What Should I Be Doing?

Today I am having what I refer to as a personal (and healthy) “senior citizen introspection.”  I am 73 years old, relatively healthy, comfortably retired, and my eyes are wide open.  My mind is clear, and I have time to think!  Life has been good to me, and I am a happy man!  But I have recently been thinking more deeply about who I am and what I should be doing with my life now, today.

As individuals, I believe we should periodically evaluate our personal activities and behaviors and ask ourselves, “…how am I doing?”  We should regularly do personal performance reviews or interviews with ourselves.  It is good to evaluate how we are doing and hold ourselves accountable.  Of course, these would be unique interviews/reviews.  Each would be a personal and private interview about who you are, who you want to be, how you are doing, and what you need to change.

My interviews are probably vastly different than yours.  I am retired now and have been struggling a little lately with my daily accomplishments and my self esteem.  I am healthy in mind and body.  But I tend to live from day to day or week to week, and sometimes I wonder: “What should I focus on?  What is important?  What can I do that is meaningful?  What should I be doing?”  Frankly, we know ourselves better than anyone else may know us. So, a personal and private interview with ourselves is best.  And, we need to be honest with ourselves!  To help me in this process, I like to ask myself the following five simple questions (or something similar to these):

      1. “What am I doing?”
      2. “What should I be doing?”
      3. “What am I going to do?
      4. “What should I STOP doing?”  And,
      5. “What more can I be doing?”

These are general but very personal questions.  I ask them of myself; and, I answer them myself.  I have always tried to keep busy doing what I think is meaningful.  But a few years ago, I came across the following quote from President George Albert Smith (1870-1951).  As I read and pondered about his comment, it occurred to me that I must do more …I want to do more!

“We are not here to while away the hours of this life and then pass to a sphere of exaltation, but we are here to qualify ourselves day by day for the positions that our Father expects us to fill hereafter.” (President George Albert Smith)

I have thought about this quote many times.  It helps me focus more clearly on what is essential and meaningful.  And, it gives me a greater appreciation for time and the value of each new day.  The available time is a unique gift full of opportunities!  Whether or not I take advantage of that “gift” is up to me.  Throughout life, some sorrow and sadness may inevitably occur.  But, if I focus on what is important and essential, I am optimistic.  I will find joy, great memories, and happiness.  I may not always find opportunities and blessings, but they will come!  Each day is a new “TODAY” … and I have Hope.  Today is now, and it is what we have!  It is the critical and decisive moment!

“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. He only is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with worry, fret, and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

So, what should I/we be doing TODAY?”  Our Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, gave this wise counsel: “Pray to know what to STOP doing and what to START doing.  Pray to know what to ADD to your environment and what to REMOVE so the Spirit can be with you in abundance.”  On another occasion, he added, …every day we should ask ourselves, ‘How can we better live as Jesus Christ taught and lived?’”

President Nelson has also given this important advice: “…one of the most important things we need to learn in life is to know who we really are.  We have been created for a purpose.  Learn of your divine purpose and then live up to it. … 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!”

As a retired man with “time and freedom,” I often think about what I am doing …or should be doing.  The five questions I mentioned at the start of this post help me redirect my life for good.  But to be honest, I am still a work in progress.  Regardless, one thing is obvious: To enjoy true happiness in this life and the Fullness of Joy in the Worlds to Come, we must learn and follow our Heavenly Father’s “Plan of Salvation,” and “the Doctrine of Christ.”  That is what we all should be doing!  Stated more clearly, we should be striving to be more like our Savior, more Christlike!  We should follow His example and His teachings, “keep the commandments of God” (as best we understand them), honor our “Sacred Covenants,” and align ourselves with His ordained leaders, “the Brethren” (the Apostles and Prophets).

We should also pray often to the Father and ask for forgiveness and guidance in this life.  (He genuinely loves us and will answer our sincere prayers.) And we should seek (through obedience to His Commandments) to be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit (the Holy Ghost) in our lives.  In our prayers, and throughout each day, we should listen carefully to hear the promptings of “the still small voice” of the Holy Spirit.  We should try to clearly recognize His whisperings and promptings, learn to rely on His influence, and follow His guidance.  (For more insight into personal prayer, please see the Note at the bottom of this post.)

Concerning our relationship with the Holy Ghost and His influence in our lives, President Nelson has given this advice:
“. . .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.”

In this life, with the many challenges we have concerning “what is the truth,” “what is right,” and even “what should we do,” the Holy Ghost is our friend.  He is “the Revelator,” “the Comforter,” and “the Holy Spirit of Truth.”  His primary mission is to reveal the truth and bear testimony of God the Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus the Christ.  We should seek to be worthy of His guiding influence in our lives.  And I sincerely believe He should be our “Best Friend!”

(Please Note: If you would like to read more concerning a personal perspective and tips for “a meaningful prayer,” please click on the following link and see the post Pray unto the Father.)

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Choose Wisely this Season

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming local and national elections this year in America.  I believe this is a critical time in our history, and the decisions we make will have a major impact on the future of our representative democratic republic.  A lot rests upon us as citizens to elect “honest men and wise …and good men” (D&C 98:10) to govern and uphold our nation and our values.

So, what are our obligations?  Simply stated, it is our solemn duty to become accurately informed, involved in the debate, and vote our conscience.  As the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound.  ‘Tis right, politically, for a man who has influence to use it.” (History of the Church, 5:286).  These points are especially important within the context of the current political climate.  Much is at stake this year.  It appears that current political leaders in Washington do not represent the majority voice and will of the people and are more focused on their own political or personal agendas. U.S. citizens (and other residents) seem to be more and more dependent on support from the government. And, many of our eligible voters appear willing to support the politicians who will maintain their so-called “personal entitlements.”  Add to this, our National Debt is ballooning grossly out of control.  This is a recipe for disaster.

For now, we still have the protection of our freedoms as spelled out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but it’s not a stretch to see how those rights might be stripped away …if citizens neglect their national responsibilities, and if the Congress doesn’t act to defend the constitution and support the rule of law.  Consider this from the Holy Scriptures: “I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed, and the law also maketh you free.  Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.”  (D&C 98:8-10)

In addition, during this election year, our church leaders have reiterated their counsel on this subject and once again provided clear guidance for our consideration:  “Citizens of the United States have the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy.  Participation in the political process affects their communities and nation today and in the future. We urge Latter-day Saints to be active citizens by registering, exercising their right to vote, and engaging in civic affairs.” (The First Presidency)

I hope we will all participate in the political process this year, and exercise our “influence” fully in whatever capacity and to whatever extent possible. May we actively uphold the Constitution of the United States and the freedoms set forth by our inspired Founding Fathers.  May we become accurately informed, involved in the debate, and vote our conscience. And, may we seek out and elect “honest men and wise …and good men.”


