Fear Not: Reinforcing our Foundation

I recently had a beautiful experience leading 36 or so of our youth in a composition of “Fear Not” (link below) for our stake conference. The song is both a prayer for protection and a pledge to help each other stand on a firm foundation, a reminder that the difficult conditions in our world spiritually and physically can be overcome through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Even Strong Foundations Need Reinforcement – SLC Temple, from ldsliving

Our last practice was Saturday evening, and we would be performing the following morning, but being a busy night for youth, only a quarter of our group came. Our stake president and his counselors were preparing to leave the church building, having just finished an evening adult session of the stake conference, but the president, noticing the practice and seeing we were light on numbers, waved his counselors over and all three of them joined in to bolster our youth.  What a blessing this was!

I had been pondering what final thought I could leave with our youthful chorus members, and seeing our stake presidency there, I recalled opening my journal the day before and reading a remarkably similar story of a dear friend, surrounded by his stake presidency as he re-established his spiritual foundation.

My friend related that he had stopped coming to church for many years. This all changed one day when he turned on the TV and flipped through some channels, pausing on one just in time to see President Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints looking him in the eye, and saying, in essence, “We need you. This church and it’s mission will simply not be the same without you. If you have left your church activity, we ask you to come back.”  The sincerity of the prophet’s eyes and the timing of the message touched him deeply. He realized the Lord was calling him back.

He made needed adjustments in his life and got a temple recommend but could not bring himself to go back to the temple until one day, he had a day off work. He received a strong impression to be back in the temple that day. His wife asked him if he was sure, and he assured her of the need he felt to go, but he reached a chapel in the temple feeling unprepared and inadequate after having been absent from the House of the Lord for nearly 20-years. As he sat there, his stake president unexpectedly arrived and sat next to him, and then the stake president’s counselors arrived as well. He turned to his stake president and said, ‘I just don’t think I can do this!’  His stake president assured him that he could, and after pondering, he added, “And you need to be an ordinance worker.”

This faithful man became a dear friend when I met him in his very early days of service as a temple worker. Recent years have left my friend with a condition that compromises his physical balance, but he comes, determined to lift others while he has capacity to do so. At a very sacred place in the temple, after assisting our temple guests, he unexpectedly beckoned to me and as I stood by him, he took me by the arm to steady himself. It was a privilege and honor to walk together arm-in-arm through the temple until we got to a place where he could securely rest.

To my youth chorus, I continued, “My friend is full of love and is determined to help anyone shaken from their foundation and so he reaches out and blesses others. I know he has saved others. I see the love our stake presidents have for each of you to come and be with you now. They also serve with the desire to firm the foundations of the hearts of those around them. And the beautiful thing is, I see that same love emanating from each of you. Consider in ‘Fear Not’ where it quotes my favorite verse from ‘How Firm a Foundation’:

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose

I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

How Firm a Foundation, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint Hymn 85

To our youth, I continued, “It has been a great privilege and honor to serve you! The light you carry has strengthened my foundation. You are a blessing to me.”

It is a privilege and honor to serve those who read these words. I plead with you with words another dear temple worker friend of mine shared with me just a few days ago. He is 91 and looks forward to the day he will be reunited with his wife who departed this life 4-years ago. He told me he thinks of words from his friend, Bruce R. McConkie, when he turned to him, called him by name and said, “We need to get on the path, and stay there.” There are too many blessings to gain from getting on and staying on the path and too many casualties if we abandon our posts.

May the Lord bless each of us as we determine to stand on and help others acquire a firm foundation!

Fear Not!

Standing for Our Beliefs

Recently, at a ‘get to know you’ activity at work, we were each asked to give a favorite hobby.  I felt impressed to mention singing, but the person next to me really impressed me as he said, in front of our large group, “I like to read the bible, every day.”

I was inspired by his answer and during a break in the activity, I asked him about this hobby. I found that his love for the scriptures was inspired by a group that had loved him into the gospel. I told him I was grateful for his courage. Later, he mentioned that he was grateful we were sitting together when he shared his hobby. He said that he didn’t know where that courage came from but from his words, I’m sure it was out of his appreciation for what God had done for him. He has other hobbies, but indicated that no other hobby gave him as much joy as reading the bible.

During our break, I told him that my hobby, my love of singing, was because I love to vocalize gospel songs about our Savior, like the ones our Interfaith Choir and Orchestra performs at Christmas and Easter. I happened to have the words to the song “Gethsemane” in my work binder because I was learning the words in order to teach them to our primary children that coming Sunday. It was a special moment to share back to my friend my love for the Savior through this sacred song, as he was obviously was learning to love Him more deeply as well.

On Friday of the following week, I was at work but felt a strong need to write to my new friend, so I ‘clocked out’ and took some time to write to him about these latter days where the signs of our Savior’s coming are increasingly being fulfilled. I told to him we should expect some of the Lord’s greatest miracles in our day and I felt a strong need to testify that in our day, God had called a prophet once again to lead and prepare a people to meet the Lord at His coming and that this prophet would be speaking in a General Conference the following two days. I knew my friend might be uncomfortable with this, so I sent it with a prayer.

After completing my critical tasks that day, I got a strong impression, “You need to go to the temple – now.” And so, I found myself at the Bountiful Temple where I serve. I entered a session room where the blessings of the priesthood are secured through our making and keeping of sacred covenants to follow our Lord and Savior. There, on the second to the last row, I saw our dear temple president. I lovingly tapped him on the shoulder and gave him a caring smile as I passed. However, as I took a seat nearby I realized the temple president wasn’t alone. He was there escorting our prophet, Russell M. Nelson.

I felt a powerful outpouring of love both for this man and from him. This man, filled with the love of our Savior, was in His holy house, quietly seeking revelation so he could have the inspiration of Heaven to know the mind and will of the Lord prior to his addressing the millions of God’s children who would hear. It was a sacred time for me. We had a special prayer in that room where the Spirit powerfully confirmed to my heart that this man, who I had just testified of, is a true prophet and a man of God.

Will we hear our Savior? Will we listen to the Savior’s words that tell us that we can know a true prophet by their fruit?

I told my friend that President Nelson’s ‘fruit,’ his works, were 98-years of service to others, including a career as a famous heart surgeon and mentor in his field until he was called as an apostle, and then, as the fishermen of old, he laid down his career and followed our Savior, only picking up his scalpel one more time to save a famous Chinese opera singer because of a special request. This wasn’t looking back to his career. It was saving one more heart! How fitting that a prophet is one who heals hearts!

That Sunday, President Nelson gave a powerful and moving talk on “Peacemakers.” Considering the state of our world, I couldn’t think of a more timely or important message. If we are to hear our Savior, we need to hear his chosen servants, for “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.Amos 3:7

I love my Savior. I feel His love deeply, and I am grateful to be led by men that share that love.

Gethsemane

Jesus climbed the hill to the garden still.
His steps were heavy and slow.
Love and a prayer took Him there
To the place only He could go.
Gethsemane. Jesus loves me,
So He went willingly to Gethsemane.

He felt all that was sad, wicked, or bad,
All the pain we would ever know.
While His friends were asleep, He fought to keep
His promise made long ago.
Gethsemane. Jesus loves me,
So He went willingly to Gethsemane.

The hardest thing that ever was done,
The greatest pain that ever was known,
The biggest battle that ever was won—
This was done by Jesus!
The fight was won by Jesus!

Gethsemane. Jesus loves me,
So He gave His gift to me in Gethsemane.

Gethsemane. Jesus loves me,
So He gives His gift to me from Gethsemane.

Powerful, Transforming Light

I once worked with equipment that would melt metal solder using only light energy transferred from a powerful industrial light bulb. The bulb’s rays were captured and focused down onto the end of a fiber optic cable that could flexibly channel the light to a circuit board where heat generated from the light would liquify the solder in a process used to affix electronic parts to the board.

Light Beam Soldering Equipment

With proper eye protection, it was fascinating to see the light at work melting this soft metal. I was once asked, “How hot is the light beam?” And my answer was, “The light isn’t hot at all if you are a lens or a mirror. The light only creates heat when it is absorbed by something dark.

This, by the way, posed a notable problem for using our light beam because on a typical circuit board the outer surface of the board is coated with a dark green coating called a resist layer. This layer protects traces and prevents solder from running where it isn’t wanted. We had to ask our “soft beam” equipment customers to remove the dark resist from areas where the light would shine because if the light beam even momentarily illuminated the resist, it could cause burn damage to the board and tarnished the metallic surface where solder needed to flow

Principle: If you don’t want to take heat when exposed to light, be pure

Another difficulty was that of preventing the light bulb from destroying itself. To protect people from the blindingly bright bulb, it was enclosed in a metal housing. The problem was that light reflected back to the bulb from the metal enclosure’s walls could cause the bulb to overheat. A simple fix to this was to paint the enclosure walls black so they were non-reflective. This benefitted the bulb and lowered its operating temperature, but after several months of operation, the black pigments in the paint would gradually and totally bleach out until the surface once again became almost as if the dark paint had never been applied, and then it would have to be painted again.

Principle: If we continually stand the presence of intense light, we will eventually be purged of all that is dark and loathsome.

One simply cannot remain in the presence of intense light without being purged. It is no wonder then that it is written that Moses had to be transfigured to endure the presence of God or he would have perished.

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. D&C 50:24

The Brightest Light

D&C 88:7

… This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

Yesterday, I was in a beautiful room in our local temple that is always full of light, but on this morning, the Sun had crested the nearby mountain, and its invisible rays were streaming into the room from windows high up on the walls. In the center of the room hangs an elegant chandelier from which hang hundreds of pieces of crystal glass, large and small, in artistic beauty. On the opposite walls I counted over a hundred small rainbows accenting that beautiful room in vivid colors.

It struck me that these clear crystals receiving and transforming this largely invisible light into a beautiful spectrum of rich and pleasing colors were doing so with no awareness of their role. They were pure, and so they simply made that glorious light energy visible to all who would see.

Principle: Let us be like crystal, so pure that the Holy Ghost will work miracles through us without our even realizing the work being accomplished

The Spirit needn’t announce to us with the voice of a trumpet that it is about to move us. As we purify ourselves, the Spirit’s light that illuminates our minds and hearts eventually will become such an integral and natural part of our souls that there will be no resistance from second-guessing whether revelation is from the Spirit. The Spirit will increasingly work in and through our purified hearts, transforming both us and those we are with. That is the prayer of my heart.

D&C 88:67-68

67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
68 Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.

True Power

At our company, we had been working on ideas for a quarter-million-Watt (250kW) wireless vehicle charger for nearly two years. That is the average power consumption for approximately 200 homes, and we would be putting all of that energy wirelessly through a 7” air gap.

Typical Fields Surrounding Wireless Power Transfer Between Two Coils

We were now in the final stages of bringing the system up with all but the last of our power stages verified and that stage’s completion only minutes away. I managed the team and had personally written much of the control software and engineered many of the circuit boards for the project. Our entire team had a lot of effort invested in this project, but there was one problem. I had to leave. It was time for me to fill a promise I had made to a friend.

From my journal:

Some were feeling sorry that I would be out as it looked like they would now be able to power up our entire system for 250 kW (quarter million Watts) for the first time. My company president also said, “You of all people should be here. Will it be okay without you? Don’t you want to be here?” I told him, “I am confident our team will be fine. Of course, I want to be here, but don’t slow down on my account! If I come in tomorrow morning and you tell me you were able to transfer the power, I’ll just smile!”

Then, I left for the temple without letting people know where I was going. They only knew I had taken a half day off to help a friend. My friend was my temple co-worker who needed me to cover his shift.

That night in the temple, one of my assignments was to simply be where I could guide and assist temple patrons. While standing in a hallway doing this simple task, I caught myself not looking very happy. I love being in the temple, but was truthfully a bit disappointed to be missing our long-anticipated work milestone. I let this disappointment go from my mind as I quietly greeted and guided the sweet brothers and sisters who had come there. It was while I was doing this that the Lord did something very special for me. He opened my eyes for a moment and gave me a glimpse of who these, His noble sons and daughters, truly were. It was so beautiful that I have no words with which I can describe it. And with this, I felt an overwhelming outpouring of love for the Lord’s children and for my Father in Heaven. The real transfer of power was happening here in the temple, and the quarter million watts paled in significance.

Can there be any greater work than that of assisting the Lord in bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39).  Only His work prepares our hearts to receive the endowment of our Savior’s priesthood power that purifies and redeems us through saving ordinances that both seal us up against the power of the Adversary and has the binding power and authority of Heaven to seal us to our loved ones forever.

1 Nephi 14:14 “…I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”

My prayer is that we will develop hearts to perceive the power and great glory that the Lord provides, but that the world cannot see nor understand.

DEAR ONES GIVING THEIR FULL MEASURE

I had a dear temple associate that was my trainer when I first began serving in the Bountiful Temple. He passed away a week ago, but even while suffering from terminal cancer and in hospice care, he asked not to be released as a temple worker so he could possibly continue his service. He wanted to be in the Lord’s House, even in this difficult personal trial. He was always like that, skipping breaks so he would be available to offer up even a little more support.

Recently, two older brothers I have served with came and talked to me separately. One, after 20+ years of service in the temple, realized he was no longer able to accurately administer the sacred words needed for the men and women coming there. He decided that coming to the temple to be administered to was just as important, and that was how he would continue contributing to the redemption of the Lord’s children. He was giving everything, but the way he gave had to change.

