Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mothers have an incredible impact on our lives

My good friend John Nelson has often quoted to me the title of this observation when things seem to go bad. In other words, let's blame it on our mothers. We say it in jest but mothers do have an incredible impact on our lives.

I have always thought that my mom had a very difficult life in many regards. Just a few days before Christmas, as a young 10-year-old girl, she was left alone with her sick dad for several hours while her mother and the rest of the family went in a wagon to do some Christmas shopping. Her dad was very sick, but nobody knew just how bad off he really was. He would have her go outside all through the day and climb a tall tree on their property to see if she could see the wagon coming. Finally, just as the sun was setting, she saw the wagon coming up the road and ran out to plead with her mother to hurry home and take care of her dad. Her mother, Halley Young, was a midwife and knew how to handle emergency medical situations. She knew immediately that her husband, Allen, a young man in his late 30s, was extremely bad off. She was able to get someone to come with a car and transport her and her husband to the train depot in Delta, Utah. There were no doctors really in that farming community and she knew that she needed to get Allen to a hospital as fast as she could. Mom and her brothers and sisters were left to fend for themselves as their mom and dad rode the train to Salt Lake City and the hospital.

It was discovered that Allen had a ruptured appendix. They operated immediately and it looked like he might make it, but within a week he died of complications due to the ruptured appendix. It just tears my heart out to read mom's account of her father's death in her life story. Her mother was pregnant at the time and had seven other children dependent upon her. The oldest boy, Alva, I believe was only 12 or 13 at the time; there were four girls and three boys. The baby yet to be born was to be a boy. Eugene was his name.

The death of her father had a profound impact upon my mom. He was her hero. I think losing her dad affected her personality to a certain extent. Apparently he was a great fun loving person who was always playing games with his children. There was a great deal of love and happiness in her home and in her life and then very suddenly it was all gone. For a number of years after his death, Grandma Young would allow no social gatherings in their home and piano playing and singing were forbidden. It was a sad family for quite a period of time until Grandma Young had a vision in which her husband appeared to her and assured her that all was well with him and that she and the family were to get on with their lives and be happy.

Mom had other afflictions to deal with during her lifetime. I can remember when her entire body was covered with open sores. She was allergic it seems to everything. All of her hair was cut off -- not shaved -- but very short to try to fight the allergy. She couldn't wear any of her clothes because she was allergic to everything but one particular fabric. For over a year she struggled with this and I can remember how miserable she was. She had various operations over the years as well, and unbelievably, at a family reunion up in the mountains one summer, a pressure cooker exploded and scalded her body horribly. She was in the hospital for some time getting over the burns, especially on her chest. She also was plagued with a nervous condition and had to receive electric shock treatments on a number of different occasions. With today's modern medicine for nervous disorders, her life would have been so blessed. However, she was a woman of great faith and carried on in spite of her challenges and adversity.

Mom was an extremely intelligent person. She did graduate from High School which was not particularly common in those days, living out in the country as she did. She was a voracious reader all of her life. I can remember her being the literature teacher in Relief Society when they had what they called the cultural refinement lessons once each month. Mom taught that class for years and introduced me to some great literature. She would be so excited about what she was reading that I would want to read it also, which I did.

She was an outstanding teacher, especially of the youth. Because of the size of our ward in Ruth, Nevada she was the only teacher I ever had except for my Aaronic Priesthood teachers. It was she who instilled in my heart a love for the gospel. Her Sunday School class when I was a teenager was remarkable, as I look back on it. About twice a year she would hold a Sunday School class party at our home. Being the great cook she was, nobody ever wanted to miss those parties. She also gave a final examination at the end of each curriculum year. We took these tests very seriously and one of my prized possessions for many years was a copy of The Book of Mormon she presented to me for receiving the top grade on her test that year.

I could always trust my mom's opinion about everything. She would always give me honest feedback, if I asked for it. If I played a piano solo or a baseball or basketball game and asked mom how I did, I would always get an honest answer I could trust. She was a great mother for boys. Her dad and brothers had been avid sports fans and not having any daughters, she was really into sports. She was extremely knowledgeable about baseball, basketball, and football. On a number of occasions she won the football prognostication challenge that appeared in the Ely Daily Times during the college football season. I don't think she ever missed one of my baseball or basketball games. Later in her life when she started living with us several months out of the year, we would watch all of the Lakers games we could on TV. Magic Johnson was her all-time favorite basketball player.

She was one of the world's best homemakers in my biased opinion. Coming from a different era, she devoted all of her time and attention to her family. Our home was immaculate. She was a great cook. We had a major desert after every evening meal for as long as I could ever remember. She loved to bake and there was always homemade bread, pies and cakes, and wonderful cookies

I am sure we were all spoiled rotten. I can remember working for Kennecott Copper both before and after my mission. Mom would pack my lunch and the highlight of every shift was to open the lunch bucket and see what culinary delight it contained. Her philosophy was that if we were working full-time that we didn't need to work around the house. She felt that it was her responsibility to keep the home front going as long as we were pulling our weight in the world of work outside the home.

My mother was a woman of character and substance. Her influence for good on my life has been incalculable.

I am convinced that mothers have the greatest influence for good or evil on their children than any other factor in this world. I shudder to think what I might have been like without the teachings and influence of a wonderful mother.