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We Shall Have Tribulation

The year 2020 has been a year of Great Tribulation.  It is a presidential election year when the country should unite in constructive dialog to elect capable leaders who are honest and dependable; and, who will uphold and defend the Constitution.  Instead, there appears to be a complete breakdown in this noble effort and between the two major parties.  It is unlike any election year I have ever witnessed.  The political parties seem polarized and unwilling to compromise.  There appears to be a climate of hatred and complete political unrest, including strident and hateful political dialog from both major parties, and a possible effort to undermined the election process.

In addition, there are significant intervening variables that are also creating havoc and tribulation in America.  And I suspect, they are all somehow related.  Consider these: the current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our society, and it alone has claimed the lives of an estimated 30,000 people in America; there have been federal and state restrictions imposed on attendance at church worship services and meetings; many schools throughout the nation remain closed; radical Marxist groups are successfully pushing to defund the police nationwide; violent protests and riots are destroying sections of many major American cities; thousands of businesses across the country have been vandalized and closed; in just the last three or four months more than 20 million U.S. citizens have become unemployed; and, a revolutionary Marxist organization is now sponsoring and tainting professional major league sporting events.  These disturbing developments have created an atmosphere of Great Tribulation in America.

I am very frustrated and troubled about the current situation in our nation.  I am most troubled by the ongoing and out of control chaos, rioting, and looting in many of our major cities.  These are the seeds of anarchy and they need to be stopped.

I am also troubled about the current national election environment.  The campaigning and selection process is becoming increasingly negative and misleading.  And the major news outlets, which are expected to provide honest and objective coverage, have taken sides in the campaign and are only providing grossly partisan political coverage.  As American citizens, we can no longer rely on traditional news outlets to get and present the truth.  I believe this is a betrayal of their professional duty and I know many thousands of other citizens feel as I do.

We live in difficult times.  Throughout these developments, I have asked myself, “…what more can I do?”  Personally, I am striving to stay calm and will continue to obey the rule of law.  I continue to trust in our God, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, and our good leaders.  Ultimately, I will cast my vote in support of the people and policies I support.  In the meantime, I pray regularly to our God for His blessings upon our great country (the United States of America), and I continue to prayerfully study the Holy Scriptures and the “Come Follow Me” curriculum.  I am grateful we have a living Prophet to guide us.  I trust him …and, all the Brethren!  I pray for their continued good health and strength, and their ability to lead in righteousness.  I strive to follow their counsel and align myself with the Prophet and the Brethren.  And, I seek and listen for guidance and reassurance from the Holy Spirit.

Important Point:  Trust in the Lord and follow the Prophet.

Dealing with Inevitable Tribulation

The subject of “tribulation” has been on my mind for many years, but more so this year.  I do not think it is something we can ignore …nor pretend it doesn’t exist.

In the Holy Scriptures, we read that in the world,  we “…shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).  Search the scriptures, and you will find many references to tribulation, and in some cases to “Great Tribulation” (Rev 7:14).  In this life, there are many forms of tribulation.  The Topical Guide to the scriptures suggests several synonyms to tribulation: i.e., affliction, anguish, distress, grief, misery, oppression, persecution, sorrow, suffering, and trouble.  Trials and tribulations will come to us all.  Even the righteous will experience distress in the world.  Apparently, we cannot avoid tribulation in this life.

Important Point:  We will have Tribulation.

I also believe there are many levels of tribulation.  It can occur both mildly at times, and more severely at other times.

Mild Tribulation

As a young married man in the late 1960s, I remember experiencing mild levels of tribulation.  I did not recognize them at first, but my dear wife did.  She recognized my stressful situation and the events that brought on the “mild tribulation.”  This was a time in my life when I was overly stressed and often very tired.  My sweet wife recognized that my sense of “mild tribulation” came on when I was overly tired, very hungry, and stressed about our family finances.  Her solution was to quickly resolve the conditions that brought on the stress.  She knew me and was able help me overcome my “mild tribulation.”  More than once, she saw me come home from work with that “troubled look in my eyes.” Each time, I was experiencing stress and “mild tribulation.”  When she saw me in that condition, she clearly understand and then applied her solutions: she simply sat me down in a comfortable chair to close my eyes and rest while she prepared an excellent meal; we eat together; and then, she had me organize and pay our bills.  In the end, it was like a miracle.  The feelings of “mild tribulation” were gone.

I learned that if I were overly tired, hungry, and needed to work on our finances, I would become too stressed.  I could easily handle all three events individually, but not all three at the same time.  I needed to recognize, prioritize, and then resolve each issue.  In the above case, once I was rested and fed, I was better able to handle our finances.

Of course, this was a very mild case of tribulation with a simple solution!  But, it is also a very simple example of a very real but mild tribulation experience.  Not all tribulation (or troubling events) are that simple.  We all have our own unique “triggers” that may activate a mild form of distress or grief in us.  One thing is certain, in this life troubling events will periodically occur and they will likely cause some form of tribulation.  I believe mild tribulation is healthy and can motivate us to find solutions, improve, and mature.  It is wise to know our personal limits, our own signs of “tribulation,” and our possible or probable solutions.

Greater Tribulation

Of more significant concern are the events that cause greater tribulation.  In this world, there are many causes of greater tribulation.  Some of these we bring upon ourselves because of poor/bad choices and decisions.  We are all human, and our choices have consequences: good and bad!  Our bad choices often cause us (and others) some levels of tribulation.

There are also many other external causes of greater tribulation.  These are mostly out of our control.  In addition to the aforementioned ongoing crises in our country, they may include military conflicts/wars, poor health or a severe injury, death of a loved one, separation or divorce, serious concerns for our children, the stress of a significant family relocation (moving away), financial insecurity, loss of employment …and, many other events.  Dealing with just one of these external causes may constitute a certain level of “tribulation,” but it is not necessarily debilitating.  However, dealing with two or more of these simultaneously will likely cause much greater tribulation.

