Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review - The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell

I cannot imagine reading a book more pertinent to the moment, in my life, than this one was, now, for me.  It is a memoir of an amazing year in the remarkable life of a little man named Feliks Zhukovski.  You know I don't like to retell the story in my reviews.  This remains true in this case.  Suffice it to say that Feliks left Poland as a boy, just one week before Hitler invaded that land.  He lived in Switzerland during the War and in France the balance of his life.  Most of his adult life is spent traveling extensively in the Eastern Bloc as it was called under the thumb of the USSR and is now experiencing the momentous changes in the political structure of Eastern Europe as the Soviet Union crumbles and the Berlin wall comes crashing down.  That is not the story, that is the backdrop.

I learned so much about life behind the iron curtain during those years we call the Cold War.  The book showed me that life from a number of different perspectives.  I loved the colorful tour through a drab scene Jim Powell provided in a most unique and poignant way.  That, provided the atmosphere.

The story was more about certainty and confusion, about ideals and disaster, about lofty visions shading grimy realities.  It was about ideas versus experiences.  It was about understanding and compassion.  It was about thinking one thing academically, only to discover another truth entirely in the actual experience of life.

I have long held that in the pre-mortal experience we knew all there is to know.  What we lacked was experience.  We came to mortality to make practical application of the things we thought we knew.  It is one thing to know that a hot stove will burn you.  It is entirely another, to actually experience the placing of one's hand on that hot stove.  So, brilliant people cook up brilliant ideals for our lives and storm the political landscape with them; while in the end, they remain our lives, lived and lost, suffered and enjoyed, full of struggles and triumphs, mistakes and successes, lives of experience; the thing mortality is made of.

In the end (thinking about the National Elections day after tomorrow) it is people that matter, not policies and parties and power and posturing.  Like Eastern Europe we've developed a system of government that has concluded that the ends justify the means.  And like the former USSR, we are quickly running out of the means to carry it off.  That seems totally lost on those who seek to guide our future.  Not unlike the Communists, Congress will carry on with an attitude that "you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet."  Which might seem fine, until you realize that the omelet is not for us, but for them.

History, will surely repeat itself.  The egg breakers will continue down their reckless path and eventually the house of cards they imagine themselves to be building will tumble, revealing it for the illusion it has become.  Lives will be shattered, broken, crushed, but experience will be gained and the purpose of mortality fulfilled.  It is time to think more seriously about the people across the dinner table and less so about those across the Potomac.

Five Stars!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Brilliant New Way to Study the Scriptures on!

Have you checked out the newest update of  It is wonderful!  The site is now interactive offering tools and applications that will be useful to not only Latter-day Saints but also our friends of other faiths.

Members of the church may use their church site passwords to access all of the information available to members including New Family Search for preparing family names for Temple Work online.  They may also access their Ward and Stake websites and get meeting information and check out the Calendars for their local units.  New to now, is the ability to sync your Ward and Stake Calendar with Outlook or Google Calendar.  What a fantastic way to keep current on local church events in a busy age.

Another great feature allows us to access the Ward directory of our own particular Ward and Stake.  This includes addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and photos.  Best of all is that this is always as current as the membership records in the Clerk's office!  In Wards where membership has a rapid turn over, this will be an especially useful tool.

Also, there is a Maps app that will help you locate addresses.  This isn't too needful in my Utah Ward, but imagine being called as a Home Teacher to a newcomer in a rural Texas ward.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to check out a map right from the Ward Web Site?

You can also request a copy of your Patriarchal Blessing from the site.  That, and the blessing of any direct line ancestor.  Isn't technology great!

Finally, and my favorite, is the My Study Notebook.  Associated with all the library content on the site, the notebook allows you to personalize your study of the scriptures, conference talks, church magazines, etc.  As you are studying, should you wish to mark that particular verse; you can highlight it, add personal notations, file the scripture in subject folders of your own creation, as well as tag it for later selection on a particular topic or theme.  This feature makes the online scriptures every bit as useful as my old well worn set of leather bound ones.  Over the years I've tried commercial versions of this that never met my needs.  I shudder to think how much money I spent with no real results.  Now, for free, I can make my own archive of personal insight and inspiration, as pertains to every verse I wish to comment on.  Then when I read the scriptures again, I can read them side by side with the notations I've previously made included right there.  There is a feature that allows you to hide your notations, but I look forward to keeping them open for future reference.  I have long studied the scriptures with a red pencil to mark passage that impressed me.  While I have often, also written notes in the margins, there is seldom enough space to meet my needs.  Now there is no limit to the space I can use to note impressions I have as I study.  Now, if a quote or concept from a conference talk impresses my heart I can file it in a folder that is unique to me and find it quickly next year when I need it for a talk or lesson.

The search engine for the scriptures is much improved as well.  And you can search Conference Talks and other library content as too. It looks like there's also an app that will allow my Folders and Scripture marks and notations to be downloaded to a mobile device so I can carry with me, not only the scriptures, but my personal study data as well.

Well did the ancient prophets long for our day.  Can you imagine studying the scriptures back then and while rolling up a scroll, be given a vision of what we're experiencing today?  I'll bet if we could see those old scrolls, we'd find drool stains, from men who were shown what great blessings and resources WE would take so much for granted.  I hope not to take them for granted, but to make full use of such great gifts from our Father in Heaven.  The church is making full and wonderful use of technology today.  Check our for more fantastic examples.  See it all at .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Too Much Stuff

Remember George Carlin's bit on stuff?  How about Delbert McClinton's song about Too Much Stuff?  They were funny because they were true.  I'm not laughing any more.  I'm afraid I'm on the verge of being a hoarder and have decided it's time to get rid of some stuff.  You'll notice I said, "some."  I've got to ease into this gradually.  I've spent the past few days considering what stuff to keep and what stuff to divest myself of.  The process has been shocking.  How on earth did we get so much stuff?  The hardest part is discovering stuff we sure thought we had to have; stuff we haven't even seen for years.

