group. One tidy little woman who would attend loved to write two page sketches of various characters, like portraits in the written word. You could see, feel and taste the texture around them and somehow she would find a subtle moment where in a facial expression or a minor decision, suddenly the entire essence of her protaganist was fully exposed. It was ART!

On the other hand, I met a man who lived in a large mansion. He had made a good living from his books about the founding fathers which I read and thought were flat and technical. (Hope he doesn't read this.) We have all picked up books that we could not believe were actually produced, where the "authors" could barely be considered writers for their poor characterizations and their half-thought-out concepts.

I don't know if Webster would agree with me but I believe an author is someone who is paid for their craft, whereas a writer is someone who has the gift to translate living, moving three dimensional ideas into flat linear two dimensional lines of language without killing their soul. Some of the finest writers are like the woman from my bookclub who has no desire to publish but for other great writers it is a huge disservice not to share their talents with the world.

I read once (sorry I'm not looking it up so you just have to trust me) that an author said he never had to compete against the greatest writers when looking for a publisher, only against the average writers that send their work in. For my first book I had fifteen rejections. I think that is a fair number. My brother wrote a novel and has had only three and given up. Rejection is part of sales. It is hard but remember you only need one "yes."

My dear friend with the many manuscripts is coming to the LDStorymakers convention next month. We are sooo excited and she is going to make a pitch, cross fingers. I just hope that all wonderful writers who truly love what they do will, if they have the desire, reach for their dreams. It is hard, with our creative spirits and love for our 'babies', to feel the sting of a stupid form letter devaluing our time, thoughts and feelings, but, as my mother says, life is hard. Never let the difficulty of a thing deter you if you are sure it is a righteous desire.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Kindness Begins With Me

By Kristine John

I've done a lot of thinking this morning about how our lives impact each others.
It's easy at times to believe that what we do does not make a difference, and that it really doesn't matter whether or not we take the time to make choices that make a difference in the lives of others.

I know, however, from a personal standpoint, what a difference it makes to have someone send a heartfelt note, detailing the impact of an action or a word, given in passing.
I can remember phone calls that were made "just because" and how much I needed to hear a friendly voice that day.
I can tell you that sometimes someone's arm around me, or a sincere smile, no matter how quick, has been enough to lift my heart and help me, in turn, pay it forward shortly thereafter.

We do leave an impact on the world around us, and as the Lord designed it, we actually choose whether that impact is primarily positive or namely negative.
Remember:

Matthew 25:
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


As an addendum to my blog, here is the following (received in e-mail form):

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read this straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Contest.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners ofyesterday.
These are no second-rate achievers.
They are the best in their fields.
But the applause dies.
Awards tarnish.
Achievements are forgotten.
Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners .

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier?

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.
They are the ones that care .

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another Love Story

by Kari Diane Pike

Betsy Love has the best name ever! I think her “Love” story is charming. Reading the blog she posted, and the fact that today is Valentine’s Day, made me pause and reflect on my own love story. I hope you don’t mind me sharing.

I never intended to go to BYU. I attended a fireside conducted by Dalin Oaks during which he encouraged the students in Arizona to attend schools other than BYU so that we could be a light all over the world. In fact, I had a full ride scholarship to ASU and my Dad had purchased a car for me to drive so that I could live at home and commute to Tempe. At the last minute, however, I felt prompted to at least send an application to BYU. Three months later, and two weeks after my 18th birthday, I found myself waving a tearful goodbye from the steps of Helaman Halls as I watched my Dad drive away and head back home to Arizona.

My roommate, Lisa, was adorable and that first week of school, we had a great time getting to know each other and introducing each other to our friends. Our Branch regularly met in one of the science buildings, but on that first Sunday, the Branch president asked for all those with cars to help everyone get over to the hill behind the Provo Temple for Sacrament meeting. The returned missionary who had just taught our Sunday school class offered my roommate and me a ride. He sat next to us during the service and couldn’t have been more kind to a couple of silly freshman girls. Later in the week, we found ourselves getting a ride from this same young man and some of his room mates to the Welfare Farm for a Branch service project. The next Sunday, Lisa and I decided to make cookies as a token of our appreciation. Just as we were about to leave the dorms to deliver the cookies, the Sunday school teacher called and asked me to go on a date.

“Great! Now what are we going to do?” I asked Lisa. “Doug is going to think I made these cookies just because he asked me out.”

“No he won’t! Look, we wrote a note saying it was for him and all his roomies. He’ll know it’s a thank you for the rides.”

I remember two things from that first date. I wore creamed colored gauchos that did not go well with the mint ice cream I dripped on them and Doug Pike was the most interesting person I had ever met.