Sadly, these types of events rarely come alone (by themselves).  And, multiple events or causes of distress will compound our level of tribulation.  Thus, they will more likely bring additional and greater tribulation.

Finding solutions to “Greater Tribulation.”

From a spiritual perspective, not knowing or understanding God, nor His great and Eternal Plan for His children, is often the cause of great fear in this life and a lack of hope in the future.  In that state of darkness, we will find our personal resilience weakened during times of tribulation.

Be assured, our loving Heavenly Father is alive and well.  He loves all His children, and He has a Great and Eternal Plan for us.  One of the great blessings of prayerful and personal scripture study is the comfort you gain from a better understanding of our Heavenly Father’s Great Plan of Salvation (or, the Plan of Happiness).

Also, as we read and ponder on the Holy Scriptures, learn of God, and follow the Lord, we will likely benefit from a much more significant influence of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives.  With the influence and companionship of the Holy Spirit (AKA the Holy Ghost, the Comforter and/or the Revelator), we will better understand and be prepared to manage the tribulations we will experience in this life. “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).  Knowing the truth will lift and comfort us.

Important Point:  Our loving Heavenly Father is alive and well.  He loves all His children, and He has a Great and Eternal Plan of Happiness for us.

Scripture Study will bring Peace.

The Holy Scriptures also provide specific counsel, words of wisdom, and comfort in dealing with tribulation.  In the Old Testament, we learn that “when thou art in tribulation …turn to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 4:30).  If we are honest and faithful to His Commandments and our Covenants, the Lord has promised He will send His Comforter (the Holy Ghost) to be with us.  In the New Testament, we learn “tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. 5:3) and the Lord “comforteth us in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 1:4).  In the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord counsels the Saints to “Be patient in tribulation until I come” (D&C 54:10).

Important Point:  Immersing ourselves in regular, humble, and prayerful scripture study will bring the peace that exceeds all understanding and will comfort us during difficult times of tribulation.

One of my most comforting scriptural references is Doctrine & Covenants 101:16.  At the time, the Saints in Missouri were suffering great persecution (and tribulation).  Angry mobs drove them from their homes.  The mobs threatened their lives.  The Saints lost their homes, their furniture, their personal property, and their livestock.  The Prophet Joseph Smith prayed to God for their welfare and in part received this message from the Lord “…let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16).

Important Point:  “Be still and know that (He is) God.”

Dear friends and loved one, I know God the Father is alive and well.   He is our Heavenly Father, …the Father of our Spirits.  He knows who we are.  He knows our names …and our needs.  He wants us to be safe and happy in this life, and He wants us to return home to Him.  He loves us and He has a plan for our happiness.  He will help!  If you have distanced yourself from God, stop where you are and turn to Him.  Then, do what you must to restore your fellowship with Him.  God will answer earnest and sincere prayers.  As you pray, try to listen to His message; Hear Him!  His arms are wide open.  He wants you to listen, obey, and ultimately come home!

Finally, if you are interested in additional spiritual comfort during these “times of tribulation,” please click on the link below and listen to inspiring music sung by the award-winning Norwegian singer Sissel, accompanied by the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.  This is good and beautiful advice via music for times of tribulation (or a pandemic).  Please note: the lyrics to the music and the author’s name are provided below.

Also note, this site and the link below are protected by both Norton Security and Web Hosting Security.  It is safe and secure!  Thank you, SAE

“Slow Down” Lyrics

by Chuck Girard

from the album All Those Years

In the midst of my confusion

In the time of desperate need

When I am thinking not too clearly

A gentle voice does intercede

Slow down, slow down, be still

Be still and wait, on the Spirit of….the Lord

Slow down and hear His vo…….ice

And know that He ….is …God

In the time of tribulation

When I’m feeling so unsure

When things are pressing in about me

Comes a gentle voice so still, so pure

Slow down, slow down, be still

Be still and wait, on the Spirit of…….the Lord

Slow down and hear His vo…….ice

And know that He………is God

And know that He….is…God

©1974 Dunamis Music


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Overcoming “Roadblocks” to Reading the Book of Mormon

Reading the Book of Mormon daily (or on a routine basis) is a spiritually rewarding experience.  It can inspire us with examples of faith, obedience, courage, strength, and hope.  And, if we are faithful, it will strengthen our testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ and teach us of His Doctrine, “the Doctrine of Christ.”

However, for some, faithfully reading the Book of Mormon daily has been a difficult practice to maintain.  For various reasons, they find it difficult to continue a regular reading schedule.  For example, they may be distracted by a busy life, or they may see parts of the book difficult to read and understand, and their original commitment to reading may wain.  I would like to address a few of these possible “roadblocks” to regular reading of the Book of Mormon.

But first, please remember, the Book of Mormon is an ancient and Holy book of scripture.  In addition to just reading the book, we should always begin our sessions with a personal and sincere prayer to our Heavenly Father.  In our prayers, ask specifically for His aid in reading and understanding what you read.  And, allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts.  (Note: For a more detailed approach to why and how to best prepare and study the Holy Scriptures, please see the post “Why and How to Study the Holy Scriptures.”)

Over the years, I have noticed there are at least a few (probably many) challenging obstacles or “Roadblocks” to reading the Book of Mormon.  These are not all bad.  Mostly, they are more of a challenge, and they can be educational.  I would like to address three.

    1. The “Stop and Go and Repeat” Problem.

Several Latter-day Saints have told me they “…love the Book of Mormon and want to read it more regularly,” and occasionally read it “cover to cover.”  However, they often admit they have never been able to read the entire book “cover to cover,” nor read much beyond 1st Nephi.  They claim to have read 1st Nephi many, many times.  Each time they get distracted and begin to waver in their resolve to continue.  This wavering usually occurs near the end of 1st Nephi, or when reading 2nd Nephi.  Then, their daily reading begins to diminish.  Typically, several days or even weeks later, when they attempt again to read the Book of Mormon “cover to cover,” they feel they must restart back at the beginning by rereading 1st Nephi.  While this is a noble idea (finish what you start), too often it just adds to the number of times they have read 1st Nephi ONLY …and stopped, …again!  I call this the Stop and Go and Repeat” problem.

Let me share two possible solutions to this “Stop and Go and Repeat” problem.  First, avoid the tendency just to start over each time …all the way back at the beginning!  Suppose you are stuck reading somewhere in the first two or three books of the Book of Mormon.  Well, just jump on over to the Book of Omni and the Words of Mormon.  These are handy little books within the Book of Mormon that will help to clear much confusion and restart your reading.

