Animals in the Afterlife

A few years ago, I lost my dear and faithful companion Riley (my dog) in a farm accident. It was devastating to me, and I had a very difficult time getting over it. In fact, even today, I’m still saddened at his loss …I still grieve and cringe a little when I think of his tragic death. Riley was my “Pal,” at my side constantly, we were inseparable. He was an important and loving part of my daily life. Then, in an instant, he was gone. I was emotionally grief-stricken. So, why do I share this sad and tragic tale? Well, …because I found something! “A lifeline.” Much has been written about losing a pet, but I found a short article that has truly helped ease my pain and sorrow. And, perhaps it will bring peace to someone else who reads this blog who has also suffered a similar loss. The article was published in LDSLiving Magazine.  Here it is:

“It is always devastating when a pet dies. But thanks to modern revelation, we know they will be with us in the eternities. In his October 1928 conference address, President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The animals, the fishes of the sea, the fowls of the air, as well as man, are to be recreated, or renewed, through the resurrection, for they too are living souls.” He also wrote in Answers to Gospel Questions that “Animals do have spirits and will come forth in the resurrection to enjoy the blessing of immortal life.” Additionally, in the August 1927 edition of the Improvement Era, Elder Orson F. Whitney stated, “The affirmative of the question ‘Do Animals Have Souls?’ is amply sustained by divine revelation.” Speaking of the Prophet Joseph, he added, “Joseph Smith so believed, or he would not have said …concerning his favorite horse, when it died, that he expected to have it in Eternity.”

So, rest assured pet lovers — “we will be reunited with our faithful companions. After all, it wouldn’t be heaven without them!”

LDSLiving Magazine, January/February 2016, page 11.

Planets in Alignment

On Sunday morning, March 3rd, 2019, I looked out off my balcony into the dark Eastern sky.  It was about 5:45 am, and the great Pacific Ocean laid out before me.  The Moon was just a sliver rising from the distant horizon. But, in the darkness (with the naked eye) I could also see clearly three planets in our Solar System:  Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter.  And, they were all in alignment with our Moon.  To confirm my observations, I opened my “Sky Map” app.  Sure enough, those three planets were in alignment with our Moon in the dark Eastern sky.  But to my surprise, Pluto (not visible to me) was also in alignment with the Moon.  It was the Moon and four planets in alignment and stretching across the dark eastern sky.  This was an awe-inspiring reality for me.  I  stood there speechless on my balcony staring at the planets in the night sky.  I was alone with no one to share this with.  Looking at the vastness of the sky and considering the enormous distance to Jupiter (not to mention the distance to Pluto), I just asked myself, “Who am I?  I am nothing but a speck.”  Then, my thoughts turned to God.  And, I said again, “I am nothing but a speck, …and yet, thou art there, oh God.  Thou art my loving and Eternal Father in Heaven.”

“I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same!”
President Russell M. Nelson

Three Personal Insights

1.  Be Your Better Best Selves:
I believe we should always strive to live close to the highest and most ethical moral standards we subscribe to.  On a daily basis, and in all circumstances, we should strive to pattern our lifestyle and behavior after the high values we believe in (personally and as a society).  And, I believe we can always do better.

2.  Stress Management:
Stress is unavoidable.  It can be good stress or bad.  Regardless, I’ve noticed there are three particular conditions or elements that have a direct impact on our ability to deal with stress, and which make the difference between “good stress” and “bad stress.”  They are 1) hunger, 2) financial insecurity, and 3) a crisis.  We can usually endure any one or two of these conditions at one time; however, if all three elements are present simultaneously, our ability to handle the stress of a crisis is challenged significantly.

Crises and the potential for bad stress will come!  So, to minimize the negative effects of stress and to maintain a good healthy outlook on life (especially during a crisis), we should strive to avoid hunger and financial insecurity.  We should:
1) Eat wisely (sound nutritional food in moderation).  Also, always try to have good food on hand in your home.  You can’t understate the positive psychological effects of seeing food “on the shelf.”  And,
2) Always, always pay your bills and debts on time.  A practical, understandable, and disciplined financial budget is necessary.  In addition, it may not always be possible, but it’s best to try to stay out of debt, and it’s always wise to maintain a healthy financial savings plan (a nest egg).

Finally, remember this, stress and crises will come.  If we avoid hunger and financial insecurity, we will minimize their negative effects.  We will deal well with the situation; and, maintain a good healthy outlook on life.

3.  Be Concrete and Sequential:
I like routine, and I like things done in order.  This is not an illness!  It’s liberating.  Of course, there is much in life that is best lived spontaneously (true love, joy, kindness, and happiness).  But, there is also much that is best managed with clear instructions and/or proven procedures.

Clear instructions or proven procedures help to remove confusion, doubt, and stress.  With complex and difficult tasks, clear instructions or proven procedures are essential for a positive outcome.  For example, if you want to bake your favorite cookies correctly, you should follow your favorite and proven recipe.  You probably won’t like a batch of cookies that were made with miscellaneous ingredients randomly thrown together, and baked at no particular temperature, or amount of time.

On a grander scale, I believe that understanding what needs to be done (and how to do it) frees the mind and soul to complete the complex and accomplish greatness beyond our imagination.  By following correct instructions and procedures, we would have a clearer vision of our purpose and objectives, more positive control of our life, and a more glorious outcome.  We would have the clarity to know where we are; where we are going; what we must be doing; and when we have arrived.  We would not likely be adrift.