A few days after our date, I was leaving my chemistry class when I heard someone yell out my name. I turned around and there was Doug. He was coming out of a physics class just across the hall. We walked out the building together and sat and chatted for a bit before going our separate ways. I found myself looking for him each day after that and he asked me out again…and again…and again. I became concerned when I realized that not only did I really like this guy, but since that first date, not one other person had asked me out. I started doing some serious praying, telling Heavenly Father that if he didn’t want me to spend the rest of my life with this guy, he needed to get me another date, and quick!

In the mean time, Doug was struggling with his own feelings. At 23, he was one of the youngest guys in his apartment. He and his roommates and moved from the south side of campus where they had dated everyone already, to the north end of campus, into an apartment complex that had the reputation of marrying off at least 50% of the branch every year. These returned missionaries were eager to find their eternal companions. Imagine their shock and dismay when they discovered that one floor of their apartments had been commandeered by a freshman branch because of a need for priesthood and leadership skills! They complained to the branch president, but he pleaded with them to hang in there for at least one semester. He asked them to do their best to fellowship and help the younger students adjust to college life. I think Doug was one of the biggest protestors.

Another issue Doug had was the fact that he was 23 and I was only 18. I remember the surprised look on his face the day I told him about the summer I turned 17 and spent 8 weeks in France and the young man there that asked me to marry him. Our relationship seemed to take on a more serious tone after that. Even then, I had no idea how serious Doug felt. His proposal came as a huge surprise. I know it doesn’t sound very romantic to be proposed to in the parking lot outside the Marriot Center, but it was. Obviously, I said “Yes.” I still do.

We decided to get married at the end of the following semester. The day finals ended, we packed up Doug’s parents’ Suburban with suitcases, the photographer and his girlfriend, Doug’s sister, and 2 of the bridesmaids. It was Thursday, April 20th and love was in the air! Just outside Panguitch, Utah, the car started overheating. We limped into town only to learn that the radiator had cracked and it couldn’t be fixed until noon the next day. We felt stressed, but our parents assured us it would be okay. The only thing we had to do on Friday was get our marriage license, and we could do that in Page if we had to. Friday morning dawned cold and snowy! In April! But we laughed and took a walk and got hot chocolate. At noon, Doug walked over to the repair shop. The men there teased him about getting married.

“You don’t really want to get married, do you? Besides, the mechanic here is also the Fire Chief and we had the first fire we’ve had in twenty years. Your car isn’t fixed yet. It won’t be ready until three.” Panic started to set in. Three o’clock would barely give us enough time to drive to Page and get to the courthouse to get out license. Things were just a little too close!

True to their word, the car was ready by three and we were on our way again. We made good time as the roads and cleared and dried by the time we got on the road. I figured perhaps the Lord was trying to keep safe and had delayed our departure for that reason. We were just approaching the final grade into Page when the Suburban started jerking. The engine slowly lost power until we could only drive at the snail’s pace of 20 – 30 miles per hour. We chugged and coughed our way into a gas station and 5:05 pm on Friday, April 21st. The dam burst and the tears flowed. Now we would not be able to get married. We didn’t have a license and how were we ever going to let everyone know? I called my parents to let them know the news. They had news for me, instead. A member of the ward was a Superior Court judge. He made arrangements for one of the clerks to take the paperwork to her home. Whenever we arrived, she would be waiting for us! Then the mechanic came out to give us his news. We had a clogged fuel filter. It would take ten minutes to change it and then we could be on our way. Things were looking up!

At 10:30 pm that night, Doug and I, accompanied by my parents, obtained our wedding license so that we could be sealed for eternity in the House of the Lord.

April 22nd will be the 30th anniversary of our love story. I think it is a happy love story and I am grateful it never has to end.


BTW...Doug's sister told me he was very touched by my gesture of making cookies for him because he asked me out. He thought it was sweet!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To Blog or not to Blog

by Anna Arnett

To my surprise, though I've read maybe half of the posts this month, I haven't commented on even one. I've been thinking for a week or more about what I could blog about, came up with three or four ideas, but can't seem to make myself write. After Charles was hospitalized, I made a new discovery about me. I get tired easily. I don't seem to run out of energy if I only have one big thing a day to do--like shopping, taking Charles to the doctor, going to church or ANWA. Two biggies tire me, and three in one day are almost too many. Oh, I can do them, but have to rest all the next day. I mean lay-around rest, not bedrest. You know the kind; I always feed Charles and give him his pills, and I might also get dressed, read a book, knit, watch TV, talk on the phone, eat chocolate, check my email, and write my minimum of a hundred words. Today is one of those days, so this is all the blog I'm giving. There's always another time in another two weeks. Just know that I love you, I'm happy, and life is still wonderful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

For my love on Valentine’s Day

By Betsy Love

Several years ago, when I was waxing poetic about my relationship with my eternal companion I penned these few words. I tried to keep them as unsappy as possible, but hey, it's Valentine's Day (almost), and my last name is Love, both my maiden name and my married name. I couldn't help it.

