Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Even If Paul, Not I

“Et si omnes ego non”
I watch quite a bit of BYU TV early in the morning with my caregivers as they work on me. Though not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints they seem to enjoy the programming on BYU TV. One caregiver I had for eight years loved to hear President Gordon B Hinckley speak and told me he was his favorite speaker on BYU TV, a sentiment I shared with him. As we watched President Hinckley's funeral service together I saw him wipe away a tear or two.

Several months ago I heard a re-broadcast on BYU TV of a talk Sharon G. Samuelson, the wife of BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson, gave on September 12, 2006 at a student devotional. Her talk seemed so important and relevant, not only to college students in today's society, but to the very young, middle-aged, and old alike.

She told of going with her husband to some friend's home for dinner and inscribed on an archway they had placed some printed words – “Et si omnes ego non.” She was curious about what the Latin words meant and why they had them in such a prominent place in their home.
She was told that their translation was, roughly: “Even if all, not I.” In other words, “Even if everybody does it, I will not.” She was also told the saying was the motto of the Barons von Boeselager, an old German noble family. Two descendants in the family, Philipp and Georg von Boeselager, were members of the resistance group that had planned the failed assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler on July 20, 1944. Their involvement in the operation went undetected, and they were not executed along with the majority of the other conspirators. The saying is carved in a timber beam on the outside of Philipp’s family home in Germany.
She went on to say that her friends explained that they used this quote as a motto for their family and that it was a reminder to them that they are members of a chosen generation and must be different in the world of today. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they should make choices consistent with the teachings of the gospel and shun the negative, misleading, and evil messages of the world that surround them. [BYU Devotional September 12, 2006]

I was very fortunate as a young boy, about age 14, to have the great truth and principle of life, "Even If all, Not I," indelibly burned into my heart and spirit.

The year was 1952, and I was a freshman at White Pine County high school in Ely, Nevada. I had three friends that were excellent trumpet players and they had learned a number entitled "Buglers Holiday." I played the piano accompaniment for them at the annual Christmas high school band concert. The county was so lacking in, and starved for entertainment, that we were asked to perform for the Lion's Club, the Rotary Club, and for the Elks Club. Prior to our performance at the Elks Club, a custodian opened up the hall for us so we could practice for the evening performance. When we finished our rehearsal the custodian was nowhere in sight, and one of the trumpet players reached over the bar, snatched up a fifth of whiskey and hid it under his leather jacket. We all hurried out to the car, piled in, and headed up into the mountains surrounding Ely on an old dirt road. We finally pulled off the road behind some cedar trees and I knew what was coming next.

The driver is the one that had taken the bottle of whiskey and he opened it up and took a big drink and handed it to the kid next to him. I was strategically placed behind the driver and so I knew I would be the last one to be offered a drink of whiskey. I began to sweat bullets! The last thing I wanted to do was to drink the whiskey but at the same time, I didn't want to appear to be a goody two shoes to my friends. What was I to say or to do? I guess I could say, "I don't like whiskey." Or maybe, "My mother would be upset if I were to drink this." Or maybe I would take the bottle and throw it out the window and call my friends to repentance for their wickedness. Quite frankly, I just simply did not know what to say or what I would do when that bottle would inevitably come into my hands.

My good friend sitting next to me was handed the bottle from the boy in the front seat next to the driver. He took a big drink and then turned to hand it to me. I don't know what he saw on my face but he said, "I'm not going to waste this whiskey on Rushton, I know he is a Mormon and doesn't drink." With that he passed the bottle up to the driver. Nothing more was said and no pressure exerted on me to do what in my heart I did not want to do. I felt like I had been pardoned by the governor just before being executed. I gained a reputation that afternoon, for which I take no credit that would follow me all through high school and I was never asked to take a drink by any of my friends who did not share my standards or beliefs. I have often wondered what direction my life might have taken had I taken that drink as a 14-year-old. I vowed that I would never find myself in that kind of a situation again, not knowing what to say or do. Of course, as a 14-year-old I hadn't heard the principle, "Even If All, Not I," but that was in reality how I knew I wanted to live my life.

