Sunday, December 24, 2006

I bring you good tidings of great joy

Sunday, December 24, 2006 Observation:

This Christmas Eve is the 68th Christmas Eve it has been my privilege to experience.  I hope to be able to experience a few more but one never has any guarantee.  Christmas Eve for me has always been a wonderful day -- the best day of the year in many ways.  Of course, I can't remember in detail all of those past Christmas Eves, but I do remember the special feeling they have always brought to me.

Never to be forgotten however, is the Christmas Eve of 1959.  I was serving as the branch president of a small struggling branch of 46 members in the town of Ahuachapan, El Salvador -- today in that same town there is the El Salvador, Ahuachapan Stake.  Christmas Eve was a great family tradition and celebration in our little town of Ahuachapan.  Because of that no branch activity was planned for that special evening.

Several days before Christmas Eve my companion and I heard a knock on the door and one of the faithful and humble brothers in our little Branch entered our small apartment room and invited us to eat Christmas Eve dinner at his home with him and his family.  We readily accepted, realizing what an honor it was to be invited into his home on this very special evening.  Wouldn't you know it, just a few minutes later another equally faithful and humble member of the Branch knocked on the door and invited us to his home for dinner on Christmas Eve. We just felt we couldn't disappoint either family (neither family knew the other one had invited us), and thankfully the dinners were several hours apart which would make it possible to honor both invitations the same evening. 

When we entered the first humble two room home on Christmas Eve, we were astonished to see the great feast this family had prepared for the Elders.  They spent money they didn't have to make this dinner as special as possible, and we embarrassingly realized we were eating most of the food, and that they just wouldn't stand for any refusal of the food they were offering us as servants of the Lord.  In their minds nothing was too good for us -- the Elders of Israel!

You would have been proud of the amount of food we ate at that first dinner and then we began to jog through the streets to our next appointment trying to burn up some of the calories we had consumed.  The scene was repeated at the next home, but again, my companion and I were equal to the task and this family never suspected that we had just recently consumed an enormous banquet.

We stumbled out of their home and staggered down the street to our apartment which was adjacent to the Catholic cathedral.  We fell onto our beds in a stupor, with visions of tortillas, frijoles, and tamales dancing in our heads.  All of a sudden we were almost blasted out of our beds by a tremendous roar.  We thought a terrorist had blown up the Catholic cathedral.  We rushed to the window, threw open the sash, and beheld the sky ablaze with exploding rockets and fireworks of all kinds, all emanating from the courtyard of the Catholic cathedral.  The streets were full of beautiful, humble, Latin American people with joyous smiles on their faces, rejoicing and celebrating in their own unique way, the birth of the Savior of us all.
Here in the United States we celebrate Christmas Eve a little differently than in Latin America. Each year at Christmastime, Jo Anne decorates our home as you do yours.  The tree, the lights, and all of the other beautiful decorations make of Christmas a festive and wonderful time of year.  Over the years my favorite decoration has been a small three letter word made out of red and green felt that usually hangs somewhere in the house during the Christmas season.  That word is "JOY"!  It is my favorite decoration because I think that one word "JOY" captures the essence of the spirit of Christmas and the ultimate purpose of Christ's birth and mission better than any other word.

The prophet Lehi, as he instructed his son Jacob, taught the eternal truth that "Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy."  The kind of joy Lehi spoke of can only come through Christ.

The joy the Savior brings to the world results not just from his birth but from the power of His atoning sacrifice for each one of us.  The prophet Isaiah, 2500 years ago, wrote: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."  [Isaiah 53:4-5].

A significant portion of His earthly ministry was spent in healing the bodies and spirits of those among whom he walked -- bringing them joy and pre-figuring His ultimate act of healing -- His resurrection and ultimately ours. "As Jesus healed, the scriptures say, "All the people were amazed" (Matthew 12:23). They brought their sick, their "blind, and dumb" (Matthew 12:22), those that were "possessed with a devil" (Matthew 12:22; also Mark 1:32), and their dead. They sought Him every day and into the evening. So great was His reputation and His healing power that they sought to "only touch the hem of his garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole" (Matthew 14:36). "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching . . . and preaching the gospel . . . , and healing every sickness and every disease among the people" (Matthew 9:35)."  [Dr. Elaine S. Marshall] Christ was and is the Master healer of mankind. 

As sons and daughters of God, living in this mortal world, we are subject to a variety of experiences. We have our seasons of peace when everything is going well and we also have our seasons of sorrow. Through Christ's birth, life, and atoning sacrifice however, whatever our lot in life at any given moment, we can still experience the joy that Christ desires to give to all who are willing to exercise faith in him and come unto Him with full purpose of heart. 

Seventeen years ago at Christmastime I was lying in a hospital bed in a rehabilitation center. Although my family and friends did all they could do to bring the Christmas spirit to me in that setting, I will always remember what a bleak Christmas it was for me. My accident and subsequent injury was absolutely devastating.  All was not well with my soul that Christmas and for some time after I felt depressed and empty inside.  The help I needed could not come from mortal man but only from Christ.

As time went by however, a great miracle took place in my life. The Savior healed my soul.  I was filled with joy, peace, and a sense of well being that I never thought I would ever experience again.  The joy that came into my life and has continued with me through the subsequent years has come from the Savior and from no other source.

Because of my own experience I have come to understand more fully the words of the Savior to Joseph Smith when he said to him and all of us: "Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.  Therefore care not for the body neither the life of the body; but care for the soul and for the life of the soul." [D&C 101:36-37.]

Our challenge in life and especially at this time of the year is to not be so concerned about the physical and material but to care more for the things of the spirit that bring the joy of Christ into our lives and into the lives of others. 

It is my prayer that this Christmas we may more fully understand the message of the Angel to the humble shepherds that night of nights when he announced to them, "... I bring you good tidings of great joy ...."  [Luke 2:9-10.] So it was then, and so it is now, and so will it ever be!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Be Still...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Many years ago while serving as a young bishop, a family in the ward had a difficult struggle.  I counseled with them, prayed with them, and prayed for them, but the problems persisted.  I was agonizing over the eternal consequences of their behavior and didn't quite know what to do to help them.  One evening just as I was going to bed and was pondering on how to best help this family the following words came powerfully into my mind: "Be still, and know that I am God."  (Psalm 46:10; Doctrine & Covenants 101:16)     My interpretation of these words at that time was that nothing I was going to say or do was going to resolve the complex problems experienced by this family, but that in due time God would provide the solution and necessary healing.  I still prayed for the family, and kept in contact with them, but no longer tried to influence them with my "wise counsel".  I also quit worrying about the ultimate outcome and felt great peace regarding this situation. It took several years but the problems were eventually resolved and the family came back into full activity with all the promises of someday being an eternal family.  As a bishop, I had learned a valuable lesson regarding trusting in the power and goodness of a loving and kind Heavenly Father while at the same time recognizing my own limitations as a human being.

A number of years later I was badly injured while body surfing at Laguna Beach, California.  The accident happened in the afternoon.  As soon as I was stabilized somewhat, I was transported to the ER room of the nearest trauma center, which was in Mission Viejo.  I was surrounded by loving family and friends, who were a comfort to me; however, I was still in a dazed and shocked condition regarding what had happened. 

At about 12 midnight the neurosurgeons sent everyone home so they could perform an MRI on me to fully diagnose the seriousness of my spinal cord injury.  When all my loved ones left and the doctors began the MRI with me still in my swimming suit, strapped to a board, and unable to move or talk, I have never felt so alone.  My mind was just churning with questions like: "Will I ever be able to move my body again?"  "Will I ever be able to breathe on my own again?"  "Will I ever be able to talk again?"  "If I am seriously injured how will I ever financially be able to take care of my family?"  "How will I ever be able to be a husband and father if I can't move my body?"  "Will I ever be able to teach again or serve in the Church?"  And the questions just kept coming and coming and there was no peace, but only a troubled heart and fear. 

Then a wonderful thing happened as I began to silently pray.  I heard no voice and really no words came to me, but there came the impression into my heart and mind that somehow, ultimately everything would be okay.  I had no feeling that I would be healed in the sense that I would be able to walk, breathe, and lead a "normal" life.  However, a great feeling of peace came into my heart and I knew that somehow my family and I would be able to get through this.  Although the words didn't come as they did when I was serving as a bishop, the message nonetheless was the same, "Be still and know that I am God!"

Several days later the head neurosurgeon leaned over my bed and said "Jack, you will never move again. You will never breathe on your own again. You will never be able to eat solid food again. You will never be able to speak again. And you will never be able to live outside of some kind of care facility". I just knew that he was wrong and his words did not disturb me.  I had it from a higher source that somehow a loving, kind and all powerful Heavenly Father would strengthen me to get through this.  I didn't know how at the time except that I was to be "still" and know that "He was God!"

On the last night of his mortal experience the Savior counseled his beloved apostles by saying: "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] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said that the Savior's command to "not let our hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" is probably the most frequently broken commandment the Lord has given to us.  To be troubled and afraid of the present or the future is to not believe in the ultimate goodness and power of Heavenly Father.  We are so prone to counsel the Lord as we question at times what life has brought to us.  Jacob said it this way: "Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works."  [Jacob 4:10]

I am still trying to learn this profound lesson about life.  There simply is no other way to not be "troubled" or "afraid" than to absolutely trust in the ultimate goodness and power of God and to be "still" and not to "counsel" Him.  We don't know why certain things happen to us or to our loved ones, and the worst question we could ever ask is "why"?  A severely handicapped man with aching heart was pleading out loud, "Why me Lord?"  And he then heard the words very loudly in his mind and heart, "Why not you?"  We have to learn to be "still" and trust in God and in his great power and love for each one of us.