A place of service…

The other brother had become increasingly immobile and he informed me that he had made the difficult decision to discontinue his service as well. I could see it troubled him. He didn’t want to give up just because it was hard. I assured him that the Lord knew his situation and had inspired him to make this transition. I will miss seeing him there, but for all three of these men, along with the heartbreak, there was also a heart-warming peace because each of them was giving all they had. For each of them, they were primarily concerned that they were doing the Lord’s will.

As I have given a full measure to Him, I have seen that everything changes. A consecrated life is not one of fanatic over-reach. Indeed, going beyond what the Spirit prompts us can be just as damaging as being paralyzed by fear and lack of faith. Giving everything means living our lives by the words of the Lord’s prophets, and bringing our lives in perfect alignment with the spiritual promptings that will surely come as we are faithful. This is our lifelong challenge.

Giving a Full Measure: Sister Longbotham:

There was a special sister named Janet Longbotham that was an example of this faithfulness. I met her just one day while she was serving her 4th mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She had a life plagued with Grand Maul seizures and had never married, but the Lord, ever compensatory for challenges, had given her an extraordinary portion of his Spirit and had given her visions and blessings and discernment as a mortal reward for her living a life that was dedicated to the Lord. That one conversation changed my life and clarified my life’s mission. I was on a general mailing list she used to share insights with, and there I learned that she passed away in October of 2021, leaving her testimony which was read at her funeral.

For those of you who think I am dead, I am alive in Christ and shall be for eternity, as all of you will be. I close my remarks with the inspired words of Hugh B. Brown who said, “Death is not extinguishing the light, but is turning out the lamp because the dawn has come.”  Goodbye. We will all see each other in the millennium.

Janet Longbotham, Sept 18, 2021

Oh, the beauty and strength we draw from those who no longer pursue the trivialities of our day because they are fully devoted to the Lord. May we each live to give a full measure, so that when we pass the veil, we will savor that glorious dawn with the Lord and our loved ones.

Love and Forgiveness: The Easter Miracle

In approaching Easter this week, I have tried to come closer to Christ by studying the Gospel of John, of whom it is written, “the disciple who Jesus loved.” He records that at Christ’s last discourse before going to Gethsemane, Christ gave the commandment to love one another, not once, but three times before he offered up the great intercessory prayer in Luke 17 where he asks the Father to grant us eternal life, that we may be one with him and that his perfect love would be in us.

The word love is mentioned throughout John’s beautiful record. Our Savior, especially in knowing he would soon suffer for the sins of the world and be betrayed and spit upon, mocked, and crucified, focused his last discourse on love. It was the focus of his entire life and ministry and it is his focus now.

Yesterday, my wife and I completed reading, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. This remarkable woman was caught up in the work of saving souls in the midst of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, where their family’s compassion for the suffering Jews and so many others placed her, her father Casper and her sister Betsie in prison. The Germans were willing to let their 84-year-old father return, but this man whose home had always been open to the poor, answered, “”If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door to anyone who knocks for help”. He was not released and perished some 10-days later. Betsie and Corrie were transferred to suffering the hateful cruelty of a concentration camp, where Betsie would later die. There, she told Corrie, “What better way can there be for us to live out our lives? Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes.”

Just after Betsie’s death, Corrie was released due to a ‘clerical error’ that bears all the markings of divine intervention, as it occurred just prior to the remaining women her age being killed. She needed to survive so she could learn to forgive and teach others the same, as she carried her sister’s vision to heal not only the oppressed but the oppressors. Indeed, she turned her own home, over to many who had betrayed their fellow countrymen as Nazi sympathizers because they were also broken.

Perhaps the seminal moment of her life came when one of their jailers at Ravensbruck that she remembered as part of the mocking and humiliation, came and listened to her speak after the war. As the church was emptying, he approached ‘beaming and bowing’ and said,

“How grateful I am for your message Fräulein. To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to people the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? “Lord Jesus,” I prayed, “forgive me and help me to forgive him.” I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your Forgiveness.”

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so, I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

Our world is newly inflicting wounds on families, nations and individuals. And yet, in these dark days, perhaps especially in these dark days, the injunction to “Love one another”, continues to be the Lord’s law, commandment and plea.

As, I have loved you, love one another… Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…

Blessed is that day when, “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” John 3:2-3

Renewal of our hearts and souls is the message of Easter! Love one Another!

