Is the Temple Truly Closed?

Of all the socially impactive troubles we’ve seen, the closing of the temple has been the saddest to me.

Yes, some of my dearest friends frequent those halls, but there is something far deeper. The temple is where Heaven and Earth meet in a sweet and sanctifying way… Let me tell share with you my last days before the temple closure.

I was anxious to do the work for several of my kindred dead. But leading up to the temple closing, a woman named Harriet, in particular was pressing on my mind. She was a wonderful deceased matriarch of a large posterity, and she wanted her temple work completed. The impression was so strong, I promised her I would have her work completed before the temple closed due to the Corona pandemic, but despite searching and praying for two days for help, I could find no one who would do this sister’s work. It was Friday, and the temple would close its doors the next day.

I had taken time from work to be in the temple that afternoon, and felt I would fail in my promise. I was in a small group there when a special invitation was given to join a sacred prayer. I motioned for another brother to help, but he instead encouraged me, so I stood, and as I did, I caught a sister’s eye and nodded to her to join me. This surprised me, as I thought, “I’ve never invited a sister I don’t know to join me in these prayers…”

Afterwards, I stood alone pondering the Lord’s hand in my life in a very special room of the temple that was full of light. As I did so, this sister came by. She hesitated and then asked, “Do I know you from Sounds of Zion?” (a song/dance group at Utah State University). As I considered her question, I realized she looked familiar. She told me her maiden name and then I just knew, I named a dear sister living in our church ward, and said, “You are her sister, aren’t you!” She was a bit surprised, but said she was and then added, “So we didn’t know each other at USU…” I corrected her, “Oh, yes we did. We were in Sounds of Zion together…” over 30 years ago. I told her how special her entire family is to us and then I told her of Harriet.

Hearing my plight, she agreed to help and come back to do Harriet’s temple ordinance work even though she hadn’t intended to return to the temple. I gave her Harriet’s name and left the temple full of thanks.

The next day, the last day before closure, I spent many hours in the temple. I completed all the work I could and then the Lord gave me the responsibility to lead one of the sacred prayers there. The Spirit filled my heart with gratitude and gave me words for this simple prayer. I thanked the Lord for living in a time when the signs of the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ were being fulfilled more fully. I told Him we are grateful for the difficult experiences that build our faith, and prayed that when things don’t make sense, that we would have guidance and comfort and knowledge of how to continue on. I asked a special blessing on each person who had faith to come that day, and I ask the same blessing to be on each who reads this, that they may find comfort.

That night, after my temple shift, I checked the ordinance work, and I saw that the work that I asked to be completed for Harriet was done. My heart filled with joy!

Brothers and sisters, the temples are not truly closed until our hearts are closed and hardened. The Lord will dwell in our mortal tabernacles and encourage us and love us. Let us prepare for the day quickly coming when we can again walk the halls of the Lord’s House, but for now let our walk continue to be in holy places, even with our Savior, Jesus Christ, in our own homes and serving our neighbors when we can. And then, when the temples reopen, I pray we will do as Brigham Young instructed the members at the St. George temple dedication. He told them to fill those halls to capacity! This is one way we will turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children. This is a work of love!

My Mission Release

Recently I was released after 5-years of service as an addiction recovery missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My 4th of July was very different than any prior. I spent it conducting an addiction recovery meeting with 6 good brothers who realized that addictions don’t sleep or take holidays. I didn’t know it would be my final night to administer to my dear brothers.

That night, at a brother’s request, I administered priesthood blessings to two of these men. The Spirit moved me powerfully as I pronounced this last blessing. It was that this man was needed as a great patriarch and priesthood holder in his home and that the Lord would bless him with power to become so and to overcome as he gave his full measure.

After the blessing, this great, troubled man remained seated, without speaking for nearly a minute. He finally rose, and through tears, he said, “I’m not going to be a 90% man any more. I’m all in. I’m going to do this”. I believe and hope he will.

As we start a new year, please reflect with me on what truly overcoming all things means. In a way, I resent that our program name is “Addiction Recovery”. It is in actuality the “Eternal Life Recovery Program” and is fundamentally the gospel in 12-steps. Every person who wants to be more like our Savior and enjoy His presence, needs the principles this program teaches.