The essence of what I am trying to say, and what I have learned through personal experience, is to truly believe in the Lord's counsel to Joseph Smith and to all of us: "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good..." [Doctrine & Covenants 90:25]



Monday, December 4, 2006

The best is none too good for us.

Monday, December 4, 2006 Observation:

As a 17-year-old boy I left my home in Ruth, Nevada and with my good friend, Mel Walker, drove to Provo, Utah to begin my freshman year at BYU.  We moved into a room in Allen Hall, BYU student housing, near the pizza parlor now known as the Brick Oven.  My dad always wanted to know where in the "hall" I lived and what in the "hall" I was doing.  Well, I was living on the top floor and was associating with young men that in retrospect impacted my life for good in an eternal sense.  Living on the ground floor were three Callister brothers from Glendale, California.  Their grandfather was Elder LeGrand Richards who during the two years we lived in Allen Hall would come and speak to us occasionally on a Sunday evening as a favor to his grandsons.  These were good boys who loved the Lord and whose example was worthy of emulation.  The youngest brother was named Doug and was my same age.  Doug is now Elder Douglas L. Callister of the first quorum of the 70.  After he visited and spoke in our stake a few years ago I approached him and, I'm sure it was because of the wheelchair and his having heard of my accident, recognized me and we shared a few memories of our days living together in Allen Hall.

Because of that little relationship with Elder Callister, I eagerly listened to the talk he delivered at the BYU student devotional on September 19, 2006.  The talk is entitled "Your Refined Celestial Home".  I am probably somewhat prejudiced, but I think this talk should be required listening or reading for every family in the church -- especially those with children still living at home.  You can find it by clicking on and then clicking on "find a talk" and typing in the name, "Douglas L. Callister".

It is not my purpose to give a review of Elder Callister's talk, but I think I can share the essence of what he had to say through an experience Joseph Fielding Smith had with his father Joseph F. Smith many years ago.  Having recently returned from a mission to Great Britain, young Joseph Fielding Smith was looking for some kind of employment to sustain himself and his young family.  One of the positions he was offered was a "... permanent government position as an inspector of pool halls, bawdy houses and other places that sold beer and liquor, and to collect excise taxes, his territory to include Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. The job paid quite a handsome salary and was respectable enough in nature even though it would bring him into contact with some unsavory characters... The good salary would certainly help Joseph to get a house built. Joseph mulled the offer in his mind a few days... he conferred with his father about it before making a firm decision. His father advised him to decline the offer. "Remember this, son," he said, "the best company is none too good for you." So Joseph declined the job, and a few days later he received an offer he liked much better: Anthon H. Lund offered him a staff position in the Church Historian's Office." ( Joseph Fielding Smith, John J. Stewart, Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, 125-126.)

I am going to take some license with Joseph F. Smith's counsel to his son.  I think Joseph was not just referring to the "company" of other people, but also to the full spectrum of the human experience.  As sons and daughters of God "the best" in friends, education, vocation, music, the written word, the media we permit to come into our homes and minds, and a host of other things that could be mentioned are "none too good for us!"  Choosing "the best" will bless our lives in mortality and prepare us one day for our eternal destiny to become as our Heavenly Father and to feel comfortable in and enjoy our "Refined Celestial Home."

In concluding his talk, Elder Callister related the following story to summarize his message to the BYU student body:  "In a make believe kingdom a make believe King and his Queen, after many years, finally had a beautiful baby boy born into their family who would be the heir to the throne.  Not wanting to spoil the boy, and hopefully to prepare him to be a good and just King, they secretly took him to the countryside for a peasant couple to raise.  They were to tell him nothing of his birth and who he really was.  When the boy was 18 years old the King and Queen went to the countryside to bring their boy home to become the next King inasmuch as his father was growing older and would soon pass on.  To their dismay they discovered that their 18 year old son had become expert at plowing, planting, harvesting, and taking care of livestock, but he was ill-prepared and had no vision of who he really was, and what it would take to rule a kingdom, command armies, and meet the needs of his subjects.  Their beloved son had been raised as a peasant and had become a peasant in spite of the royal blood that coursed through his veins."

We have temporarily been sent away by our Heavenly Father and King -- not to be raised as peasants -- but as princes and princesses, being refined in every way to one day inherit our own kingdoms.  During this period of training and probation which we call mortality, truthfully, "The best... is none too good for us!" I am afraid that in many of our homes we are raising too many "peasants" with no vision of who they are and of their eternal potential. A "peasant" perspective regarding life seems to dominate our culture.  You can observe it in our language, our dress, our music, the media, and what we choose for recreation.  We have been plummeting downward from the "best" to the "mediocre" at lightning speed.  Eric Anderson spoke a profound truth when he said: "The most insidious influence on the young is not violence, drugs, tobacco, drink or sexual perversion, but our pursuit of the trivial and our tolerance of the third rate."

Maybe it's because I am getting older and out of touch with reality, but I don't enjoy much of the music I hear that has recently been written and recorded.  Does anybody like Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin anymore?  Are our kids being raised on musical french fries and hamburgers having their musical pallets paralyzed, resulting in no taste for the gourmet music of the Masters?  What I'm saying about music can be applied to the media, literature, art, architecture, and dress of our times.  Listen to President Hinckley:

"Let there be music in the home. If you have teenagers who have their own recordings, you will be prone to describe the sound as something other than music. Let them occasionally hear something better. Expose them to it. It will speak for itself. More of appreciation will come than you may think. It may not be spoken, but it will be felt, and its influence will become increasingly manifest as the years pass." (Be Thou an Example [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981], p. 56.) "Enjoy music. Not the kind that rocks and rolls, but the music of the masters, the music that has lived through the centuries, the music that has lifted people. If you do not have a taste for it, listen to it thoughtfully. If you do not like it the first time, listen to it again and keep listening. It will be something like going to the temple. The more often you go, the more beautiful will be the experience. (Ellen Pucell Unthank Monument Dedication, Cedar City, Utah, August 3, 1991.)

"I believe in the beauty of good music and art, of pleasing architecture, and of good literature untainted by profanity or verbal filth. ("This I Believe," BYU 1991-92 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, March 1, 1992, p. 78.)

I believe what President Hinckley believes and what Joseph F. Smith taught his son -- "The best... is none too good for you!"


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Isn't It Incredible What 26 Little Letters Can Do?

November 21, 2006 Observation:

On Halloween, October 31, 2006, I listened to President Gordon B. Hinckley speak to the BYU student body at their weekly devotional.  I was impressed that at age 96 he was still able to speak with such intelligence and clarity.  It was his opening remarks that caught my attention.  He said that on one occasion, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was asked what books he had read that had influenced him the most.  Emerson replied that he could no more remember all the books he had read than the meals he had eaten, but they had made him what he was.  As I reflected on what Emerson said, as quoted by President Hinckley, it struck a chord within me as being a true statement.  I suppose all of us are shaped, not only by the meals we eat, but by the books we read.

I have been blessed in my lifetime to have been exposed to some of the greatest books ever written which certainly have shaped my thinking and even my behavior I believe.  My mother introduced me to many great books as a young boy, and then I met Dr. Nan Grass while attending BYU, who for an entire two semesters, five days a week, taught me to love the great literature of the English language in her marvelous course, "Major British Authors".  Through her guidance I began to love the writings of Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Browning, Lord Byron, Matthew Arnold, John Milton, John Donne, Chaucer, and a host of others. 

And then, still a young man, I came to Southern California in 1970 to be the institute director at the Institute of Religion at California State University at Los Angeles.  I was able to determine what I would teach and one of the first classes I chose to teach at the Institute level was entitled "Presidents of the Church".  At that time there was a very meager lesson manual for that course which was a great blessing because it forced me to read a biography on each one of the presidents we would be discussing.  This began a passion that I still have to read biographies of great people.  I would read the biography of one of the Church Presidents and then around the dinner table each evening I would tell my little children stories from the lives of the prophets.  They were a very receptive audience and came to know a great deal about the presidents of the Church.  Little did they know how much they were helping me to teach my Institute class by trying out stories from the lives of the prophets on them.

The lives of these great men, along with the great literature I had been reading, shaped my thinking and inspired me to always want to be a better person.  I am always looking for good biographies to read.  How blessed I have been to not only read the biographies of great Church leaders, but also of men like George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and many others as well. 

Since my accident and loss of physical mobility I have also come to love history, and through my reading have witnessed the building of the Panama Canal, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Transcontinental Railroad, been on the Lewis and Clarke expedition, circumnavigated the globe with Magellan, experienced the incredible year of 1776 and Washington's crossing of the Delaware, seen World War II through the eyes of a "Band of Brothers", and on and on it goes.  How dull and boring my life could be if it were not for the magic of reading. 

Through my reading one of my favorite historical characters has become Theodore Roosevelt.  I am just amazed at this man.  I think my subconscious self would like to be like Theodore Roosevelt.  I have read three major books on his life and am just finishing a fourth that I picked up at Costco (not a bad place to find a good cheap paperback).  It is written by a lady by the name of Candice Millard and is entitled "The River of Doubt".  Roosevelt wanted to run for a third term as president of the United States but the Republican Party didn't want him.  The Republican Party was backing very strongly, Howard W. Taft, at the time and therefore Teddy formed his own political party which became known as the "Bull Moose Party".  Because of the third party Teddy formed, the Republicans lost the 1912 presidential election.  Teddy was used to winning and when he lost the election by a substantial margin he went into an unusual depression.  Shortly after the 1912 election he was invited to South America on a speaking tour, and his family, thinking an exciting adventure would help his depression, encouraged him to accept the invitation. He accepted on the condition that he could also do some exploring.  He was 55 years old at the time.  This book about his adventures and adversity in traveling down a river ("The River of Doubt") in Brazil that no one had explored and was not even on a map is exciting and reveals so much about the character of this great man.  He suffered greatly in the vast Amazon rain forest -- 1913-14 -- and died a few years later, much younger than he would have had he not taken this trip.

Theodore Roosevelt had traveled extensively in his lifetime.  He led his Roughriders up San Juan Hill in Cuba, had fought grizzly bears, had a big cattle ranch in the Dakotas, and was tough as nails.  I think his trip to Brazil tempered him somewhat and taught him a great lesson about life as evidenced by a statement he made near the end of his life. "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."  [Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States, 1858-1919]

Having studied his life, this statement appears to me to be so untypical of this adventurous and vital man.  However, I believe any human being who learns to do what he can, with what he has, where he is, has discovered one of the great keys to a happy and fulfilling life.  I believe I have tried to adopt Roosevelt's philosophy into my own life since my accident.  I haven't always been successful in doing so, but those days that I do all I can, with what I have, where I am, are rewarding and fulfilling days. 

At this Thanksgiving time there are a multitude of things I am thankful for, but very high on the list is being able to read.  Although my body is mobility impaired, through the magic of reading, my mind knows no limits.  Through reading I have become acquainted with some of the greatest people with the best minds that have ever lived, and have vicariously experienced many of the world's most important events in history.  Isn't it incredible what 26 little letters can do? 

"... and be content with such things as ye have..." [Hebrews 13: 5]


Friday, November 10, 2006


Friday November 10, 2006

I have learned over the years to accept and deal with the big problems of life like being paralyzed and living on life support.  It's the supposedly simple and small things of life that make me cry out at times, "It just isn't fair!"

For example, my Internet provider for a number of years now has been Comcast.  Without consulting me, Comcast sold out to Time Warner, and a couple of weeks ago I got a letter in the mail from Time Warner informing me that some outfit called Road Runner would now be my new cable Internet provider.  They told me I had a week in which to convert my e-mail system to Road Runner and gave me the necessary information to get on Road Runner's "easy installation" website.

With some trepidation I accessed the website and my eyes crossed and began to water as I tried to follow the "easy installation instructions".  I soon discovered that these simple instructions would cross even a rabbi's eyes and challenge the intelligence of a rocket scientist. You may not know this about me, but I am a hard loser and like a challenge, so I dove into it and tried my best to get my e-mail working once again with the Road Runner service.  Conservatively speaking, I spent 15 hours before I admitted defeat.  It happened late one night when nothing I tried seemed to work and I just admitted to myself that there was no way I could get this Road Runner e-mail service to work.  I vowed that the next morning I would not even look at the Road Runner website nor even think about e-mail.

The next morning my son, Rich, called and wanted me to do a school project for his son Trevor which involved the use of the computer and e-mail.  I told Rich I would love to help out but my e-mail was not working right.  Well, about noon Rich showed up and I showed him what I had done and was doing to install the Road Runner e-mail program.  He took one look at it and said "Dad, I'll bet you that your password is case-sensitive."  I gave him my password and he punched it in using uppercase instead of lowercase and it was like hitting the jackpot.  25 or 30 e-mails appeared in my inbox and I haven't had a problem since. 

Why are our kids so much smarter than we are?  It just isn't fair!  Then to infuriate me just a little bit more, the other day for some reason, I went to the Road Runner home page and at the bottom right hand corner in small letters it said something like, "By the way, for you former Comcast users make sure that when you type in your password realize that it is case-sensitive." Have you ever felt you were getting close to being sanctified and translated only to have something like this happen and you think thoughts and mutter things under your breath that are hard evidence that the "natural man" is still alive and well?

And then my voice recognition software began giving me problems.  For no reason at all a little sign would pop up and say, "You are having a memory problem."  Well, lots of my older friends and I do have memory problems so this was not exactly a revelation.  However, Dragon Naturally Speaking 7.3, my voice recognition software program, wasn't working the way it normally did.  I had Jo Anne call John Klabius, the owner and operator of a little company called "Voice Solutions".  I have been working with John for over 10 years now and he has always proven to be honest and straightforward regarding the selling and installation of Dragon Naturally Speaking products.  He told me that the 9.0 version of Dragon Naturally Speaking was incredibly good, and that if I upgraded it would solve all my problems.  The next day John came over to install the new version and was surprised at how slowly the installation program was operating.  He asked me how much memory I had in my computer.  I proudly told him I believed it had 512 megs of RAM memory (whatever that means), which I thought was a lot of memory.  John informed me that I needed at least one gig of RAM memory for the new Naturally Speaking software to run well, as well as all of the other programs on my computer.  I foolishly stared at him for a moment and then said, "The only Gig I ever knew was a Griffith" (son of Ed & Bunkie Griffith).

Well, I knew I was pushing my luck with Jo Anne.  The new upgrade for Dragon Naturally Speaking had set us back several hundred dollars and to upgrade to a gig of memory, whatever that was, wasn't going to be really cheap according to John, depending on how my computer was configured for memory.  Thankfully, Jo Anne has lots of faith and trust in John Klabius, so nonchalantly I revealed to her that John said we needed to upgrade the memory in my computer to a gig in order for Dragon Naturally Speaking to work well.  Jo Anne got a dazed look on her face and muttered, "The only Gig I know is a Griffith!"

To her credit she loaded me in the van the next day and we paid a visit to Micro Center, a computer store located just several blocks from where we live.  We took my Hewlett-Packard laptop with us and told the salesman that we wanted to double the amount of RAM memory in the computer for a total of a gig.  As we were in the store I began thinking what an incredible thing it is to be able to go to a store and buy "memory".  Wouldn't it be wonderful if when our thought processes slow down that we could go to a Micro Center and have several gigs of memory implanted in our brains.  I guess we would be willing to pay almost anything to get just one gig of memory installed in our brain as we get older.

As generally happens, Micro Center sold us and installed only half the memory we needed and had requested.  It took us several days to iron out all the problems but now I am the happy owner of a gig of RAM memory and the 9.0 version of Dragon Naturally Speaking.  Nothing is ever easy and the "natural man" in us wants to cry out "Life just isn't fair!"

I know we can't go to a "memory store" to upgrade our memory as it goes on the decline.  However, thankfully, there is a form of a "memory store" available to all of us at really no cost.  The "memory store" I refer to is the Scriptures.  In the Scriptures, if we search them each day, we are reminded of the most important things in life, and especially the most important thing -- the mission and atonement of Christ. Incredibly, there are 275 references in the Scriptures that use the word "remember" or a form thereof.  There are an additional 73 references in the Scriptures that use the word "remembrance" and if that were not enough, 39 references where the word "memory" is used.

President Kimball once said: "Scriptures are man's spiritual memory. In a very real sense special records, such as the holy scriptures, are the spiritual memory of mankind." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 125)

And so, as wonderful as it would be, sadly, we can't go to a "memory store" and buy a gig of memory and have it implanted in our brains.  However, if we are wise we will be renewing our spiritual memory through the searching of the Scriptures every day of our lives.  Ultimately, our spiritual memory will prove to have been a greater blessing to us than our deteriorating physical memory.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Tuesday, October 31, 2006 Observation:

Each year when Halloween rolls around I am reminded of my mom and dad, long since gone from this earth.  They were married in Abraham, Utah on October 31, 1925 -- Halloween.  At the time of their marriage my dad was 17 and my mother 18.  My dad had only an eighth grade education, but my mother had graduated from Hinckley high school, near Delta, Utah, as valedictorian.

They couldn't make a living by farming in Abraham, so when my 17-year-old dad heard that there was work in the mines in White Pine County, Nevada, he went there to investigate.  He traveled to Ruth, Nevada, a very small mining town, and went to the Star Pointer Mine, an underground copper mine, owned by Kennecott Copper Corporation.  The day he went to the mine there was a large line of men also seeking work. Dad was only 5'4" and weighed, at that time, probably 125 to 130 pounds.  The hiring boss took one look at him and told him there was no way that somebody so small could do the hard physical labor required of a miner.  Dad, never lacking in confidence, told the boss that he could out shovel any man he had working for him.  The boss liked his spirit and said he would give him a chance to prove what he said was true.  That began dad's career as a "mucker" in the Star Pointer Mine.  A mucker is one who shovels ore into little ore cars after blasting takes place in the tunnel in which they are working.  True to his word, dad was a world-class mucker as I learned later in life in trying to keep up with him shoveling anything.

Dad sent for mom and they began their life together in Ruth, Nevada and working for Kennecott which dad did until the day he died in 1970.  On his 34th birthday he was walking home from work one day and realized that he had spent exactly half of his life working underground.  He applied for a new position above ground which he was granted and eventually began working in the warehouse where his expertise with numbers and handwriting stood him in good stead.  He was working in the warehouse at the time of his death.

Mom and Dad had one message for their boys; "Go to college, and don't end up in the mines."  We must have paid attention because all four of us graduated from BYU and went on to receive graduate degrees.  Both mom and Dad were instrumental in inspiring us to go on to college and to a better lifestyle, but mom was the driving force.  It was not until I was paralyzed and living on life support that I truly appreciated what my mother did for me as a young boy.