As a 73-year-old, as I look back on my life, I am so grateful for that experience I had as a 14-year-old. Over the years, like so many of you, I have encountered many situations where I have had to take a stand on certain issues and implement the principle, "Even If All, Not I!"

When we find ourselves outnumbered on issues of morality that obviously are in violation of Article of Faith 13 – "…We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things," hopefully, we will take a stand and be true to our God and to ourselves.

Perhaps, if we are fortunate, there will come into our minds when being tempted to cave-in and give up defending unpopular truths, both by word and by deed, the words of Joseph. As a young 14-year-old boy being persecuted and ridiculed for what he said had occurred in his life, said he felt much like Paul, whose testimony of having seen Christ in vision was rejected and ridiculed as he was examined by King Agrippa.

" So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation." [Joseph Smith History, 25]

How blessed we would be if we were to truly internalize into our lives and into our hearts as individuals and as families, the motto –“Et si omnes ego non.”


Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Is It I?"

Several weeks ago I was having some trouble with the battery on my wheelchair that keeps my ventilator going. After making sure it was fully charged, Jo Anne loaded me into the van to go run some errands.

As we pulled into the post office parking lot, the alarm on the ventilator began to sound – a piercing siren like noise. Because the ventilator also has an internal battery, we knew we had about 20 minutes to make it home, realizing we were on borrowed time. Leaving the car running, Jo Anne made a mad dash into the post office. As she did so, I could see that my date with a bean burrito and extra beans at Taco Bell was in jeopardy. She was back in a flash, jumped in behind the wheel, and slamming it into reverse, backed into a yellow cab that had not been there when she came out of the post office. As our back bumper collided with the cab, the driver came exploding out of his beautiful, shiny, and now dinged up yellow vehicle. He was a big man and it was evident from his appearance that he was from somewhere in the Middle East. Looking at the damage inflicted upon his rear fender, he began waving his arms and screaming. Before Jo Anne could even approach him, he was on his cell phone calling everyone he could think of – his boss, the insurance company, and maybe even Al Qaeda.

Knowing we were running short on time, Jo Anne tried to exchange information with him, but he would not get off the phone. She tried to tell him that her husband was on life support that was failing, and she had only minutes to get him home. She said that if he wanted to exchange information he would have to follow her home. He seemed to understand our urgency and moved his cab forward so we could leave. With that she got in the van, screeched out of the parking lot, and zoomed down Newport Avenue toward home. The poor taxicab driver had zero chance of keeping up with Jo Anne, and as we pulled into the driveway she was amazed that the cab was not behind her. However, I was not amazed!

Once safely in our house with my vent plugged into the wall socket, Jo Anne looked at me and with frustration in her voice said "You know, Jack, it is your fault that I backed into that yellow cab! If you hadn't broken your neck at Laguna Beach 22 years ago and been on life support, I wouldn't have been in that situation and smashed into the cab! I was so worried about saving your life that I just didn't see that cab when he pulled up behind me as I was backing out.”

I started to respond and to defend myself but then realized she was probably telling the truth. She can be very convincing.

Several days later just as we were about ready to drive into our housing tract, we saw the flashing red and blue lights of a police motorcycle right behind us. Jo Anne obediently, and I might add, with a sinking heart, pulled over to the side of the street. The police officer sidled up to Jo Anne's side of the van and identified himself, and then asked her if she was Jo Anne Rushton. She said yes and was amazed that he knew her name without even asking for her driver's license. He laughed and said he was actually on the way to our home when he spotted our van. He then asked about the accident that had taken place over a week ago with the cab. Jo Anne explained her version using me as evidence of the truthfulness of her story. However, having been previously convinced by Jo Anne's persuasive argument to me, I blurted out that I was the real culprit even though I couldn't drive, and even if he didn't believe that, he should go easy on my wife – no handcuffs or sirens or lights on the way to the clink. He believed our story after looking at me and that was pretty much the end of it.