A dear sister in our ward asked me what it was like serving these men. I told her, “Sometimes the men come, saying they had a great week, and I joy with them. Sometimes they come heartbroken, saying that it’s been rough, and I sorrow and sometimes cry with them, but either way, I can’t imagine loving them less. I simply always love them.”

Learning to Love

I primarily served men 18-30 struggling with pornography, but I had several special opportunities to address other addictions.

I learned to love from my Savior, because I’ve been broken myself… There is no purer love than from Him. In cleansing my heart, he prepared a way for me to bring others to him.  It is not a light thing to go into a room full of men who want to repent and teach principles to weaken addiction’s grip. I would prepare thoughts ahead of time for the night’s focus on one of the 12-steps in the ARP program, but as I would listen to these great men with their powerful insights and troubling concerns, I found I clung more to their words than my own.

Repeatedly, the distinct impression came that these men needed love and encouragement much more than reiteration of a principle or sharing of a clever quote. My messages became focused more on what I felt the Savior would say if He could hold them in His gaze and penetrate their troubled hearts.

The result is that I have a 5-year recovery journal of nearly 100,000 words. Much of it consists of thoughts I prepared for meetings, but never said. The Spirit, very often, would change the thoughts I had prepared to meet the needs of the brothers there. This journal reminds me that this is His work, not mine, and it is replete with the miracles and tender mercies of the Lord.

Completely Clean

I once heard it asked in Sunday school, “Can someone who has had a serious addiction ever be fully trusted? Can they really, completely get over the addiction?” The response I witnessed from the second-guessing members wasn’t encouraging. To me the real answer to the recovery concern is an unequivocal, “Yes, we can completely overcome!”  Our Savior is mighty to save and he can give us a new heart when we turn to Him.

Many times, I have heard the struggling men themselves say, “I will always battle this addiction!” This declaration presupposes that addiction recovery will always be incomplete, but the reality is at a certain point, we can simply let the battle fizzle into insignificance as our hearts fully turn to service and care of our fellowmen.

I understand people being worried that an ‘addict’ is not truly overcoming. Relapses are fairly universal during recovery for even the most-sincere efforts. What I call ‘addict brain’ is very deceptive, particularly to the person affected. Without enabling addiction, or failing to protect and safeguard family and church from compromising situations, find a way to be forgiving and encouraging to one struggling with addiction.  In time, for one who truly repents, the results will begin to speak for themselves.

What God hath cleansed, let no man call common or unclean.
Acts 10:14-15

Boyd K. Packer said:

“The thought is this: the Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed.… It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.”

Forgive men and women their trespasses and their weaknesses. Help them overcome!

The Temple’s Role

The temple requires sacred preparation, and many of our men have not been to the temple for years because they aren’t ready to be in the presence of our Father in Heaven. For while our church meetings are first aid stations of life, the temple is where we go to be reunited with our Father, which is what Melchizedek Priesthood ordinances are for.

Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “Temple service is the end product of all of our teaching and activity.” (Oct 2005 conference)

One brother had spent a lengthy period preparing to return to the temple. When he did, we met there as our paths converged briefly. His eyes spoke a clear message to me: “I am clean!” He smiled happily and exclaimed, “It’s my third time this week!”

Sacred Beginnings

How many times has the Lord brought my men to me in the temple?  Many times! And oftentimes my men and I have embraced there with tears in our eyes I love this holy place where Heaven and Earth meet. It is filled with light, forgiveness and joy.

All it Takes, is Everything…

A dear brother used to say, “A 99% commitment is a bear, but a 100% commitment is a breeze.” I agree.

Many men still subtly consider what they really have to give up and what they can get away with keeping. My men know what I would tell them about overcoming: “All it takes is: EVERYTHING!”

Perhaps my own most pitiful mind-state was when I remember thinking, “I wonder how good, is good enough. Surely, I can give up this much and be pretty good, and I can always give it up later.” Oh my heart repulses now at this thinking. It is completely misaligned with the purposes and power of God, and is fundamentally dishonest.

The sole purpose of this clever, double-mind is to make us and/or others near us feel better but lacks true commitment to overcome. It causes the overcoming process to take a very long time and fosters despair, distrust and discouragement. I vowed that this could not be me. I wouldn’t make myself feel better by just telling myself I was trying. I had to be ‘all in’, and I was.

All of us need to be, ‘all in’, in ‘all things’ to be like our Father in Heaven in every way we can, so that by His grace, we can be saved.

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. The day of the Lord is near, in the valley of decision.

Joel 3:14

Creation: A Spiritual Exercise

On a recent flight, I had a seat next to a younger reporter who was preparing an article about the Missionary Training Center language program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (see link below). She was kind and listened to some of my own experiences involving training there. Upon finding that I was an engineer, she said, “I find it intriguing that you are such a technical person, yet you are so centered on the religious experience. How is that?”

I responded, “I can’t excel in my design work without spiritual help. I find the work of creation fundamentally spiritual.”  She asked if I could give her some examples and I told her of two, including a capacitance sensor design I was given to do in Japan.

In Over My Head

Just after college, I was given an opportunity to work at a robotics company overseas. I worked on a series of welding robots, and welding of automotive parts was a big market for us.

Articulated Arm Welding Robots

My employer wanted to offer a self-teaching welding robot as a product. It was taking far too many hours for our robots to be taught manually how to control the angle and position of a welding torch as the robot traveled across a complex welding seam typical of those found in car bodies. The idea was brought forward that a capacitance sensor could be used to measure the gap between the welding head and the car body. If the sensor on the teaching-head was rotated in a small circle while the robot moved, the capacitance would change with the distance to the walls of the welding seam and thus the robot could see those walls and automatically control the robot accordingly.

There was one big problem. Off-the-shelf capacitance sensing boards were very expensive and we required two in order to control for both pose (angle) and position. I was instructed to reverse engineer the vendor’s sensing board and to try to make it better, but in examining it, I found it to be well researched, well implemented and extremely sensitive. I could not see a way to make it better. When my initial efforts failed, it was suggested that I copy it, but I refused to do this, and asked for more time. I was failing and my employer was running out of patience.

Fundamental Questions

A short time later, on the weekend I sat in my in-laws home, pondering and praying about what to do when I felt the gentle nudging of the Spirit, and I ‘heard’ a very basic question form in my mind. “What is capacitance?” … It’s as simple as two metal conductors with space between them. The capacitance goes up when the distance between them is smaller…  I was prompted with another question: “And why can’t you see the capacitance you need to measure?” … It’s because my circuit’s input capacitance is much larger than the capacitance I’m measuring… And then it struck me at a very fundamental level what I was dealing with and I continued pondering until a circuit came to me that would make it possible to measure with far greater accuracy.

The key to learning truth: Ask Fundamental Questions: What is a capacitor?

In the end, I combined the two expensive and sizable circuit boards into one tiny board that was only about 10mm x 60mm for both sensors. The new board’s tiny sensing nodes were so sensitive that I could begin to ‘see’ the frame we were to weld when the sensor was up to about 30cm (~1 foot) away. The other robotics engineers were able to use those signals to control the robot beautifully and we succeeded in releasing the product.

Self Teaching Robot: Sensor Implemented on Tip
For actual use, the teaching assembly is swapped with the welding torch.

I am forever grateful for those simple, probing questions that enabled me to find answers that helped me far exceed my ability and expectations.


I truly need help when I am trying to be creative. This is a spiritual exercise for me.

For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.

Moses 3:5

God created all things spiritually before they were realized physically on this earth. Every flower that has blossomed and every creature that has drawn breath, he created spiritually first. We are His children. We have born innately within us the desire to create as He does. Creative design, whether found in inspiring writing, complex engineering or in the shaping of a child’s heart is spiritual and makes us more like our Heavenly Father.

Note: Mission Training Center Story

As for my kind reporter friend, Kavita Pillay: Her story on the Mission Training Center will be airing on KCRW in December or early January (NEH Here and Now), and is slated for release on other large media platforms. She, together with her husband air stories on the BBC, PRI and other outlets. I will update a link to that story as it gets closer. Here is a favorite story of mine that she mentioned on the plane of her parents marrying outside of their Indian caste. Enjoy!

My Friend TR: Sharing Redemption’s Work

The beauty of recovery is that it is a shared gift that both creates and restore bonds of friendship. This is the story of how I met my dear friend, TR, who was snatched from a pretty dark place.

We met at a tryout for solo parts in “Lamb of God”, a Robert Gardner production about our Savior. At the time, I told the Lord that I didn’t need a solo, but I would be at the tryout so he could use me as he willed. I prayed that the people who did need to sing the parts would have them.  In the waiting area, I sat down next to a giant of a man who very much dwarfed my small frame.

TR and I at the Lamb of God venue on Temple Square

As he conversed with another fellow, I overheard him say, “Someday, I would like to be a counselor. I would like to help people.” I turned to him, introduced myself and said, “Can you tell me what has inspired you to want to be a counselor?” He began to tell us of his recovery from a drug addiction that had turned his life upside down. When he realized I was an addiction recovery missionary, we both felt a profound and mutual bond. The Spirit poured over me such that I felt I had just met my own brother.

Vocal Audition Journal Entry 2/26/2017

I felt a great love for my ‘competition’. One Brother had overcome a narcotic addiction and is now long-term stable. He wants to become a counselor. I lost my sense of nervousness as I told of how powerful our recovery meetings are to others nearby.  I sang with clarity and gratitude for our Savior. Oh, how I love him… The Lord led me to people I love all day long. I finally got home and knelt on the floor in prayer with tears of gratitude. I was overcome.

Neither of us became a soloist, but we practiced together in the chorus for the production and had some very spiritual times together. He told me he would come to a group meeting to help my men, and he did:

Journal Entry 3/23/2017:

TR gave a wonderful story of how he thought he would never come back to church. His life was a real mess from addictions at a fairly young age. Now 44, and with some true trials overcome, he was able to be at a church meeting with his parents. He looked them in the eye and said, “After 18 years, your prodigal son has returned.” I couldn’t help crying.

A week later, we were practicing together at St. Olaf’s church.

Journal Entry 3/30/2017:

My friend, TR was a bit somber at the practice last night. He told me he was going to a funeral. I said, “I’m sorry, may ask for whom?” He related it was for his friend who had died of an overdose. My heart broke as the story of my cousin’s sons played in my head: two dead from drug addictions. I saw deep pain in his heart as he continued, “The worst part is that I was never reconciled to him. When I decided I had to get out of drugs, I was at rock bottom, and I’m afraid I did and said things that were harsh. But if I hadn’t gotten out, it might have been me.”

When I talked to him the following week at a practice at an Episcopalian church, he appeared to be much more at peace. He told me that he had a wonderful experience reaching out to his dead friend’s family. He comforted others at the funeral who had been in the same desperate group as he had before. They could see the powerful light he now carried and asked him how he made it out.

I know how he made it out because I know the pain of addiction. Only our Savior can change hearts so completely and so fully. We sang the powerful words of our Savior’s death and resurrection. I continued seeing TR periodically as he became an ARP (addiction recovery program) facilitator and later a missionary.

The most beautiful memory I have is when TR was sealed to his wife in 2018. I am a temple ordinance worker, and it happened that the sealing was scheduled to occur on my shift. My coordinator made a special adjustment to allow me to be there.

Bountiful Temple – Where TR and his wife were sealed

Because I was wearing white, I found I blended better into the background by standing and assisting as a worker than by sitting in the midst of the company of TR’s friends, and so I was the last to be seated. I counted some 10-missionaries there in a very full room.

TR’s wife was simply radiant and deeply in love with her giant teddy bear husband. She was receiving the reward of her patient persistence for him and now there was a kind of regal beauty manifest in both their countenances as the Holy Spirit sealed them together as husband and wife for time and for all eternity. After everyone was gone, I was the last person, to step forward to wish them well and I was overcome. One needs few words at a time like this.

Every person in the temple has a story of redemption, none of which is finished, but each of which is beautiful. I plead with everyone to prepare for these blessings. Our Father in Heaven will not withhold these blessings from his faithful children.

O how my words in vain impart

What glows within my grateful heart.

No tongue could ever right declare

What tender love is written there.

Ten thousand gifts could I employ

To show my praise, my thanks, my joy!

All of my life, yea, all my days,

Still not enough to sing Thy praise.

From “Jesus My Savior”, Lamb of God by Robert Gardner

TR has offered to share his story in a subsequent post. I am looking forward to him telling his own story. He and his wife now serve as missionaries themselves.

An Inspiring Missionary Couple

Swimming in Weakness

As a young boy scout, I was small and uncoordinated. I loved the summer camps, but dreaded the swim check. Every year I would jump into that cold lake and try, and fail to pass. I didn’t swim well and being thin (and not very buoyant) the cold water would sap my strength until I couldn’t go on.

Camp Bartlett, where I struggled so much

Because I had a summer birthday, I got to attend camp three years instead of the normal two, and the third year I determined to pass the swim check. I prepared as best I could and was finally able to swim the full distance required. Having done so, I finally had permission to swim where my friends were allowed to, but I wanted to do more. I signed up for every waterfront merit badge I could: swimming, lifesaving, small boat sailing, canoeing and rowing. I spent every hour I could, every day on the waterfront. It was still hard for me, and some of the lifesaving skills we had to demonstrate were nigh impossible to me, but after multiple failures, I finally succeeded in earning all five merit badges.

At the closing campfire, my counselors surprised me by calling me up and awarding me the “Best Waterfront Effort” award. I was so happy and grateful to these young counselors who helped me finally realize success after so many deep disappointments. My prayers were full of gratitude. I knew I could do things that were hard for me.

Camp Bartlett Main Lodge

Some 30-years later, I found myself serving as an assistant scoutmaster. I enjoyed being with the boys and doing things I was simply unable to do when I was 12. One of these opportunities came when at camp, one of my boys told me, “I want to pass-off my mile swim!” By now, I could swim much better and I told him I would do it with him. What a wonderful time, as a group of perhaps 30 of us jumped into another cold lake and began to make the best of it.

I noticed that a boy from another troop was struggling, whereas my troop’s boy was doing fine, so I slowed and began to just talk to him. I gave him updates and directed and encouraged him. It was a wonderful opportunity and took my mind off of the exertion to a degree and kept him hopeful of finishing. I was proud of both boys when they finished. It didn’t matter that one I had just met. I was seeing a reflection of myself in a young man who was thinking he couldn’t make it, make it.

Oh, my friends. We can make it. We can do hard things and overcome every weakness and trial. We need companionship of loved ones and most of all we need sweet communion with our Father in Heaven through his Comforter and through prayer. None of us were meant to or can make this journey alone. What a wonderful thing to have a Father in Heaven who ultimately helps us succeed through blessings of service both to and from others! What a blessing to have our Savior walk with us as we learn to act as he did!

Redemption of a Friend

Very recently an endeared co-worker of mine passed away. Insights he shared with me when he was very sick have helped me. I give them to you.
Lunch With My Co-Worker James (by granddaughter)
My friend James was a very like-able fellow with a spontaneous laugh and an occasionally mischievous smile that stemmed from a benign agenda to enjoy jokes with his co-workers. He had been a very active church member when he was young but when I met him, he had seemingly abandoned this faith.
Our company had a severe downsizing and we could no longer afford his services, but because James loved his work and he wanted us to succeed, he continued coming for some time without pay. Eventually things worked out so we could pay him, but something was wrong.
James’ smile belied a deep inner conflict. When I looked at the pictures on his desk of a little family he loved, but was separated from, it broke my heart. James had been raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but being a ‘people-person’ and in his desire to relate to others, he had conformed to social norms of people around him, including those that conflicted with his childhood faith. As a result, he carried several addictions that made it hard to want to come back and adversely affected his health.
His health began to fail. He became less coherent at work and it became dangerous for him to drive. It turned out to be from medications he was taking to help him though some hard health issues. He was anemic and later found he was suffering from a bleeding ulcer which could have taken his life.
I didn’t see James for a time while he worked through these issues. My boss and I discussed further consulting work, as we both wanted him to have support of some kind and felt he would still be helpful. I invited him to have lunch, but he was unresponsive for weeks or vague. I grew concerned.
“I tried to connect today with James Stephenson, our employee that has struggled so with health issues.  I tried to get with him for lunch or a phone call… I need to pray for this man. He is literally dying and without help, we will lose him.”  2016 Journal Entry
After a month of follow-up, we met over lunch. I prayed fervently that the Spirit would guide what we talked about.
We were both grateful for the chance to talk. It was one of the warmest exchanges I ever remember having. I mostly listened at first. He was struck with a bleeding ulcer, alcohol, a broken family and a lost job all at the same time.
He told of how he had been so gun-ho in the gospel as a young man. He was an avid missionary, doing all he could and training and helping other missionaries as an AP (Assistant to the President). When he came home, he made a tremendous effort to get those around him to read scriptures and do more, but he got a luke-warm response and his zeal gradually subsided.
He told me that he started to do some social drinking because he justified there was little harm in it as a friendly gesture, but this became an appetite that was hard to control. He took to smoking as well. He didn’t feel close to his wife and so spent more time at work. His daughter became alienated and quite upset with him, saying, “Most of what I did, I did because of you, and now I don’t know what to do.”
James and I talked about another man we knew who was amazing technically and a great leader but he began having angry, uncontrolled outbursts that seemed to consume him. From his own experience James said, “He carries his own little demons around. I know you can’t ignore where you come from without something deep down causing your soul trouble. I know this. He left church activity at a pretty young age. It took me a long time to recognize I needed spiritual help.”
James was a ‘work in progress’, when he died, as we all will be. That day at lunch, I saw a man that was clearly not lost. This man, like so many of the men I have worked with in recovery, had feared he might be an empty shell if he gave up his addictions. He was now well past that state and determined to overcome and salvage what relationships he could.
As we parted that day, I perceived his deep concern over his family and told him, “James, you married in the temple. You promised that as she gives herself to you, you would receive her. Be ready for that day. Rekindling those feelings may or may not happen here, but it happened in the case of a dear neighbor and friend of mine who lost his wife but remarried her and developed for her what he termed, “Mature Love”, a love he found as he cared for her while her health deteriorated over many years until she passed on”.
We both left that day with a profound feeling of reverence, an increased hope and peace, and a bond of deep brotherly love.
Rest in peace my friend James!

You Know I Will Feed Your Sheep

As I readied myself for a special service opportunity early one morning, I prepared to open a can of grain for my sheep. I had several ewes ready to lamb, but I was low on hay and had been unable to purchase livestock bread from the discount stores. The Spirit gave me leave to open the grain, but said, “You know I’ll feed your sheep.”

As I prepared breakfast I felt I needed special help and decided, “I will fast (go without food) this morning and eat afterwards.” As I drove, I prayed saying, “Please Lord, I don’t ask for miracles to satisfy my curiosity or as a proof of thy goodness and truth, but I do ask this day for thy miracle to be with me to bless thy children that thy will, will be done for eternal blessing.”

At that point I was prompted that I had forgotten to shave and though I risked being late, I pulled over to use a portable shaving kit I had purchased several months earlier. Instead of being anxious, I felt a beautiful peace, even when I couldn’t park my car where I thought I needed to be.

I walked, pondering where to go, when I heard a familiar voice behind me say, “Marcellus?” An older voice then said, “Is that my friend Marcellus from our old ward? I remember you.” Here were two friends I hadn’t seen in some time.

We walked together in some tender conversation and then I had to proceed on my way to serve alone, but this had touched in my heart. When I had finished serving and found a moment to relax, I found I could not. I suddenly felt an urgent need to proceed. As I went, I was surprised one more time, when I once again heard a voice behind me, “Marcellus, did you just finish?” It was my elderly friend who walks with some difficulty. I gave him support and walked with him back to his home, where, with his family we had a very special conversation that left us with tears in our eyes. It was wonderful renewing this friendship.

I left in awe of miracles God inspired me to ask for, and which were freely given. I continued fasting because now I wanted God to know how thankful I was for what he did.

On my way home, I called my wife to apologize for being late. I told her I hadn’t been able to call the bread store to ask for a rack of livestock bread, but that I would drop by and see if they had something. When I got there, the store-person said, “Yesterday I was told you had asked about bread and so I’ve almost put together a rack for you.” She took me to the back, looked at it, and said, “Oh, I guess it is complete.” I was once again full of gratitude and once again, the Spirit’s words came back to me, “You know I will feed your sheep.”

And so in the afternoon, my grandson and I walked to my two neighbor’s sheep pastures with the new bread I was given and I watched as my grandson fed it to my neighbor’s sheep. When one’s heart is full, one has to share. This is the nature and nurture of my Savior. It is the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recently I had a friend show up to help transport my sheep, just because he wanted to help and soon other neighbors dropped what they were doing to lend help in hauling and stacking hay because I was in need of help.

Special thanks to neighbors, friends and family who still help me feed my sheep!

The Book of our Life

I write to increase hope in those I love. Too often, I’ve seen despair diminishing one’s power to go on. We each compose a book through our lives with stories ranging from wonderful to heart wrenching. Even as we die, a chapter concludes, but the story continues. Boyd K. Packer once said:

“‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.”

Where are we in the book of our lives?

I work with two groups of men who are in stark contrast, yet of exactly the same remarkable potential. Many reading this will fall somewhere in-between. The first group is of young men I serve who are caught up in addictions. The other group is of men who are serving in the temple of God.

The first group is dear to my heart. I love the young men who come to addiction recovery meetings seeking for help. Oftentimes there is marked despair in their eyes. In early stages of recovery, they often come believing that they will never feel ‘normal’. Being so close to a problem that calls with such a powerful cadence, they don’t realize that when they are brought away from this whirlpool, that the pull will lessen until they can begin to sail freely without any desire or pull to their former selves. But it isn’t free. It takes reaching out for help. It takes wanting to want to repent, which is as much as some can muster at first. It takes one’s fullest determination and effort… and it’s worth it.

My first journal – A beginning in the Book of My Life

The peace of a man who has been brought across this gulf is beautiful to behold. There is compassion for others and a realization that they are fully reliant on our Savior and His grace. There is a powerful transformation that changes everything.

The second group is dear to my heart. They are the workers in the temple who are exactly the same. There is a compassion for others and a realization they are fully reliant on our Savior.

I sat next to a younger worker in the temple just days ago. I noticed a droop on one side of his mouth and I was concerned. I said, “Tell me more about you!” He talked with glowing gratitude for being extremely blessed. He indicated his heart was full. His face was radiant as he said, “I am just so grateful for being able to serve in the temple. Yes, things have been hard lately. Previously I had a tumor removed and there are some clots that have come from that area. I wasn’t able to function well at work, and so they reduced my hours over time until they finally said they had to let me go. I’ve been suffering strokes and small heart attacks. During the bad times, I can’t even swallow water, but I’m resigned that I likely don’t have many days left. The Lord has provided mana from Heaven from dear people who care for us.

My heart cried for this dear man who is close to the Lord, even as he has fallen behind on payments, and yet there was a depth of peace in his eye that consoled me and touched my soul. I am overwhelmed at the many men in similar circumstance who have partaken of the phrase,

“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

          Are we in the middle of our Book? None are truly at the end…

Whichever act you are in, open yourself to the help that is given through the many who desire to reach out as the Savior does. Then be the one to reach out to others. The chapters of the book of our lives will become richer and more beautiful, and we’ll find the final chapters being written by the co-author of our book, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We will walk those final chapters with Him.

God’s Family: Infinitely Varied, Incredibly Beautiful

When I began searching my family roots, I didn’t know how deeply I would come to care for them. The more I studied and understood who these people were, the more I loved them.

A Mandelbrot Image: Like a family tree – always more beautiful detail when one looks closer

I grew up memorializing graves once a year, but the year we made a goal to visit the graves of each direct ancestor buried in my home state was profound. My wife compiled locations of cemeteries I had never heard of and found life stories for each person’s grave we visited. I was touched because in many cases I hadn’t heard of their sacrifice and love, and at times of their heartbreaking tragedy.

I felt an awesome reverence as I stood in those cemeteries and pondered the lives of my family. I was surprised to feel such a compelling connection both with the stalwart and with the troubled souls on my family tree. The reverence came through a realization that I am a compound of 1000s of people’s decisions and efforts for which I am grateful.

Family Branches

Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end      Moses 1:3

Branches of infinite beauty and variety from one of the world’s simplest formulas

I began researching people who married into my family and quickly felt pulled into their families. Many times tears came to my eyes as I pondered their lives and I’ve felt the distinct words, “You found me!” whispered to my heart. The widowed pioneer on my immediate tree was now mirrored by a widowed woman whose sister cared for her and her unborn son until she remarried… and then when the original caring sister became a widow herself, she was taken in by her sisters family. When I found them buried together in the same cemetery, my eyes once again filled with tears.

I wondered why I could feel such an amazing love for these people I had never met. I see immigrants who crossed from impoverished countries to come here to America. I see veterans of war who fought for our freedoms. I see the intense care of people for aging parents and accomplishments and beauty and strength. I’ve seen a glimpse of my Father in Heaven’s awesome family and now I realize that I am a compound of not thousands, but of hundreds of millions of people’s decisions and efforts both in and out of my family for which I am forever grateful.

Genealogy is like the Mandelbrot set pictured in this article where the more closely we examine the branches the more inspiring the detail and the more incredible the life stories of the individuals appear. This function, like the tapestry of life created by a good person, is based on a formula that is incredibly simple, but whose results are infinitely varied:

Mandelbrot: z(n+1)=z(n)^2+C   (see end of article for description)

Life: “Jesus… went about doing good” (Acts 10:38)

If we truly follow our Savior’s direction, he will direct our lives into the most intricate and incomprehensibly beautiful paths imaginable. Avoid the darkness. Make your life beautiful!

I’ve included this Mandelbrot zoom below because it touches my soul.

Deep in the structure of the Cosmos, in the very mathematics of the creation, is a fingerprint left by God.  Kurt Matthia

Here are links to some close and inspiring ancestors of mine whose lives were beautiful:

A Rescuer – Thomas Steed

My Greek Heritage

A Change of Heart – Thomas Harper

A Woman Called “Grandma”

Math Simplified Reference:

As the zoom continues, … objects seem to reappear, but a closer look always turns up differences. Things go on this way forever, infinitely various and frighteningly lovely.  Scientific American Magazine

The Mandelbrot formula is:


where C is a complex number coordinate mapped in a real/imaginary plane…  The “C” coordinate is used to seed the formula and is colored based on how quickly the value grows infinitely large or converges to zero as the result is fed back into the formula. A Mandelbrot image is created by graphing a 2-dimensional array of these “C” coordinates. What you see in a true Mandelbrot picture is the actual solution set of the formula – not an artist rendering, other than the colors they choose to represent the convergence iterations.

A Crystal is A Crystal

As I walked in the temple one day a vivid image of a crystal in my hand formed in my mind. I viewed my hand and pictured the crystal and it struck me how this beautiful crystal was no less beautiful or imperfect no matter how very rough its beginning. I had paused, near the outer doors of the Celestial Room and felt words pour into my soul. “After wiping away every tear and healing your sorrows, it will no longer matter that the way was so difficult. You will be a crystal”.

A few days later, I found myself with the men who attend our addiction recovery group. Several times I’ve heard the desire expressed for some kind of “magic pill” to take that would just make the problem go away, but there is no shortcut in a refining process that not only takes away unwanted behavior, but also changes the heart.

The thought of the crystal came back to me and I told them, “A crystal is formed under tremendous pressure and heat, but once the difficult process of change is complete, people don’t question the worth of the crystal. It is a crystal and what it was and what we have been won’t matter after our Savior wipes away all our tears. People will look at you, and all they will see… is a crystal”.

“Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels.” D&C 101:3

And so each dark blemish of sin must be purged. Each negative thought borne in adversity must be subdued with faith. Each doubt must be infused with truth and hope. And casual indifference must be replaced with love like our Savior has for each of us. There was no magic pill for him and when seeking to become sanctified through receiving, cherishing and following the Holy Spirit, there is no magic pill for us either.

There is patience, and faith, and persevering…

Be still, my soul: The hour is hast’ning on

When we shall be forever with the Lord,

When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.