For My Love on Valentine's Day

At its center
Comes the greatest of these
Joyfully serving
Anxious to please

Loving eternal
Whilst everyday living
Earthly experience
Sharing and giving

Sorrow and strife
Tempered with bliss
Pain and wrong
Pleasured with a kiss.

My friend, my lover
Dear one art thee
Give of thyself
Only to me.

As if these coincidences aren't enough I have son who is turning 25 on Valentine's Day. I guess my life and home are meant to be filled with Love, not just on this one day, but all year long.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Failed Pachbel

by Rene Allen

I’ve had the flu but with pineapple juice, Robitussin and time I’m much better. However, a month of downtime seriously stalled my brain. I’m desperate for inspiration, even from the lowly telephone. “Talk to me you piece of plastic. Tell me your secrets. What would life be like without you?”

Alas, the phone is silent. Even the mystical strains of "Pachabel’s Canon" that lead into contemplation of the existential onion are unable to budge this mental numbness. It’s the Blogger’s Void, the great space in the brain that comes from too much Fox News and the vacuum of recumbent inertia.

Nonetheless, there is a looming deadline and I am searching for something pithy which means with substance and point.

Perhaps this emptiness is punishment for the blog in which I confessed my craving for Atticus Finch and meat to a sorority of ANWA sisters. Just so you know, I can do humble pie. If even a single idea would emerge from the murky subconscious I would do it; I would say, sorry ladies, I was ostentatious, and now, breath of fresh air, I have something to work with, a solitary, luminous idea. Obviously, there is not even one.

So, I turn to other writers for inspiration dismantling the block. Anne Lamott in "Bird by Bird" said write three hundred words then live a slice of real life and fill back up. You’re empty, she says. Oh—and accept it. “There are few experiences as depressing as the anxious barren state known as writer’s block, where you sit staring at your blank page like a cadaver, feeling your mind congeal, feeling your talent run down your leg and into your sock. . . . Writer’s block is going to happen to you.”

Ray Bradbury in "Zen and the Art of Writing" starts his day reading poetry. But he is so prolific I wonder if he even knows how to spell block.

In "Writing Down the Bones", Natalie Goldberg suggests that when we become boring and sick of ourselves, we should make a change: “dye your hair green, paint your nails purple, get your nose pierced, dress as the opposite sex, perm your hair.” For added effect, she puts an unlit cigarette in her mouth.

I’m feeling much better. My brain is just as empty, but even I recognize good company. Since its noon and I’m writing in my nightgown perhaps I should give up decadence and get dressed. This in itself might be inspiring. Then I shall read a poem, perhaps the one by Gallway Kinnel called “Blackberry Eating.”

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy black language
of blackberry eating in late September.

many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps /which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well . . . Yum.

There is perhaps one more thing: to pull together my memory and recall other times when I have stared at the page and felt the blahs of the great void, and remember that yes, they did pass, and the lovely flow came.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Aprons

by Marsha Ward

Actually, I borrowed this, one of those stories that make their way around the Internet and through email forwards. However, I think it's pertinent to the kinds of stories I write. And yes, I believe I recall that a character in one of my novels used her apron in a way similar to these examples.

I don't think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow that was bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A mother teaches a prophet of Christian service

by Margaret Turley

When asked by a reporter about his own desire to reach out to the poor and the needy, President Monson said he learned it from his mother. He grew up watching her help young men, with meals and encouragement, coming to the West of the United States looking for employment during the Depression.

I think this is the greatest tribute that can be given to a mother, that her son, now the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says he learned the quality of reaching out in service to the poor and needy – a very Christian act – from his mother.

I was impressed by President Monson’s humility, by President Eyring’s positive reinforcement of everything that was said, and by President Uchtdorf’s apparent readiness to step up to the plate in service to the church and to Heavenly Father. How comforting to know things will continue to be run like they should be.

May we always be the kind of mothers that will be remembered by their children as good examples of what a Christian should be.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What I've Learned from The Book of Mormon

By Rebecca Talley

At the beginning of this year, our Bishop asked us to read The Book of Mormon in 220 days. I was resistant because I've been studying the Old Testament. As a companion study to the Old Testament, I've been reading and studying a series of books by Cleon Skousen. I'm now reading the second book in the series, "The Third Thousand Years." I originally embarked on my study because I felt that I lacked knowledge of the history of the world and it made sense to me to begin at the very beginning. I've learned a tremendous amount and concluded that I wanted to continue with my study of the Old Testament.

Then that nagging feeling kept bothering me. You know the one I mean. It's the one that says if I truly supported the Bishop, I would follow his counsel and read The Book of Mormon. Our Bishop is a wonderful man and I love him dearly, mostly because he is such a wonderful husband to my sister and such a good father to my nieces and nephews, but also because I know he is the man that the Lord wants to lead our ward at this time. So I decided to read The Book of Mormon. I had some catch-up to do because my rebellious nature side-tracked me for a bit, but I am now caught up with the reading schedule.

Though I've read The Book of Mormon many times, it never ceases to amaze me what I learn each time I read it. This time through, I've been struck by things I'd never noticed before.

For example, when Lehi has his dream he finds the tree. Sariah, Sam, and Nephi "knew not whither they should go." (1 Nephi 8:14). In the next verse it says, " . . .I (Lehi) beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit . . ." To me, these scriptures tell us to look to our priesthood leaders to guide us to the path that will bring us back to our Heavenly Father. For many of us that priesthood leader is our husband who should lead our home in righteousness, but if that's not the case, we can look to our ward leaders, stake leaders, and general leaders to point us in the direction of eternal life. Through the priesthood, the Lord directs His people and it's our privilege and responsibility to follow our leaders.

We have been counseled by our prophets to read our scriptures daily, to have family and personal prayers each day, and to hold family home evenings each week. Sometimes, I think these seem so simple we may overlook their importance. In small ways, the Lord brings to pass great things. I have a firm testimony that following the counsel of our priesthood leaders will lead us to the path of happiness.

Something else I learned occurred when I read about the incident of Nephi's broken bow. While his family complained about the broken bow, Nephi went out and made another bow out of wood. He didn't sit on his behind and hope the Lord would provide a way, he did something about his situation. To me, this teaches us that the gospel requires our participation. It is not a spectator sport. In order to truly enjoy the blessings of the gospel and the Lord's help, we must be a full participant. We must do what we can, to the best of our ability, and the Lord will then make up for our shortfalls. We cannot sit around on our behinds and complain, we must be involved in the solutions to our problems and then the Lord can truly guide and help us. The more we are committed to and involved in the gospel, the more the Lord can teach us.

I'm thankful for this opportunity to read The Book of Mormon along with my ward members. Joseph Smith said it is the most correct of any book on the earth and that a man will become closer to God by reading it, than any other book. It does contain the fulness of the gospel, especially when we mine each page and find all the nuggets of truth contained therein.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bless His Little Heart

by Faith St. Clair

THIS POST IS A DIRECT DIVERSION FROM THE TOPIC OF THE WEEK

“Honey, where is the peanut butter? I can’t find any in the pantry?” he asks as, I suspect, he stands about two feet outside of the pantry looking in.

“It’s on the left, towards the back corner about waist level.”

“Hmmmm….left……corner…….oh! Here it is! Found it.”

“O.k. Gotta go.”

“Ummmm…have you seen my favorite blue pullover?”

“What?” I thought I heard him ask another question right before I hung up the phone.

“My favorite blue pullover?...The long sleeved one that has that little faded sun spot from being in the closet peep window – I can’t find it.”

“No, you’ll just have to look in the laundry room under the stack of clothes waiting to be folded or in the downstairs laundry basket or in our hamper or maybe in that little stack of clothes you have piling up on the floor at the foot of our bed.”

“Hmmmm.”…silence. My guess is that he’s thinking. And I’m pacing. “I’ve looked.”

“I don’t know what to tell you then, sorry, honey.” I say as fast as I can.

“Well I thought I saw it just the other day”… (more thinking).

“Honey, I’ve really got to go. I’ll call you later when we finish this evening.”

“O.k…I”ll look again.” He says like a puppy dog loping off without finding his favorite chew toy.

“Bye, love you.”

“O.k…Bye.”

I hung up and ran back into my business conference before missing too much more of the information.

I tell you, going away on business is sometimes just not worth the effort. Maybe I ought to stay home and keep my brain its little pea size. I mean, as long as its enough to contain peanut butter and faded shirt positions, what else matters, right?

I dearly love my husband. He is charismatic, has a big heart and, most of all, he loves me. But it just amazes me that a college professor, a four-time Emmy-award winner, and a man who has lived over ½ a century can’t seem to accomplish the simplest of tasks on his own.

He often goes grocery shopping. He doesn’t mind, most of the time, and he likes to cook on occasion, but his efforts to go to the grocery store, so that I can get other things done often defeats the purpose. He will call me from the store…

“Hey, did you get cut sheets in the mail?”

“No, I haven’t picked up the mail.”

“Well, there’s Granny Smith apples here for $1.29 a lb. I thought I saw them somewhere for $ .99.”

“I’m not sure.”

“Oh, there’s eggplant on sale, should I fix some of that?”

“That would be great.”

“O.k. I’ll get some.”

“O.k. Thanks.”

“O.k. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Five minutes later.

“There’s this all-natural jam here…..” Silence. My guess is he’s reading a label.
Sure enough, he starts to read aloud the ingredients to me on the phone only he’s mumbling because he’s really just reading them to himself. After he gets done reading (including all the caloric, fat and fiber intake) he says, “Well it’s $2.50 do you think it’s worth it?

For as much as I want to tear the phone apart, some patient wife somewhere from the suppressed depths of a consciousness I didn’t know existed, arises and stupidly asks, “How many ounces?” I rolled my eyes at myself the minute I asked! Jimminy Cricket! How much time was this saving me?

“Just buy what you want, honey. I don’t care. If you want it, get it.”

“Hmmm…o.k…….”

He’s adorable, but he’s clueless sometime, bless his little heart.

My friend says that you can say anything about anybody as long as you codify it with, “bless his/her little heart” at the end. That way, you’re not being mean or disrespectful. It kind of adds a little empathy to the gossip or judgement you just placed on them. Try, it – it works.

“She is out of her mind! - bless her little heart.”

“Can someone get any uglier? - bless her little heart?”

“Wow! He’s neurotic! - Bless his little heart.”

“He doesn’t have a clue – bless his little heart.”

We do a lot of blessing around our house. I’m sure I’m blessed a lot by the people around me.

No wonder I’m always so happy!

Monday, February 4, 2008

More on President Hinckley

by Terri Wagner

I apologize to Joyce that I have to post on the eve (it's eve where I am) of her day, but my home computer is down, and I won't be at work tomorrow. It's Fat Tuesday and primary day! I plan to catch moonpies and vote!!! So please forgive my having to post today.

I thought I would just continue with the theme of the posts this week as it is appropriate to take the time to remember President Hinckley, pray for President Monson and rejoice in our wonderful gospel.

Years ago, a book was written about President Hinckley that basically accused him of in the very least being naive and in the very most of being disreputable. I read the book at the insistence of a so-called friend. My mother read it as well. We both were put off by the flavor of the book and the attitude of the authors, but both had this nagging feeling that something was amiss in President Hinckley's approach to the matter. Please don't ask what book, I only vaguely remember it had something to do with documents regarding Joseph Smith.

Those doubts, small though they were, remained and surfaced when he became the prophet. I knew he was the prophet, and I knew it was the work of our Savior, and I just laid my little doubts on the back burner and went about my life.

Without knowing, he laid to rest those silly doubts of mine (and my mother’s as well). Not only did President Hinckley prove to be my (and my mother's) most favorite prophet to date, he showed by example and wit and humor that those words penned by those not of our faith to be nothing but lies. I knew by watching him that he was a man of great integrity that I could trust. I mean after all if the Lord trusted him to be his prophet, so certainly could I.

The Lord not only chose a marvelous work and wonder to be his prophet at this particular time (as He always does), but He also chose to address my insignificant doubts through His prophet, giving me a richer and more powerful testimony of prophets in general and President Hinckley in particular.

I for one will miss him greatly and happily sustain and support President Monson.

Prophets I Have Known

by Joyce DiPastena

While I was praying one day this week, reflecting on the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley and thanking Heavenly Father for the opportunity to have known this wonderful and outstanding leader, I found my mind drifting with gratitude not only for President Hinckley, but for all the great prophets I have had the privilege to “know” in my lifetime.

David O. McKay was the prophet of my childhood, but aside from recognizing his picture on the Primary table week after week and knowing that his name was the answer to our Primary president’s question, “Who’s our prophet?”, I didn’t know anything more than his name and picture until many years later.

Joseph Fielding Smith was the prophet of my early youth. My mother would tell me stories about him, but beyond her words and pictures once again, I never heard him speak and didn’t feel like I knew him, either.

Then came Harold B. Lee…came and went so quickly, that once more, it was only through my mother’s words that I learned anything of the man.

Thus, President Spencer W. Kimball was the first prophet that, thanks to the evolving wonders of modern technology, I came to know beyond a frozen picture and other people’s words. By radio, TV, and ultimately a stake satellite dish, I finally heard and saw a prophet in action. And truly, President Kimball was a man of action!

“Lengthen your stride.” “Do it.” “Do it now!” Much of the foundation that President Hinckley has built on was laid (at least, in my memory) during the tenure of President Kimball. The creation of the Quorums of the Seventies. (Presdient Hinckley filled them.) The extension of the priesthood to all worthy members of the Church. (President Hinckley built temples in Africa.) And speaking of temples, after a long interlude between temple building, President Kimball set in motion a new temple building program involving smaller temples…not as small as President Hinckley pursued, but surely a step towards that future, and an exciting time of new temple growth in the 1980s. He called for an unprecedented number of new missionaries to carry the gospel to the world. And while the size of the Church was smaller then, President Kimball, too, was a “man of the people” who loved to travel the world to meet the members of the Church. He was not a young man, and he had many health problems, but he remained a “man on the go”. I still vividly recall a talk in general conference given by one of the Seventies who had traveled with him on one of his journeys. At the request of one of President Kimball’s doctors, the Seventy encouraged President Kimball to try to take things a little easier, to slow down just a bit. He said President Kimball stopped, turned to him, and said, “Elder ? (can’t remember his name, sorry), if you knew what I knew, you wouldn’t ask me to slow down.” When illness finally overtook him towards the end of his presidency, I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if this was the only way the Lord could find to make President Kimball finally slow down and rest?”

I remember President Ezra Taft Benson’s “classic” talks on reading the Book of Mormon and bewaring of pride. But I also remember his love for the members of the Church, and his recognition that within that membership were distinct groups with distinct sets of needs. I remember over a series of general conferences, he focused one talk to the women of the Church (I presume he spoke to the men in the general priesthood meeting); another talk to the youth of the Church; a talk aimed at singles in the Church; and even a talk especially aimed at the children. And to this day, of all the testimonies he bore while a prophet, the memory that still gives me chills to recall is the one that he bore at the press conference following President Kimball’s death, when he was introduced as the new President of the Church. I can still hear the way his voice trembled…yes, undoubtedly from age, but more from force of conviction as he declared boldly to all the world: “I love this work with all my heart.” At that moment, I knew without shadow of doubt that “the work” was true, and his testimony burned into my heart.

President Howard W. Hunter was prophet such a short time. I often feel just a wee bit cheated that he wasn’t allowed to serve longer, for I loved this humble servant of the Lord. He challenged us all to make the temple the great symbol of our membership of the Church. To qualify for a temple recommend, even if we thought we’d never be close enough to a temple to use it. (What a prophetic challenge, given the temple growth that followed under President Hinckley!) But I also hear his voice urging us to be kinder, more gentle, more forgiving, more tolerant with one another. And when speaking of the Savior, I remember him saying, “We need to know Him better than we know Him.” On days when I struggle with a sense of self-worth and wonder “Why would God love me?”, even—perhaps especially—when I see so much evidence around me that He does—I can hear again these words of the prophet, and I know the answer is, “I need to know the Savior better than I do.”

If you are like me, you have spent a weekend richly filled in memories of President Hinckley. I have no need to remind you of them here. But on this day, I say not only:

“I thank thee, O God, for a prophet…”, but, “I thank thee, O God, for all the prophets who have guided me in these latter-days.”

Sunday, February 3, 2008

By Small Means

By Liz Adair

I’m teaching Old Testament this year in seminary, and as we read through these ancient stories, I realize most of these people, the characters in these stories, had no inkling that they would become immortal. Oh, maybe Moses or Samuel or Isaiah or one of the prophets privileged to see into the future, but surely not Rachel and Leah, Dinah, Hannah, Agag, Boaz or Elimelech. I have an idea that each was just trying to get through a tenuous life the best s/he could. Some made better decisions, some had purer motives. A few may have aspired to be remembered, but I doubt that Agag wanted to go down in history as the king who was hacked to pieces by Samuel. He probably had something more regal in mind for his legacy.

But these people live on! How many millions, down through the ages, have read of Rachel’s beauty and barrenness and Leah’s plainness (fine eyes notwithstanding) and fecundity? Any woman who has ever loved a man can identify with that story, whether the love was requited or not. And what mother reads of Hannah’s promise to give her son to God––a promise made before she held the baby in her arms––what mother reads that and doesn’t ache for Hannah as she takes Samuel to the temple and puts him in the care of the old priest, Eli? Can you not picture her making her annual pilgrimage to see her son, carrying with her a coat, bigger than last year’s by her best guess at how he would have grown in this year?

I’ve been immersing myself in the words of other people long dead this last week. I’m the only one who has these writings, for they’re family letters that have been passed down to me through a series of deaths. I sat on the floor yesterday surrounded by a pile of them written in the first three decades of the twentieth century. As I picked up one and then another, I was struck by the legacy left in those pencil scrawls on pages from a lined tablet. I watched the round schoolboy penmanship of a fourteen year old boy, beginning with four lines that he sent to his mother along with part of his cowboy's wages, grow more fluid over the course of the dozen years his letters spanned. His writing matured as well, and that narrative opened a window on a time and a place in my family’s history that is chronicled nowhere else.

That was the setting when I sat down to read scriptures with my husband last night. We’re plowing through the Book of Mormon again, and we came to the place where Nephi is talking about the Liahona, and he says: And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. (1 Nephi 16:29)

I have read those words before many times. In fact, I often quote the ‘by small means the Lord can bring about great things’ phrase. I’ve always connected it with things other than writing, but here is a note from my great aunt in 1965 telling me about the route her family traveled by wagon train to get to New Mexico, and there is a letter where my grandfather writes about his college experience. Small, simple things. My intent is to make this information available to the family in a form that will last for many generations.

I’m sure that the young cowboy, sitting at a remote cow camp tending a windmill and writing to his mother by light of a coal oil lamp, never thought that his simple words would be set down for strangers to read hundreds of years later. But he, like many of us, was driven to set his thoughts to paper. And by that small act, repeated over and over by people like you and me, great things are brought to pass.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A City of Books

by Christine Thackeray

I am currently co-authoring a book with my sister Dr. Marianna Richardson about C. S. Lewis. She did the first part and I did the last and then we are doing the middle together. I thought I had all my sources together when I found this wonderful quote that says "joy is the serious business of heaven." It was from Lewis' last book called "Letters to Malcolm" which he wrote shortly before his death and is esoteric to say the least. Well, I'm a real in context sort of researcher and wanted to see what came before and after that quote so that I'm not just relating the words but his true intention. But when I started looking for the book, I couldn't find it anywhere.

I did every type of internet search I could think of and came up with NOTHING! I went to all of the bookstores within a half hour drive and they didn't have it and my library didn't have it. Now I could have ordered it from Amazon but that would take time and I was hoping to get that chapter done by tomorrow. Then I remembered a radio ad that lodged in my sub-conscious while I was in the car doing errands. Something about the biggest bookstore in the world being in downtown Portland.

Well, a few clicks of the mouse and my mouth dropped open. POWELL's City of Books is in downtown Portland and it is the largest bookstore in the world (they say). With the lure of a good meal I talked my husband into taking me there on a DATE tonight!!!! By the time I got the kids fed and my daughter over to her friend's house it was after 8pm and I think my husband was hoping the store would be closed but it stays open until 11pm six nights a week. It was raining when we turned down the crowded city street and from the outside, it didn't look like much. Greg had to go around the block twice before we found a place to park and we soon walked up to the old boxy building with a neon Powell's across the front and a crowd of assorted characters milling around the front sidewalk. As we walked in, you could tell that what had once been an entire block of separate stores was now a maze of delight with elevators, and staircases leading to endless shelves of books of every kind. Used, new, collectors editions and other paraphanalia all mish-mashed together in an incredible smorgesbord of heady mental fulfillment- I was in heaven! My husband wasn't.

I began at the information desk which to my husband was my first mistake (he never asks directions.) They told me that C. S. Lewis was in the Children's section, Fantasy/SciFi and Religion, Shakespeare in Drama upstairs and my lastest Book Club selection, Thunderbolt Kid, in new releases. I literally danced through the aisles. They did have "Letters to Malcolm" (I got the last copy) and the Collected Letters of Lewis AND an incredible anthology AND George MacDonald's Princess series that inspired the Narnia series AND an awesome Shakespeare book that reviews archetypes and... and...

So I left with a pile of books over my head and my husband pooped out in the SciFi section and told me to find him when I was done. I did and he helped me haul my stash to the checkout. As the cashier ran the books through I noticed one that I hadn't chosen. I assumed I had picked it up by mistake when my husband stepped in. "No, that's mine." I picked up it up and looked at the cover. It was an instruction manual on how to fight off Zombies. Now I want to know who is the bigger Zombie, him or me? Well, it doesn't really matter because I know how I'm going to spend the next week- reading!!!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Going Berzerk

By Kristine John
(written originally in August of 2006)

Have you ever heard the Ray Stevens song "The Day the Squirrel Went Berzerk"?

It tells the story of a squirrel getting loose in church and wreaking havoc among the churchgoers. It's very funny. That is, until something like it actually happens to you. I'm not kidding, and I assure you, not one bit of this is made up.


