Monday, January 29, 2007


Monday, January 29, 2007, Observation:

A week or so ago I finished reading one of the most delightful books I have read in some time.  The title is "The Greatest Game Ever Played" written by Mark Frost.  Mark Frost produced a movie with the same title, based on his book, which many of you may have seen.  The book however, is so much better than the movie, which is often the case with movies based on books.  It is the true story of the 1913 US Open golf tournament.  Francis Ouimet, a young 19-year-old amateur golfer from Brookline, Massachusetts where the tournament was held, competed against the best amateurs and professionals in the world.  Harry Vardon from England, the Tiger Woods of his day, and another Englishman by the name of Ted Ray, were considered the two greatest golfers of the day and one of them was expected to win the tournament.  I won't disclose more than that about the story so as not to ruin the experience for those of you who have not seen the movie or read the book.  If you decide to buy the book and read it make sure you have plenty of free time on your hands, because once you start reading you will not be able to lay it down.

Francis' father was very opposed to him playing golf and did everything he could to discourage him from what he considered to be an aimless and unproductive use of his son's time.  On the other hand, his mother encouraged him, often behind her husband's back, and because of her and the encouragement he received from other important adults in his life he became an accomplished golfer, and more importantly a great human being.  Without that encouragement Francis would never have had the influential and wonderful quality of life that became his.

Several Saturdays ago I was reading on the Internet, the Deseret News sports page -- a daily ritual.  One of my favorite writers is a fellow by the name of Dick Harmon.  Interestingly enough, he said of Tiger Woods the following: January 20, 2007 [Dick Harmon] -- "This summer, Hall of Fame golfer Johnny Miller, speaking of the great Tiger Woods, pointed out there is magic in a parent building up self confidence in a child like Earl Woods did with Tiger. Earl Woods built up his son from the inside out, instilling in him a belief he could do anything and he could dominate the world.

      "Giving a child affirmation for the good he does can bring about great results," Miller said. "By the same token, if a father keeps telling his kid he's no good, well ..."      No pressure, all you moms and dads. But you guys can make a huge difference with the right kind of cheering for your kid... Corny? I know."

Like many of you, I have been blessed throughout my life with parents, brothers, church leaders, coaches, and teachers who have encouraged me, built up my self-confidence and self-esteem, and helped me to believe I could do anything. I will only mention one person however, who has been so important in my life in encouraging me to believe in myself and in what I could accomplish.  That person is my wife, Jo Anne. 

I was devastated by my accident, as you might imagine.  I was at the top of my game on that fateful day in August of 1989.  I was serving as a stake president, I was enjoying my career with CES, none of my children were in jail, and that year my first two grandsons were born.  Then in an instant I became paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support.  My heart was broken; I didn't know if I wanted to keep living in this condition, and I was extremely depressed.  Thankfully I had the good fortune to be married to an incredibly strong woman blessed with "true grit".  From the first day of my accident I never felt pity or a "poor Jack" attitude from Jo Anne.  She was there constantly encouraging me and giving me frequent psychological kicks in an unmentionable part of my anatomy.  There was no way she was going to ever let me languish in self pity.  Within nine months after my accident I had been called to serve as a "paralyzed patriarch", which calling I could never have accepted without Jo Anne's encouragement and positive attitude that this was something I could surely do.  I was called upon to give my first public talk at seminary graduation in May of 1990 and flatly refused knowing it was something I could not do.  Richard Holzapfel, the Irvine stake seminary principal at the time, said that was fine, but that he was going to have my name printed on the program as the keynote speaker and whether I showed up or not was up to me. Jo Anne told me I could do this, and with her help, through two weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, I finally had a little talk prepared and went to the seminary graduation with fear and trembling to deliver it.  I was astonished when the kids actually acted like they enjoyed it. 

Shortly after that my bishop called me to be the Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward which I promptly refused to do.  There was just no way that I could prepare a weekly lesson and ever teach again in that way.  Jo Anne told the bishop I was out of my mind, I didn't know what I was talking about, and she accepted the assignment for me.  I have been the Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward now for the past 16 years.  She then told me I should be speaking on the "Know Your Religion" program.  I told her that was absolutely absurd but she wouldn't drop it and I finally submitted a proposal to CES which was miraculously accepted.  For several years I spoke on the "Know Your Religion" program in a number of the stakes in Southern California.  I was amazed that so many people seemed to enjoy these presentations. 

Not content, Jo Anne told me I should be speaking at Education Week.  I laughed at her and was incredulous that she would ever mention such a thing.  Finally, under her persuasive encouragement, I submitted a proposal to CES and was astonishingly invited to speak at Education Week, delivering two lectures that first year.  Jo Anne was not satisfied with this and felt that I could give four lectures the next year.  I told her that I thought now she was out of her mind, but with her encouragement I submitted four proposals that were accepted.  No one will know how hard I worked to prepare those four lectures on different subjects, but I did so and felt pretty good about it.  Driving home from Provo that year Jo Anne announced to me that she thought I could do eight different lectures the next year.  I asked her to dump me off at the Zzzzyx offramp near Baker which was preferable to the price I would have to pay to prepare those lectures.  She sailed past the Zzzzyx offramp however, the lectures were prepared, and the rest is history as they say.

Not once in 17 1/2 years has Jo Anne ever treated me with pity, or made me feel that I was handicapped in any way.  Her encouragement has resulted in achievement, joy, fulfillment, and a continued zest and love for life.

President Hinckley, the essence of optimism and encouragement said on one occasion: "It is a responsibility divinely laid upon each of us to bear one another's burdens, to strengthen one another, to encourage one another, to lift one another, to look for the good in one another, and to emphasize that good. There is not a man or woman... who cannot be depressed on the one hand, or lifted on the other, by the remarks of his or her associates."  [Gordon B. Hinckley, CES fireside, March 6, 1994]

Based on my personal experience his words surely are true!




Monday, January 15, 2007


January 15, 2007, Observation:

Well, the college football season is finally over.  I must say that I enjoyed it immensely which I always do when BYU defeats the University of Utah.  This year it was interesting to me that a mediocre University of Utah team came within several seconds of almost defeating a great BYU team in Salt Lake City.  More startling than that however, was that sad day in the Rose Bowl when UCLA -- having a bad year -- rose up and struck down mighty USC, thus denying them the opportunity of playing for the national championship against Ohio State in the Tostitos Bowl. And then wouldn't you know that USC, contrary to the expectation of most experts, just romped over the University of Michigan in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.  To make everything even more topsy-turvy, unappreciated and largely unknown Boise State defeated one of the great football programs in the United States, Oklahoma.  Defying all odds, the University of Florida just destroyed previously undefeated Ohio State in the Tostitos Bowl championship game.

This, of course, is not the only year that underdogs have defeated highly ranked and touted opponents; it really happens frequently.  In thinking about this phenomenon I think I have at least a partial answer that makes some sense to me. I believe it boils down to "desire".  Desire gives birth to action, and if desire is strong enough, one's actions can become incredibly potent and focused.  The dictionary lists "desire" and some of its synonyms as follows: "Desire, wish, want, crave, and covet -- all mean to have a longing for. Desire stresses ... strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim.  Wish sometimes implies a general or transient longing especially for the unattainable.  Want specifically suggests a felt need or lack.  Crave stresses the force of physical appetite or emotional need.  Covet implies strong envious desire."  [Merriam-Webster dictionary]
Of the five words, all meaning to have a longing for, only "desire" stresses strength of feeling and implies strong intention or aim.  The other words are more passive. To me, "desire" is a power word that is at the heart of every great endeavor, surpassing wishing, wanting, craving, and, coveting in describing to have a longing for something. 

I have read books about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Panama Canal, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Wright Brothers desire to fly and achieving what then was considered by most to be an impossible task.  I have read of Magellan circumnavigating the earth and of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Ocean.  I have read of Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent light bulb.  I could go on and on with example after example, but it seems to me that all of these great endeavors and countless others have been achieved by men and women who had burning in their hearts, "desire". 

Where does desire come from?  By observing society it is apparent that one can have positive, righteous, desires, but on the other hand one's desires can also be negative, unrighteous, and downright evil.  Why is there an Osama bin Laden whose "desire" is to destroy Western civilization as we know it through horrific terrorist tactics?  Why was there, on the other hand, a Mother Teresa who desired to do everything in her power to save life and bless the suffering and poor of India?

I don't know that I have the complete answer to my question.  I know that we come into this world "innocent" because of the atonement of Christ, and have within us the power to ultimately become very good or very evil or somewhere in between.  Parents have a great responsibility, I believe, to attempt to cultivate within the hearts of their children, before they become very old, a "desire" for that which is hopefully "lovely, virtuous, and of good report".

At the end of the day all of us are known by our works and actions which are born of desire.  In commissioning the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon to assist in selecting the original Quorum of the 12 Apostles in this dispensation the Lord told them: "And by their desires and their works you shall know them."  [Doctrine & Covenants 18:38] The Lord further emphasized this eternal principle when he said: "For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts."  [Doctrine & Covenants 137:9]

The Lord makes great promises to those who love him because their desires are righteous. "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."  [Psalms 37:4] "... the desire of the righteous shall be granted."  [Proverbs 10: 24]
Alma profoundly understood how potent a part our desires play in our eventual destiny when he recorded, "... for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction."  [Alma  29:4]

Desire may be called by some, "motivation", but I believe that desire goes beyond motivation.  Desire is at the core of our being and is the vital driving force in our lives.  It is inextricably a part of all our actions. We may try to "instill" certain desires in the hearts of others, but true desire is born from within. Alma taught a profound truth regarding desire to the Zoramites when he told them, "... if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."  [Alma 32:24]

Much as he would have liked to, Alma couldn't inject a desire to believe and to have faith into the hearts of the Zoramites.  They had to muster up the "desire to believe" and then let that desire work in them before they could begin to believe and have faith in the words of Alma.  Based on my own experience I believe the desire to serve the Lord and to accomplish significant and positive things can be cultivated through intense prayer, fasting, Scripture searching, and service to others.

At one time in my life I felt I had lost everything and because of it I lost the desire to even live.  The desire to live, to be productive, and to accomplish positive things, only came after the passage of time and much pondering and soul-searching, accompanied by prayer, fasting, and Scripture searching. 

As important as "desire" is in achieving significant things like defeating the University of Utah in football, it can become the driving force that will ultimately result in our receiving from the Lord his greatest gift -- even the gift of eternal life.






Friday, January 5, 2007

Lorenzo Snow

Friday, January 5, 2007
The Billowing Surge

Hanging on the wall in my office is a portrait of Lorenzo Snow done in chalk by a very talented sister that used to live in the Irvine, California Stake.  She brought me the painting while I was just beginning my rehabilitation of six months at Rancho Los Amigos hospital in September of 1989.  It has been my privilege to look at this painting almost every day since then and contemplate the great faith of this prophet of God.  When she gave me the painting at the hospital she said she didn't know why she had painted Lorenzo Snow but had felt impressed that she should do so.  I told her I knew exactly why she had felt that prompting. For years he had been an inspiration to me because of his faith which his patriarchal blessing said would be like unto that of the Brother of Jared.  Now I realized I would need his kind of faith to deal with what had happened to me.  Almost daily as I study the face of Lorenzo Snow I am strengthened and reminded of the power of faith in our lives and what it can accomplish.  His great example has always motivated me to never give up and to rely on the "tender mercies" of the Lord in the face of an extreme challenge.

Since my body surfing accident at Laguna Beach I can truly identify with an experience that Lorenzo Snow had in the surf off the island of Maui, Hawaii near the mouth of the harbor of Lahaina.  It was on the morning of March 31, 1864 that this event occurred and was recorded by one of Lorenzo Snow's companions, Elder W. W. Cluff.
"Apostles Ezra T. Benson, Lorenzo Snow, Brother Alma L. Smith, and myself, got into the small boat to go on shore.  Brother Joseph F. Smith, as he afterwards stated, had some misgivings about going in that boat, but the manifestation was not sufficiently strong to indicate any general accident. He preferred to remain on board the vessel until the boat returned...The entrance to the harbor is a very narrow passage between coral reefs, and when the sea is rough, it is very dangerous, on account of the breakers. Where the vessel lay, the sea was not rough, but only presented the appearance of heavy swells rolling to the shore."

"As we approached the reef it was evident to me that the surf was running higher than we anticipated... We went but little farther, when a heavy swell struck the boat and carried us before it about fifty yards. When the swell passed it left us in a trough between two huge waves. It was too late to retrieve our error, and we must run our chances. When the second swell struck the boat, it raised the stern so high that the steersman's oar was out of the water, and he lost control of the boat. It rode on the swell a short distance and swung around just as the wave began to break up. We were almost instantly capsized into the dashing, foaming sea...The last I remember of Brother Snow, as the boat was going over, I saw him seize the upper edge of it with both hands..."
"Nothing yet had been seen of Brother Snow, although the natives had been swimming and diving in every direction in search of him. We were only about one-fourth of a mile from shore... Brother Snow had not yet been discovered, and the anxiety was intense. The natives were, evidently, doing all in their power. Finally, one of them, in edging himself around the capsized boat, must have felt Brother Snow with his feet and pulled him, at least, partly from under it, as the first I saw of Brother Snow was his hair floating upon the water around one end of the capsized boat. As soon as we got him into our boat, we told the boatmen to pull for the shore with all possible speed. His body was stiff, and life apparently extinct."

"On reaching the shore, we carried him a little way to some large empty barrels that were lying on the sandy beach. We laid him face downwards on one of them, and rolled him back and forth until we succeeded in getting the water he had swallowed out of him. After working over him for some time, without any indications of returning life, the by-standers said that nothing more could be done for him. But we did not feel like giving him up, and still prayed and worked over him, with an assurance that the Lord would hear and answer our prayers. Finally we were impressed to place our mouth over his and make an effort to inflate his lungs, alternately blowing in and drawing out the air, imitating, as far as possible, the natural process of breathing. This we persevered in until we succeeded in inflating his lungs. After a little, we perceived very faint indications of returning life. A slight wink of the eye, which, until then, had been open and death-like, and a very faint rattle in the throat, were the first symptoms of returning vitality. These grew more and more distinct, until consciousness was fully restored." [Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 276-279.]

This may be one of the first recorded instances of the saving of a human life through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation -- CPR.  Of course these brethren were inspired to do what they did to save the life of a future Prophet of God.  Though not in the same league with Lorenzo Snow, six lifeguards at Laguna Beach did CPR on me for a lengthy period of time until the paramedics were able to arrive on the scene with all of their lifesaving equipment.  Without those six young men and their absolute determination to keep me alive I wouldn't be writing this observation today.  Lorenzo Snow was kept alive -- and thankfully in better shape than me -- to fulfill an important foreordained mission. I have a little bit of a feeling for the gratitude he must have felt when he regained consciousness on the beach that day.  He knew his life had been preserved by his Heavenly Father for an important reason.  I am sure it gave added direction to his life from that moment on. When I awoke from my unconscious state, lying on a gurney in the intensive care unit of Laguna Hospital, looking up into the faces of concerned doctors, nurses, family, and friends, there washed over me a feeling of gratitude and the realization that although I was badly injured I was still alive.
I have a firm testimony that God is involved in all aspects of our lives.  Of course, with his power, he could prevent any accident or injury from befalling us, but then that would be counterproductive to his plan of happiness for each one of his children.  On occasion, through his infinite foreknowledge, he does preserve life to further his own purposes, as in the case of Lorenzo Snow, or to give us additional time and experience to become what he would have us become.

The older I get the more I feel I understand and identify with the Lord's counsel to Joseph Smith as he languished in Liberty Jail.  After recounting all of the horrible things Joseph had experienced and would yet experience he included the following statement:  "... [and] if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee...know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."  [Doctrine & Covenants 122:7]

I do not presume to speak for Lorenzo Snow, but as for me, being cast into the deep and having the billowing surge conspire against me, unbelievable as it may seem, has given me experience and has been for my good.