Our insurance company did call us the other day, but I don't know what they had to say. I leave those insignificant things up to Jo Anne while I concentrate on more weighty matters like writing observations, reading the Scriptures, sending out e-mails, preparing gospel doctrine lessons and wondering what's for dinner.

Well, what is the point of all of this? Jo Anne has given me permission (isn't she a good sport) to use the tongue-in-cheek experience I have related above and apply it to a very real human character trait all mankind has possessed since the fall of Adam and Eve. I am referring to accepting the consequences of our actions without excuse.

Think back to the Garden of Eden episode and how blame was deflected and directed to others when God confronted Adam and Eve after they had partaken of the forbidden fruit. This was just the beginning of "passing the buck!"

We find it all throughout the Scriptures, in society – ancient and modern – in the workplace, and politics, as well as in society at large and in families.

I hope my son Mike won't mind me relating the following incident that took place when his two boys were very young. Mike was a Deputy Dist. Atty. and was accustomed to cross-examining witnesses and alleged criminals to discover the truth. He was putting his boys to bed one night and when he went into the bathroom he saw toothpaste spread liberally everywhere. The crime scene had become a Ground Zero disaster area. He brought the two boys into the bathroom and said, "Who did this?" Neither boy would confess to the toothpaste crime. Mike was at his cross-examining best but the boys would not cave in. Mike was getting increasingly frustrated with each passing moment and realized he was more successful with hard-core criminals in getting at the truth than with his two little boys. After sending the boys directly to bed with no story time, Mike carefully analyzed the boys' responses with his legally trained mind. He was confident that his namesake, Mike Jr, the oldest of the two, was the perpetrator, or at least the instigator, of the dastardly deed. Hoping to outsmart the guilty one, he entered their bedroom and said in a firm voice, “Spencer, I know you are the one that did it.” And taking the youngest boy from his bed, told him that he was taking him into the other bedroom to spank him. As he did so there was still no response from Mike Jr. As Mike proceeded with his threat, Spencer's eyes got big as saucers while breaking into a cold sweat as he awaited the awful punishment -- having been found guilty of the crime without really having had a legitimate day in court and adequate legal representation. Suddenly from the boys' bedroom came the anguished cry, "Dad, I did it, it wasn't Spencer! Don't hit him!" With that brotherly confession, the rod was spared.

My favorite scriptural example of this "fallen, natural man" character trait is found in Exodus 32. Moses had been up on Mount Sinai for a long time and when he descended with the tablets which contained the 10 Commandments he saw the people worshiping a golden calf. He knew that Aaron and his brother had made the calf for the children of Israel. We can only imagine what Aaron must have felt when he was confronted by his brother Moses. What follows is one of the most classic and lame excuses ever conjured up to cover one's culpability. I like to think that Moses actually laughed out loud at what Aaron told him in an attempt to defend himself. "And Aaron said, Let not the aanger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are bset on cmischief. For they said unto me, aMake us . Bgods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf." [Exodus 32:22-24 – Emphasis added]

The only thing that can compare to Aaron's lame excuse is all the finger-pointing in Washington regarding the budget and nobody willing to step up to the plate and admit wrongdoing or at least stupidity.

I believe there is a great lesson to be learned from the original apostles who when the Savior said that one of them would betray him, instead of saying, "I'll bet it's Judas, or Bartholomew," instead said, "Is it I?" [Mark 14:18-19]
I call their response "Apostalic Humility." I believe we can all use a little bit more of that as we exercise our agency and do dumb things every once in a while, because let's face it, "For the anatural bman is an cenemy to God, and has been from the dfall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he eyields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint…" [Mosiah 3:19]

Best wishes in your attempt to "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit."