Tuesday, November 27, 2007


November 27, 2007 Observation:

Several years ago Jo Anne and I went to a movie that many of you undoubtedly saw as well, entitled "The Illusionist."  The illusionist in the movie was a master magician who was able to create illusions that seemed very real to his audiences.  He was so skillful that those who attended his shows could not distinguish reality from the fiction he created. It really was quite an entertaining movie, and started me thinking about the concept of illusions.  The world we live in is full of illusions and the illusionists that create them.  An illusion is "the action of deceiving -- the state or fact of being intellectually deceived or misled."  [Merriam-Webster online dictionary]

I believe the first, and possibly most blatant illusionist, I have ever encountered was a fellow I worked with the summer I drove truck for Kennecott Copper Corp. at the Liberty Pit in Ruth, Nevada where I grew up.  I worked the graveyard shift -- 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Every night just before we began our shift a man would drive into the parking lot in a beautiful Cadillac.  He was always dressed in an immaculate blue suit, sparkling white shirt, a gorgeous tie, and the shiniest shoes imaginable.  To top it off he also wore a very expensive gray hat with a very large cigar clamped between his teeth.  Being an innocent youth I asked one of my fellow truck drivers if this might not be the president of Kennecott Copper Corp. who had condescended to fly over from New York to check out the graveyard shift at the Liberty Pit.  My friend laughed and just said, "Keep an eye on him and see what happens."  The man in the blue suit disappeared into the locker room and in just a moment or two emerged looking a whole lot like the rest of us, wearing coveralls and old beat-up shoes.  Still watching him I was astonished when instead of mounting one of the huge earthmovers we were all driving he climbed into the water truck.  His job, the easiest and most mundane at the Liberty Pit, was to drive around and sprinkle the dirt roads to keep the dust in check.  At the end of the shift he again disappeared into the locker room and emerged as he had entered eight hours earlier.  I am sure his neighbors and other acquaintances believed him to be at the very least the vice president of the Ely, Nevada, Last National Bank.

His illusion was harmless, but as I have thought about this experience over the years it has occurred to me that many of us have a lot of the "blue suit" in us in that it is a very real temptation to appear to be what we are not -- deceiving others and oftentimes even ourselves.  Sad to say, during this coming election year we will have paraded before us any number of illusionists running for public office who will strive to intellectually deceive or mislead us.  We must work hard at discerning the truth from the illusion we are given.

How wonderful it is to know people who are not illusionists, but are exactly what they appear to be.  In July when my stomach hemorrhaged, Dr. Nakano whispered in my ear, "Jack, if I don't operate now you will die!"  She looked like a doctor, she acted like a doctor, and I could sense there was no "blue suit" in her.  I simply said, "Do it!"  She knew what she was doing because of years of arduous study and work and proved to be a blessing in saving my life.  I feel the same way about my ophthalmologist, Dr. Appa, who looks like a big 17-year-old but is no illusionist.  He knows what he is about and blesses countless lives because of his expertise developed over many years.

Perhaps one of the great challenges of life is not to create illusions in our own minds -- intellectually deceiving ourselves -- somehow convincing ourselves we are something we really are not and have not paid the price to be.  Appearance seems to have replaced substance in so many aspects of our society and lives.  One of my favorite lines from "My Fair Lady" is when Henry Higgins, in commenting on the various languages of the world, said "The French don't really care much what they do as long as they pronounce it correctly."  We spend so much time, money, and effort decorating ourselves and our homes that at times we forget to decorate appropriately our minds and souls.

Of course the master illusionist is Satan -- the great deceiver.  He would have us believe, for example, that "Wickedness can bring us happiness" which is contrary to the eternal truth that "Wickedness never was happiness" because it is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in God!  And yet, through the ages how many sorry people have bought into this illusion? I believe a daily challenge we all face is to separate truth from illusion, and especially to not deceive ourselves regarding ourselves.

Elder Gene R. Cook in talking about a family vacation on one occasion said:
"Last summer on a lonely stretch of desert highway, we saw ahead what appeared to be the road covered with water. My children would have wagered their entire savings on that fact. But within a few minutes we were at the distant spot and saw not one drop of water. What an illusion. How many things there are in this life that appear to be one way and all of a sudden are the reverse. … Satan operates that way. He is the master of illusion. He creates illusions in an attempt to detour, dilute, and divert the power and the attention of the Latter-day Saints from the pure truth of God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 35–36; or Ensign, May 1982, 25).

I think we need to be so very careful that we do not let the master illusionist detour, dilute, and divert our power and attention from the pure truth of God.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Love One Another

November 11, 2007, Observation:

Well, I let Jo Anne talk me into it.  Last week we went out and bought a new, modified, Toyota Sienna van.  We aren't rich -- just stupid, I suppose.  Not knowing my life expectancy I told her I would like to go out in style when it was my time which she thought was a very good idea, although I was a tad disappointed she agreed so readily to any plans I had regarding my demise.

The Toyota is light-years better than the Dodge vans we have driven over the years.  The Japanese do such a wonderful job -- it makes you wonder who really won World War II.  In our new Toyota we seem to float effortlessly, and silently I might add, down the freeway.  I can only compare the way our Dodge went down the freeway to a covered wagon traveling over rocks and ruts with those iron rims and no shocks.

Actually we are the proud owners of two vans as we are trying to sell the Dodge at this time -- better be careful what I say about the Dodge until we have made the appropriate deal.  A few days ago my VIP (Very Important Philipino) caregiver, Rey, came into the bedroom to begin the process of getting me ready for the day.  I asked him if he had seen Jo Anne and he said he thought it was her washing two vans out in our driveway.  I told him when she came in I was going to demonstrate what constitutes a beautiful and successful marriage relationship.  Sure enough, at the perfect moment she ran into the bedroom to choose the outfit of the day.  I asked her where she had been all morning and she said, "Outside washing the vans."  I asked her if she thought she had done a good job and she was only slightly offended at the question as she assured me that nobody could have done it better than her.  I said, "But what about the windows -- I'll bet they will be streaky when the sun shines in."  She responded, "Oh no!"  She then told me how she had a special solution and a squeegee that did the windows better than our Mexican brothers at the local car wash.  I then said, "But what about the chrome wheels?  I'll bet they have hard water spots all over them."  She bristled a bit but told me about her special solution for shining up and making them look like new.  And then she said, "Don't even ask me about the tires because I have already put "Armour All" on them and they look great!"  I could see that Rey was duly impressed with this interchange and I looked at him and said, "When you can have this kind of conversation with your wife you know you have the greatest marriage possible -- at least as a husband!"

Now don't you husbands get after your wives for not taking better care of your automobiles.  Many wives never get the rare opportunity of being married to a quadriplegic on life support, and so many "normal" husbands never really come to know all of the hidden talents their wives may possess.

Seriously though, as I think of all that Jo Anne has done for me over the years I cannot help but think she has passed the Savior's litmus test of true discipleship contained in John 13: 34-35.  One of my favorite hymns over the years, and probably many of yours as well, is based on these two verses. It is one of those late-night and early morning melodies, accompanied by the challenging words of Jesus, that run through my mind almost constantly when I am unable to sleep. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."  [John 13:34-35]
I hope that just because these words are well known and oft repeated they will never become trite or lose their power to influence our behavior.  I do believe that if we would learn to love one another as the Savior did -- ultimately giving his life for each one of us -- that most family and world problems would be instantly resolved.  I believe the love the Savior described begins at home between husbands and wives and then extends on to their children and grandchildren.  Beyond that we all have multiple opportunities each day of our lives to interact with business associates, fellow students, other members of the church, doctors, dentists, mechanics, gardeners, and etc. and etc.  And how will we ultimately be known as Christ's true disciples?  "... if ye have love one to another!"  Is this love given grudgingly and only out of duty?  I don't think so if it is the kind of love Christ has for us.

Sometimes Jo Anne expresses the sentiment to me that she feels that somehow, because she has never held hardly any high visibility administrative or teaching positions in the Church, she is somehow not as valiant in her testimony and commitment to the Savior as others may be.  How wrong could she be based on the Savior's litmus test of true discipleship?  If I understand the Savior's challenge to us to become his true disciples, Jo Anne is the "truest" disciple of Christ I have ever met.  I'm afraid that if I were in her shoes I might come up lacking just a bit.