Last Thursday, we had Cub Scout Pack Meeting. My oldest son, Stephen, had earned his Webelos badge and Arrow of Light before he turned 11 mid-month, so we were excited he would be receiving these awards. Pack meeting was to start at 6pm, so it was imperative that we leave home by 5:45pm to get there on time.


5:25pm
All the kids are at the table. Dinner is underway and we are making progress toward our goal of leaving on time. I finish my dinner and walk outside for a minute to turn our internet antenna for better reception. Our cat, Orion, is chasing a small rodent-like creature down the edge of the house. I silently cheer him on and pride myself on having a hunter in the family that rids our home of nasty pests. I know we're on track for the night, so I am feeling confident and unrushed.

I head back inside, and leave the door open momentarily behind me. After a brief minute, I shut the door, and try to verbally hurry the kids along, telling them they still need to find their shoes and get their hair combed.


5:28pm
"Mom," Emily says, "Orion has a tail hanging out of his mouth."

My immediate thought is: "What?!? Orion is inside?"

It only takes about 2 seconds to connect the dots. I know that he has just been chasing a 4 inch rodent outside, and now, he is inside, presumably with WHATEVER that rodent was, IN HIS MOUTH!! He must have caught the creature and slipped inside to share his prize with us before I shut the door. So, bracing myself for a dead offering, I stoop down to see what kind of carcass I needed to clean up. All of a sudden I hear, "HE LET IT GOOOOO!"

"IT'S ALIVE!"

"Oh, GROSS!"

"WHAT is it??"

Lo and behold, Orion, brave and mighty cat hunter he is, had grabbed a chipmunk by the tail and brought it into our home, ALIVE.


So at 5:30pm, chaos ensued.
Every child is either chasing me to try and see the chipmunk, screaming or screaming and standing on their chair around the table. I chase this chipmunk from guest room (where part of the tail actually came off), to the piano (underneath it, in fact, so I'm quickly clearing the top of the piano and trying to move it enough so that Orion can recapture his prey), to a corner in the TV room, up underneath the recliner (where he chose to stay for a couple of minutes until I totally tipped over the chair and shook it), to a newly washed pillowcase next to the couch.
It is finally here that this little, bleeding-tailed chipmunk, buries it's head and half of it's body, trying to find security and peace.


While this is all taking place, I'm frantically trying to decide what I can do if I can't get Orion to catch the LOVELY prey he was so anxious to show us. So the following things are racing through my mind: Would it be completely stupid to leave a chipmunk in the house when we weren't home? Where would it hide? (There are lots of places for it to hide for a really long time in my house.) Of course I quickly come to the following conclusion: No way, I can't leave a chipmunk unattended, to have free reign in my house while I am gone. So I decide, I'll just miss Pack Meeting. Immediately I reverse that decision, No, that won't work, Bug is getting his awards.


In the middle of this internal dialoge, I'm YELLING orders to everyone, "Get your shoes on, NOW!"

"There's a tail on the floor?! YUCK! Stephen, get a Wal-Mart bag and pick it up with the plastic, BUT DON'T TOUCH IT!"

"Where's Samuel (the 18 month old)?....Emily, GO BUCKLE HIM IN THE VAN!"

"EVERYBODY!! Get your shoes and GO BUCKLE UP!"

"Stop screaming and chasing the chipmunk, GO TO THE VAN, WE NEED TO GO!!"

Once the kids listened and all went to the van, I was actually able to concentrate on the rodent at hand.


When it finally ran into the wadded up (but clean) pillowcase, I was relieved. It didn't seem to be moving much. Again, my thoughts ran rampant. Maybe I can catch it. Put it in a box or a jar or something. Yes. That is what I will do. Wait, what if it runs away while I am getting a container? What if....I just pick up the pillowcase? That's it! Surely that will work.

So I grabbed two edges of the pillowcase, and walked as quickly as possible to the door. Relieved to be outside, I sent a huge "Thank You, Lord!" heavenward, and started to let the chipmunk go.

Then from the van I heard, "Mom! Can we see it's tail? Where it got bitten off?"

"Cool!"

"You caught it! Awesome!"

So after a short show and tell, I let Orion sniff the back of the chipmunk...and the chipmunk literally jumped 18 inches from the pillowcase to the ground a foot away from me and took off, as fast as it could go, Orion on it's heels.


I didn't stay to see the hunt resumed, I just walked to the van, started it up, and drove away, truly thanking the Lord that I have never had to deal with that before, and praying I will never have to deal with it again, either.


Oh, and just in case you were wondering, they didn't have Stephen's awards ready. They'll be presenting him with them next month. At another Pack Meeting.

I'll be praying it is a chipmunkless night.