The two books contain only one chapter each.  Yet, they summarize and tie together the major events from the Land of Nephi to the beginning of the Zarahemla period (a gap of about 200 years).  The Book of Omni includes very brief entries from five different individuals, most notably Amaleki, who touched on the origin of the peoples of Kings Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi.  The Words of Mormon chapter was written about 500 years later by the Prophet Mormon (about AD 385) near the end of his life.  Mormon wrote and inserted this writing just before the Book of Mosiah to tie all other Book of Mormon records together.  In these valuable little books, the writers introduce King Benjamin (a Holy Man), a great Nephite King.  He fought and destroyed the Lamanite Army in battle and established peace in the land of Zarahemla.

So, this time, I suggest you “restart” your reading of the Book of Mormon by first reading The Book of Omni and The Words of Mormon; and then allow yourself to flow into the Book of Mosiah.  That may be all you need to get your reading back on track.  Later, you can return and reread the entire Book of Mormon from the beginning; and of course, take on the “Isaiah Chapters” another day!

A Second possible solution you can try would be to following some or all the bulleted items below.  These eleven items are just a small list and an excellent selection of significant events you can read about in the Book of Mormon.  To be sure, there are many more throughout the Book of Mormon, but these are some great reads that are sure to inspire additional reading.

NOTE: Try reading these rewarding assignments in order, but that is not necessary.  Each reference can stand alone and be inspirational!

      • Read 2nd Nephi 28-33: Nephi’s final message.  He speaks of our day.
      • Read 2nd Nephi 31-32: Nephi explains “the Doctrine of Christ.”
      • Read Mosiah 1-6: King Benjamin’s powerful sermon.  Serve our God and become Saints through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
      • Read Mosiah 7-8: Ammon finds the lost people of Limhi and teaches.
      • Read Alma 5-16: Alma’s missionary message (repent and keep the commandments), and his experiences.
      • Read Alma 17-27: The missionary work of the Sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites.
      • Read Alma 32-34: Alma and Amulek teach about faith, repentance, and redemption.
      • Read 3rd Nephi 9-30: Jesus Christ visits the Nephites and teaches “His Doctrine.”
      • Read Mormon 7: Mormon’s last recorded words of counsel.  He speaks to the “…remnant of the House of Israel” in the Last Days.
      • Read Mormon 8-9: Moroni’s inspiring completion of his Father’s record.  And finally,
      • Read all ten chapters of the Book of Moroni:  Moroni’s final words that seal the Book of Mormon and speak directly to us (all of us) in this dispensation).

These are all inspiring references to look up and read.  You could even treat these as inspiring “stand-alone” reads.  I hope you will be inspired and gain additional insights from and about our Redeemer Jesus Christ; and, some of the greatest men who have ever lived.

    1. The “Isaiah Chapters” Challenge.

Sadly, for some individuals, another barrier to successfully reading and enjoying the entire Book of Mormon is the so-called “Isaiah Chapters.”  The challenge of understanding the writings of Isaiah is real and very understandable, whether you are a new reader of the Book of Mormon or not.  I have heard several individuals express something like: “I struggle with the Isaiah chapters.  I do not understand them.”  Or, “…I cannot get through the Isaiah chapters.”  And yet, others have also asked, “How can I get through the difficult Isaiah chapters and begin to enjoy more of the Book of Mormon?”  They claim the “Isaiah Chapters” are like a wall to them.

As with the “Stop and Go and Repeat” problem, I also have two possible points/solutions (or a few) to help one read and maybe understand Isaiah and the “Isaiah Chapters.”

First, do not fret about it!

If you find yourself struggling with the “Isaiah Chapters,” just move on for now.  They are not going to go away.  You can return to them when you are ready.  For now, be flexible.  Keep the Book of Mormon handy and refer to it often.  And, try reading some of the referenced bullets above.

My Second point or solution concerns the mystique surrounding the writings of Isaiah.  If you are still struggling to read Isaiah, please do not give up.  I hope the following quotes and insights will help you strive more to understand the many direct citations and references to the Prophet Isaiah found in the Book of Mormon.  Of course, this inspired scriptural guidance (listed below) applies equally to all the Isaiah chapters, as well as the frequent references to Isaiah by other Book of Mormon Prophets (such as Nephi and Jacob).  But more importantly, the first two bullets below are commandments from our Savior Jesus Christ Himself.  Please, if you are struggling to read Isaiah, prayerfully, and seriously consider these four scriptural references:

      • The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has commanded us that we “…ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1).
      • The Lord added: “…ye have them before you, therefore search them” (3 Nephi 20:11).
      • The Prophet Nephi wrote, “Isaiah saw the latter-days.” He added the writings of Isaiah are “…plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4).
      • The Prophet Nephi also taught, “…they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them” (2 Nephi 25:8).

These scriptural references should help motivate each us to continue our quest and not let the “Isaiah Chapters” overwhelm us.  Remember, Jesus Christ has commanded us to read them diligently.  Isaiah saw the “latter-days.”  Many of His writings and prophecies were written for our time and provide prophetic warnings and guidance to us.  Isaiah’s prophecies are vital and of “…great worth” to us in these, the “…last days!”

Now, I recognize the writings of Isaiah are a challenge for many of us, but it is well worth our efforts to try to understand them.  The bulleted items above should motivate us to continue reading, but if we sincerely want to “understand Isaiah” better, I believe it will require much greater study and understanding of Jewish traditions, including historical and political events at the time of Isaiah.  I feel I am beginning to understand a little more, but I also know I have a long way to go.  Over time, I hope to gain a much clearer understanding and a greater appreciation for the Prophet and his prophetic writings.  I am especially encouraged by Nephi’s comment: the books of Isaiah are “…plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4).  Each day, may we all be found more worthy of the influence of the Holy Spirit; and thus, more “…filled with the spirit of prophecy.”

    1. The “War Chapters” Challenge.

I also know that some readers of the Book of Mormon have had problems with the “War Chapters.”  Thousands and thousands of bodies (men, women, and even children) slaughtered on both sides of the battles.  “Oh, the humanity!”  Human bodies are heaped up in mounds or thrown into the river to allow an army to cross over to the other side …or, just wash out to sea: so much hand-to-hand violence, death, and the smell of death all around.  I understand the visual problem, and I wish it were not necessary.

I do not clearly understand the necessity for all the carnage.  As a military man, I have seen and participated in wars and conflicts, and I still struggle to get some of the images out of my mind.  They nevertheless trouble me even today.  But I accept the counsel of “the Spirit” to young Nephi: “The Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes” (1 Nephi 4:13).  And, like Nephi, “I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:16-17).

However, I am comforted somewhat when I read about Nephi stumbling upon the drunken body of Laban in the night (1 Nephi 4:6-18).

Laban was the “keeper of the plates of brass.”  The plates contained the language, genealogies, and histories of the House of Israel.  Nephi was commanded by his Father to return to Jerusalem and get the Plates of Brass from Laban.  In their first attempt, Laban threatens Laman (Nephi’s oldest brother) with his life, …and Laman fled.  Later, they showed Laban their family gold, and silver, and all their precious things, and offered to exchange them for the plates of brass.  That effort also failed.  The brothers fled again, and Laban stole all their valuable items.  In their third attempt, Nephi went alone, “not knowing beforehand the things he should do.”  After stumbled upon the drunken body of Laban, Nephi was “constrained by the Spirit” to “Slay him.”  Nephi hesitated, but the Spirit said again, “Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes.  It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (1 Nephi 4:12-13).

And, if it is of any additional consolation, I have another thought on the “War Chapters.”  I can see some analogous bits of wisdom that we can learn.  And perhaps, these “bits of wisdom” can be of benefit to the Saints in the Last Days.  The bulleted items below may be a bit of a stretch, but consider how valuable they would be if we could learn them from the “War Chapters” and apply them in our personal and family life.

      • Anticipate and be prepared in advance while you can to battle evil.
      • Plan and maintain a personal strategy to defeat evil in all forms.
      • Build fortifications, walls, and barriers to protect yourself, your family, and your home from evil.
      • Build up and strengthen your defenses against evil.
      • Do not allow evil spies or enemies to infiltrate your strongholds.
      • Sharpen and fine-tune your weapons/tools to fight against evil.
      • Train before the battle.  Build strength and endurance for the fight against evil.
      • Put on the whole armor of God.  Protect the “vital parts” from evil.
      • Avoid laziness and remain vigilant against the infiltration of evil.
      • Stay healthy.  Eat wisely, drink water, exercise, and get your sleep.
      • Be self-reliant.  Have a good supply of necessities.
      • Stay out of unnecessary debt.  Build and secure a financial nest egg.
      • Have Faith in the Lord and keep the Commandments.  The “Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes” (1 Nephi 4:13).

The wars and carnage recorded in the Book of Mormon were actual events.  They occurred many years ago and ultimately destroyed the Nephite Nation.  We know there will also be conflicts in the last days.  I believe the evidence of present and future wars are all about us in the world.  I am not sure the nature of the coming battles, but I know many will be wars waged between good and evil.  And I am confident they will be wars fought both spiritually and temporally.  We need to prepare by firmly establish ourselves on the Lord’s side.

The messages and lessons of the Book of Mormon are a great blessing to us living in the “Last Days.”  We can learn from the prophets.  They warned us of wars (and the cause of wars) in their days and ours.  Additionally, we can learn much from the records of the battles fought in the Book of Mormon, and from the examples of great heroes like General Moroni, Helaman, his stripling warriors, and many others.  And, we can better prepare for whatever will come.  We must prepare ourselves, be skilled, and firmly on the Lord’s side.  Today, we are fortunate and blessed to have Prophets and Apostles to guide us.  I am confident if we follow the Prophet and stay on “the Covenant Path,” all will be well.

In conclusion, the Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  It was prepared and preserved by ancient Prophets of God.  These were some of the greatest men who have lived.  They were inspired and guided by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation.  The Book of Mormon has come forth in our day by the gift and power of God.  It contains the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ and will lead the faithful children of God home to Him, our Heavenly Father and His Glorified Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.  The Book of Mormon is available today for all to read.  Following the “Doctrine of Christ,” as presented and taught in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11), will lead the honest in heart along the path of redemption in this life …and, exaltation in the world to come.

We should prayerfully read and study the Book of Mormon!

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Answers to Prayers

I believe the Lord hears and answers the sincere prayers of the Faithful.  However, He does not always answer them in the manner, and at the time, we might expect.  We may think our concerns are of great importance and urgent, but the Lord knows all things, and He knows what is best.  A scripture comes to mind: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) To illustrate this point, I would like to share two examples of urgent prayers.

As a young missionary in the mid-1960s, my companion was severely and mortally injured in a farm accident.  As I prayed over his gravely wounded and dying body, I called upon the Lord to spare his life.  I felt confident that the Lord would answer my prayers.  After all, my companion was a faithful full-time missionary in the service of the Lord, and I had offered an earnest and heartfelt prayer.  As I labored over his body, I continued to pray quietly in my heart and mind promising the Lord, “I would dedicate my life in His service if He would just save my companion.”  Sadly, my companion was not “spared.”  I agonized for days over his loss, but eventually, I realized, my companion is now with the Lord, and he is still in His service.  But what of my faith and prayers?  Did the Lord answer my prayers; or, were they offered in vain?  Yes, the Lord answered me, but not as I had hoped.  They were the selfish prayers of a desperate young man asking for something contrary to the will of the Lord.  In the end, the Lord answered according to His will and wisdom.

Incidentally, as time passed, I reflected frequently on the death of my companion and the desperate promise I made to the Lord: “I would dedicate my life in His service if He would just save my companion.”  At one point, I remember thinking briefly: “I guess I’m off the hook now!”  However, it was a mistaken thought.  Frankly, I was wrong.  Events and consequences in this life should have no bearing upon whether we should choose the right.  Choosing to serve the Lord is always the correct decision.  Making that choice should be independent of life’s consequences.  In my case, I knew I had already decided to serve the Lord with all my might.  It was a Holy Covenant I had made previously.  One I should honor.

Several years later, another significant prayerful event occurred.  Our Stake Presidency visited our Military Servicemen’s Branch to reorganize the Branch Presidency.  In that process, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the Stake President.  It was a great interview.  He did not call me to serve in the Branch Presidency, but later in the day, the President asked that I meet with him again.  In this second interview, he said: “Brother Edgar, we came here today to reorganize the Branch Presidency of the Bitburg Branch.  We did not plan on reorganizing the Elders’ Quorum Presidency.  However, it has become clear in my mind that the Lord wants you to serve as the President of the Bitburg Branch Quorum of Elders.  Will you accept that calling?”  I was sure the Stake President had received inspiration from the Holy Spirit, so I said: “Yes, of course.”

Then the Stake President added, “our Priesthood Meeting will begin in about 10 minutes, and we would like to sustain the new Elders’ Quorum Presidency in that meeting.”  He pointed to an empty classroom and added, “will you please go into that room and take about five minutes to pray for the names of two brethren to serve as your counselors in the presidency?”

Wow!  I knew the Stake President held priesthood keys.  I knew I had just been called by him and by inspiration.  I knew the Lord answers prayers.  I knew I was worthy.  And, I knew I had five minutes to receive an answer.  I remember thinking to myself: “Scott, PAY ATTENTION and learn!  Within five minutes, you will receive a revelation!”  There was no need to wait five minutes.  As soon as I knelt and began my prayer, two distinct names came clearly into my mind.

Does the Lord answer our prayers?  Yes, He answers prayers to advance His Great Plan of Happiness, and because He loves us.  For me, I have often prayed for what I want, but God always gives me what I need when I need it.  I have learned not to question the will nor the wisdom of God.  I just make sure the lines of communication are open.

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Pray unto the Father

Note to the Readers:  This post contains a simplified explanation of very personal insights on prayer.  They are honest insights I have learned regarding sensitive and spiritual matters.  I treasure these and hold them very close to my heart.  They are shared here with humility and gratitude.  As you read this post, I hope you will do so with the same spirit it was written and shared.

I want to share some thoughts and insights about “prayer, how to pray, and receiving answers to prayers.”  These thoughts are very personal.  But first, let me begin by affirming: I know God our Heavenly Father is alive and well!  He truly is our loving and Eternal Heavenly Father.  He loves each of us …all of us; and, He has a Divine Plan to redeem us all from our current “Fallen” state.  He knows who we are; He knows our names; He knows our struggles; and, He knows what we need.  I know God loves us and has asked us to pray to Him.  And, I know He answers our sincere prayers.  He wants to answers our prayers!  He is always open to receiving and answering our meaningful and sincere prayers.

Meaningful and sincere prayer is not usually a “one-off” prayer uttered randomly or in a moment of crisis. Instead, it comes over time through regular and humble supplication to God the Father.  I know that when we faithfully and sincerely ask Him, He will answer.  Often, under the right spiritual circumstances, our sincere prayers may be answered in our hearts and minds as we pray.  However, more often, they are answered later, and in the Lord’s time.  We will probably not hear a voice.  Most likely, it will be a warm feeling of confidence or reassurance from the Holy Spirit as we move forward in faith.  And, sometimes, the answer may be a kind but simple sense or message of “No.”  Regardless, our Heavenly Father will answer our meaningful and sincere prayers.

I want to illustrate this point by reflecting on an experience in the life of my family.  In 1984, my dear wife, Jenny, passed away suddenly.  That was a very desperate and emotional time for our family.  Instantly, I became the sole caregiver for our seven children, all between the ages of five months and 13 years; and, we were living far away in Europe.  At the same time, these children were left with a somewhat flawed and broken father who loved them more than anyone.  In the days that followed Jenny’s death, it was difficult for me to pray.  I did not blame God for her death;  I had not lost my faith.  I just did not understand.  Why would God allow Jenny to die and leave us on our own?  It didn’t seem right.  We needed her more than He did (it seemed).  Of course, I was wrong!  He knows more perfectly what is best, and what we needed.  In desperation and remorse, I fell to my knees, and I began to pray more earnestly and sincerely than I had ever prayed before.  Through it all, I always knew how important my children were to Him; but I also began to realize and understand more deeply that God knows who I am …who we are.  And, I sincerely felt more than ever before that God trusted me with the care of my children, His children.  I felt that if He knew and trusted me as He did, then all would be well.  I could do this!  And, that knowledge strengthened me and made it possible for me to move forward in faith.  I haven’t forgotten that lesson.  Our Heavenly Father knows who I am, and He trusts me.  That was the answer I needed to hear.

I also realized that I was not alone.  So, early on and over time, prayer to our Father in Heaven became more and more important and meaningful to me.  Today, I look forward to my prayers because I sincerely and honestly know I can speak to Him, and He will hear me.  But what do I do to prepare for these visits?  That then is what I want to write about in this post.

Before praying, it’s important to clear my mind of distraction: try to focus.  At the same time, I try to anticipate my visits and ponder about what I will say.  I spend a little time standing in a pre-selected quiet place with my head down.  I try to think about what I’m about to do and to whom I’m about to speak to (pray to).  I try to be aware of my senses and seek to feel the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Frequently and often, I feel the influence of the Holy Spirit before I begin to pray.  The influence comes to me as an emotional tingling about my body: and often in my head, neck, shoulders, and back.

When I feel ready, I try to imagine in my mind the Father looking down on me.  I ponder and try to visualize Him.  I try to imagine being in His presence …standing in His presence!  Then, I kneel as if before Him and begin to pray with sincerity, reverence, and gratitude …and, I strive to open my mind to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the “still small voice.”

When I pray, what do I say?  Expressing gratitude for our Heavenly Father’s divine love is essential.  Also, I ask sincerely for forgiveness.  I know I have weaknesses that limit my growth.  So, often my prayerful desire is to know what I lack or what I’m missing; what more I should know; and, what I should do?  I try to talk to the Father about these things.  Also, I pray for the welfare of family and others, sometimes explicitly, other times generally.  Often, I feel enlightened by the Holy Spirit concerning what to say.  At all times, and regardless of what is said, a humble and sincere attitude of gratitude is essential!

After each prayer, I like to pause while still on my knees and briefly continue to contemplate and meditate.  I try to open my mind and senses, and listen for the influence of the Holy Spirit.  These are often moments that lift me spiritually above my natural condition.  Then, going forward each day and night, I try to remember my prayerful experiences and strive to behave as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.  I know I still have much to do to draw closer to the Lord; but each day, at the end of meaningful prayers, I always have a greater sense of hope.  And, I have a greater feeling of love and a desire to be of greater service.

I love personal prayers and these opportunities to open up and sincerely speak with Heavenly Father.  And I am so grateful for the positive and sweet influence of the Holy Spirit.

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Why and How to 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)

Gaining 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.  There is a direct correlation between our knowledge of Christ and the amount of Faith we have in Him.  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 God about what you are about to do: for example, 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).

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The People of the Book of Mormon

I am a visual and hands-on learner.  I can learn a subject much more quickly if I have something to look at (e.g., objects, diagrams, and maps), touch them with my hands (hands-on), and read about the subject.  I am usually a good listener, too.  So, verbal instruction also helps.  I do much better if I have multiple types of input.

That said, I have created an aid that helps me as I read the Book of Mormon.  And, I want to share this tool with anyone who may be interested.  It is NOT meant to represent a precise or realistic map of Book of Mormon lands.  It is just a simple diagram attempting to depicting key groups (people), relative places, and events in the early history recorded in the Book of Mormon.  It represent events that occurred before the missionary journeys of Alma (the Younger), Amulek, and the sons of Mosiah.  I have NOT attempted to diagram the “war chapters,” nor have I attempted to diagram the events surrounding the visitation of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephite people.  Again, this is just a simple diagram, and it is not to scale.  It only shows the relative associations of the key groups, places, and events, as mentioned.  I hope it will be of some use to others.

NoteYou are also welcome to open and print the “Suggested Map Timeline.”  It’s a helpful tool as you read along in the Book of Mormon and follow the diagram.  Just click on the link below the diagram and print it off for quick reference.  Also note, this site is protected by both Norton Security and Web Hosting Security.  It is safe and secure!  Thank you, SAE

Suggested Map Timeline

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My Life with Animals

We have in our home a sweet little “rescue dog.”  The poor little thing spent the first five years of her life alone (or roaming with other dogs), surviving on an Indian Reservation in northern New Mexico.  Life on “the Res” can be hard on a little lost or abandoned dog.  When she was captured, the kennel staff named her “Frizz” (I wonder why?).

“Frizz’s” first day in Captivity.

At first, she was a bit “on the wild side” and a little “testy” with her captors.  However, they gave her shots, clipped her hair short with scissors, bathed her, clipped her nails, spayed her, inserted an identity chip under her skin, and gave her a new name: “Brunhilda” (or just Hildy).  To this day, she still continues to be a little “testy” with strangers (especially men), but she’s usually okay with women, and she seems to love children.  In addition, she loves our family and we love her dearly.  Oh, and we gave her a new name, “Missy.”  (The name was derived from my daughter Melissa’s name.  Melissa was instrumental in picking me up from my despair after the sudden and traumatic death of my sweet little dog, Riley.  She understood my pain and sorrow; so one day, Melissa came to me and said: “Dad, come with me.  We’re going to find you a dog!”  That was the day Melissa found our little Missy; and, “…rescued me” from sadness.)

“Fritz” as she looks today! New name, she is our Little “Missy.”

Animals have always been an important part of my life.  Mostly, I love my family and friends, but my love for animals is also high on my list.  Yes, we have been granted “dominion over all animals,” but I believe we should always be respectful and kind to them.

I grew up with dogs and cats.  They have shared my room and my life with me.  My first dog was a little Chihuahua named “Peanut.” He was a fun and loving little companion. And each night, he’d crawl under my bed covers and slept down by my feet. My first memory of severe emotional grief came when I “lost” Peanut. Many years have gone by, and many pets have come and gone, but I still have their memories in my heart and mind. As near as I can recall, I can still count and name 31 animal pets (including seven amazing horses).  As I said, I do love my family more than animals, but I have been known to say, “Generally, I like animals more than people!”  Pets (dogs in particular) are loyal and love us unconditionally; they are always happy to see us; they’re quick to forgive our mistakes; and, they never hold a grudge. I believe my love of animals was inherited from my Mother.  Mom also loved all animals, but like me, she mostly loved dogs and cats.  Animals have made me happy, and they can take away the sadness. I love all my animal friends.

Clockwise from little Riley at my feet: Josie, Blaze, Jake, and Beauty. That’s me in the middle.

Over the years, horses have become an important part of my life.  I’m sometimes not sure whether they belonged to me, or I to them.  Regardless, my first encounter with these beautiful creatures (besides watching western movies at the Saturday afternoon Matinees Theater), came on Sunday afternoons after church.  On our way home, Mom would often stop at the rodeo arena in South City to watch the weekend events.  Then there were the trips to Half Moon Bay on Saturdays to ride the trail horses.  I learned to love the smell of horses and leather saddles.

I have come to believe horses are a beautiful and divine gift from our God to us.  We know horses have been a companion to man for many centuries …perhaps forever!  Horses are an important part of our history.  And, I am confident we will somehow continue to enjoy their companionships in the hereafter.  They are strong, beautiful, loyal, trustworthy, and hardworking.  And, they like to be with us!  In addition, they make the land so much more beautiful just by slowly moving about and grazing.  I have learned a great deal working with horses. Frankly, I believe we can all learn much from them. Positive characteristics such as loyal companionship, friendship, kindness, and love all come to mind. In return, all horses ask of us is kindness, gentleness, patience, and consistency (along with regular feeding, plenty of fresh drinking water, shelter from the elements, and regular exercise).

As with most animals, horses are instinctive creatures.  They have fears about danger and self-preservation; so, they are always on the alert.  Most animals can be divided into two broad categories: Prey or Predator.  Horses are “prey” animals and are ready to bolt at the first sign of potential threat or danger. So, in working with these wonderful creatures, we must first gain and always retail their trust. They need to know who/what we are: friend or threat.  Once they know and begin to trust us, we can begin developing our relationship (or companionship).

My horses never really liked it when the Ferrier arrived to trim and shoe their feet.  As soon as he arrived, they would usually run to the back pasture and keep a constant eye on him from a distance.  (I don’t think they liked the sound of his strange truck on our property, nor the clanging noises of his tools.)  They would only come forward to the corrals if they knew I was there.  When I called out to them, only then would they trot forward and enter the corrals to have their feet trimmed and shod.  Once in the corrals, they were all very cooperative and freely gave the Ferrier their feet.

With horses, we must always remain calm and consistent: no wild behaviors, gestures, sudden movements, loud noises, or cruelty.  And, as mention above, horses need a routine on which they can rely: regular feedings; ample freshwater; and plenty of exercise.  In addition, they also need meaningful duties/tasks (a job); time allowed for free expression (turnout); and, a great deal of love, handling, and positive feedback.  The goal is to be consistent, to gain and maintain their trust, and to bond with them: to become part of their herd.  Over time, we will become their trusted friend; and, if we’re patient, they will show their love, friendship and loyalty to us.  However, throughout the process, we must always be “patient and consistent” (predictable enough that they can “read” us).  This is done by being consistently patient, kind and gentle, but firm. As noted horse trainer Buck Brannaman puts it: “Gentle in what you do, and firm in how you do it.”

A horse’s natural behavior is to “…just be a horse” …to graze, eat, walk, and drink (and run a little). Slowly walking about and grazing is important for the mind of a horse.  It is their natural behavior (and perhaps their favorite behavior).  In addition, if they’re properly cared for and feel safe and secure, horses will also provide companionship and service to us. Over the years, my horses and I developed mutually supportive friendships. These have been loving, fun and rewarding “give and take” relationships.  Most recently, I had four of these beautiful animals in my little herd: Jake (the oldest), JosieBlaze, and Beauty.  Jake and Josie are both full-sized Registered Tri-Color Paints; Blaze is a tall, grade sorrel with a blaze marking; and, Beauty is a relatively small Black grade pony (POA): a kids’ horse.  They were all very well trained and provided me hours of companionship, good work, and joy.

Lessons I learned from my Horses

In the Summers on our property, I usually turned the horses out at night to graze in the pasture. During a new moon, when the earth is in darkness, I loved walking out into the field and just standing there, taking in the peaceful majesty of the night. I also enjoyed looking into the Milky Way Galaxy above and viewing the inspiring canopy of stars in the night sky. Horses have excellent night vision, so they could see me …but I could not see them. They would always walk toward me and gather very carefully and gently around me in the field. It was inspiring when I heard and sensed those large animals approaching me out of the darkness to just stand next to me. They knew who I was, I was their friend (we were friends) and they trusted me. Those moments reminded me of a scriptural verse in the Book of Isaiah. When the Prophet wrote these words, many of the Israelites had turned away from their God, and Isaiah was lamenting: “The ox knoweth his master, …but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (Isaiah 1:3). Israel’s animals knew their masters (and loved them), but, as a people, Israel knew not (or had forgotten) their God, who is their Master. Today, just as in the days of Isaiah, it is essential that we know our God who loves us and provides for us (see John 17:3). This is an important lesson I learned from my work with horses.

Another lesson I learned from my horses was to “be prepared for and anticipate the morning light.”  Our ranch was situated 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 late afternoon 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 and patiently wait to catch the first bit of sunlight as it broke over the tops of the east mountains. As for myself, I also watched for the sun to rise above the eastern horizon …because I knew as soon as it did, “immediately,” and I literally mean “immediately,” I would feel 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)

Working with horses (and dogs and cats) has taught me many lessons, and has made me a better and happier man.

For additional insight concerning our sacred and eternal relationship with animals, please see:
Animals and the Afterlife,” by President Joseph Fielding Smith, LDS General Conference Address, October 1928; and,
The Gospel and Animals,” by Gerald E. Jones, Ensign Magazine, August 1972.

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Carpe Diem

(Definition: a Latin phrase that means “seize the day,” encouraging people to embrace the day and make the most of their time.)

My daughter, Marie (“My Marie”) turned 39 years old yesterday!  Humm, it got me thinking.  A lot has happened since that cute little girl and her six brothers and sisters lost their Mommy …and I became a single Dad.  Early on in those days, while we were all sleeping soundly in our beds, I would often awake in the night with the sense I was being watched.  Opening my eyes, I could see the shadowy image of a little curly-haired blonde girl standing by the side of my bed …quietly staring at me in the darkness.  I would always reach my arm out and softly roll her over me and onto the bed beside me.  Not a word was spoken.  She was my beautiful little Marie, and she was three years old.

Since those days (and in addition to the fact that Marie has married a man taller, stronger, and better looking than me, and she has four beautiful children of her own) life has been good.  (Random note: I love hearing my grandchildren call my daughters “Mom.” Anyway, as a family, my children and I have all grown and moved along with our lives with growing families of our own.  Yet, we still love each other and keep in close contact.  After all, we are still a family.  Despite our foibles and a few setbacks, I’m proud of our family, and I love them all.

Nevertheless, today I’m having what might be referred to as “a mid-winter introspection.”  I am 73 years old, relatively healthy, comfortably retired, and my eyes are wide open.  I have time to think!  Life has been good, and I’m a happy man!  However, I am also at a point where I’m wondering, “what more can I do?”  “What am I not doing that I should be doing?”  These are two very profound and personal questions …questions I must answer for myself.  They come to me as I ponder the following words of President George Albert Smith (1870-1951):

“We are not here to while away the hours of this life and then pass to a sphere of exaltation, but we are here to qualify ourselves day by day for the positions that our Father expects us to fill hereafter.”

As I think about these things, I am growing to appreciate more fully the value of “TODAY.”  I realize each day is a unique gift full of opportunities!  And, I need to anticipate and prepare for each day.  During my life I have had  many opportunities and blessings.  I have joy, happiness and great memories from the past.  And, I’m excited about the future.  But, “TODAY” is now!  It is what I have been given, and I control “MY TODAY.”  I am excited about “TODAY.”

Building on this idea about the value and importance of “TODAY,” I was reminded of a great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. He only is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with worry, fret, and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”

So, what about my time TODAY?”  What should I be doing “TODAY?” In my retirement, this is a question I often think about.  But, frankly, it’s up to me.  “Will I make good choices?”  I’ve noticed that much of what I do each day is out of my control: sleeping, working, cleaning, laundry, taking the trash out, shopping, shoveling the snow, etc.  But, I also have adequate “discretionary time”  …free time or available time.  So, how should I use my discretionary time?  I don’t want to waste it.  I’ve also noticed, it’s difficult to fully plan discretionary time.  I don’t always know what opportunities will come my way.  But, I do know they will come.  That said, I need to be ready, willing, and looking for opportunities that come my way.  I am confident that if I’m ready, willing and diligently looking for opportunities, relying on the influence of the Holy Spirit, all will be well “TODAY,” …and, I will not miss the opportunities coming to me.  In addition, I will more likely recognize them and will know “what more I can do” and “what I should be doing.”  It’s just up to me to do it.  “Just Do It!”  Furthermore, as I do it, I will be better prepared for yet another “TODAY” full of opportunities.

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