She was a voracious reader all of her life, and instilled a love for reading in me and I believe in all of my brothers as well.  Almost every year for Christmas and my birthday I would be given a beautiful book of some kind.  I remember receiving and reading such books as Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Heidi, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Bobsy Twins, and a series about a great fictitious athlete by the name of Chip Hilton.  Chip Hilton was a fabulous baseball and basketball player and through this series I followed him from high school through college.  I could hardly wait to get my next Chip Hilton book. 

Mom was the cultural refinement teacher in Relief Society for many years.  Her love was to teach great literature which she shared with me and my younger brother, Kim.  She introduced us to Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a host of other great writers.  In the early 1950s before the civil rights movement began she had us read a book entitled "Black Like Me".  I still remember how horrified I was as a young boy to read of the plight of African Americans in the United States.  My mom was forward thinking with regard to these kinds of things.

However, she was not only a voracious reader but she loved music and sports as well.  She never forced me into music but once I signed up to play the clarinet in the fourth grade and then to take piano lessons when I was 12 years old she would never let me quit.  I can still remember her standing behind me and counting out loud while I practiced the piano.  She was a pretty tough taskmaster. As the years went by I began to love music and had always loved sports of any kind.  She was a knowledgeable sports fan and won a little money by entering the Ely Daily Times football prognostication contest for college football.  In her 80s when she would be living in our home for several months out of the year, we would watch every Lakers game we could together, and she knew what was going on and had a few insults for the referees if the call went against the Lakers, or especially her hero, Magic Johnson.

When I had my accident it took only a few days to realize that my life from that point on would be a life of the mind and spirit.  Because my mother had instilled such a love of reading and music in me, and because of her constant encouragement for me to do my best as an athlete I discovered that my life could be very fulfilling and satisfying because I loved so many things that I could do with my mind.  Of course I couldn't play my instruments anymore or participate in sports as I had once done, but I could listen to music, and watch sports, and especially I could read and write with my voice recognition software.  Reading the scriptures and other great books has been so fulfilling and rewarding during the 17 years I have been paralyzed, but I have also enjoyed great music, great baseball, basketball, and football games, as well as Turner classic movies.

The mother of a teenage boy who had a spinal cord injury called me to ask me if there was any hope for a good quality life for her son.  I began telling her enthusiastically about the computer and the blessing it is to someone in my condition to be able to read and write and have access to the Internet and etc. There was a pause and then she said "I'm afraid that won't do my son any good.  All he has done during his lifetime is to play and ride motorcycles.  I don't think he has ever read a book."  That was one of the most tragic statements I have ever heard.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell once spoke of traps that we might fall into during mortality if we are not careful. "[one  trap]... is that some of us neglect to develop multiple sources of satisfaction. When one of the wells upon which we draw dries up through death, loss of status, disaffection, or physical ailment, we then find ourselves very thirsty because, instead of having multiple sources of satisfaction in our lives, we have become too dependent upon this or upon that..." (Neal A. Maxwell, But for A Small Moment, 1 Sept.1974, BYU Devotional)

Thanks mom and dad on this Halloween for having blessed me in so many ways to deal with my physical ailment because of the multiple sources of satisfaction in life to which you introduced me as a young boy. 


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sword of Damocles

Thursday, October 12, 2006 Observation:

I have a friend whose e-mail name is "Sword of Damocles".  He has studied classical literature and was in a Ph.D. program studying philosophy at Columbia University in New York City for several years.  When I first saw his e-mail name I was intrigued by it, but at the time did not know of its significance.  However, in doing a little research I found out the following regarding the "Sword of Damocles".

Damocles, in classical Greek mythology, was a courtier at the court of Dionysius I. He so persistently praised the power and happiness of Dionysius that the tyrant, in order to show the precariousness of rank and power, gave a banquet and had a sword suspended above the head of Damocles by a single horse hair. Therefore, because of this ancient Greek myth, over the centuries the expression, "the sword of Damocles" has come to mean "an ever-present peril".

I don't think my friend is paranoid necessarily, but why would he choose the "Sword of Damocles" as an e-mail moniker? I must ask him some time.  As I have thought about it though, I believe it is his way of stating a fundamental truth regarding his mortality.  In a sense, we all have the Sword of Damocles dangling over our heads.  My expression for the Sword of Damocles -- "an ever-present peril" -- is "living on the edge".  I have been especially sensitive to the "Sword of Damocles" philosophy while living on life support for 17 years.  I have had numerous brushes with death, all of them convincing me that I indeed am living in "an ever-present peril".  You may think this is a very negative way of looking at life, but I don't think so.  Realizing that I am "living on the edge" and under the dangling "Sword of Damocles" helps me to appreciate and value each good day I am given.  It motivates me to make the best of every day of life I am granted. 

You may not want to believe it, but we are all "living on the edge" and directly under the dangling "Sword of Damocles".  I personally believe it is a healthy thing to realize how fragile life is, but I don't think the Lord wants us to face the present or the future with fear and trembling.  To feel at peace and secure each day of our lives is what living the Gospel should do for us isn't it?

A while back I was speaking on the phone to my good friend, Jim Carter, who lives in Ogden, Utah.  Jim has some health issues at this time in his life, and as we were sharing our medical histories with one another -- a sure sign of old-age -- I said to him, "Jim, when do we get to start living happily ever after?" He laughed and said that sounded like a question for one of my observations.  Well, I suspect that the Lord did not place us on this earth to really ever live "happily ever after".

Elder Boyd K. Packer put it beautifully in comparing the plan of salvation to a three act play.  “There are three parts to the plan. You are in the second or the middle part, the one in which you will be tested by temptation, by trials, perhaps by tragedy … Remember this! The line ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act [of a play]. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right...Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of [the plan], you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life...When you know the plan and the purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven”. (The Play and the Plan [satellite broadcast, 7 May 1995], 1–2)

And so, really only in fairy tales do princes and princesses live happily ever after.  That is not to say that life is not to be filled with peace, joy, and fulfillment, but that peace, joy, and fulfillment -- fruits of the Spirit -- will come from righteous living, exercising faith in Christ, and being strengthened by Him to deal with the vicissitudes of mortality.

I think we must be careful not to give our children a false impression regarding life.  They need to understand at some point in time that seemingly bad things can come into the lives of everyone.  A careful reading of the parable of the house built on a rock, as opposed to the house built upon the sand, will reveal that the full fury of the storm came to both houses.  Just because one house, or life, was built upon the rock (Christ) did not protect it from the full blast of the wind and rain.  However, because it was built upon Christ, it did not fall! 

The storm sooner or later will come to all of us.  It is not a matter of if, but of when.  However, if our lives are built upon the sure foundation of Christ, "... when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."  [Helaman 5:12]

Whether we want to believe it or not, living under the dangling "Sword of Damocles" or "On the Edge" is a reality for each one of us.  I think we will have to wait a while, at least until we enter the spirit world, to begin "living happily ever after!"


Friday, September 29, 2006


Friday, September 29, 2006 Observation:

I believe it happened in February when I was spending an inordinate amount of time in bed because of a pressure sore.  Thankfully, when I spend time in bed I am able to work on my laptop computer making the downtime not as "down" as it would be otherwise.  For some reason I was spending a lot of time reading the Old Testament.  I just couldn't seem to get enough of it.  I was reading 2 Samuel one afternoon when some words just leaped off the page at me.  These words were David's final words recorded by the author or authors of Samuel, preserving a metaphor regarding Jehovah, Christ, The God of Israel. "Now these be the last words of David...The God of Israel...the Rock of Israel spake to me [saying]...And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds..." [2 Samuel 23:1-4]

I think David's metaphor concerning Christ struck such a responsive chord in me because of my love for the precious rising of the sun I have witnessed and enjoyed during my lifetime.  For the past 17 years I generally haven't arisen until the crack of 10 a.m., but before my accident I was very much a "morning" person.  I believe my love of the morning began when I worked for Kennecott Copper Corp. each summer as a young man.  I would make enough money each summer working for Kennecott in Eastern Nevada to pay for two semesters at BYU the following fall and winter.  I invariably worked what was known as the "Graveyard Shift" which began at 11:30 p.m. and ended at 7:30 a.m.

The summer I worked as a drill helper I will never forget.  The drill was mounted on a rig that could be driven slowly from site to site depending on where holes needed to be drilled.  We would drill holes all night and then in the morning the powder crew would come and fill the holes with explosives, ignite them, and the entire town would shake, rattle and roll for just a few minutes during the moment of explosion.  Immense electric shovels would then scoop up the shattered earth which contained the precious copper ore, and deposit it in large trucks for ultimate transport to the smelter.

Once the drill began its work the driller and his helper didn't have much to do but watch the drill and correct any problems that might occur.  The Liberty Pit in Ruth, Nevada, where I worked is located in a mountainous area which is more than 7000 feet in elevation. I remember standing and shivering outside in the very cold Nevada night air, hour after hour and night after night, anxiously awaiting one thing -- the arrival of morning.  The Nevada nights were beautiful, full of stars, but I felt a great joy inside me as I looked at the Eastern Mountains and could discern them against a graying sky.  The dark would reluctantly and imperceptibly give way to the powerful light of the rising sun.  The morning star would still be visible, and then the sun would just seem to explode above the mountains and bathe me in its warm, life-giving rays.  The long, cold night was over, and one of God's greatest gifts to his children, a new day, had dawned.