Her example and teachings in retrospect prepared me to deal with the little challenge that came into my life the day I became paralyzed and dependent on life support for my existence. She put the backbone into me for which I will forever be grateful.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Billy Shaw Incident

What became known in our family and in our neighborhood in Ruth, Nevada as the "Billy Shaw Incident" took place one warm summer morning in 1948. Billy Shaw was a Norman Rockwell type looking kid. He had bright red hair, bordering on orange, which was always worn in a flat top. He had big red freckles that covered his entire face, arms, and I would imagine the rest of his body. I'm sure he was a "cute" little boy by anybody's standard. He lived down the street and he and I played together all the time. We were good friends, were in the same class at school, and spent lots of time playing in the neighborhood.
The summer morning in question found us outside messing around in the weeds that grew on the hill below our home. As we were poking around we discovered the leg from an old wooden table. It was quite ornate and looked a little bit like the jousting weapon used by Knights of old as they engaged in mortal combat. A conflict began between the two of us because there was only one jousting weapon and we both wanted it for our own. Before we knew it we were pushing each other and trying to pull the table leg away from one another. Finally this great weapon was dropped to the ground and we were wrestling each other. I was on top of Billy when all of a sudden a hand reached down, jerked me away from him, slammed me to the ground on my back, and threw Billy on top of me. I looked up and saw him Billy's mom standing over us screaming, "Now let's see a fair fight!" Obviously she had not seen the beginning of what was not really a fight but just two boys wrestling a little bit over a dumb table leg. Our energy would have been expended quickly and a compromise reached.

Those who know me well know that I have great patience and a calm disposition. What you may not know about me is that when I get angry I totally lose control; I feel a white heat inside me and everything starts spinning around. I guess I was so incensed by what Billy's mom did that I just totally lost it. I was filled with adrenaline, threw Billy off me, got on top of him, and just started pounding at his face. It reminds me a little bit of the scene in the movie "The Christmas Story". Billy pounded back at me but was no match for my anger. Soon Billy's blood was all over his face and shirt, and my hands and arms were drenched with his blood up to my elbows. Finally his mom pulled me off without saying anything and took Billy home. I was not elated with my victory and instead I was sobbing and sick at my stomach. I remember going to the side of our house and washing the blood off of my arms and hands from the outside faucet. I can't think of any event in my life that has made me feel quite so badly as the day I beat up on Billy Shaw.
I'm happy to report that Billy and I resumed our friendship, which continued through grade school and high school. I can't remember who ended up with the table leg. I don't know why Billy's mom did what she did. I hope she learned a great lesson from her unwise actions. This was really the first fight I had as a young boy and thankfully one of the last. Maybe it was important that I had this fight then than later in life when I could have done severe damage or been damaged by someone much bigger than me. I knew from that experience that I didn't like to fight. I have always felt there was a better way to handle things. However, I have to share my last fight with you, which took place when I was about twelve years old; two years after the Billy Shaw incident.

Another good friend was Jimmy Gardner. His dad had been a semi pro baseball player – a catcher. He had trained Jimmy from his birth to also be a catcher. He and I were great friends and played baseball together continually. When we were 12-year-olds some older teenagers wanted to have some fun and so they talked Jimmy into picking a fight with me. I was across the street from our house with a couple of other kids. We were standing on the bank of one of the water ponds - empty of water now, but with banks about four feet high. We always played baseball in those empty water ponds and it took a mighty blast to hit a baseball over the bank and out of the pond. Anyway, Jimmy and these bigger teenagers came up to us and Jimmy said some insulting thing to me and pushed me hard. As I began to roll down the bank I grabbed hold of his leg and pulled him down with me. He jumped up and in a very cocky voice said, "Come out here and let's finish it!" I don't think he thought I would come out to fight him. But I jumped up and ran over to where he was and threw the hardest punch I could right at his nose. My dad had always told me that it wasn't good to fight, but if you found yourself in that situation to go for the nose with your first punch and if you landed it the fight would be over. Thankfully I didn't hit his nose but came close and stunned him. He grabbed me with his arms and whispered to me that he really didn't want to fight me and let's just quit and go home. I was only too happy to do that and in spite of the taunts of the older boys we went home.

To my knowledge those are the only two major physical fights I ever had. Since then I have learned that it takes more courage to walk away from a fight than to fight. My oldest son, Mike, as a district attorney could tell all of us how fighting can lead to terrible things. The Savior's message of agreeing with our adversaries quickly and then turning the other cheek is absolutely true but not always easy to do. It takes great self restraint not to verbally or physically fight with others; of course nothing good ever comes from it. Love and kindness toward other people will usually help us to avoid confrontations and enable us to live in peace and harmony.
If all else fails however, go for the nose!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Praise -- Potential Poison

The other day I overheard a phone conversation between Jo Anne and a good friend. Jo Anne said, "I am married to a model husband." Well, she has never told me that, but to hear her make that statement to her friend was most gratifying. I sort of thought she was telling the truth. Later that day I was looking up some words in my online dictionary and thought I might as well look up the word "model" while I was at it. One of the definitions that caught my immediate attention was, "A cheap imitation." Surely that wasn't the definition Jo Anne was using in describing me to her friend was it? Or was it? I don't think I want to know.

In giving or receiving praise and compliments we need to be extremely careful I believe. A father had just finished giving a little lecture to his young teenage son regarding being kind to all people, using tact, and complementary language in interacting with others. Soon after the lecture the boy went to his first dance. He had only been gone a short time when he returned home with a black eye. His dad asked him what had happened and the boy said he had tried to follow his advice and while dancing with a girl simply said, "For a fat girl you don't sweat very much."

Over the years since my accident I have had more people say nice things about me and to me than ever ought to be. While it is gratifying to be the recipient of such kind words and sentiments, there is also a danger associated with it. To me, the greatest danger is to begin to believe that what others are saying is true and then worse than that to begin to desire to be recognized and to receive the compliments and adulation of others. We may be tempted to believe we are actually something very special and indispensable.

President Hinckley in giving counsel to some young missionaries about to enter the mission field warned them as follows: "It is so very important that you do not let praise and adulation go to your head. Adulation is poison. You better never lose sight of the fact that the Lord put you where you are according to His design, which you don’t understand. Acknowledge the Lord for whatever good you can accomplish and give Him the credit and the glory and [do] not worry about that coming to yourself." [Ensign, February, 2001]

Inscribed in Mortar Board Court at The Ohio State University is the following anonymous poem entitled "The Torch".

The God of the great endeavor gave me a torch to bear.
I lifted it high above me in the dark and murky air.
Straightway with loud hosannas the crowd acclaimed its light,
And followed me as I carried my torch through the dark and starless night.
Til mad with peoples’ praises and drunken with vanity,
I forgot 'twas the torch that drew them and fancied they followed me.
Then my arm grew sore and weary upholding the shining load,
And my tired feet went stumbling over the hilly road.
I fell with the torch beneath me, in a moment the flame was out.
But lo, from the throng a stripling sprang forth with a mighty shout,
Caught up the torch as it smoldered and lifted it high again,
Til fanned by the winds of heaven it fired the souls of men.
As I lay alone in the darkness, the feet of the trampling crowd,
Passed over and far beyond me, their praises proclaimed aloud.
And I learned in the deepening shadow this glorious verity,
‘Tis the torch the people follow, who ere the bearer be.
I read this poem for the first time as a young returned missionary and have pondered its message over the years because I believe it cuts to the heart of a potential problem that we all can experience in our lives. I have thought how important it is as we are called upon to be torch bearers that we always have uppermost in our minds the fact that it is "the torch the people follow whoever the bearer may be." I believe there is always the temptation in any calling we may have in life or in the Church, where we are called upon to "carry the shining load" for a period of time, to get confused in thinking that we are something special as torch bearers. As teachers, or serving in high profile administrative positions in the world or in the Church, if we are not always sensitive to the fact that it is the torch the people follow, we may let the people's praises turn our heads and fill us with vanity. We may begin to think that as a torch bearer we are more important than the flame we are asked to carry and eventually pass on to another.

The Scriptures, as well as secular history, are replete with examples of torchbearers who began to feel they were more important than the message/the torch. Saul, David, Solomon, and most of the Kings of Israel and Judah fell into this trap. Very few people are able to handle well the praise and adulation that comes with the offices of King, President, or dictator for example. I have marveled about how vain and egotistical people like "Herod the Great," or "Suleiman the Magnificent" may have been to have allowed themselves to be given such titles. For some reason I just can't imagine Jo Anne and my children calling me, "Jack the Magnificent," although it does have a nice ring to it.

We see movie stars, athletes, and high-powered academicians for example who at times buy into the praise of the world and whose lives are inevitably destroyed because of it. Most of us will never be Presidents, movie stars, or world-class professional athletes, however, whatever our calling in life, the temptation always exists to strive to be "popular" and in doing so to get in the way of the "torch" it has fallen our lot to bear.

Being paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support for so many years has somehow propelled me into the spotlight and brought me a certain amount of notoriety that I could never have envisioned at the time of my accident. I know that in and of myself I do not have the strength, power, or intelligence to have endured so successfully this catastrophic injury for so many years. I feel the Lord has called me to carry "a shining load" as a testimony to others "... [that] I [the Lord] will ... ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs... and this will I do that ye may stand [or in my case sit] as [a witness] for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions." [Mosiah 24:14]

I know that in and of myself I am nothing, and hopefully will always realize that I have a special mission to testify to others that God does visit his people in their afflictions and will strengthen them spiritually that their burdens may be made light and easy to bear.

The Lord has humbled me every day that I have lived on life support. A number of times I could have gone into the spirit world but thankfully have been rejected each time. For some reason I don't feel badly about being a "reject" from the spirit world however.

Because of my condition I am very sensitive to the truthfulness of the words of King Benjamin who in describing to his people how utterly dependent they were on God each day of their lives said, "... He [God] is preserving your lives from day to day by lending you breath that you may live and move according to your own will and is even sustaining you from one moment to another..." [Mosiah 2:20]

I pray that I may never be so arrogant as to believe I have some super strength and courage that has carried me through these many years of paralysis. I do know though, as Paul wrote to the Phillipians, "I can do all things through Christ which Strengtheneth me." [Phillipians 4:13]

I try to keep the words of President Hinckley uppermost in my mind and heart when receiving what I consider to be unwarranted praise from others: "... Adulation is poison. You better never lose sight of the fact that the Lord put you where you are according to His design, which you don’t understand. Acknowledge the Lord for whatever good you can accomplish and give Him the credit and the glory and [do] not worry about that coming to yourself."


Saturday, August 21, 2010


While serving as Bishop it became necessary to call a new Young Men's president. A young man and his wife and two little children had just moved into the ward and I felt inspired that he was the man for the job. He was a plumber by trade, not highly educated, but related well with the youth. I told him as I called him to this position that there were two young men in our ward that needed to be picked up each Sunday and brought to church or otherwise they wouldn't come. Their family situations were such that they needed this kind of support. He simply said, "I will do it."

For the next two years every Sunday he picked up Rusty and Tom and brought them to church. Somehow he was able to stuff the two boys into his car along with his wife and their two little children. Often they would come late but they always came and many times Rusty and Tom were able to help with the administration and passing of the sacrament. He brought them to their Young Men's activities during the week and both boys progressed in the priesthood and were having a good church experience.

I was saddened the day this young man came in and told me that he had a good job offer in another city that would give him the opportunity to buy a home. Shortly after he left I called a new Young Men's President and told him the same thing that I had told the young plumber about Rusty and Tom. He said, "I will do it." I am sad to report that it didn't happen. Some Sundays he would get the boys there, and some Sundays he would forget, and some Sundays he would delegate it to others who did not follow through. Yes, you know the end of the story. Rusty and Tom became increasingly less active as they grew older and as I write this I know that both of them are basically outside the Church.

I have learned through the years that one of the qualities I admire most in others is the quality of integrity. In the leadership positions I have held during my lifetime my greatest goal was to surround myself with men and women who would say, "I will do it" and then actually DO IT.

In a great council meeting held before this world was even created "...the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me...." (Abraham 3:27.)

Never has so much been offered to so many in such few words. He of course, was the epitome of integrity, and our great example in everything. HE DID IT!
"Honesty and integrity are not old-fashioned principles. They are just as viable in today’s world. When we say we will do something, we do it. When we make a commitment, we honor it. When we are given a calling, we fulfill it. When we borrow something, we return it. When we have a financial obligation, we pay it. When we enter into an agreement, we keep it." [F. Sheldon Child]

My wife, Jo Anne, and other caregivers that have assisted her and me during the years have been men and women of integrity. I take great comfort in knowing they will not cut corners regarding my care. My life is literally in their hands and they know it and they do everything in their power to keep me alive. The quality of integrity is much more important than great intelligence or other talents or abilities. It will compensate for a multitude of other weaknesses. To just DO IT and to be men and women of our word is to be a blessing not only to ourselves and our families but to all who know us.


Contentment II

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day on the telephone. He is a few years older than me and for a number of years has been battling a lung condition that makes it hard for him to breathe. His body has weakened and it is hard for him to get around at all. He was telling me about the little electric cart he is able to load into the back of his pickup truck, using a special device that has been invented for just that purpose. He is then able to drive around the malls and other stores like Home Depot that he enjoys visiting. His home sits on a fairly large lot with lots of grass that needs mowing in the summertime. He was telling me about the wonderful huge lawnmower he just purchased that enables him to drive about to keep his lawn manicured, and how much he enjoys doing it.

I then began to share with him how much I enjoy my laptop computer and the voice recognition software that allows me to be creative and productive -- something I never thought I would be able to do at the time of my accident. My eyesight is not very good and I was telling him how much I enjoy my 42 inch high definition TV. By sitting as close to it as I can, I can see almost perfectly -- what a joy! We went on sharing other things we were able to do and then he said, "For as bad off as we are, we have it pretty good!" He was absolutely right!

To be able to be content, at peace, and happy, regardless of what life may bring our way is such a great blessing. One of my heroes over the years has been the apostle Paul. He had an extremely difficult life. In describing things he had suffered he relates that he had spent years in dungeons, had come close to death many times, had suffered shipwreck three times, had been stoned, had been whipped and beaten, and had suffered much hunger and cold. He also wrote that he had a "thorn in the flesh" -- some ailment from which he was never cured. (2 Corinthians 11: 23-28; 12:7-8) 

With all of this adversity, I find his words to the Philippian Saints remarkable. “... I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content."  (Phil. 4:11)  Then he gives us the key to his previous statement when he writes in verse 13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  (Phil. 4:13) 

Paul, through his words and his own life’s experiences, teaches us that regardless of what life brings to us, with the help of God, we can find peace, joy and even contentment in our individual circumstances.

However, with regard to the concept of being content, a wise man cautioned us by making this distinction.  He said “... We can and ought to be content with the things allotted to us, being circumstantially content but without being self-satisfied and behaviorally content with ourselves." (Neal A. Maxwell, May 2000 Ensign, 72)

I believe the concept he taught is that in all of our lives there will come to each one of us circumstances, not of our choosing, over which we have little or no control.  When these circumstances come we must accept them but never fall into the trap of letting our circumstances in life limit our behavior and keep us from achieving our true potential.  Paul's life is a great example of this truth.

I took a graduate sociology class at USC many years ago.  The only thing I remember about the class is a concept I knew to be true and significant the moment I heard it.  It consists of only two words, "Relative Deprivation."

The concept is self-explanatory.  Any deprivation we may feel in life is only relative to that to which we have been exposed.  Upon learning about this concept, my mind immediately turned to my experience in the western highlands of Guatemala as a young 20-year-old.  I spent approximately one year and a half years among the Cachiquel Indians living in the little villages of Chimaltenango, Patzicia, Tecpan, and Patzun.  Their level of poverty was just crushing, as was the ever present specter of infant mortality.  They grew corn and subsisted for many months of each year on corn tortillas and nothing else.  They even burned the tortillas to make a hot drink that tasted as bad as it sounds.  When visiting with them after dark in their little adobe, one-room homes, with a thatched roof and dirt floor, we always brought with us our own candles.  They couldn't afford candles and when the sun went down they simply went to bed.  When we left each home we made sure they had a candle -- a wonderful gift as far as they were concerned.

Although the people in these villages were not that far from Guatemala City, many of them, especially the women, never traveled further than one or two of the adjacent villages.  All they knew about life was what they experienced in the highlands among their own families and friends.  What is the point?  These people were happy!  They had faith in God; they loved their families and spent time doing the most important things in life.  They worked together, played together, worshiped together and were content in their little corner of the world.
As young North Americans coming from the United States, did we suffer "relative deprivation" upon arriving in and becoming part of this society?  In the beginning, we suffered incredibly from this disease until many of the luxuries to which we had grown accustomed faded into the distant recesses of our memories.

Upon returning home, I must admit that it took several years before I could tolerate the affluent society I had grown up in. The longer I was away from Guatemala, however, the memory of my wonderful Cachiquel friends receded into distant memory and I became once again a participant in affluence.

A number of years ago I had to spend a great deal of time in bed recovering from a bad pressure sore. One evening about 6:30 pm, Jo Anne and Jackie (my youngest daughter) got me out of bed and into my wheelchair.  I rolled outside to the front of the house wearing my ball hat and 10-year old sandals that looked brand new (I wonder why?). It was a gorgeous evening, nice and warm, with the sun at such an angle that it made everything sparkle and glow in a special way.  Jo Anne was working in her little flower garden -- I love to watch her work -- and to me the flowers seemed more beautiful and larger than I could ever remember them.  I was so happy to be outside in my wheelchair feeling so warm both inside and outside.  It felt good to be out of bed with the promise that within an hour or so we would go to In-N-Out Burger for dinner, the highlight of the week.  I can't remember feeling so good, so happy, and so much at peace.

The thought occurred to me that if someone who didn't know me were to walk down the street at that time and see me paralyzed and on life support, with dumb sandals and a ball hat on my head, they may have been tempted to mutter to themselves, "There but for the grace of God, go I!"

In Victor E. Frankl's wonderful book, "Man's Search for Meaning," he shared an important thought. Describing the horrific conditions in German concentration camps, he related how every possible thing was taken from the Jewish prisoners and how immense their suffering was. Then he made a beautiful and true statement. Having lost everything, the inmates came to understand how "... a very trifling thing can cause the greatest of joys."  [Man's Search for Meaning, Pages 61-62.]

In my case, being a prisoner in my own body, no one but me knows how the most simple and seemingly "trifling" things are such a source of joy.  For me, it is absolutely wonderful to be up in my wheelchair, rolling around and having some freedom of movement, even though limited.

I think we must be careful in judging another's suffering or joy in life.  To do so accurately, we would have to have the power to look into the innermost recesses of each person's heart.  Lucky is the man or woman who can be content and experience great joy through trifling things.

By the way, this will be my final observation for a few weeks until we return from our Cruise to the Mexican Riviera.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Piano Lessons

It began the summer I turned twelve years old. My good friend, Doug Godwin, got a new piano that summer. Actually it was an old piano -- an old upright whose age was difficult to determine. It sounded a lot like one of those pianos you hear in old Western movies in the saloon scenes. Doug and I had been friends forever and spent hours each day playing baseball. He played second base while I played shortstop which we would continue to do until we were graduated from high school.
I could not believe that Doug's parents had bought this piano. I had no idea that Doug had any love at all for music. He was never in the band and I just could not comprehend that he was going to learn how to play the piano.

However, as I would walk down the street to ask him to play baseball with me I would hear the piano music emanating from his home. His mother would invite me in and there was Doug with a couple of new piano books just playing away and seeming to have so much fun. The jealousy bug bit me hard and I just knew that if I were to ever hope to be as happy as Doug I too must learn how to play the piano.

We already had an old upright piano much like Doug's in our home. My mom played a little bit but none of us boys had ever learned. With visions of how wonderful it would be to be able to play the piano I approached my mother and asked her if I could take piano lessons. She asked me if I knew where the piano teacher lived and I told her that I did. She said if I wanted to take lessons to go ask the piano teacher if she would teach me. She said that if the teacher agreed that it would be fine with her and I could begin to learn how to play the piano.

The piano teacher in Ruth, Nevada was a lady by the name of Mrs. Shartle. She was in her late '60s and of course to me seemed ancient. She was a tall woman with gray hair and I can still remember her beautiful hands. She had long strong fingers that had undoubtedly been developed from years of playing the piano. She had graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music and was an incredible piano teacher. I did not know any of this the day I went to her home for the first time. She had been married to a mining engineer who had come to Nevada to work in the mines. They had not been in Ruth long before he died. She however, had fallen in love with Nevada and decided to stay there for the rest of her life.

She lived on Number Nine Hill in a little wooden frame house. It was a company house; very small with a living room, kitchen, and I believe only one bedroom. Number Nine Hill was the tallest hill in Ruth. It was directly across from the Star Pointer Mine, the original underground copper mine that had brought people to Ruth, Nevada. It continued to be worked, but the open pit mine, several miles away was the major operation and the reason that Ruth continued to exist as a town. Number Nine Hill was terraced and contained homes on each level. Mrs. Shartle's home was on the uppermost terrace.

That hot summer day I jumped on my bike and rode as fast as I could to her home. Her Hill was so steep that I ended up having to push my bike the last 50 yards or so to her front door. I knocked on the door and she invited me in. Dominating that little living room was the most beautiful piano I had ever seen. It was a big, black Chikering upright. I would learn to appreciate the fact that it was one of the most superior pianos ever manufactured. It had a gorgeous sound to it. It was the best piano in Ruth and probably the best and most expensive piece of furniture in any of the homes in that little mining town. She put me at ease and I asked her if she would give me piano lessons. She wanted to know if my mother knew I was there and when I told her yes she agreed to teach me. She knew my oldest brother, Allen, having taught him voice lessons some years before. She sat me right down and gave me my first lesson. She gave me several new books that I recognized were very similar to those possessed by Doug Godwin. I can still remember how exhilarated I was riding my bike home and showing my books to my mother.

I immediately sat down at the piano and began to practice the assigned lesson. It was really fun that first-day. As the week progressed however, I began to discover that this playing the piano was a lot more work than fun. I would be practicing the piano when my friends would come by to get me to go play baseball. My mother thought I should get my practicing in before going out to play. With my baseball mitt sitting on the piano bench at my side, and my baseball bat leaning up against the piano, I would put in my time and when the alarm went off on the clock I had set I would be out of the house in a heartbeat.
By the end of the week, and before my second lesson, I approached my mom and told her that maybe I really didn't want to learn how to play the piano after all and could I quit? She looked me in the eyes and said. "Jack, did I ask you to take piano lessons?" I said, "No." She continued, "Now that you have begun you are not going to quit." "But mom, how long do I have to play the piano?" And then I heard the most important word I would ever hear as a young man -- "Forever", she responded. With that statement my fate was sealed. Mom was pretty tough. I can still remember her standing over me while I practiced, counting and making sure I was hitting the right notes. I never got by with any halfhearted practice sessions. If she were to go on a vacation for a week or so visiting her mother or sisters I knew that when she got back I would have to give her a concert and she would know whether I had been faithful in my practicing. Doug Godwin got tired of the piano within the month and quit.

Mrs. Shartle continued to give me lessons until I was about a junior in high school. After the first year with her she made an arrangement with me that if I would chop her wood for her each week after my lesson that she would give me my lessons at no charge. During the subsequent years she would give me a lesson and I would go out in HTL that back and chop enough wood for her to last a week. The only source of heat in her house was an old wood-burning stove in her tiny kitchen, which burned a lot of wood. She would come out and visit with me while I worked. As a boy I didn't realize how lonely she must have been, but she would talk to me for what seemed like hours. I enjoyed her and she inspired me to actually want to learn how to play the piano.

Maybe because of my clarinet playing and familiarity with music, and because I was twelve years old, I progressed very rapidly. It wasn't long before I really began to enjoy playing because I was able to play good music. I became self-motivated and my mother did not have to stand over me while I practiced. At age 14 or 15, I became the ward organist.

I don't know what happened to Mrs. Shartle. She either died or moved away from Ruth. My memory is a little sketchy, but I think she passed away. I had a succession of teachers after Mrs. Shartle, but none of them could compare to her. I went on to BYU and took piano lessons there until I left on my mission. When I entered the mission field I could play for several hours by memory the beautiful music I had memorized at BYU. What a blessing it was to be able to play the piano as a missionary. I played solos; I accompanied others while they sang, and played for every meeting in every branch to which I was assigned.
I never became a great concert pianist of course, but through the piano I gained self-discipline and a deeper love for good music. I will be forever grateful to a strong mother who said to a young boy that he would have to practice the piano "forever"!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Will You Take with You?

I was doing some reading the other day and came across a statement made by Lowell Bennion many years ago. Lowell Bennion was an educator and author who was well-known in
the world as well as in the Church in his day. He has long since passed away and you may not recognize his name. Based on my own experience the little incident he shared in his book struck a chord with me as being very true and very important. Below is the passage:

"There is a doctor in Salt Lake who will only take patients over sixty-five. One time when I was teaching college students, he said, "Bennion, the saddest patients I have are not the poor and not the physically disabled, but those who didn't use their minds when they were young." He said "the body breaks down, but the mind only slows down. It gets richer as you go through life and you have more things to relate to one another, more memories, if you keep it alive, like a muscle. Don't spend all your time socializing, working, eating, sleeping. Get something intellectual in your life. Get excited about some intellectual dimension of life. Read, read, read, and think, think, think, and be creative in that role. And you will find life taking on an increasing interest even when the old body breaks down, practically, as my back is." (Lowell L. Bennion, The Best of Lowell L Bennion: Selected Writings 1928-1988, edited by Eugene England [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 35.)
When I had my accident a number of years ago, I began the process of understanding what this doctor that Lowell Bennion quoted was talking about. In a split second I completely lost the use of my physical body and all I had left was my mind and spirit. Soon after the accident the thought occurred to me that this must be very much like dying and entering the spirit world. We won't be able to take anything into the spirit world with us except what we have in our minds and in our hearts. During those first two weeks in the trauma center what a blessing it was for me to be able to indicate by blinking my eyes while family and friends pointed at items on a specially prepared chart, the scriptures I wanted read. I knew and loved the scriptures and as favorite passages were read to me by my friends and family it was a great source of comfort and peace at a really difficult and terrifying time in my life. The thought came to me then, "What if you had not searched the scriptures for so many years of your life, where would you be now?" It came forcibly to me then and has been impressed upon me even stronger during these past 13 years how important it is to constantly read the scriptures as well as other good books. I am convinced by my own experience that there are few things more important that we can do in mortality to prepare for eternity than this.

How grateful I am that I love to read good books as well as the Scriptures. Because of it, even though my physical body doesn't do much for me, my days are filled with happiness and fulfillment. At my age I feel a real sense of urgency to try to read really good things. I don't know how much time I have left here but I have a desire, perhaps greater than at any other time in my life, to search the Scriptures and other great books in an attempt to be prepared for my mission in the spirit world.
I hate to say it but we are not much of a reading people in our generation. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and so many others would put us to shame. They were voracious readers and profound thinkers and they didn't even have Google. I notice how when our family gets together the majority of the time is spent in discussing the movies and videos we have seen, but almost never does anyone talk about a great book they have read or a significant insight into the Scriptures that they have recently discovered. I don't want to appear to be fanatical regarding this, but I do believe we need to seek for greater balance in our lives. I also realize how busy everyone is going to school, working, and raising families. Time is precious and at a premium. I think however, we could all improve the quality of our lives by disciplining ourselves just a little bit more "to seek learning by study and faith out of the best books."
Take it from one who has in a sense had the opportunity of entering the spirit world that what I am saying is vitally important.
Dad/Grandpa/ Jack

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Many years ago as a young seminary teacher and then as an institute teacher I became fascinated with the creation. For one thing, it didn't make sense to me how this earth could have been created in seven days as the Bible indicates. There is just too much scientific evidence regarding the ancient age of the earth -- and then what about the dinosaurs?
I began an intensive study regarding the creation from a scriptural point of view as well as from what science had to say regarding the subject. I accumulated article after article that eventually filled a very large three ring binder. I studied the laws of first and second thermodynamics, the law of entropy, evolution, cataclysmic creation, and etc.. I read everything Brigham Young and other gospel scholars had to say about the subject. In teaching the creation I felt obliged to share all I knew with my students. I shudder now to think back on those lessons and my poor students. I thought I was really on to something regarding how this earth was created.
Well, as the years have gone by, thankfully I have gained a little more wisdom. As I study
Moses, Abraham, and ponder the creation account given to us in the temple I know that the
Lord in his infinite wisdom is much more concerned that we understand why this earth was
created as opposed to how it was created. I now believe the greatest truth regarding how this earth was created is given to us in the book of Moses. Moses had just asked the Lord how and why this earth was created and all of the stars and etc.. The Lord responded as follows: (Moses 1:32-33.) "And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth. 33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten."
I suppose this is all we need to know about how this world and all of the other worlds were
created. I am just overwhelmed when I consider the thought that the Father through the Son has created worlds without number. What does that mean? How do you comprehend that? And then the Lord went on to say to Moses - (Moses 1:37-38.) "And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. 38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come, and there is no end to my works, neither to my words."
The Lord isn't going to tell us more than that about the "how" of creation and I am convinced at this time in my life that this is all we need to know. He is much more concerned it seems that we understand the "why" of creation which he gives in the next vs. (Moses 1:39.) "For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
Last week, JoAnne and I were listening to the BYU devotional and heard the most inspiring
lecture regarding the creation that we have ever heard. It was given by John R. Lamb, a professor of chemistry at BYU. He has written over 150 scholarly articles that have been published worldwide in the scientific community. He has been an in residence professor at
four major universities in Europe and etc.. But to me, his greatest credential is that he is a
returned missionary who served his mission in northern Italy. With all of his scholarly knowledge he is a humble and faithful latter-day saint. In speaking of these verses in Moses he gave the following analogy: if you could build a spaceship better than the spaceship Enterprise -- one which could overcome time space and begin your space voyage when
you were first born and only one second old -- and then in your special spaceship take one
second to visit each Star in our galaxy which could support life like this earth and spend just one second exploring it, and if you lived to be 100 years old and traveled nonstop all that time, by the end of your life you would have visited 1.5 billion stars, which is not even one percent of the stars in our milky way galaxy. Beyond that he said that with the Hubble telescope which has been launched out into outer space we are aware of at least 150 billion other galaxies as big or bigger than the one upon which we live.

Then this great scientist said that when he thought of these creations and looked up into the night sky and saw the stars available to human eyes he was always prompted to think of the words in the great hymn, "How Great Thou Art!" "Oh Lord my God, when I in solemn wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made, then sings my soul my Savior God to thee - How Great Thou Art - How Great Thou Art!" You see, I had missed the point for many years of my life regarding the creation. I will tell you that as I consider the creation now that my soul sings. And the greatest thought is that somehow this great creator, as unbelievable as it may seem, and in some way we do not understand, knows each one of us intimately and has created all of this for us. All of the worlds that have ever been created have been created for one purpose and one purpose only so that Heavenly Father's Children could have the opportunity of obtaining the gift of Eternal Life.
One of the great scientists of our age, Stephen Hawking, paralyzed and only able to use the
thumb on his right hand, not even being able to speak, and yet the discoverer of great scientific truths concerning the universe, had this to say about the creation: "Although science may solve the problem of how the universe began, it cannot answer the question: Why does the universe bother to exist? I don't know the answer to that." (Stephen W. Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes [New York: Bantam Books, 1993], p. 99) "... What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is...If we do discover a complete theory... then we shall all... be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason, for then we would know the mind of God." (Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time [New York: Bantam Books, 1988], pp. 171, 175)
I wonder if an LDS scientist has ever spoken to Stephen Hawking? Thankfully, we know the
answers to his questions have been given to us in our day. I am grateful that my thinking about the creation has evolved to where it is now over the years. My soul does sing when I consider the great creator of heaven and earth. Thanks be to Joseph Smith and modern-day revelation for these great truths that have been restored to the earth in our day. As Alma was confronted by Korihor the antichrist, who had asked for a sign to prove that there was a God, he gave him the following significant message: (Alma 30:44.) "But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say. Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."
I suppose that this is all we need to know concerning the creation of this earth. But what about the dinosaurs?



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is There Anything Else I Can Do for You Today?

A number of years ago while I was serving as Bishop of the Irvine 2nd Ward, I had the opportunity of being blessed with a number of wonderful counselors during that period of time. Each one had strengths that blessed me in my role as Bishop. One in particular did something each Sunday that impressed me then and has continued to influence my thinking over the years. At the conclusion of the regularly scheduled Sunday meetings, and having completed his assignments as a counselor in the bishopric, he would knock on the door to my office where I would be counseling members, which counseling could go on for several hours, and opening the door a crack he would say "Bishop, is there anything else I can do for you today?" He would do this every Sunday without fail, and although most of the time there was nothing else that I could have him do, his offer always filled my heart with warmth because I knew that he absolutely meant what he had said.

I thought then, as I do today, that his words could well form the basis of our attitude in giving service in the church and in our relationships with our loved ones at home. Regardless of the assignment, at the end of the day, hopefully our attitude and desire would be to say to our Heavenly Father, "Father, is there anything else I can do for you today?" And in our relationships with our spouses and children, to have in our hearts the thought and desire, though maybe not verbally expressed, "Is there anything else I can do for you today" would go a long way in making all our lives sweeter and less selfish and self-centered.

I can call Jo Anne at 3 AM needing some help. In just a few moments she will appear at the door of my bedroom looking scary at that time of the morning. She responds to my request without ever making me feel that I am imposing on her in any way, and invariably says "Is there anything else I can do for you?" Not a bad way to live one's life.

Just an observation.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


One Sunday I was teaching a lesson about the birth and early childhood and development of the Savior. In preparing for the lesson I read a verse with which I am well acquainted as I am sure all of you are as well. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." [Luke 2: 52.]

In describing the life of the savior from age 12 until he began his ministry at age 30, I believe that Luke chose his words carefully. I believe, without going into the details of his life, that Luke wanted us to understand that Jesus was a well-rounded and multifaceted person. Not only did he grow in spirituality during those formative years, but also in his acquisition of knowledge, the development of his physical body, and also the social aspect of his personality. I am confident that had we been privileged to know him we would have been attracted to him and would have enjoyed being in his company.

I think in this short verse Luke has given to all of us one of the great keys to an abundant life. We must seek to develop all aspects of our nature, which is as multifaceted as that of the Savior. If we fall into the trap of only developing one aspect of our being (for example the physical) our lives can quickly get out of balance and unhappiness will surely follow.

Thankfully I had a mother who understood this concept well. She loved sports and supported us in all of our endeavors in athletics, but at the same time she introduced us to the world of music, and literature, and emphasized our achievement in academics as well. Because of my mother and her understanding of this principle my life has been blessed on several very specific occasions.

Having made the varsity basketball team as a junior in high school I knew that I had achieved a maximum of joy -- what could be better? As the year progressed, however, I discovered that I had very bad knees that filled with fluid and were exceedingly painful because of the daily pounding on the basketball court. The doctors had no cure except to suggest that I must drop out of organized basketball that required me to practice every day or run the risk of permanently damaging my knees. Seldom in my life have I felt such anguish as I did when I knew that I must give up playing high school basketball. I felt that the bottom had fallen out of my life and that things could not possibly be worse than that. However, because of a wise mother who had introduced me to the world of music, I turned all the effort I had been putting into basketball into music. My senior year, instead of running on to the court in my wonderful and spectacular blue warm ups, to the stirring music of our fight song, "On Ye Bobcats, On Ye Bobcats..." I played the song on my clarinet as part of the Band. I would have much rather been playing basketball, but by spending more time with my music I earned a music scholarship to BYU by the end of my senior year. Because of a wise mother, sports and music have blessed my life through the years.

On August 1, 1989 in one split-second I lost the use of my physical body. I was devastated as you might imagine, but as the years have gone by my life has been rich and fulfilling because of my love for reading, writing, teaching, speaking in public, music, sports, the scriptures, and the relationship I have with the Lord and with my family and friends. I find great contentment and fulfillment in my life now, because as a boy a wise mother encouraged me and made it possible for me to develop more than just one aspect of my being.

How important it is that we as parents give our children every possible opportunity to increase in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Bad Day

It doesn't happen very often but I was feeling kind of down a while back. I think it might have been the weather, which has been very foggy and about 10° below average for this time of the year. I think I felt I was being cheated out of the summer, my favorite season, or maybe it was just that the Los Angeles Dodgers had been on a six-game losing streak. Whatever the cause, sensing my mood, Jo Anne shared with me the following story she heard on BYU TV to help me keep things in perspective.

(Garth Waddoups – "Never Have a Bad Day," – Feb. 2, 2010 -- Agricultural Business/Plant and Animal Sciences Department Chair of BYU Idaho – Practicing veterinarian)

"I came into work one morning and walked into the operating room and saw a White and Black dog sitting on the operating table. Usually there is some paper work filled out by the technician telling me what is wrong. But there was none. I had never seen such a mess. The dog was dirty and unkempt, had a swollen eye with a large dirt clod on its head. The dog was very emaciated and gaunt. The technician came in and I asked him about the dog. He said his name was Cholo and that a family had brought him in and that they were in the waiting room. He said they were a Hispanic family - a mother and father and several children and even grandparents.

I went out to talk to them and asked them what had happened to Cholo. The little girl spoke for them. She said a week ago Cholo was hit by a car. He was hurt very badly. His eye popped out of its socket and his head was split open and they could see the brain. Then the mother began to speak in excited, broken English. She said her husband’s friend took him to the desert and shot him 5 times – 3 times in the head and 2 times in the neck. Then he buried him in a shallow grave.

Then about 5 days went by and the husband’s boss called him at home and said his dog was outside and didn’t look so good. The husband said that was impossible because he was dead. The boss said, ‘I don’t think so. This is your dog and you better get over here.” So the whole family went to see if it was really Cholo, and it was.

I asked them what they wanted me to do for Cholo – put him to sleep? The mother said, “Oh no. Cholo is a good dog and he must really want to live and so we must help him.” I told them that it could be very expensive and then he might die any way. The mother said they only had $1200 and hoped it would be enough to help Cholo live. I told them I would go check him out and let them know.

I went back into the operating room and began examining Cholo. The blood from his eye had dried up and had actually pulled it back into the socket and he appeared to be able to see fine. I then looked at his head and realized that it was only the sinus cavity that was exposed and stitched him back together. I then removed the bullets the best I could and he actually seemed quite fine and they were able to take Cholo home."

I was so glad Cholo's life was saved! However, I was also doggone happy that I wasn't that dog! But the more I thought about it I felt that maybe the worst day in that dog's life, in retrospect, actually turned out to be his best. He was still alive and knew he was loved by his family. I'm sure he received more love, dog biscuits, and good bones to chew on than he ever had before. Hopefully he had many good dog years ahead of him.

I thought the worst day in my life was the day I was body surfing at Laguna Beach and in a split second became paralyzed from the neck down and would have to live the remainder of my life on life support. I seemed to have lost so much -- the use of my body, my profession as a teacher, my callings in the Church, and I thought, my ability to be an effective husband and father. I didn't spend much time dwelling on it, but I did wonder, from time to time, why this had happened to me.

Part of the answer has come to me over the years from a talk given by Hugh B. Brown, a former general authority and counselor in the first presidency. The entire talk which was given many years ago was reprinted in its entirety in the January, 1973, New Era. It is worth reading.

President Brown as a young man was living on a farm he had purchased up in Canada. It was run down and a currant bush on the property had grown to a height of 6 feet. It had all gone to wood, and no longer was producing fruit. Taking his pruning shears he walked over to the currant bush to prune it. He then said:
"... I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’ ”

Time passed. Years passed, and President Brown was in England with the British Canadian forces fighting in World War I. He was well thought of as an officer and was in line to be promoted to General. He knew in his heart, as did his fellow officers that the appointment to General should be his. President Brown related how he was so proud of himself, his achievement, and how much he looked like a general and obviously deserved to be one. Instead, he was called in to meet with the commanding general of the British Canadian troops in England and was informed that he was being sent back to Canada, would maintain his current rank, and would be training troops instead of fighting. He later learned the reason for this action was that he was a Mormon. Mormons were not highly thought of at that time and he had achieved the highest rank any Mormon had ever attained in the British Canadian Army.

After receiving the bad news, on what he then thought was one of the worst days of his life, he said "... and when I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.
And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness..."

At the time of my accident, everything in my life was going so well. My family and I were living "after the manner of happiness." There was not a cloud on the horizon and the wonderful dreams we shared regarding our future seemed righteous and achievable and what the Lord would have us do. However, His ways are not always our ways, and the pruning process began. I was like the currant bush that had been pruned. There were tears in my eyes and in my heart. I felt that I had been cut down to nothing and it hurt badly. I didn't clench my fists and shake them at God, crying out in bitterness, "Why did this happen to me," but my heart was broken. I was devastated.

As I consider the years that have gone by since the accident, just like the currant bush, though the pruning was very painful, it was necessary for me to be able to fulfill a mission the Lord had in store for me that I never could have anticipated, aspired to, or envisioned. In order to fulfill that mission I had an important lesson to learn that the "Gardner" knew that, for me at least, I could only learn through the pruning.

The lesson I had to learn, and thankfully everyone doesn't need to be paralyzed and on life support to learn it, was stated by the Savior to his apostles just before going into the Garden of Gethsemane. "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He who abideth in me and I in him bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing." [John 15:5, emphasis added]

My individualized pruning by the master "Gardener" has taught me this valuable lesson -- I am nothing, and can do nothing, without Christ -- the "true Vine."

If we learn no other lesson during our lifetimes than that, without Christ we can do nothing, our time here upon this Earth will not have been wasted.