 

 

Kitchen Clean-up!

The answer to cleaning your kitchen is not “Let Mom do it!” Don’t worry, she already has plenty of opportunities, plus plenty of other things to do, as well.  To all you Dads and Kids out there, this could be your big opportunity to excel and help dear Mom and the family.  You should also know that in addition to helping Mom (and your family) in a tangible and meaningful way, there are many selfish but rewarding reasons for washing the dishes.  Don’t miss out on those rewards.

“What are these tangible rewards?” …you ask!  Well, let me tell you.  Here’s a short list of a dozen rewards:

      • If done well, you’ll have the satisfaction of actually doing a job well done.
      • Your kitchen will be more sanitary and more likely to prevent the spread of diseases.
      • Your personal satisfaction of actually doing something that will both help and impress your mother/wife.
      • You won’t be embarrassed when you have a “special” friend over.
      • You won’t have lingering bad odors wafting out of the kitchen.
      • You’ll have fewer insects on your counters.
      • You’ll have clean dishes, drinking glasses and flatware to eat with.
      • You’ll have clean hands and fingernails when you’re done.
      • You’ll have a higher level of self-esteem.
      • You’ll have the satisfaction of seeing expressions of shock and amazement on the faces of other family members.
      • Your kitchen and dishes will be clean.
      • Your kitchen will look great.

So now, before a share my practical steps to cleaning the kitchen, let me be perfectly clear about something.  Knowing how to clean the Kitchen and do the dishes is a valuable skill for life, and it can be very rewarding.  Just leaving things on the table, stacking them in the sink, or piling them up high on the counter, are NOT good ideas.  But, if you really want to make a contribution, take some advice from a single father with seven (7) children.  After my dear wife (Jenny) passed on, I soon found myself in a very serious situation with what I termed “a kitchen malfunction,” and I had to come up with a real solution.  To start with, let me first tell you about my “house and kitchen” cleaning observations while growing up.

I grew up in a home where my mother was something of a “white tornado.”  Like me, she was a single parent with seven children.  She was always cleaning and straightening.  Then, there was my grandmother and her twin sister: Grandma and Auntie.  “The Twins” would often show up at our front door dressed like cleaning ladies and spend the entire day cleaning our house from top to bottom and corner to corner.  In my mind’s eye, I can still see them standing side by side, wearing dresses and clunky shoes, full-length aprons tied around their wastes, and holding their buckets, mops and cleaning materials.  Below is a rare picture of “the Twins” without their aprons.  Anyway, I just took it for granted that our home would always be clean: “neat and tidy.”

Auntie and Grandma: “The Twins”

In marriage, my dear Jenny also busied herself with cleaning, never really making any demands on me to help out.  In hindsight, I guess you could say I was a bit spoiled and grew to expect a clean home and kitchen (without doing much myself).  I also grew to feel a clean and orderly kitchen was important.  So, after Jenny’s death, I was awakened to some of the harsh realities of housework.  I was quick to realize just how talented and hardworking Jenny really was. As a newly single parent, I found that keeping the kitchen clean and orderly was one of my greatest challenges.  But here too, as with my many other single parenting challenges, my military training came in handy.  I soon developed a meal preparation and cleaning plan (the basic concepts of which I still generally follow today …when I cook or clean, that is).  I found that by following these steps, cooking goes much more smoothly, is more organized, and less stressful; and, “kitchen clean up” is less stressful and much more rewarding.   I continue to believe that and follow these steps more or less even today.

Important:  During food preparations, it is essential to put back (or put away) anything you no longer need for your meal preparation.  Get them out of the way and put away.  If you no longer need an item, put it away!  Managing your workspace and cooking ingredients beforehand and during preparation, will eliminate clutter and simplify both preparation and cleanup.  This is an important skill to learn, and one that will really help.

Anyway, here’s my list of what and when to do certain things: before and after each meals.

Managing Food Preparation:

    1. Start with an empty trash can in the kitchen.
    2. While you are preparing your meals, don’t leave unnecessary ingredients out. If you’re done with something (e.g., flour), put it away.  Don’t leave it out to clutter your workspace.
    3. As you finish with mixing bowls, saucepans, or other dishes, rinse them off/out and stack them out of the way.  (Be sure to keep a sink empty for rinsing.)
    4. If you’re finished with a baking dish, put a little soapy water in it to soak. Don’t wait until after dinner when it’s hard and crusty.
    5. If you’re finished with a skillet, rinse and wipe it out, then set it aside for cleaning later.
    6. As you finish with kitchen utensils, rinse them off and put them with “handles up” in a container of warm soapy water to soak (I like using a two-quart plastic pitcher or a saucepan).

After dinner, prepare the washing area:

    1. Clear the kitchen counter space.
    2. If you’ve left reusable cooking ingredients or foodstuffs out, wrap, seal and put them where they belong.
    3. Be sure you’ve prepared a container with a warm soapy water solution for soaking eating utensils (once again, I like a two-quart plastic pitcher or a saucepan).
    4. Clean out both sides of the kitchen sink and fill one sink half-full with clean, hot, soapy water.  (I hope you have a two-basin kitchen sink.  These are so practical, efficient and helpful!)

Then, completely clear the dinner table (in this order):

Remove all large items from the dinner table (serving dishes, bowls, pitchers, bread baskets, etc.). Empty and stack them on the counter, but not blocking the sink.

    1. Remove all paper waste and disposable food scraps into the trash or down the disposal (here’s another “must have” – the sink garbage disposal.)
    2. Remove all leftover foods, seal them, and store them where appropriate.
    3. Remove all drinking glasses from the table and place them by themselves in the sink of hot soapy water.
    4. Separate and stack all remaining dishes and plates near the sink (scrape off and dispose of all excess food from the dishes before/as you stack them).
    5. Collect all eating utensils and place them “handles up” into the warm soapy water soaking solution (the two-quart plastic pitcher).
    6. Clean off and wipe down the kitchen table.

Washing sequence (in this order):

    1. Always wash the drinking glasses FIRST.  They should be soaking in fresh, clean hot soapy water waiting to be washed.  Wash and rinse them off and place them upside down in the drainer or dishwasher.  (Note: even if you have a dishwasher, always wash the dishes by hand first.  Never place dirty dishes in the dishwasher!)
    2. Then, wash the plates and dishes. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher.
    3. Next, wash the eating and serving utensils. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher, “handles up.”
    4. Next, scrape and wash the baking dishes. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher (if there’s room).
    5. LAST, wash the skillets, pots, and pans. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher (if there’s room).
    6. After all dinnerware (glasses, plates, dishes, utensils, etc.) are clean and dry, put them away.  Do Not put them away wet!  Dry them, or allow them to dry, first.  (Of course, if they’re in the dishwasher, first wait for them to finish.)

Finally, after all glasses, dishes, plates, utensils, pots, and pans have been cleaned, dried, and put away, spend some time with a Windex bottle in one hand and a dry towel in the other.  Wipe down the table(s), countertops, sink(s), and whatever surfaces need it, including the appliances.  At that point, step back and observe/admire your work.  You’re done!  And Mom will be so happy!

Immediate Blessings!

I have learned a great lesson from my horses: “be prepared for and anticipate the morning light.”

Our ranch was located in a beautiful mountain valley where the winter mornings can be very cold.  I usually fed the horses in the mornings before the sun came up and in the early evenings just before dark. The winter nights can be long and cold for the animals, so in the early mornings, they would usually gather together on the west side of the pasture to catch the first bit of sunlight as it breaks over the tops of the east mountains.  Myself, I also watched for the sun to rise above the horizon …because I knew as soon as it did, “immediately,” and I literally mean “immediately,” I felt the warmth of its radiance.

This is a great lesson and a “type” of the influence of the Gospel and the Savior in our lives. Those of us who may be struggling in darkness and/or despair (whether by ignorance or disobedience) can also feel the “immediate” love and influence of the gospel in our lives when we turn from inappropriate behavior and embrace Jesus Christ. He will “immediately” bless our lives with His love and the warmth of the gospel. We may not be made completely whole “immediately,” but we will feel his love and have hope “immediately” as the “great plan of redemption” is “brought about” in us. Pure and lasting joy will come as we learn more of Him, continue to follow Him, and embrace His Plan of Happiness.

“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.”
(Book of Mormon, Alma 34:31)

God’s Vast Universe

I’ve been thinking and reading about the Universe, and the Hubble Telescope Ultra Deep Field discoveries.  I am amazed and humbled.  To begin with, our vast Solar system is a mere speck on the outside edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Technically, cosmologists call our Milky Way Galaxy a barred spiral galaxy.  This means that it has several distinct arms (in our case four) and is shaped in a spiral like a giant frisbee.  What we see when we look out at our Milky Way is a neighboring arm in the galaxy.  In aggregate, our galaxy is about 100,000 light-years (LYs) across.  Just for clarification, that means it would take light (which travels at 186,000 miles per second) 100,000 years to travel across the full diameter of our Milky Way Galaxy.  One (1) Light Year (LY) is 5.88 trillion miles.  That is how far light travels in one year.  Now consider this, our Milky Way Galaxy is considered to be just a medium size galaxy.  Cosmologists estimate the “Observable Universe” (that which we can see or observe) contains at least 2 Trillion Galaxies and “more Stars than the total number of grains of sand on the entire Earth.”  The observable universe is estimated to be 93 Billion LYs across.  And once again, that is only what we can see/observe.  This has to make you pause and think!

While you “pause and think,” consider these scriptural references that refer to the enormous expanse of God’s creations:

“That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore.” Genesis 22:17

“And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.” Genesis 32:12

“But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore.” D&C 76:109

“And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom;….” D&C 88:37

“And worlds without number have I created….” Moses 1:33

“And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there….” Moses 7:30

Frankly, the numbers in astronomy are too big to get our heads around.  We are incapable of understanding the big numbers like “78 Billion Light Years across the expanse of the Universe.  “So, how do we calculate and come up with these numbers?  Enter the Hubble Deep Space Field Telescope.  This powerful satellite-based telescope looked into a patch of sky that looked empty.  It kept the lens open for 10 consecutive days during Christmas 1995 and found about 3,000 additional galaxies.  Then, in 2004, the Hubble Ultra Deep Space Field Telescope looked into another patch of sky that looked entirely empty. That event represents the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind. Using the improved capabilities of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (the camera installed during the 2002 servicing mission), a new Deep Field was observed in the constellation of Fornax (the Furnace).  The Ultra Deep Fields show the furthest away galaxies that can be observed in visible light.  It kept the lens open for 11 days and found about 10,000 additional galaxies there — all these in patches of space that initially looked empty.

In 2004, Hubble created the deepest visible-light image of the Universe; and now, with its brand-new camera, Hubble is seeing even farther in the same region.

The next breakthrough came after the 2009 servicing mission in which astronauts installed a new instrument capable of making greatly improved infrared observations. The resulting image, covering most of the field of view of the 2004 Ultra Deep Field observations, is the deepest image ever made of the cosmos.

Published in 2012, the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field is not a new set of observations, but rather a combination of many existing exposures (over 2000 of them) into one image. Combining the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field – Infrared, and many other images of the same small spot of sky taken over almost 10 years, the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field pushes the limit even further.

The Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), combines Hubble observations taken over the past decade of a small patch of sky in the constellation of Fornax. It combines data from previous images including the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (taken in 2002 and 2003) and Hubble Ultra Deep Field Infrared (2009). The image covers an area less than a tenth of the width of the full Moon. Yet even in this tiny fraction of the sky, the long exposure reveals about 5500 galaxies. This image contains several of the most distant objects ever identified.

The last Hubble Ultra Deep Field released in 2014 was observed in ultraviolet. This image allowed astronomers to study star formation in a region 5 to 10 billion light-years away from us. The study is called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UVUDF) project. The addition of ultraviolet data to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 gives astronomers access to direct observations of regions of unobscured star formation. (Note: The above Hubble imagery and information was taken from the Hubble Space Telescope site.)

As reference points, here’s a simplified and very brief summary of what we can see or estimate about the “Observable Universe” (what we can see).  Let’s think of the “Observable Universe” as being  divided into Five Levels or systems moving in the “Observable Universe:”

    • In “Our Solar System,” we have eight (8) planets orbiting around our Sun. Compared with other stars in the Universe, our Sun is considered an “unremarkable” star.  Our solar system is located about halfway between the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and the outer edge.
    • Our galaxy is “the Milky Way Galaxy.” It is a Spiral Galaxy estimated to be 100,000 Light Years (LYs) in diameter.  Within the Milky Way Galaxy, our Solar System is one of more than 400 billion Solar Systems.  The Pin Wheel Galaxy (visible in Ursa Major) is much like our Milky Way Galaxy.  The Milky Way has an estimate of greater than 400 Billion stars within its boundaries, and there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars.  There is also an additional 16 orbiting Satellite Galaxies just outside the boundaries of the Milky Way Galaxy.
The Milky Way Galaxy (our Galaxy) seen over the Pyramids of Egypt.
    • Outside the Milky Way Galaxy is “our Local Group of Galaxies.” In this group, there are 54 different galaxies, and it is estimated to be 10 Million LYs across.  There are three major galaxies in the “Local Group:” The three largest members of the group (in descending order) are the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the Triangulum Galaxy.
      1. Andromeda has an estimated one trillion stars with 25 orbiting Satellite Galaxies outside its boundaries. It is a Barred Spiral Galaxy (like our Milky Way) located about 2.5 Million LYs away.  And it is about 220,000 LYs in diameter.
      2. Milky Way has an estimated 400 billion stars with 16 orbiting Satellite Galaxies outside its boundaries.  And it is about 100,000 LYs in diameter.
      3. Triangulum has an estimated 40 billion stars within its boundaries.
        (This Local Group itself is a part of the larger Virgo Supercluster, which may be a part of the Laniakea Supercluster.)
    • The “Virgo Supercluster (SC)” is a mass concentration of galaxies containing the Virgo Cluster and our Local Group (which in turn contains the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies).  At least 100 galaxy groups and clusters are located within its diameter of 110 million LYs. The Virgo SC is one of about 10 million superclusters in the observable universe.  A 2014 study indicates that the Virgo Supercluster is only a lobe of an even greater supercluster: Laniakea.
    • The “Laniakea Supercluster (SC)” is the galaxy supercluster that is home to the Milky Way and approximately 100,000 other nearby galaxies.  It encompasses approximately 100,000 galaxies stretched out over 520 million LYs.  It has the approximate mass of a hundred thousand times that of our Milky Way galaxy.

So, there’s my inadequate summary.  And, as I said at the beginning of this Blog, “this has to make you pause and think!”  For me, I am overwhelmed, greatly humbled …and, at the same time, more aware of my “nothingness”!  “O Lord, how great are thy works!” Psalm 92:5.  Now I need to pause and think some more.

“I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come….”
(The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 4:11)

 

 

Footnotes:

  1. “Teachings Concerning The Telestial Glory.” (n.d.). Retrieved from http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Quotes/Telestial.htm
  2. The Movements Of The Earth – Maristas Checkpoint. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/maristascheckpoint/home/science-1-eso/contents/uni
  3. Your Solar System Is Located Near The Milky Way Galaxy? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://science.answers.com/Q/Your_Solar_system_is_located_near_the_Milky_way_gal
  4. “The Zodiac Of The Stars’ Signs” (chapter 8) | Hogwarts … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hogwartsishere.com/library/book/8128/chapter/8/
  5. Virgo Supercluster – Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_Supercluster

The Lord will Come to His Holy Temples

In September 1969, I attended a Priesthood Meeting in Leeds, England.  That meeting was presided over by then Elder Spencer W. Kimball.  During the general training session of the conference, Elder Kimball spoke of Temples and said, “there will be hundreds of Temples in Western Europe.”  Today, sacred and Holy Temples, Houses of the Lord, are beginning to dot the Earth.  We live in an era of Temple building and Temple service.  Throughout world history, when there has been a covenant keeping people of God, we have been commanded to build Holy Temples.  Whether it was the Arch of the Covenant, Solomon’s Temple, or the beautiful and majestic temples of today, the covenant people of God have been instructed to build Holy Temples to their God.  These are magnificent structures of learning and covenant making.  They play a necessary and critical role in building Zion, raising a Zion people, Gathering Israel in the Latter-days, and preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In the Holy Temples, we learn of Jesus Christ.  He is our perfect example.  In addition, we are taught in the simplest terms about the Great and Eternal Plan of Salvation; we make and strive to keep sacred and Holy Covenants with our God; and, we revisit often to review and renew our covenants.  In the process, we hope to draw ourselves and our families (on both sides of the veil) nearer to God.  All that we do in the temple points us towards Jesus Christ.  According to a modern-day Apostle, “…everything in the temple glorifies Him whose house it is. All we do and see in the temple bears witness of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer—the Son of God.”  (Elder David A. Bednar) Attending the Holy Temple faithfully and regularly brings rich blessing in this life, and in the life to come.  Temple attendance and service is an act of pure love that blesses all the covenant-keeping children of our Heavenly Father …on both sides of the veil.

In May 2002, I had a unique temple experience.  I was honored to attend the Bountiful Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with my daughter, Melissa.  Aside from proxy baptisms for the dead, this was her first Temple ordinance session for the living (herself), and an enormous spiritual experience for me.  We began our visit by sitting together in the chapel session with a few very close friends and family members.  Melissa would soon be making sacred and Eternal Covenants in the House of the Lord.  I sat with her and fought to hold back my emotional joy.  I was so proud of Melissa’s decision and happy to be sharing that major event with her.  While I was overjoyed and filled with love for her, I also knew that Melissa’s deceased mother was nearby …on the other side of the veil.  It was truly an enormous spiritual event.

After a few opening remarks by the officiator, Melissa was escorted to the Initiatory Rooms, and I was left temporarily by myself in the chapel.  I moved to the back row of the chapel and sat quietly ponder the blessing of that day.  My thoughts were mostly about Melissa and how much I loved her.  Since her mother’s death (when she was only 11 years old), she had been “a rock” in her support and help within our home.  At that tender age, she somehow intuitively knew what needed to be done.  Whether she learned those skills from her mother over the years, or she was inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit (or both), she knew what needed to be done, and she went about doing it.  Of our seven children, Melissa was the assertive one.  On that day in the Temple, I sat in the chapel pondering and thinking about what led us to that sacred event.  I truly felt joy in my heart.

After about ten or fifteen minutes, I decided to stand and stretch my legs.  I asked for directions to the drinking fountain.  Returning to the chapel, I was stopped by a temple worker who pointed at two large, oversized doors covered in bronze.  He said, “do you know what doors these are?”  I didn’t.  He said, “these are the doors that face the East.  They are the doors that Jesus Christ will pass through when He enters into this temple.”  The thought set me back for a moment.  I stared at the doors, thought deeply about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and tried to image His appearance with the doors wide open.  I approached the heroic-sized doors and examined their surface.  They were indeed bronze covered with raised shapes of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Outside, it was early in the morning, and the Sun was just rising over the east mountains.  Inside, I ran my hand over the surface of the doors and could feel the warmth of the Sun’s rays as it rested on the outside of the doors and radiated the warmth to the inside surface.  Slowly, I slid the palm of my hand over the shapes of the Sun, Moon, and Stars.  As I felt the warmth and pondered about the Savior, I was overwhelmed with the conviction that Jesus Christ indeed will come again and will enter His Holy Temples.

After several emotional minutes, I quietly walked back to the chapel.  As I walked, I felt love and confidence, and the warmth of the Holy Spirit.  When I sat down, I opened the scriptures and began to search for references to the children of God being taught at the Temple, and of the Lord coming to His Holy Temples.  I found several, and I noticed a significant pattern of building Temples to the Lord where His covenant people would come to be taught.  Consider these references:

    • The Prophet Nephi built a Temple. (2 Nephi 5:16)
    • Jacob taught in the Temple. (Jacob 1:17)
    • King Benjamin gathered and taught at the Temple. (Mosiah 1:18)
    • Alma & Amulek taught at the Temple. (Alma 16:13)
    • The Sons of Mosiah taught at the Temple. (Alma 23:2)
    • The Nephites gathered at the Temple when Christ came. (3 Nephi 11:1)
    • The Nephite people were told Christ shall “…suddenly come to His Temple.” (3 Nephi 24:1)

Not long after my experience at the massive doors and my brief scriptural searching, I was invited to join Melissa in the Ordinance Room.  It was a glorious and joyful session.  Melissa was so beautiful.  After the session, we were invited into the Celestial Room.  My joy was filled again to overflowing as I embraced my beautiful daughter.  Words cannot describe my feelings as we stood there, dressed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood, standing in the Celestial Room, surrounded by some of our closest family and friends, and knowing that Melissa’s mother (my dear Jenny) was nearby.  That day, my heart was full.

“…the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.”

Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 24: 1

Avoid Horror and Evil

Some things in life are better off left unseen: the realities of war; the accidental horrors of real life; or sometimes, the manufactured evil or grotesque scenes in an explicit film.  These types of events can leave negative and lasting impressions on our minds.  Many are often unavoidable, especially if you are a first responder, or if you are somehow involved in the event.

However, if you are just a “standby observer,” watching these events on the sidelines is usually not healthy.  We may find (or think) there are some “redeeming qualities” that make an event worth watching.  However, that is usually not the case.  Fortunately, as observers, we usually have the power to avoid or minimize our exposure to these scenes (change the channel, turn away, walk out, or just walk away).  However, sometimes when these scenes come before our eyes, we are often curious, then intrigued, and finally tempted to continue watching.  In the end, our brain takes pictures that our mind can’t easily erase.  And, we will have lasting bad memories that will no doubt affect us emotionally and be hard to forget.

“Life is a stage,” and we don’t always know what will come out from behind the curtain and into our view.  Much of what we see is wonderful.  But occasionally, we are exposed to the evil or morbid side of life.  We can’t always control what we will see.  Images flash before our eyes and leave lasting impressions.  However, we do have the power to avoid or minimize our exposure to their influence.  Knowing when to turn away is wisdom!  If you do not turn away, there is often regret.

Teaching Our Children

Being a “Dad” is one of life’s greatest honors.  The call of a child, “Daddy’s home,” is one of the sweetest and most beautiful calls I’ve heard!  The role of “Daddy” comes with the most profound joy and the indescribable feeling of pure love.  But it also comes with the sacred responsibilities of protecting our children, teaching them correct principles and helping them to become valuable contributing members of society.  These are noble responsibilities that should not be taken lightly.  I know at times being a Dad can be a challenge for most of us; and, to be certain, it has been a difficult road for me.  I wish I could say I’ve always been a good Dad.  I know I’ve been okay; I wanted to be better.  But frankly, I’ve had one major setback and several personal struggles during my years as an enterprising young Dad.  Regardless, over time I’ve come to a knowledge of some fundamental conclusions, and I’d like to share them.  So, I write this, not because I’m an expert, but because I’ve learned some lessons over many years of being a Dad (49 years).

Spiritual Preparation:

Being a parent is a sacred and spiritual responsibility.  These little ones are literally children of God, our Heavenly Father.  He loves them more than we know!  And in His great plan, He wants them protected, taught divine truths and principles, and prepared spiritually to return to Him!  As parents, we need to understand that relationship; and, God expects us to understand it, too.  If we are alert to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, there are many times when we look at our little ones, and we can see the spark of divinity. And at those times, we know of its truth!

Having children is not necessarily the same as being a parent.  Parenting is a lifelong commitment of love, caring, nurturing, education and example.  To prepare for the many responsibilities, you and I need to be our best, and we need to be spiritually prepared.  To do that, we need to:

      • Be personally healthy and productive,
      • Understand the Great and Eternal Plan of Salvation,
      • Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ (keep His commandments),
      • Make and keep (Honor) sacred covenants, and
      • Learn to feel and rely on the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to respond appropriately when our children (or grandchildren) present us with teaching opportunities.  ”Some of the best teaching moments start as a question or concern in the heart of a child.” Devin Durrant

Brief Overview of My Story:

My personal parenting experiences are probably very different than most.  My wife and I decided early on that we wanted to have eight (8) children (that was her number, and I agreed)!  We had both observed that large families seemed to be “happier” than small family units.  That’s not always the case; but at the time, it seemed that way to us.  So, we began our family with eight children in mind.  Sadly, shortly after the birth of our seventh child, my dear wife became seriously ill and passed away suddenly.  At that moment, parenting for me took on a new dimension.   Our seven (7) children (ages four months through 13 years) became my sole responsibility.  This was for me a near overwhelming responsibility.

My wife was a great woman, a great wife, and a great mother.  In our family, she was a rock.  Adored by each of us (…and, loved by everyone she knew), we all relied on her.  It was a shock to us all when she died.  Sadly, at the time of her death, I was ill-prepared for the sheer volume of responsibility that came with being a single parent and homemaker.  In addition to my professional career, I became fully responsible for the care and well-being of the children.  Add to that; there was housework: cleaning, laundry, shopping, meal preparation, washing dishes, care for an infant, helping with school assignments, yard work, and general home management.  And, on top of that, there were expectations I had as the spiritual leader in the home: regular Dad duties, church attendance, Family Home Evening (FHE), Family Prayers, scripture reading, bedtime stories, and counseling.  Poor me!

Anyway, I struggled for many months; and, there were good people with good intentions, who said: “it was not possible for me to manage.”  They wanted to find homes for all my children.  However, I would not allow that.  I was their Dad; and, I wasn’t going to allow anyone to take them away (or separate them from each other), nor would I have someone else teach them.

Fortunately, during the first month or so, the Ward Relief Society was there to provide needed “compassionate service.”  They were wonderful and at times overwhelming in their service.  But they were great!  Also, my two oldest children were daughters: a 13 and an 11-year-old.  Both were determined to fill in for their mother.  They were very helpful, and we all grew together.  They were perfect evidence of the saying “the Lord makes compensations.”  But at the time of the crisis, I still had to somehow get my arms around the burden of my new responsibilities.  I knew I lacked many of the skills of a homemaker, and I needed to learn those skills.

I was a military man, and for me the solution was obvious.  I had to “organize my unit.”  I’m not recommending the following actions as the perfect solution, but for me, they worked.  We got organized.  I began by writing our Family Vision and Mission Statement.  Then, we identified all the routine tasks that we needed to do.  I created Operating Procedures/Instructions and wrote checklists for completing each household task.  We also established Family Rules: what to do and what not to do!  I wrote the initial draft; we met as a family council to discuss them; we modified them as necessary; and then, we voted as a family to accept and follow the final draft.  Of course, we also maintained a detailed family calendar of activities and kept it up to date, as necessary.

In addition to these basic family instructions, checklists, and rules, we tried to follow guidelines from the church and “align with the Brethren.”  At the risk of sounding overly simplified, we generally tried to follow the list of “key teaching opportunities” below. They are provided here for your general consideration:

      • Family Home Evening (FHE): Plan them ahead of time; joyfully, and faithfully follow through.
      • Family Prayer: Daily and meaningful.
      • Family Scripture Study: Learn to love and share this treasure.
      • Parental teaching by example (integrity): Practice what you Teach.
      • Listen to the Holy Spirit: Humbly respond to promptings.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the wisdom and counsel from “the Brethren” that we should emphasize these basic activities in our homes.  I say “over the years” because I know how infrequently I held an effective Family Home Evening or a meaningful Family Scripture Study.  We usually held them, but I’m not sure how successful they were.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe we were more successful than I thought.  I guess I’m just admitting my sense of a shortfall and expressing my sincere regret.

Now, organizing the work and writing procedures are important, but they don’t accomplish the work by themselves.  They were like a compass which points the way and gives us guidance and instruction.  However, I found that knowing what to do didn’t always translate into accomplishing what needed to be done.  We did okay with many things, but we were less successful with others.

(Note:  I learned to pray a lot in those days and years; but I confess, FHE, Family Prayers and Family Scripture Study suffered.  I sometimes wish I could have a “do-over,” but it is what it is.  My children put up with a great deal, but they have been forgiving, and they still love me.  And, there was a “silver lining.” Being a single parent has been a growing experience.)

A New Adventure and a Wonderful Blessing:

After six (6) years as a single-parent family, the “Captain and Seven children” began a new adventure.  I met a beautiful woman at a Regional Single Adult Conference in Long Beach, California.  I could tell she was a good and kind person with a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ and the Great Plan of Salvation.  Plus, we found we had much in common.  She also came from a military background, so my operating procedures and checklists didn’t frighten her.  And, she actually liked me.  Kathy had two (2) young children of her own; and, it didn’t frighten her away when she found I had seven (7) children.  After about eight months of dating and getting acquainted, we fell in love and were married and sealed together in the Holy Temple.  About a year and a half later, we added an additional child to our family.  We became the proverbial “yours, mine & ours” family.

Today, all our ten children are on their own, with children of their own, but we are still on-call, ready to find additional opportunities to love and teach our grown children and our grandchildren.  Frankly, we are never released from these Eternal callings.  And, today our responsibility to teach correct principles, is as important as ever.  As I look back on those years with the children, I think we did okay!  They somehow survived, and we all still love each other.

However, I’ve often thought “what more could I have done?” “What important truths and principles should I have emphasized more?” “What truths and principles would have blessed and helped them the most?”  As I’ve thought about this, I made a list.  What should a parent teach his children?  The answer to this is probably a “no brainer.”  I know we all know this!  But I wrote them down anyway to formally record and document these simple but Eternal principles we need to teach our children.  So, here’s my list:

Parental Training Topics for Teaching our Children:

      • Introduce them to Jesus Christ (our Savior and the perfect example to follow). Live like the Savior.  They already know and love Him but talk to them about Him.
      • Teach them to Love God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
      • Teach them to pray, and to learn to talk to our Heavenly Father.
      • Teach them to love the Scriptures, our spiritual guidebooks to learning the Commandments and the nature of God.
      • Teach them to keep the commandments and to “live like the Savior.”
      • Guide them along the Covenant Path, the path to Eternal Life (Baptism and beyond).
      • Teach them to stay on the Covenant Path.
      • Teach them about the glorious and Eternal Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Happiness.
      • Teach them to listen to the Holy Spirit, to receive revelation. Revelation is all around us.  Learn to connect Spirit to Spirit.
      • Strive to help them prepare for and serve full-time missions.
      • Teach them to prepare for Eternal Marriage in the Holy Temple.
      • Pray for them, and with them, during the trials and challenges of youth, and beyond.

Final Thoughts:

Today our responsibility to teach our children correct principles is as important as ever.  So, in conclusion, please know this, we cannot do it effectively without the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit (aka the Holy Ghost) in our lives. He is our friend!  If we are prepared and worthy, He will teach us of Christ and guide us to become more like Him.  He is the one who will prepare us to come unto the Savior.  Ultimately, He will bring us into the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.  And, He is the one who will inspire and guide us as we strive to teach our children the truth and guide them unto Jesus Christ.

“…in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.  I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation.  Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”  President Russell M. Nelson

 

How Do We Study the Holy Scriptures?

The Holy Scriptures are the inspired writings of holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved upon and guided by the Holy Spirit of God (D&C 68:3-4). Their sacred writings are contained and canonized in the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  These men were Prophets of God!  They were some of the greatest men who have ever lived.  Their sacred and Holy Scriptural records are priceless.  And, it is miraculous they have been preserved and available for us today.  To hold and study the Holy Scriptures is one of the greatest blessings we have been given.  We can actually hold them in our hands and own a personal copy of each, quite likely translated in our native language.

Think about it!  God, our Heavenly Father has revealed truth, light and knowledge to holy prophets who have faithfully recorded His will concerning us: you and me!   In these scriptures, we learn grand and profound truths about the creation of the universe, including the Earth we live on, and the very purpose of our existence.  We also learn the truth about God our Heavenly Father: He is the God of Heaven and Earth; He is alive and well; He is perfect in all things; He is our Heavenly Father; He loves us; we are all His children, spiritually created by Him before we came to Earth; and, we lived with Him in that premortal existence.

We also learn that it is Heavenly Father’s great plan and desire that eventually, He would “…bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).  These sacred books teach of Heavenly Father’s Great Plan of Salvation for His children: including; The Creation, the Fall of Man, earthly experience, the eventual atonement made possible through His Son Jesus Christ, and the path we must follow to qualify for Eternal Life (life hereafter with God the Eternal Father). (John 17:3)

Knowledge and understanding of these and many other glorious truths are the reasons we should study the Holy Scriptures.  But, the most important reason is this: we must prayerfully study the scriptures to learn and know of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God the Father in the flesh.  He is our Savior and Redeemer.  We must learn of Him, repent of our transgressions and follow His teachings and example.  Only by knowing Him and following His example can we completely overcome our separation from God (“the Fall of Man”) and return to His presence.

“Knowing Christ” includes learning the truth about His Character, Attributes, and Perfections. He is the perfect example for us to follow.  He has taught the truth, set the pattern, and provided the way for us to return to our Heavenly Father.  By prayerfully studying the life of Christ, learning of Him, following His example and loving Him, our Faith in Jesus Christ will grow.  And, honest seekers of the truth will begin to naturally modify their lives to become more like Him.

In addition to “the Life of Christ,” and the great and eternal “Plan of Salvation,” the Holy Scriptures teach us about “the Doctrine of Christ.”  The Lord taught that His Doctrine is “…the doctrine which the Father hath given unto Me” (3 Nephi 11:32).  In simplest terms, it’s the path our Redeemer has set out which, if followed, will bring His chosen people to a knowledge of Him, and which must be followed if we are to learn of Him and receive Exaltation and Eternal Life (see 2 Nephi 31; 3 Nephi 11; 3 Nephi 15:9; D&C 76:50-70; and, 2 John 1:9).

Faithfully studying the scriptures will have an uplifting and spiritual influence upon our individual thoughts, behaviors, and personalities.  If we diligently and faithfully study and follow them, they will draw us to Christ and inspire us to be better in this life …more like the Savior, more Christlike!  And, we will be on the path to “Eternal Life.”

Now, if you’re new at this, or if you need a little refresher, here are ten (10) practical steps to follow as you Study the Holy Scriptures.  To make it easier to remember, use the letters: PSPO.”  They stand for “Pray, Study, Pray and Obey.”  But for starters, please read and follow these “Practical Steps” carefully and apply them as much as possible.  Eventually, as the Holy Spirit prompts you, this will become natural and effortless.  Over time, you’ll become driven as you look forward with excitement to your daily Scriptural Adventure.

10 Practical Steps to Effective and Inspired Scripture Study:

      1. Each day of your life strive to be obedient to your understanding of God’s commandments and worthy of the companionship of the Holy Spirit.
      2. Read and study the Holy Scriptures DAILY.  Do this faithfully.  Put it on your schedule.
      3. Have a regular (dedicated) time and place for your scripture study.  Pick a peaceful quiet setting where you will have the least amount of distractions.  Try to return to that same place, at that same time each day.  Making it a routine will help program your mind and body to be better focused and alert to receive light.
      4. Begin each study time with sincere and earnest prayer.  Among other things, talk to Him about what you are about to do: Read the Scriptures.  Ask specifically for the influence of the Holy Spirit that you may be inspired and receive light and knowledge.  Expect to be enlightened.
      5. Read, study and ponder the Holy Scriptures.  As you do, be open to, listen for, and anticipate spiritual promptings from the Holy Spirit.
      6. Have a pencil and paper handy!  Take written notes of spiritual thoughts or promptings that come to you while you study.  Save and remember your feelings and your notes.
      7. When a scriptural passage stands out or you feel inspired, mark/highlight your personal copies of the scriptures.  Develop your own preferred system of notes and annotations.
      8. After your study time, return to your knees and pray again to the Father.  Pray for the continued influence of the Holy Spirit.  Ask for understanding, further instruction (information), light and knowledge.
      9. Review your written notes.  Ponder about what you’ve written.  Pray about them.  And, edit them according to the promptings you receive from the Holy Spirit.  They can become a treasure of personal spiritual promptings.
      10. Strive to live each day in accordance with your growing understanding of Christlike behaviors.

Well, there you have it; practical steps for receiving Light and Knowledge as we read the Holy Scriptures.  Of course, it may seem a little structured, but give it a try.  As you do this, exercise your faith.  Your knowledge and testimony will grow, and your heart will swell with love and appreciation for the scriptures.  Your soul will also be filled with truth; and, it will grow in the pure love of God.  As your knowledge grows, exercise humility, love one another, strive to live virtuously, and pray sincerely; “…and the doctrine of the priesthood will distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:46).