In the mission field I became an "early morning Nazi"(translation -- fanatic).  I made it part of my mission to always be out of bed before any of my companions.  I felt so righteous (self-righteous) as I would sit at my desk studying Spanish and searching the scriptures for an hour or so before my companions would begin to stir.  Those hours, undisturbed by the awakening world, became precious to me.  I would always make a point of going outside, or looking out the window as the sky would begin to gray to witness another glorious morning burst upon the world.

Arising early did not end with my mission.  My most productive time of day was in those early hours before the sun would break over the horizon.  While I served as bishop my two oldest children were in early morning seminary, but not old enough to drive.  We had an old Volkswagen bus and I would take my two children and pick up three or four of their friends and drive them to the chapel each morning.  While they were in seminary I would run from the chapel up Browning and into the foothills.  My run would begin in the dark, but as I would return, the sky would begin to gray and by the time I reached the chapel to pick up the kids, the warming rays of the sun heralded that indeed, once again, a new day had been born.

I could go on with many more sunrise experiences, but suffice it to say, I think I know why David chose to describe Christ the way he did: "... He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds..." David was a shepherd boy who cared for his father's sheep in the hills surrounding Bethlehem.  How many long nights did he spend guarding those precious sheep, anxiously awaiting the glorious sunrise and dawning of a new day? How he must have enjoyed the warming and life-giving rays of the sun that would come each morning bringing life to him, the sheep, and to the earth.

Christ himself said: "... I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."  [John 8:12] Christ disperses darkness, the darkness of sin and of death.  Light and darkness cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  David's metaphor is very powerful in teaching us that Christ is as the "light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds", dispelling the cold darkness of night and symbolically reassuring mankind that just as the night of death will come to each one of us, so will their come a glorious and literal "morning" of resurrection.

The scriptures reveal the following significant truth as well: "... in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings... Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things..." [Doctrine & Covenants 88:7,11,12-13]

I believe when Christ comes to usher in his millennial reign he will come as the "light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds." I hope we will all be "morning" people then.

Yes, mornings are special as they remind us of the "light and life of the world".


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cuffed Trachea

Thursday, September 21, 2006 Observation:

I believe one of the most frustrating and terrifying experiences a person can have is not to be able to communicate, and because of it, to not get the help or reassurance needed to be comforted, and at peace.  The Lord gives little babies the ability to cry, really the only way they can communicate their needs, in order for them to receive the help or reassurance they need to be comforted and at peace.  A baby's cry, though oftentimes annoying to adults, eventually gets their attention and is a vital tool of communication given to each baby by a wise Heavenly Father.

While I was in the hospital a week or so ago the doctors felt it important to put me on a "cuffed trachea" while they put the scope down my throat to see what was going on inside my stomach.  A cuffed trachea has a little balloon-type device which when inflated allows no air to escape between the ventilator and the lungs.  The problem with it is that no air goes by the vocal cords making it impossible to speak, nor can one eat when on a cuffed trachea. 

Being paralyzed from the neck down and on a cuffed trachea makes any form of communication almost impossible, except for the blinking of the eyes which doesn't really work very well.  Approximately 18 years ago I was on a cuffed trachea for almost a month, and not being able to communicate almost cost me my life several times.  Early one morning, for example, I was running a fever and when I get overheated I begin to experience an anxiety attack similar to claustrophobia.  I was in the ICU of a trauma center and nurses were everywhere, but because I couldn't communicate my need to them, they really weren't paying much attention to me. I got to the point that I thought I would die if I did not get some kind of relief.  Just at that moment a good friend walked in, came to my bedside and looked into my eyes, felt my face, and instantly knew the problem and how to resolve it.  She got a container of ice water and with a washcloth began to bathe my face, arms, and legs.  The nurses quickly caught on and began to assist as well, and as my temperature went down so did my anxiety and I was soon comfortable and at peace once again. 

It is impossible to describe the desperate feeling that accompanies the feeling of needing help badly, and not having the power to express that need.  Several weeks ago now when they put me on a cuffed trachea to do the scope it was "deja vu all over again".  The doctors felt it would be wise to leave me on the cuffed trachea until the next day in case I started bleeding profusely once again.  Imagine being totally paralyzed, unable to communicate in any way, and then having Jo Anne finally asked by the nurses to go home.  The nurses were attentive thankfully, but I felt extremely vulnerable all night long -- a very long night -- and was so grateful that I did not experience any pressing need or life-threatening situation.  What joy to finally have the cuffed trachea removed later that day, and to be able to talk and even cry out for help if the need were to arise.

Our good friend Ken Rogers, fellow Central American missionary, BYU roommate, and best man at our wedding, during a conversation several months ago, perceived how dangerous it was for Jo Anne to leave me alone in the van while running into a store, even for just a few minutes.  Ken, an electrical engineer, wanted a day or two to think about the problem, and then he drove to our home in Tustin from San Diego with some small handheld radios that are able to transmit an astonishing distance.  Mine is voice-activated as I speak into the microphone which is part of my headset. Now, Jo Anne can leave me in the van with confidence for a few minutes, while she takes care of business in her favorite stores.  It is comforting to me to be able to say, "Jo Anne, where are you?"  More often than not she replies, "I'm at the return desk!"  I ask, "How long will you be there?"  She responds, "Just a couple of minutes" -- translation -- probably 20 or 30 minutes.  We are even getting the hang of radio talk.  I usually say "ten four" (I have heard radio people use that phrase; I'm not sure what it means but it sounds very authoritative and knowledgeable).  Jo Anne responds with "seven eleven" which to me makes more sense than "ten four".  When I am finished talking I always say "Roger, over and out!"  I don't know what that means either, and I like Jo Anne's response better than mine as she counters with, "Roger, In N Out".

As I have thought about our need as human beings to communicate, to be heard, and to receive a response, the principle of prayer has come powerfully into my mind.  Even with a "cuffed trachea" we can thankfully communicate our gratitude, and the needs we have to a loving Heavenly Father.  When on a "cuffed trachea", my prayers, though silent, have been fervently offered, and I have been blessed with peace and comfort beyond my ability to describe.

One of my favorite biblical figures is Joseph who was sold into Egypt by his brothers.  He was a young teenager at the time, torn from the loving arms and influence of his father, and placed in a radically different and worldly culture from which he was accustomed.  I would imagine there were those days that Joseph would have given anything to have talked to his father, Jacob, and to have received his assurance that all would be well.  However, Joseph was in Egypt and Jacob was in Israel, and no communication between them was possible.  Joseph prospered in Egypt as we know.  Although the scriptures are silent regarding the frequency and intensity of Joseph's prayers, there is one verse that explains his success, and I believe the peace and comfort he must have experienced as a slave and prisoner: "And the Lord was with Joseph..." [Genesis 39: 2]   

I believe the Lord "was with Joseph" because Joseph plead with the Lord in faith for his help.  Prayer can bring to us the comfort, sense of well being, and assurance we need so that we never have to experience the terror of not being able to communicate our urgent needs to someone who can help.  Not even a "cuffed trachea" can keep us from calling upon Heavenly Father from the depths of our souls.

What the Lord told ancient Israel applies to all of us today: "But if ... thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation ... if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice...he will not forsake thee..." [Deuteronomy 4:29-30]


Friday, September 8, 2006

ICU stay

Friday, September 8, 2006 Observation:

Yogi Berra, the great philosopher, baseball player, and manager, said to one of his malingering players, "Are you dead yet?"  About a week ago in the ER I put that question to the doctors in the first person and asked them "Am I dead yet?"  Thankfully they assured me that I wasn't which was very comforting.  They asked me what my blood type was before giving me a transfusion and I told them "Ephraim".  This threw them off for just a minute but they quickly recovered and got me the blood.  Thanks to good doctors, marvelous medicine, and lots of fasting and praying by family and good friends, coupled with priesthood blessings, I am home and out of the hospital with a positive prognosis for the future.

However, a terrible thing has happened during the week I spent in the hospital.  Black Strap Molasses sales have plummeted in health-food stores all over the United States.  My week in the hospital even damaged the sugarcane market in the Caribbean and a number of plantations are on the verge of going under.  A consortium of health-food stores has asked me to rise up in defense of Black Strap Molasses.  I also think my son-in-law, Matt Riley, was a little off base in writing that Jimmy Durante, Groucho Marx, and Danny Kaye were not reliable nutritional experts.  They all lived to a good old age by eating "Black Strap Molasses and the wheat germ bread", and they all lived so long that others probably wished they were dead.

I have already told you more than you would ever want to know about blackstrap molasses, but to strengthen the sugarcane market, as well as blackstrap molasses sales in health-food stores across the nation, I must punish you with the following information.

"The George Mateljan Foundation is a non-profit organization free of commercial influence...Our purpose is to provide you with unbiased scientific information about how nutrient-rich World's Healthiest Foods can promote vibrant health and energy and fit your personal needs and busy lifestyle."

"Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener that is actually good for you. Unlike refined white sugar and corn syrup, which are stripped of virtually all nutrients except simple carbohydrates, or artificial sweeteners like saccharine or aspartame, which not only provide no useful nutrients but have been shown to cause health problems in sensitive individuals, blackstrap molasses is a healthful sweetener that contains significant amounts of a variety of minerals that promote your health. In addition to providing quickly assimilated carbohydrates, blackstrap molasses can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. Blackstrap molasses is a very good source of iron."

I promise never to mention Blackstrap Molasses again -- unless sales in health-food stores have been irrevocably and permanently damaged.

On a more serious note, let me share with you some random observations regarding my latest brush with death as a result of a bleeding ulcer that the doctors described as Mount St. Helens.

My faith and testimony in the "tender mercies" of the Lord has been strengthened.  The day the ulcer erupted was the day Jo Anne and my daughter Rachel and her two little girls were to fly to North Carolina to join Rachel's husband Matt who has begun a new career there.  Due to some extenuating circumstances, the trip was postponed and Rachel, an RN, along with her perceptive mother called 911 when I didn't think it was necessary.  Had I been put to bed that night without going to the ER, I doubt I would have lived to see the morning.  Some would say these were just coincidences, but I call them the "tender mercies" of the Lord.
My appreciation of my fellow human beings has been greatly expanded as a result of this experience.  I have never been treated so well by so many people for such a long period of time, that I can recall.  All of my nurses were from the Philippines -- I call them the Filipino Relief Society.  They treated me with great love, tenderness, and respect.  They couldn't do enough for me.  They were also very teachable, and although they were highly trained ICU nurses, they let Jo Anne teach them how to care for somebody in my condition.  The doctors were competent, compassionate, and did everything in their power to get me over the hump.  There are lots of good people out there!  Yes, we live in a very wicked world, but I believe there are still so many more goodhearted people then there are evil.  Instead of my injury making me cynical it has had the opposite effect.  I have a great love for people of all races and religions.  I have been treated so kindly by so many for so many years that to not love my fellowmen would be a sad reflection upon my own character.

My love and appreciation for my family was greatly enhanced as a result of this experience.  My sons and daughters and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law rallied behind me and were an incredible source of strength.  My son John, the ER doctor, was with me for three days questioning everything the doctors did, but I think really keeping the doctors on their toes.  My son Mike, the district attorney and prosecutor, was constantly cross examining the doctors, and I learned some things about my case through listening to those conversations that I would have not known otherwise.  It was reassuring to have all my children care so much.  In the ER room, my sons, Richard and Mike, gave me a special blessing that was very comforting at a very uncertain and difficult time.

The highlight of my stay in ICU however, was when my four oldest grandsons -- two priests, a teacher, and a deacon -- held a special sacrament meeting for me last Sunday afternoon.  They are all in the same ward and my son Mike is their Young Men's President.  Two of the boys are Mike's and two are my oldest daughter Jolene's oldest boys.  For me, it was one of those paydays that are unanticipated and therefore that much the sweeter.  They sang hymns, blessed and passed the sacrament, and then each one bore their testimony.  Each one recounted a sacred experience in which the Spirit had come to them and powerfully touched their hearts in such a way that they knew The Church was indeed true.  I do not have the verbal ability to accurately recount this experience, but it was one of the highlights of my life.  It was worth a bleeding ulcer to have had such an experience with my grandsons.  These kids are light-years ahead of where I was at their age.

I was also touched by the many friends that have expressed love and concern.  I have had reinforced in my heart that the only thing that really matters in life is the relationships we have with family, friends, and the Lord.  Nothing else really matters much at all.

Life is precious.  Each day is to be savored.  The most common things are really very special.
If there is a theme to this observation, in my own mind, it is that we have a kind, loving, Heavenly Father who pours out his "tender mercies" upon us constantly. "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things..." [Doctrine & Covenants 59: 21]


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blackstrap Molasses

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 Observation:

A number of months ago the doctors did some blood work on me and discovered that I was running a little anemic.  There was no apparent cause so they suggested I go on iron pills to build up my blood.  I don't do well on iron pills because of some side effects I would rather not mention.  About that time Jo Anne's sister Judy was also having a problem being anemic and her doctor had recommended 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses each morning.  She said it had done her a world of good and that I should try it.  I frankly admit I am not into health food healings and was very skeptical, but then the lyrics of a song from my youth suddenly came into my mind.  It was sung by Jane Wyman, Jimmy Duranty, Danny Kaye, and Groucho Marx.  I am sure you will be grateful beyond measure to receive the lyrics to the great old song "The Blackstrap Molasses".

Black strap molasses and wheat germ bread
Makes you live so long you wish you were dead
Add some yogurt and you'll be well fed
With black strap molasses and the wheat germ bread
As wonderful and impressive as those lyrics are I was still a little bit leery about blackstrap molasses so I went to the Internet and discovered that blackstrap molasses comes from sugar cane, but from what is commonly known as the "third boiling".  The "first boiling", or "first molasses", has a high sugar content because comparatively little sugar has been extracted from the juice.  "Second molasses" is created from a "second boiling" and sugar extraction. The third boiling of the sugar syrup gives blackstrap molasses. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has been crystallized by now and the blackstrap molasses contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, and iron. One tablespoon provides up to 20 percent of the daily value of each of those nutrients. Blackstrap is often sold as a health supplement..." [Wikipedia Encyclopedia]

Guess what?  I tried it and it works!  My blood count went up dramatically, the anemia disappeared, and who knows, maybe I'll live till I wish I were dead!
You are probably thinking -- "Poor old Jack has finally lost it!  Can you believe an observation about blackstrap molasses?" 

Actually, it was a statement made by Elder L. Tom Perry that I heard while listening to BYU TV the other day that started me ruminating about blackstrap molasses.  I cannot remember the audience he was addressing, but it seemed to be a BYU student devotional.  He said he felt that one of the sad characteristics of our society is that so many of us are suffering from "mental malnutrition".  The thought then came to me that perhaps another way of saying it is that we are in so many cases "spiritually anemic".  We partake too frequently and too much of only the "first boiling", "first molasses" that is shoveled into us by the media -- too much sugar and empty calories!  And then I remembered Elder Holland cautioning us that we are feeding our people from the pulpit, in the classroom, and even our children at home, too many "Theological Twinkies".  Twinkies just won't do it for the body or the spirit -- it's that "first boiling" -- too full of sugar! I thought that the "spiritual blackstrap molasses" we need each day is contained in the Scriptures.  The Scriptures are the "third boiling", "third molasses"; the inspired, concentrated distillation of truth, prophecy, wisdom, and teachings of the ages that if ingested constantly and consistently will eliminate "mental malnutrition" and "spiritual anemia" as nothing else can.  It actually even tastes better than a Twinkie.
Nobody ever said it better than Book of Mormon Jacob: "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy... and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted..." [2 Nephi 9:51]


Friday, August 18, 2006

Camp Sheanee

Friday, August 18, 2006 Observation:

Back in the seventies -- some of us can remember that far back -- I was a full-time Institute teacher/director in Southern California.  In those long-ago days we signed a nine-month contract with CES (Church Education System) and were basically unemployed from June through the end of August.  Many of us did a variety of creative things to try to bring in some income during that three-month period.

Along with several other Institute teachers, I spent several summers working at a day camp as a counselor.  Each of us was assigned an old Volkswagen van, and each summer morning we would drive through the beautiful streets of San Marino, picking up little rich kids that we would then entertain all day long.  When we were doing this, San Marino had the highest per capita income of any community its size in the United States.  For those of you who don't know, San Marino is adjacent to Pasadena.  The kid's parents had gone to the same Summer Camp -- Camp Sheanee, an Indian name for "Summer People" -- when they were young.  I'm sure they paid an arm and a leg to have their children entertained all summer, and because of it they did expect their children to be entertained! 

Camp Sheanee was a concept more than a place.  We used many venues each day: public parks, an archery range, a horseback riding stable, a very large swimming pool at the back of a very large home in Pasadena, etc. The owner of Camp Sheanee, earning the bulk of his yearly income during that three-month period, was anxious that the little rich kids have a great experience each time they came to camp. I thought what he had us do at the end of each day was pretty savvy.  Our final activity of the day took place at the swimming pool.  After the kids were dressed and ready to be delivered to their mansions, we would have them sit in a circle around us and begin to review all of the great activities they had just participated in, as well as how much fun they had all had.  When they were dropped off at home a few minutes later, and a mother asked them about the day, they were well-prepared to give a glowing report about their experience at Camp Sheanee.  If they had fun, in the eyes of the kids and their parents, Camp Sheanee was a great success. 

Through the years I have frequently thought how different Camp Sheanee is compared to the program our Heavenly Father has designed for us during our lives in mortality, which is a little bit like an extended day camp.  I think it's OK with Him if we have a Camp Sheanee experience from time to time, but I doubt He measures His success by how much fun we have in mortality.  At the end of the day I don't think his first question to us will be, "Did you have a good time?"  So many of us however, much of the time, have a "Camp Sheanee" mindset regarding life.

I'm sure many of you have had the experience of reading a passage of Scripture a number of times without thinking too much about it, and then on another reading have it leap off the page at you.  This happened to me several months ago as I was reading Doctrine & Covenants 24:8 for who knows how many times.  "Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days." Of course, the Lord was directing his words to Joseph Smith, who was a very young man at the time.  It was not really a "happy" prophecy regarding his future, but as it turned out it was very true.  The thing that leaped off the page at me this time around is the Lord's words about Joseph's impending afflictions: "... but endure them..." He didn't commiserate with Joseph and tell him how sorry he was that he would have many afflictions and that He was sorry they wouldn't be much "fun", He simply told him to be patient and to endure them!  He didn't seem to be very concerned that Joseph have a Camp Sheanee experience.  It was like He was saying to Joseph, "Your life is going to be pretty tough but "buck up ", "gird up your loins "; you will get through this and I will tell you why: "... for, lo, I am with thee unto the end of thy days!" Joseph needed to know that he would be able to get through any difficulty or affliction that life would bring his way because the Lord would be with him always.  Later in life Joseph was taught that "even if the very jaws of hell gaped open wide after him" that all of these things would give him experience and be for his good.  [Doctrine & Covenants 122] However, they would only be for his good, if through his afflictions, he patiently sought the Lord, experienced His power and love in his life and in doing so came to know Him better.

We have been counseled to "liken" or "apply" the Scriptures to our own individual circumstances.  I believe what the Lord told Joseph about being patient in afflictions because he would have many, probably applies to all of us.  As afflictions come to us, and they will be different for each individual, the Lord is not lacking in empathy, pity, or sympathy, but with great wisdom He simply says "... endure them..."

I feel too often as parents we want our children to be happy, and feel that happiness comes through enrolling them in a perpetual Camp Sheanee experience.  Are we successful as parents if our children are only happy?  I believe we could learn a great deal about parenting from the counsel the Lord gave Joseph so many years ago.


Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Small and Simple Things

Tuesday, August 8, 2006 Observation:

"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass..." [Alma 37:6] [emphasis added]

One evening my life support system failed and I had a very close brush with death.  At the time, believe it or not, I was very unemotional about what had happened, and just enjoyed being alive to be able to eat an ice cream sandwich with Jo Anne after the harrowing experience was finally over.  The next morning however, as I was lying in bed and pondering what had happened the night before, there flashed into my mind something I had experienced just two days before I almost entered the Spirit World. 

It was a simple little thing really, but as I thought of it the tears began to flow.  Our grandson, Trevor, is on a summer league basketball team for 9 and 10-year-olds, coached by his dad, Rich.  It was during the heat wave, and the temperature was in triple digits even in Orange County.  Jo Anne and I had gone to his game the week before, but because of the triple digit heat that Saturday as well, we were forced to leave the gym just after the game began because there was no air-conditioning, and it was just stifling inside.  In my condition I don't do really well in hot weather.  Again this Saturday, the gym was without air-conditioning, but by sitting in the open doorway there was enough of a breeze that I was able to endure the heat.  Trevor played a great game.  I tell him he plays like a Steve Nash with a good haircut.  For a 10-year-old he is a remarkable ball handler and passer and also plays good defense.  His team won the game and it was a happy moment for him, his teammates, his family, and his grandma and grandpa.  I was so happy I was able to endure the heat and see the game.

Anyway, as I was lying in bed, this was the experience that came into my mind and caused the emotional meltdown.  Had we not gone to the game, and had I not been able to endure the heat, and had I indeed gone into the Spirit World the following Monday evening, that simple, sweet, little experience with Trevor and Rich would never have been a part of my mortal memory.  For some reason that experience triggered many other "small and simple" memories of "small and simple things" that, when added together over a lifetime, determine who we are, as well as the relationships we have with God and with others.

The first six months of my mission to Central America I had a recurring nightmare almost every night; I would awake frightened, and in a cold sweat.  The nightmare was that I had rejected the call to serve a mission issued to me by my bishop.  However, the real nightmare was because I had rejected the call, I never would have known my fellow missionaries, the wonderful, humble Mayan Indians I was working with, nor my mission president and his wonderful wife.  The nightmare was that I would have lived my entire life without even knowing what I had missed; there would have been no mortal memory created.  Accepting a mission call may seem like a "small and simple thing", and yet for me anyway, those 2 1/2 years have influenced, more than I could ever say, the subsequent 40 plus years I have been permitted to live.

There are some things in life that we only have the opportunity of doing once, and then they are gone -- never to be repeated.  Thirty-six years ago at the funeral of my dad in Ely, Nevada, I saw coming in the door of the chapel two men from my Elder's quorum.  They had started driving early in the morning from Ogden, Utah to get to Ely in time for the funeral.  Ely is about 300 miles from Ogden.  Things were so hectic I didn't even get to talk to them because they had to leave immediately to drive the 300 miles back to Ogden, but 36 years later that memory is as vivid as though it had happened yesterday.  My dad, as most people, only had one funeral, and those two guys were there.  What did that communicate to me?  You can only imagine.

A funeral, a sealing in the temple, and a wedding reception, for example, are once in a lifetime events.  We may be tempted to not go -- to not show up -- because life is busy and hectic.  However, by just being there we communicate love, caring, and a valuable relationship is strengthened.  What happens if we don't go?  Nothing! And if we miss too many of these special events to which we have been invited, our memories and relationships with others will also be nothing.  A thank you note, an expression of appreciation, a visit to a longtime friend one has not seen for ages, an act of selfless service, attending a child's important activity, create memories, strengthen relationships, and enlarge our souls.

Last Sunday I taught in our gospel doctrine class the story of the prophet Elisha and Naaman, the captain of the Syrian armies who had leprosy.  Naaman came to Elisha seeking to be healed from this dreaded disease.  You know the story well, how Elisha told Naaman, through a servant, to go bathe seven times in the River Jordan and he would be healed.  Naaman, was offended because the prophet asked him to do such a simple and small thing.  He couldn't believe that bathing in the River Jordan would heal him of his leprosy.  Surely some other great thing must be done in his behalf to overcome this disease.  Finally, persuaded by his servants, he bathed in the River seven times and was totally healed from an incurable disease.  I asked my class what would have happened if Naaman had not bathed in the River Jordan?  Their answer was, "Nothing!" And that is absolutely the truth.  By refusing to do a small and simple thing Naaman would have lived out his life in pain, sorrow, suffering, and misery, knowing nothing of Jehovah and his power.  He would never have known the joy of being healed, nor would he have come to know that "Jehovah was the God".  By following the simple counsel of the prophet, great blessings came to him as they do to us, as we do the "small and simple things" asked of us in our generation.

"Small and simple things", done or not done, added together, ultimately become the sum total of who we are.  Having personal private prayer twice each day for example, for over 60 years will add up to spiritual power that can come to us in no other way.  A dedicated and consistent reading of the scriptures each day will bring power into our lives that will enable us to deal better with life's challenges.  The prophets have always asked us to do "small and simple things" which if done can "bring great things to pass".

How grateful I am for the mortal memories of "small and simple things" that have occurred in my lifetime.  Even the basketball game of a 10-year-old grandson -- small and simple as it may appear -- is not to be lightly overlooked.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Tuesday, July 25, 2006 Observation:

On Monday, July 17, 2006, Jo Anne and I went out to dinner with our good friends, Dick and Lucene Fox, and Bruce and Bev Loder.  We went to Don José's in Tustin where the Mexican food is usually pretty good.  My taquitos this night however, were buried in some kind of red sauce which made them soggy and mushy and hard for me to get down.  It turned out not to be my favorite dinner at Don José's or anywhere else as a matter of fact, but the company was enjoyable and salvaged the evening.

We got home about 8:30 p.m. and Jo Anne set me up in my bedroom to watch the Dodgers/Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game which was in about the sixth inning when we tuned it in on my TV.  The score was tied at two runs each and a warm feeling began to swell within me that perhaps this evening the Dodgers would not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as they so typically do.  I had watched but a short time when the Arizona Diamondbacks began to hit everything the Dodger pitchers were "throwing up" to the plate.  Before I knew it the score was five to two in favor of the Diamondbacks with two men on base.  At that very moment I heard a very loud screeching noise like a high-pitched siren and my ventilator went totally dead.

Not being able to breathe is a very interesting experience.  I had never before heard the noise coming from my ventilator during 17 years of use, nor had my ventilator ever just gone totally dead in a split second.  I panicked when I realized I wasn't breathing, but then tried to be very positive in my mind, thinking that any second Jo Anne would rush into the room, discover the problem, and get me breathing once again.  I waited for several seconds but she didn't come -- and she didn't come -- and she didn't come!  I then entered into a state of resignation knowing that she was not coming, and that I would soon be entering the spirit world.  The sad thing about the entire experience is that as I now began to enter the twilight zone -- half alive and half dead -- I was still watching the baseball game.  Just as I slipped into unconsciousness an Arizona Diamondback hit a three-run home run over the deepest part of center field off of Joe Biemel, a journeyman left-handed relief pitcher that nobody but the Dodgers wanted.  In the foggy recesses of my mind came the voice of Vince Scully saying, "And now the score is eight to two in favor of the Diamondbacks."  What a way to go into the spirit world I thought; a bad Mexican dinner in my stomach, and the Dodgers being hammered by the hated Diamondbacks.

The next thing I remember, Jo Anne was standing over me weeping and wailing and trying to get me to come back.  All I knew is that I needed more air and was saying as loud as I could, "Bag me!  Bag me!"  She was bagging me with the ambubag (a special hand air pump) with all of her heart while trying to dial 911 at the same time.  The more she bagged the more the life came back to me, and she was soon able to move my wheelchair over to the bedside where she hooked me up to my backup ventilator that I use at night.  How long I had been out I have no idea, but I so easily could have slipped into the spirit world, and it would not have been a painful experience except for the memory of a bad Mexican dinner and the Dodgers/Diamondbacks game.

Now, lest you think that Jo Anne is guilty of "quad abuse", what follows is her side of the story.  She had left me watching the ballgame and had gone into the living room and family room area to do some things, and all of a sudden heard a horrible shrieking siren, like noise coming from, she thought, our backyard, or perhaps the neighbor's backyard.  She had never heard the sound before and really didn't know what to make of it.  She kept puttering around the family room, never equating the sound she was hearing with me or my ventilator.  Finally the sound started to really bother her and so she started to go outside through the back door to further investigate.  Passing by my bedroom she glanced in and saw me vacantly staring up at the ceiling.  She thought I had passed out and our son John's words came to her that if I ever passed out she should lay my chair back to get the blood rushing into my brain once again.  As she moved behind the chair to lay me back, she saw all of the red warning lights on the ventilator were flashing, and all of a sudden realized that I was not breathing and that was why I had passed out.  Somehow the high-pitched siren noise had been blocked out of her mind until she realized the problem was with the ventilator.  She had never been able to connect with 911 for whatever reason which was fine with me.

Later that evening, as Jo Anne was feeding me an ice cream sandwich, I thought I had never eaten anything that tasted so good.  I have been living "on the edge" for 17 years now, but I think this was my closest brush with death.  As things typically go in life, when our respiratory therapist brought out a new ventilator the next morning and Jo Anne described the noise and what had happened, this "expert" said, "Oh, that's the sound the ventilator makes when it is announcing an all systems failure -- the ventilator has died."  Isn't it interesting that during all those 17 years, nobody ever mentioned this sound or demonstrated it for us? 

In retrospect, this last brush with death was another wonderful wakeup call.  I had reinforced into my mind and heart how precious a gift life is and how quickly it can be taken from us.  I developed renewed motivation to live each day as though it were my last.  Also, there came to me a feeling of intense gratitude that my life truly is in the hands of the Lord and that perhaps I still have a mission to perform in mortality.  I also well came to understand that dying is easy -- it is the living that is hard and demanding.

I know of no more humbling thing than not being able to breathe.  When you can't breathe, nothing else matters at all!  How well I understand the words of King Benjamin to his people:
"I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants."  [Mosiah 2:2-emphasis added]


Friday, July 14, 2006

Plimsoll Mark

Friday, July 14, 2006 Observation:

Well, Major League Baseball has made it to and through the annual all-star break.  Of course the American League won the all-star game as they have for the past several years.  Why do I have to be cursed with being a National League fan as well as a Dodger fan?  Speaking of the Dodgers they are only two games out of first place in the National League West -- will miracles never cease?

Major league baseball players play 162 games beginning in April and ending in September.  Although they are a bunch of overpaid millionaires playing a "game", even they need to take a break to reenergize and refocus their efforts for the "dog days" of late summer and early fall.  Too much of anything can be detrimental to our mental health and thus we need an occasional break.

A while back I was reading an article regarding the need of recharging our batteries from time to time in "The Religious Educator" periodical published at BYU.  An institute director at Purdue University in Indiana by the name of C. Robert Line, the author of the article, introduced me to an interesting concept in his writing called the "Plimsoll Mark".  I went to the Internet to research the "Plimsoll Mark" and discovered the following: "Samuel Plimsoll brought about one of the greatest shipping revolutions ever known by shocking the British nation into making reforms which have saved the lives of countless seamen. By the mid-1800's, the overloading of English ships had become a national problem. Plimsoll took up as a crusade the plan of James Hall to require that vessels bear a load line marking indicating when they were overloaded, hence ensuring the safety of crew and cargo. His violent speeches aroused the House of Commons; his book, Our Seamen, shocked the people at large into clamorous indignation. His book also earned him the hatred of many ship owners who set in train a series of legal battles against Plimsoll. Through this adversity and personal loss, Plimsoll clung doggedly to his facts. He fought to the point of utter exhaustion until finally, in 1876, Parliament was forced to pass the Unseaworthy Ships Bill into law, requiring that vessels bear the load line freeboard marking. It was soon known as the "Plimsoll Mark" and was eventually adopted by all maritime nations of the world."  (

The metaphor regarding the "Plimsoll Mark" is pretty obvious.  Just as a ship will become unsteady and subject to disaster if overloaded, so will a human being experience the same thing.  We all have a "Plimsoll Mark".  It will vary from person to person, but all of us can experience overload if we exceed our own unique "Plimsoll Mark" with regard to work, tension, and stress.  Just like highly overpaid millionaire baseball players we too need to take an "all-star" break from time to time.

The way we re-create ourselves when we begin to exceed our own individual "Plimsoll Mark" will vary of course from individual to individual.  For my wife Jo Anne, she finds renewed energy through buying and returning items.  I am a little concerned because her favorite store, Robinsons-May, is going out of business soon.  Jo Anne has tried to keep it afloat by herself, but apparently, despite her best efforts, the store is going bust.  I am praying that Macy's is not the store that fills the void; I'm thinking more along the lines of Kmart.

Spencer W. Kimball loved movies and found in them a way to deal with his "Plimsoll Mark".  From his biography we read: " Movies provided one of his relaxations. All the winter Spencer bought a monthly family ticket for a dollar to the Thursday night movie at the Ramona Theater. The shows were mostly second rate, but a bargain. The better theater was over on Main Street. (Spencer ever after teased his son Andrew about the time a freckle-faced girl from Cactus Flat sat on his lap by mistake in the dark.) When Spencer found himself in a city waiting for a train he often went to the theater. He had gone to the silent films (and even sung at intermission) in the "Cozy Corner" in Thatcher as a youth. He and Camilla had marveled at the advent of talkies, seeing their first in Los Angeles in 1930. They loved films."
"In 1939 his diary, though incomplete, mentions thirty-eight movies. One day in 1938, while on vacation, he saw two double bills: Tom Sawyer, No Time to Marry, Tale of Two Cities, and Naughty Marietta. Particularly in the early years as an apostle, when travel by train often meant layovers, he took advantage of the chance to catch up on movies and went, occasionally even to two or three, after not having attended at all for months. In 1949 his journal notes fifteen movies, in 1950, twenty-nine. During much of this time he was on enforced vacation, recovering from his heart attack. He noted a little apologetically, "We see many shows when away like this and resting, since we see so few when at work normally."  (Andrew E. Kimball, Edward L. Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 146-147.)

Parenthetically, I might suggest that today's movies are a far cry from those that were watched and loved by President Kimball, one of the hardest working apostles the Church has ever known.  And then there are those rare individuals who seem to have no need of a "Plimsoll Mark". 

Apparently Elder James E. Talmage, the author of the book "Jesus the Christ" was absent a "Plimsoll Mark".  Elder Talmage always worked long hours almost never taking any time off.  President Heber J. Grant was very concerned about Elder Talmage's health and tried to get him to play golf, thinking it would be a good diversion and beneficial to him.  President Grant was an avid golfer and knew that if he could get Elder Talmage to try the game that he would be converted to it for the rest of his life.  His son, John Talmage, recorded what happened: "... Finally a compromise was reached [between President Grant and Elder Talmage], and a test agreed upon: James would give the game of golf an honest trial, and work at it until he was able to hit a drive which President Grant would rate as satisfactory, "a real golf shot." "If you hit just one really good drive, nature will do the rest," President Grant assured his pupil-to-be. "You won't be able to resist the game after that.  It was agreed that James would make his own choice after he had acquired the skill to hit the specified shot... If, after giving the game a fair trial, James still felt no interest, President Grant would cease his efforts to get Dr. Talmage to play."

"On an appointed day, the two, accompanied by a number of others of the General Authorities who played golf and who had joined the friendly argument on the side of President Grant, proceeded to Nibley Park for James' first session in what was expected to be a series of lessons. James removed his coat and was shown how to grip the club and take his stance at the ball. The coordinated movements involved in making a golf stroke were carefully explained and then demonstrated by President Grant and by others. Finally it came James' turn to try it himself."

What followed astonished all those who watched, and probably James himself. Instead of missing the ball completely, or weakly pushing it a few feet along the grass, James somehow managed to strike the ball cleanly and with substantial force. It took off in a fine arc and with only a minimum amount of slice. Some who saw it described it later as "a truly magnificent drive," which was probably a considerable exaggeration. However, there was consensus that the ball went close to 200 yards and stayed in the fairway... The spectators were momentarily struck dumb, then burst into enthusiastic applause. "Congratulations," said President Grant, rushing forward, beaming, with outstretched hand. "That was a fine shot you will remember for the rest of your life." "You mean that was a fully satisfactory golf shot?" James asked, cautiously. "It certainly was!" said President Grant. "Then I have fulfilled my part of the agreement?" "You have-and don't you feel the thrill of excitement? Now you'll be playing regularly. As a matter of fact, we can go into the clubhouse now and I will help you select a set of clubs." "Thank you," said James, putting on his coat. "If I have carried out my part of the agreement, then I shall call on you to live up to yours. You promised that if I hit a satisfactory drive and did not feel the spontaneous desire to play, you would stop urging me to do so. Now I should like to get back to the office, where I have a great deal of work waiting. So far as is known, James never again struck a golf ball, or made the attempt."  (John R. Talmage, Talmage Story: Life of James E. Talmage--Educator, Scientist, Apostle, 226-229.)

So what does a "mobility impaired" old guy on life support do when he hits his "Plimsoll Mark"?  I am limited physically in what I can do, but after hours of working on my computer and reading I reach my "Plimsoll Mark", and thankfully I can get reenergized by watching Dodgers baseball, Lakers basketball, and BYU football.  I also enjoy watching the same movies President Kimball watched so many years ago on Turner Classic Movies.  I even find relief by rolling outside and looking at the flowers in our front yard.  Thankfully, it doesn't take much to renew my energy and spirit which is a great gift.  How about you?