What do we Really Want?

My wife and I wanted a home in Utah. We had lived overseas for some years, and had recently spent several years in California. I wanted to be back near family and Utah was where much of my family was. We drove up from California to look for a suitable place and found a wonderful model home in South Jordan that seemed perfect for us and our children.

A Home Similar to the One we Found… The Perfect Home?

I put money down on the home but, as we were driving away, the Spirit told me, “If you buy that home, you will lose one of your children.” I told my wife of the impression and she had me turn around and rescind the offer. The housing company graciously returned our money, but now we had no place to live and we returned empty-handed. My wife was still in California when I went back to Utah on a business trip with coworkers. After a difficult and busy day, I left them and drove alone to a lot I had seen advertised. It was dark and I could barely see the ground I stood on, but as I walked the dim lot, I received such a spirit of deep peace that I knew this was the lot the Lord wanted us to build on and the place he wanted us to raise our children.

The Perfect Home? It would be…

It has been a great blessing, and thus far, our children, now grown, are firm in the gospel and those with children are raising them in the ways of our savior, Jesus Christ. I can only attribute this to my wife’s good efforts and the friends and leaders who helped so much, all of which was all according to God’s tender mercy.

What did I really want? It wasn’t just a home after all. It was much more.

When we are on the Lord’s errand, we will find our superficial hopes blasted because if they don’t fit the Lord’s vision, we must either leave off His errand or determine that what we really want is what He wants. What He wants is always better!

The Saints: A Perfect Home in Kirtland?

The early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ members had a ‘perfect’ home. They had built a temple at Kirtland at great personal sacrifice. This appeared to be the ‘perfect’ home. Hadn’t many recorded visitations of angels there and wasn’t it here that Moses, Elias and Elijah appeared and restored the keys of the gathering of Israel, the dispensation of Abraham and the keys of the dispensation for the redemption of both the living and the dead?

But it wasn’t the Lord’s plan to have them stay. In D&C 117, we have an account of a group of saints that began coveting the land of Kirtland. They were reluctant to move on to build Zion elsewhere. It must have come as a shock when the Lord told them, “Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me… for what is property unto me? … Let the properties of Kirtland be turned out for debts, saith the Lord. Let them go…”

6 For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?
7 Therefore, will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? saith the Lord.
8 Is there not room enough on the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and on the plains of Olaha Shinehah, or the land where Adam dwelt, that you should covet that which is but the drop, and neglect the more weighty matters?

D&C 117:6-8

The Lord knew that the saints were not to stay there. He even knew that saints of that generation would not be in Missouri long, even though that is where they were being sent to build Zion. The Lord gives interesting hints of the Salt Lake valley as their long-term destination:

·       I can make desolate places blossom

·       Consider the mountains of Adam Ondi-Ahman

·       Consider the plains of Olaha Shinehah (the Garden of Eden)

They would cross the plains and the mountains of the Great Salt Lake would house a temple, and all nations would flow unto it. And the desolate valley would be made to blossom as the rose, just as Isaiah prophesied. It would take faith. Surely, compared to all the verdant, beautiful places the saints had called home, the Salt Lake valley laid in stark contrast. But fulfilling prophecy takes faith. And for that generation, it became the perfect home from which the gospel would go forth as a stone cut out of a mountain without hands, and it would roll forth and fill the earth. And it continues to roll forth.

Let us stop focusing on “that which is but the drop” and neglect building our eternal home.


This weekend my mother hen led her three adolescent chicks through my livestock fence towards the front yard. I wanted her to stay in the safety of our backyard, so I gently herded them back, but my poor fence wasn’t a big help.

A day later, I found the little ones all back in the coup at night, but no mother. I searched all the area that I thought she could be in, but didn’t find her. The next day, we found her outside the fence alive, but she had obviously been attacked and wasn’t walking.

I put her in a little box full of wood shavings and used a syringe (with no needle) to get her to drink and get her hydrated since she wouldn’t drink on her own. And I gave her a slurry made with some protein powder to try to restore her. Her best response was when she heard her little ones nearby and she called to them. I had hope she would recover and, in the morning, after keeping her in the box in our bathtub, she seemed to be doing better.

On my way back from a beautiful temple, I stopped to get her medicine, but when I arrived home, it was with sadness that I found she had already died.

The purpose of Fences

I have come to believe that the Lord’s fences, his commandments, are one of the greatest evidences of His love for us. Not one commandment is for his selfish enrichment. Every one is given to increase our capacity to receive and enjoy his riches.

“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19.)

“And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” (D&C 84:33–38.)

The purpose of a righteous fence is to provide a secure boundary within which we can prosper,

Allowing People Back in the Fence

We have a wonderful judge living in our neighborhood. He is very frequently required to pass judgement on people who have breached the fence.

One day, as he officiated at a marriage in his capacity as a judge, he said that the father of the bride or groom, covered with tattoos, said the words that no judge typically wants to hear on an occasion like this: “You were my judge”. Our judge was a bit nervous as he replied, “So, how was I?” As I remember, the man continued, “You were alright. What you did helped me turn my life around. I’m in a much better place today.”

This judge told us that what really has begun making a difference for good in these people is when he sincerely tells them, “I have no joy in administering this sentence to you, but I am required to administer according to our laws. I see so much potential in you. I know you can be better and I want you to succeed. I hope this sentence will give you an opportunity to begin to realize that potential.” He said that even when administering difficult sentences he’s had many people become quite emotional when they realize someone sees in them something they no longer see and that they care.

My dear friends who read this – Let us never put up a fence or barrier to people who are trying to come back. As watchmen in the tower, we may give warning of an encroaching enemy, but let us also watch for loved ones who may be fenced out and are lost and looking for the gate. Don’t compromise your protective fence, but lead them to the gate in love.

True Inclusion

I have an international family. I was born in the US and my wife overseas. This has literally brought home insights into the difference between intended inclusion and true inclusion. The very real tendency to look down on people not from our own culture or circumstance is all too often not even realized.

I use the phrase “intended inclusion” to reference a counterfeit inclusion, where our good nature tells us that we really want to be inclusive, but an often-subtle pride makes us feel we are somehow better than or should in some ways have more privilege than others and this causes us to treat them differently. Our society is clearly focused on racial differences as a root cause of this disparity, but social class, education and personal philosophies can also create powerful barriers to inclusion.

This is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

True inclusion is when we no longer care about these differences. True inclusion is true love, simply because we are all children of the same Father in Heaven. He loves and cherishes each of us perfectly.

The Warehouse Guy…

Ken was a worker in our warehouse many years ago, a young guy without much education. At the time, I was excited to be designing what I hoped would be a revolutionary new component of our robotics system. Being a very small branch office, we were often in our tiny lunchroom at the same time. He was genuinely curious about my project work would ask me many questions. One day, as I described a design issue that I couldn’t see a way to solve, he surprised me by saying, “Why don’t you just change this to this…” and he proceeded to present an idea that I thought was brilliant. When I told him that I would like to try the idea, but didn’t know if I could get the special circuit board pattern fabricated in time, he volunteered his mechanical skills and he actually etched and cut the part for me from a piece of FR4, and in a very short time, with his pattern, I demonstrated the design could work. I came to look forward to our conversations because I was no better than him. He was my brother. My heart cries to this day because he struggled with a drug addiction. When office laptops began to disappear, we had to let him go. I lost a dear friend that day.

My Old Workplace…

 An Impediment?

A man in a previous church ward I attended had some cognitive disability and spoke with a slight speech impediment. He was relatively young, and very hard-working, but he was not in a position to be independent and so he lived with and cared for needs of his aging parents. He and I were companions together in visiting the homes of members of our church, and I loved his simple and profound testimony and his willingness to speak up. As a church Sunday school meeting finished one day, we exited together and he began apologizing that the ideas he offered weren’t very good and probably didn’t make sense. I stopped him and, calling him by name, said sincerely, “I found what you said today inspiring. If I can’t learn from you, then I am surely lacking the Spirit of the Lord.” He also had become a dear friend. I felt more power from him than impediment, and once someone is in your heart, it really doesn’t matter. They have become part of you.

My inclusion test:

The real test of inclusion is not in trying to make someone feel welcome, but in coming to where, if that person were no longer there, a piece of you would be missing.

The Lord practices ultimate inclusion, and he practices it even if we really don’t deserve it.

28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
33 … and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. 

2 Nephi 26

His arm is stretched out all the day long. Only we can practice exclusion, by excluding ourselves from Him, because he wants to be one with us in our thoughts and feelings and love.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 

John 17

A final thought…

But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. 

D&C 49:20

I perceive that this scripture speaks of more than just material wealth.

I have failed to be inclusive too much of my life.

What do I think I have that I think is above another? What can I impart to be more inclusive?

Giving Blood and Learning to Listen

Receiving faith building miracles is largely contingent on our willingness to listen!

Adopting lean principles to speed up blood donation - Planet Lean

I was in Japan working for Matsushita. We heard an announcement that there would be a blood drive, and that anyone who wanted could take time to donate on the job site where a tent would be set up. I immediately thought, “No, most of the time I try to donate blood, I fail”, but then the Spirit weighed on my mind, saying “Do it”. I dread giving blood, but I finally stopped debating and signed up.

As I waited in line, a woman nurse began assisting me and getting my information. On finding I was from Utah, she mentioned that her son was taking lessons from missionaries with a Utah connection, but she was against it because Christian churches don’t allow blood donation which could save lives. She was puzzled and surprised as I told her that I had been one of those missionaries, and I was able to tell her how some very ancient scriptures that tell us not to partake of blood had been interpreted strictly by some religious groups to mean no transfusions, when in actuality, it was to prevent people from drinking blood sacrifices or the blood of victims of battle, both of which practices existed and were abominable to the Lord.

As my own blood began to flow as a donation to help save someone’s life, she was genuinely touched and we parted with a bond of friendship, and now appeared willing to recognize that these missionaries could bless her son.

I left, full of the Spirit of gratitude, and very thankful I had listened.  And so, three months later, when another opportunity to donate blood came, I decided, “Yes, I’d like to donate again…” The Spirit immediately said, “Don’t do this. It will hurt you, and the blood will ultimately be discarded…” But in the hardness of my heart, I decided to anyway. This time there was no spiritual experience. Instead, I experienced pains in my chest for quite some time after.  What a foolish man I often prove myself to be.

For Joseph Smith, perhaps his most poignant memory of disobedience came when he set aside the initial counsel of the Lord to not allow an early manuscript of the Book of Mormon be taken by his friend Martin. He continued to beg the Lord and received permission, but with very strict requirements for their protection. The Lord’s counsel was ignored and the records were lost.

This was devastating to Joseph. When Martin Harris returned, far later than he was supposed to in order to return the manuscript, he sauntered in front of the Smith home with his head down and then sat and refused to come in. When Joseph saw this, he went out and realizing what must have transpired, he cried out in anguish that their souls were lost. He had gone against the will of the Lord in letting Martin take the pages, and now they were gone. 

You may find seasons in your life when it is time to stop serving in a calling, or a even a time when we are unable or temporarily disqualified from being able to participate in an activity or association that blesses us. The Lord has his timing. Like Joseph, if we find certain privileges taken for a season, it will be for our own good. 

Joseph was told that his gift was taken for a season to protect him from those who would use his work at that time to destroy him. It wasn’t punishment. It was preparation.

And so let us use these seasons cut off from association to prepare… to listen with exactness. Don’t second guess the Spirit. When the Spirit says to do something, let us “Do It!”. And when the Spirit says not to: Don’t!

We live in a difficult day. We need to learn to listen! #HearHim

We Talk of Christ

I seek to do as my Savior did, He “went about doing good.” He wasn’t concerned about power or politics. He was concerned with lifting the hands that hung down, comforting the comfortless and elevating people out of their traps of self-deception. His acts and his teaching frequently flew in the face of popularity and prominence, but in the end his enemies could not refute that, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Jesus Christ was the epitome of this scripture. Today, I talk of Christ.

Recently, Neil L Andersen pointed to a general decline in the number of people who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. He mentioned a study predicting that in the next 10-years, twice as many people will abandon faith in Christ as those who will receive Him.

He then asks us:

If the world is going to speak less of Him, who is going to speak more of Him? We are! Along with other devoted Christians!

October 2020 General Conference

I pray that we will speak more of Him.

One of my favorite paintings of Christ hangs in a stairwell of the Bountiful Temple. It was done by Danish painter, Carl Bloch, and has been a great comfort to me over the years. The picture depicts a small child holding a branch, and he is being gently comforted by our Savior. A brother in the temple surprised me one day, saying the picture troubled him. “I feel like Christ is looking at me sternly and saying, ‘Why aren’t you taking care of my children?’” I replied, “I guess I’ve never thought of it that way. I’ve always felt I am the little child: a bit insecure, and holding onto my simple cares that are somehow important to him because they are important to me. And even when I’m unaware, he is standing there comforting me.”

Yes, I’ve often felt insecure and even hopeless. I have felt I just couldn’t make it, but I was wrong. Like so many others in my work in addiction recovery, I have found that Christ is the hope of the hopeless. It is only in and through him that any of us have hope.

I remember a woman named Kelly who spoke to us at an open addiction recovery meeting about her difficult struggles with drug addiction. She said, “And so there I was at rock bottom and my sister is telling me I need to let Christ in my life. I felt like screaming, ‘I have a real problem! I need real help! I can’t depend on an imaginary friend!’” Well, she gradually changed and let this real friend into her life. After the fireside her sister told me, “You know, I spent a lot of years trying to be a kind of savior to my sister, but until she turned to our Savior, there was nothing I could really do.”  What was true for Kelly is true for each one of us. As I spoke with Kelly, I felt the deep love and converting power of one who has begun to come to know the Lord and my soul wept with joy.

One of my dearest friends, I really came to know after he was sent to prison. He had been one of my senior patrol leaders when I was an assistant scoutmaster. He was a pleasant young man, but a few months before he was to leave on a mission, I remember meeting him in a store and feeling that something was very wrong. He went on his mission, but that ‘something’ that was very wrong kept pricking his conscience. He was teaching people about repentance and faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and he knew he needed to make a confession. When he did, that confession placed him in jail for six-months, but choosing the harder path was exactly what he needed.  See his story in my blog here “Friendship and Redemption”.

After that extremely trying time for him, he texted me the following:

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed.  The die has been cast!  I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, or be still.  My past has been redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.  I’m finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tainted visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.  I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, plaudits or popularity.  I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience, am lifted by prayer, and labor with power.  My face is set, my gait is fast, and my goal is Heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.  I won’t give up, shut up, or let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, and paid up for the cause of Christ.  I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till I know, and work till he stops me.  And when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.  My banner will be clear.

My friend, “Don”

And here are Kelly’s words, from her blog, The Faith Seed, “Two years ago I was a full blown heroin and meth addict. I was near death. If the streets didn’t kill me, suicide or overdose was going to. For the first time in my life, I decided to surrender completely to the Lord. Bit by bit, with the help of Jesus Christ, I am slowly climbing out of the darkness. With the help of the Lord, I will make it. If the simple act of deciding to trust in the Lord can heal me, it can heal ANYONE from anything. Join me in my journey of new found faith.”

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

2 Nephi 25:26

Let us look to Him in every thought, and speak of Him, and prepare the hearts of our friends and family to meet Him!

The Christ Child

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 14:27

Liberating Gratitude

The woman representing our home builder was helpful throughout the process, listening to and filling our special requests. I felt it was simply her place: to do a job we were paying her well for by purchasing the house through them. Close to closing on the home, after going through another checklist of things we expected from them, I remember her saying, “I work with a lot of different people. One is a older fellow close to retirement. He is so thankful for every small thing and every idea we discuss. I’m really going to miss him. He is such a pleasure to work with.”

The day we closed on our home, she brought over what I could tell was a somewhat obligatory fruit basket, a nice gift to ‘seal the deal’. As we did so, I felt a pang of regret. I had not been nice to her, really. I treated her as a servant or an object to get the home I wanted. I realized as I looked at the gift, that the entire process would have been so much better, if I would have been more grateful for her ideas and suggestions. It saddened me that I had not been a better steward of this interaction.

The Power of a Grateful Heart

When we are grateful, we find joy in our interactions. When we are indifferent, we treat others as a means to an end.

Observations in Japan

Japan was an interesting country to live and work in. Anciently, the culture enforced a rigid master / servant social structure.

Am I grateful for others’ service?

Even today, your manner of interaction and choice of words are dictated by where you sit in that social structure.

Our engineering team was polite and supportive of my boss, Kawaguchi San and used quite a different language to interact with him than he used with us. Then he would interact with his boss, and suddenly he was using all of the honorific language, and I remember nearly laughing out loud to hear the research director speak to him as one would to a little child, though in a way, it was endearing to see that somewhat paternal interaction.

In Japan the people serving you are expected to treat you like royalty and use words that seem to say, “I only live to serve you!” I remember thanking a server at a restaurant and being told by a coworker, “You don’t have to thank them. They’re getting paid to do this.”  I responded, “Oh, but I must thank them. They are doing such a wonderful job, and after all, this person doesn’t have to be here. He could have simply decided to be a beggar on the street and not serve at all.”


The more engrained indifference is in our hearts, the more our precious relationships denigrate into master and slave. Gratitude liberates us and creates love. Indifference denigrates us into social caste systems and resentment.

Let us each treat our relationships with others in a way that others will want to flow to us, and we to them. When we die, surely it is the memories and relationships we will carry with us into the next world. I want each precious memory to count.

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

D&C 121:41-46

Bless you all my beloved friends! I am thankful for you!

This is a very touching presentation on gratitude, from prophet, President Russell M. Nelson:


Does Truth Matter?

“What you are saying may be true, but it doesn’t matter.”

I would occasionally share spiritual insights with a good friend of mine in Japan from another development team, hoping it would arouse curiosity in him about this important component of his life that seemed missing, but he would downplay these spiritual things, saying that what I told him may be true, but it really didn’t matter. I responded, “Please understand your position. To me, I assume that you simply don’t believe what I share, and that is up to you because your beliefs are a very personal matter, but if it is true, it matters very much.” He persisted, again saying, “Oh, it may be true, but it doesn’t matter.”

I called him by name, saying, “You are an engineer. How can you say truth doesn’t matter? You design industrial lasers that operate on true principles and if you don’t follow true principles, your laser won’t function. Spiritual knowledge is the same. We receive spiritual blessings only if we care enough to understand and live true spiritual principles. If the principles are true then they matter!”

When Truth Matters Less

Let me concede that my friend’s response actually touches on a powerful principle. Truth doesn’t matter much if it is treated with mere curiosity or simply ignored. If the word “matter” is taken to mean “make a difference”, then the answer to the question, “Does truth matter?” becomes very personal. Does it matter… to me? Do I care? If the Lord did speak to me, would I listen?

Finding Truth

“Every person born on this earth is blessed with the Light of Christ, which helps us to know the difference between right and wrong. Light, truth, intelligence, and Spirit are synonymous…

Pilate asked the Savior, “What is truth?” This question had been the result of Jesus Christ having answered Pilate’s question, “Art thou a King?” to which the Savior replied, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” John 18:37-38″

Bountiful Temple Presidency

And so, the crux of the matter is whether or not we will hear our Savior’s voice. Crowds of angry people are not likely to be filled with light and truth. They weren’t in the day my Savior walked the earth. And if we are preoccupied with polishing our own crowns and not watching over others, we will likewise find it hard to look to a man wearing a crown of thorns. Yet, that is who we must look to. I love Him.

In a week from today, we will have a chance to listen to men and women set apart with sacred callings to guide the Lord’s church in these the latter days. They will have prayed with all their might, mind and strength to speak the Lord’s word and to soften our hearts. I speak of the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If we will listen, I believe we will hear His voice through them.

Come and see! For if what they say is true, it matters. I hope it will matter to each of us.

Truth matters!

Healing Questions

Until we learn to ask questions that lead us to answers that matter, we will continue to be led by divisive voices, even though we are fundamentally seeking the same thing: a society of inclusion and just opportunity for all.

The world would tell us what to think.

God would teach us how to think.

Questions are the Key

Do we Really Want to Heal Our Nation?

Without the right guiding questions, we will not develop new understanding and will largely be left only with the capacity to be told what to think and feel. This is dangerous because we live in a time, remarkable for producing immediate information, but it can be overwhelming, have poor ‘nutritional’ value, or worse, be downright toxic.

The problem is that we have become deficient in asking the right questions that would make us less of a metaphorical tourist, content to stare out of a bus window while listening to a memorized script to more of an explorer who pursues intimately the sights, smells and sounds of often missed yet incredible features and foliage of this beautiful earth.

Questions are active, not passive, and they take effort and engaged thought.

Questions: To Overcome Race and Racism

The current riots are a case in point. Frenzied Twitter feeds push information at a fast and furious pace, some heart rending, some consoling, and many steeped with accusatory or belittling content. We need to step back and ask, “When I am done trying to make sense of this, where do I want my heart to be?” And, “How can this be a catalyst in me to love more fully so I can encourage a better version of my country?”

The questions set the stage for what we will learn from this, and provide an anchor for discussion that will help us weed out the vitriol that is fostering so much division and that is enabling such widespread manipulation of our populace.

I grew up in small town, USA. I used to think how wonderful it was that race was simply not an issue, and I felt our country was really trying to break down the ugly racial stereotypes. However, in high school, one of the really nice girls in our school related that a black family had moved in on their street. They had gone to befriend and welcome them, but soon learned that several neighbors had already given them the cold shoulder and encouraged them to move out. I thought, “How can this be, among people who profess to love God?” It gave me my first glimpse of a subtle and hidden racism near at home. I then pondered the important question: “Is it I?” Could I subtly be harboring similar feelings?  This question has been a guiding one for me when I interact with people from many different races and backgrounds. It has helped me get off the ‘tour bus’ and really get to know some amazing people.

One of these men was my black friend Facil, from Ethiopia. He was able to escape his country, where his father had been imprisoned for his political leanings. He made his way to Germany. A program there enabled him to study engineering, but at the mention of Germany, he would bristle with anger, saying, “If we ever go to war with Germany again, I’m in!” He related how fascist elements threatened and severely oppressed them and how one night, they had burned his friend’s home down. He left Germany to come to America, with only a little more than enough money for the air fare. While on the flight, he related his plight to a white woman and her family and said, “I’ll likely need to find a homeless shelter for the night.” She told him to call them if he was having difficulty. Nothing worked out for him that night, and so he called her and said, “Can you get me the number for a homeless shelter?” She responded, “You are not going to spend the night in the homeless shelter!” This Latter-Day Saint family took him in until he got on his feet. He finished his education and later, I got the privilege of working with this great engineer designing integrated circuits.

Hate begets hate. Love begets love.

The Power of Questions:

I had a brilliant marketing mentor from India. He had incredible insight and rapport with others. Before each customer visit, he would ask me a simple question: “In an hour from now, when we are done talking with this customer, how will we be smarter?”  It was the right question. The question helped me focus on things that mattered most to learn what I didn’t yet understand. It led us to gain some very valuable insight that we would not have gotten otherwise.

This same man would often tell me that his fond hope was to teach at a university someday. He said,

I want to teach a class about how to ask the right questions. Students are constantly conditioned to parrot back responses, but few of them have the critical thinking skills to ask the right questions. People need to learn to ask the questions that will get them to answers that matter.

The Right Kinds of Questions:

Asking questions can show our vulnerabilities, and potentially embarrass us. These wonderful questions humble us and make us teachable. But questioning can also be used to embarrass or hurt others or to flaunt our prideful ambitions and vain knowledge when we pretend we have all the answers. ‘Why me?’ questions can fuel our self-pity and rebellious questions can drive the Spirit from us. The sincere questions we ask are extremely important. It is okay to have doubts and questions so we can find truth. If we stop questioning, we stop growing because we are really saying, “I don’t need more answers! I have enough!” The Lord ordained weakness so that we will learn to be humble and searching by asking “What lack I yet?” The wrong kinds of questions drive us away from God, but the right kind of questions invite us to be close to Him.

In high school, we had a university institute instructor come and speak to our church seminary group. We were encouraged to ask any question and have him answer it for us. I thought of one I was curious about, but knew he would struggle with. “If Satan can’t enter our minds or read our thoughts, then how does he tempt us?”  That was me, being rather smug. I hope I am not so much now. Well, the instructor kind of danced around the question rather than really answering it, but even as he did, I felt it was a wicked question, partly because of why I had asked it, but also because I knew the most important component of the answer. As I wrote the question, I felt that the Spirit was whispering to me, “You know that the temptations you feel are real. Just because you don’t understand the mechanism by which they come, it doesn’t make them less real.” Yes, a more honest question would have been, “How do I prepare for and deal with these temptations, so that I can really overcome and be clean?”  Oh, the Lord would have been much more pleased if that had been my sincere question.

Questions as Invitations:

Yes, too often we are so intent on saying something, that we don’t invite people along by asking them sincere, guiding questions. As a missionary, if I asked one, “What about what we discussed touches your soul, or is there something that you find difficult to understand or believe?” That was an invitation to be honest and share what was in their hearts. I didn’t do that near enough.

When we invite other individuals or groups to share their ideas by asking questions like, “How can we heal our nations wounds?” We are really saying, “I value your opinion and trust you to share with me who you are and how you feel.” Additionally, we are saying, “I care about you. You are important to me.”

These invitations are nowhere more important than when we kneel in prayer and invite our Heavenly Father with the same questions. What we are really saying is, “Heavenly Father, we love thee, and each of thy children. We cannot do this work alone. Please soften my heart and teach my spirit.”

These invitations seek wisdom and knowledge, but more importantly and fundamentally, they invite us to be friends.

The Ultimate Purpose of Questions:

I submit to you that we will not be able to come to Christ unless we ask the questions that will lead us to Him. It will be by asking questions that show our sincere intent and willingness to submit to His will that will lead him to respond. “I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me.” (D&C 93:45) Our questions will lead us to serve His children and obtain charity, the pure love of Christ.

My Testimony of Jesus Christ

Moroni casting down his trumpet, is deeply symbolic to me. This became the brunt of many jokes, and of some outright mockery, but in this year of plagues and temple closure, please consider what his trumpet was calling us to do. I wrote about Moroni’s trumpet in my article, “Repentance is Joy“.

My sister: “he is checking his watch…” Hmmm… Perhaps…

I can best tell you what this means to me, and to all of us by sharing historic parallels through my testimony of Jesus Christ.

From the time Pilate is given to pass judgement of the one perfect man to the cross, Christ makes no defense. Corrupted priests and evil men incite the people to release a murderer and deliver our Savior to death, thereby condemning millions of their descendants to wander in unbelief and perish, as they tempt God, saying, “His blood be upon us…” Here truly is the Lamb, dumb before the slaughter, only raising his voice in final blessing before he pays his perfect sacrifice.

Indeed, it is the Father who answered this people, as it will be for us. He answered them with darkness, but they wouldn’t listen. He answered them with an earthquake and rending of the temple veil. At this point, they should have known, and yet these deceivers called him a deceiver and continued trying to assert their power over Earth and Heaven by setting a watch over the grave to prevent him from rising.

Our Savior gave it to us to call his sheep and raise our voice as the sound of a trumpet. We should not lightly pass over the fact that the temples are now temporarily closed, that the earth is quaking, that Moroni has cast down his trumpet and that the missionaries, awaiting opportunity to serve, are largely quiet, with relatively few souls seeking the Lord being able to find Him.

However, just as the disciples were multiplied in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Christ, so our world will be blessed by this temporary silence while we await the beautiful restoration of the blessings of our God. As this plague subsides and the others that we know are coming are invoked from Heaven, wicked men will continue to try to assert their power, but the temples will reopen. The work will continue with millions joining the church of God, and the angels will go forth with our missionaries and the kingdom will roll forward with them and with us.

Christ’s glorious resurrection was impossible to stop by unhallowed hands, and as he stepped from His tomb and called Mary, so he will call, and is calling, each of us by name. No matter how lost we may feel, with a perfect love, he will tell us:

The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.
There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

Abbreviated Lyrics to “If You Could Hie to Kolob”

I cannot begin to put into words, my love for Him. Thanks be to our Father for the matchless gift of His Only Begotten Son! I pray we will hear Him, and Follow Him,

For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her… And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

D&C 88

We will know him on that day, and he will stretch forth his hand and say,

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

3 Nephi 11:10

We must prepare quickly. It is our privilege to be ready in that day!

Saving His Children

My daughter had recently conceived our new grandchild, a conception that doctors considered miraculous. But then I got a concerning call. She had become quite ill and I was asked to help administer a priesthood blessing to her.

In the blessing, I remember being impressed to say, “This is going to be a difficult pregnancy, but this little child really wants to be born into your home.” Seeing her duress, I immediately began fasting with a prayer on her behalf. However, before returning home, I was impressed that I needed to fill an assignment to find a Christmas musical number, and I was further impressed to go to the home of a talented sister in our ward, whose husband had been my former bishop.

When I arrived there, the door was ajar some 3” and from the inside, I could hear young voices singing a Christmas song. I thought, “This must be some of her students. I better come back at a different time.” I began walking away, but was instructed to go back.  When I reached the door again, it was closed, but there was a “Come In!” sign on the door and the Spirit constrained me, so I did what I don’t believe I have ever done. Without being invited, I simply opened the door and went to where the singing was. I sat quietly in the back and found a group of our 11-year old primary girls, who were about to graduate into young women’s.

The sister, whose home it was, was accompanying them with her back to me. So, I sat down and quietly harmonized with them on “The Little Drummer Boy”. When they finished, the sister turned and I thanked them for their beautiful music. I told them why I was there and invited them to sing at our ward Christmas social. They were very excited to do so, but then added, “But we really want to sing our favorite song, ‘Peace in Christ’!” They commenced singing it for me then and there, and the words warmed my soul. These girls love Him. With the arrival of my former bishop, it felt like a large family.

We would need that song even more the next day.

The following morning, I was in the temple, and the Spirit said, “You are fasting for your daughter. You should pray for her also.” And so, I joined in a sacred prayer for the sick and afflicted on behalf of many, but in particular, I prayed for my daughter and her child. As we prayed, I felt a deep comfort. I didn’t know it, but at that same time, my son-in-law found my daughter in such pain that he couldn’t move her. He had called an ambulance and she was being rushed to the hospital.

As I made to leave the temple, the Spirit told me to go back. I knew I was to talk to the music sister, but I didn’t know where she was, and if not for the prompting, if she was even there. I turned and started down the stairs to the basement level, just as she started up the same staircase. I thanked her and briefly mentioned the music. I left, still a bit puzzled, but somehow, it was comforting to know she was serving the Lord in His house.

Neither of us knew that at that time my former bishop’s life was in peril. He was suffering a heart attack, and would soon be in full arrest, in the hands of medical professionals who would take him to the hospital

This sister and I were both serving the Lord, and that meant that what we couldn’t possibly know or do anything about was really in His hand.  The miracles that preserved my bishop’s life that morning were wonderful blessings from our Father in Heaven. At the same time, my daughter underwent surgery for an emergency appendectomy.  The doctor cautioned her going in that she would almost certainly lose this baby.

That night when we got to the hospital to see my daughter, we found my bishop’s wife and her brother in the lobby. As we conversed, both of our families were filled with gratitude for the Lord preserving our loved ones.

My daughter’s baby survived. Her surgeon told her, “I perform 25 appendectomies a month, and yours was one of the hardest I have ever done. In all that time, I have never performed an operation on a mother with a burst appendix where the baby was able to survive.  Your appendix was well above the uterus, under the ribcage which only occurs in 2% of people. I believe this helped keep the infection from hurting the child.”  I believe this was the blessing of the Lord.

We are hopeful this child will be born safely. Each of our grandchildren is a gift from God and a product of the faith of our daughters to bring children to this beautiful, trying world.

I was not going to publish this story at all, but today, Easter Sunday, our current bishop sent out a recording of the very girls who sang this song for me. I give it to you. Unbeknownst to me, a brother in our ward with a recording studio, had recorded them after hearing them sing.

Peace in Christ

My brothers and sisters, each trial ends differently and we will have sorrow, but know this: when you are on the Lord’s errand, He will always guide you. When you pray to Him in faith, you are His hands and His eyes and His feet to minister to others.

There is peace in Christ

When we learn of him

Feel the love He felt for us

When he bore our sins

Listen to his words

Let them come alive

If we know Him as he is

There is peace in Christ

He gives us hope

When hope is gone

He gives us strength

When we can’t go on

He gives us shelter

In the storms of life

When there’s no peace on earth

There is peace in Christ

May His peace be with and abide with each of you and your families this Easter Season and Always!

Marcellus Harper