Personal Revelation and Real Intent

I was recently asked to speak on personal revelation in my life. This caused me deep reflection. I pondered on the times when revelation has come in my life in successive waves, repeatedly lifting and blessing me, dear friends and family, and total strangers.

Waves of Revelation – Endless and Often Easy to Miss

I have identified these as being times when either I have been pondering what I have been given in gratitude or times when I or when there has been an unmet spiritual need that I may not have even been aware of. More often, it is both.

In either case, there was always a common denominator that shaped the clarity and content of the revelation, and that was my willingness to follow the impressions that were given to me.

Real Intent

There is a famous scripture in the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5) that promises that if, after one ponders the tender mercies which God has given from the days of Adam to the present day, that if this person truly seeks with a sincere heart and real intent to know the truth of the word contained in that book, it will be given them to know.

This is a matter of fervent and sincere prayer, but increasingly the words “real intent” have come to have a deep and sacred meaning to me. To really receive revelation, a seeker of truth must have “real intent” to live according to the truth that he or she finds. If we are to receive personal revelation that will change the course of our lives for good, we must be willing to let that revelation change the course of our life.

A Fundamental Truth

Here is what I have come to feel is a fundamental truth about personal revelation:

The quest for personal revelation is nothing less than the quest to conform our will with God’s.

Receiving personal revelation is not passive. It enlists our obedience. For the Lord has said:

Abraham 3:25 – “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”

A Journey to Bless Others

An unforgettable and unconventional journey focused on others…

In my talk, I really struggled with which experience I should share to illustrate this powerful principle. Let me share a story of a trip I took to see my sister’s wedding in another state, which was an inspired miracle in itself, but in preparing to go, I fervently asked that I could bring the blessing of the gospel to open the hearts of the people I met both there and in my travels. My real intent was to follow through on anything the Lord asked me to do.

The Lord blessed me in this. As I greeted each person on my journey, I came to know of their individual journeys and their accomplishments and struggles. In empathy, I shared life experiences that showed the Lord’s tender mercies in my life that dealt with similar struggles and without exception, on this trip, as we shared together, be it on a plane, cab or shuttle, we had powerful discussions that left us as friends.

Yes, the wedding was wonderful. My love for my sister and her new husband grew and I met many wonderful people there who I cherish, but also on the journey, the Lord brought me to 10-people, whose memories I have also come to cherish, including a shuttle driver, who I cried together with as she shared how she overcame a struggle with an addiction. I was left with many beautiful stories from beautiful children of God.

What is the Cost?

The cost of this life experience was that I delayed departing on a Saturday morning so that I could serve in the temple of God and visit loved ones before I left. The cost was that I would likely never see Mount Rushmore. The cost was that on Sunday morning, when I was uncertain of how to get to a small church branch in a distant city that the Lord had told me to go to, I chose not to eat breakfast in order to make calls to find a way, and when Uber, Lyft and the local cab companies all told me they couldn’t get me there, it cost me a prayer to tell the Lord that I had done all that I could and if I was to be at that branch, He would have to get me there. And he did.

And that is how I ended up on a late flight where I shared my mother’s experience of becoming a physician’s assistant with a young, struggling girl who so wanted a similar career. It is how I ended up on a midnight shuttle to talk to that dear sister that said, “It was no coincidence you were on my shuttle tonight.” That is how in answer to my prayer, a cab driver called me back and said that a man had just called needing pickup in the very same remote city as the branch I needed to go to and that if I was ready in a few minutes, he could get me there. That is how that same driver and I had a precious 45-minutes together to remind him of a faith that needed to be rejuvenated. It is how I arrived at the branch just in time to witness the confirmation of a new member who sat and sang with me and who the missionaries told me had needed my sincere words of encouragement. It is how a dear sister assigned to that branch from my sister’s city, gave me a 20-mile ride where I could tell her son about service in the Lord’s kingdom, such that when she dropped me off, with emotion, she thanked me for teaching her son. It is how I had precious hours with my sister walking along a riverbank in her city in long-overdue, loving reminiscing. It is how I came to speak with a man trying to overcome an addiction because in the terminal, he had forgotten his charger that I helped him with… and it went on.

What was the cost? I feel it cost me nothing, but I had to listen.

What a wonderful principle that the Lord gives us line upon line, precept upon precept as we are ready and willing to receive each tiny whisper of revelation, until the perfect day comes that we are able to recognize the constant ripples of revelation moving us to do all things that the Lord requires of us.

The joy is truly in our journey. Revelation is dynamic, not static, and it comes as we act with real intent.

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.

Fences

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?