I'm pretty practical on the big ticket items.  A camp trailer for example.  Even though I sold them for a year, I never once considered buying one.  $30,000 for a reasonably modest one.  How many night's could I stay in a in a motel for that?  How many nights could I camp in a tent for that?  How much more gas would I spend dragging it around?  How many places would I hesitate to go while towing my house around behind me?  I couldn't see how it would ever pay for itself in either savings or convenience.  Have you noticed that hotels are handy, right off the interstate.  Campgrounds?  That's another question.  Besides, campgrounds aren't free either.  I look around and see lots of jet skis, campers, boats and other stuff like that taking up space, hardly ever used.  We rented a couple of jet skis once.  They cost $100.00 for a full day's enjoyment.  It would take a lot of days to make one worth buying.

The little stuff, however, is another story.  Somewhere, I have the right dohinky stored away to fix my widget if it ever quits.  Trouble is I couldn't find it when the widget quit so I bought another one.  Only, at Lowe's dohinkies are sold only in blister packs of four, so now I have four.  Three are not stored in the same place as the first one though, so if my widget quits again, I have twice as much chance of finding one next time.  Then there are the movies.  Dozens and dozens on video tape.  I only own them until the VCR quits.  Then I just own a pile of plastic.  Have I learned my lesson?  Nope, now there are dozens on DVD.  Actually, I'm catching on in that case.  Netflix can own them and if (actually a pretty big if) I really do ever want to watch one a second time I can rent it for lots less than buying it and I don't have to keep it anywhere.

We're currently preparing for a huge yard sale.  We want to get rid of some stuff.  The carport and a 7X14 foot enclosed trailer are crammed with stuff we hope to find new owners for.  We're going to sell off our stuff for pennies on the dollar.  In that pile are hundreds of books.  Many I actually read.  I can't bring myself to let go of dozens of others.  I'm trying to keep my collection in line with the number of bookshelves I already possess.  It makes me think a Kindle or Nook, might be smarter.  The books are cheaper, and can all be stored in a place smaller than a book!  A book reader is cheaper than a bookshelf too.  Plus, there's no waiting, no shipping charges, what a deal!

Another pile in the yard sale is that of scrapbooking supplies.  Scrapbooking too, has gone digital.  The photos are digital.  The paper and doodads are all digital.  The punches, stickers, pretty paper, scissors, binders, are all strings of ones and zeros!  What a space saver that is!  Hopefully, someone will show up to the sale who is too old fashioned to scrapbook with a computer.  I wonder if Sweetie would consider digital quilting or crocheting?

I doubt it.  In fact right in the middle of preparing for the yard sale of the century, Sweetie's mother passed to the great beyond.  And, as you can't take it with you, left behind all of her stuff.  The good side is that she had seven children and lots of grandchildren to divvy up all her stuff.  Even so, this week we're trundling home with lots more stuff.  Good thing we were preparing for the yard sale or we'd have had no room for the inflow.  I'm still hoping for a net loss in the volume of stuff.  But, I think we might have to sell some more books and a book case or two so we'll have more wall space for the burgeoning volume of artistic stuff we have to display.

My brother has a friend who is a bona fide hoarder.  His house has a path from the front door to the kitchen with a tributary path to the bedroom and bathroom.  Everywhere else is literally stacked with stuff; clear to the ceiling.  He even shares his bed with stuff.  This is in his new house.  The old house next door was abandoned when some stacks tipped over, eliminating the pathway.  He has never thrown away a milk jug or a newspaper!  I'm not that bad, in fact Sweetie and I fill two large garbage cans nearly every week; with stuff we're tossing out on a regular basis.  So now the landfill is running out of space for stuff.

Most of this stuff is coming here in huge container ships from China.  It could be a communist conspiracy to bury us in stuff!  Meanwhile, it looks like we're trying to bury them back - in money!

A few years ago Randy talked me into accompanying him on a six day 60 mile trip into the Grand Canyon.  I've backpacked considerably and ordinarily carry around 50 to 60 pounds on my back.  Randy insisted that on this trip we were going light.  We sawed off the handles of our tooth brushes and trimmed every ounce from every other item as well.  When we dropped in over the rim Randy was carrying 23 pounds and I was carrying 24.  Included in each of those packs was all the food we'd need for the week, all of our camping and cooking supplies and eight pounds of water.  We looked and acted like we were on a day hike; literally skipping along past backpackers lumbering along with their heavy stuff.  You know, it was the best backpacking experience of my life!  And, I never missed a single thing I left behind!  I'm starting to think I might enjoy life a lot better too; if I were to travel a lot lighter.

Last night on Katie Couric's show she reported of a movement to do just that.  There are people who are attempting to limit their number of possessions to 100 items!  Sounds rather emancipating doesn't it?  Think of it.  Smaller house, smaller rooms, smaller closets, smaller kitchens with fewer cupboards, a garage where you can actually park your car.  I've never dared to enclose my carport for fear that I'd have to park the car outside!  I'm really beginning to subscribe to the statement that says, "We don't own our stuff; our stuff owns us."  Now I'm not going to go that radical on the subject; but I am heading in that direction.

There are some things I'd rather not do without.  I like a bit of memorabilia.  I like a bit of art.  I'm a bit sentimental about things my loved ones have created.  I love the feel and smell of an actual book and I love the look of a bookcase full of them.  I like that my workshop is stocked with tools and I love using them to make stuff.  And here we go again, adding to the problem.

I think my all time favorite movie has to be the Gods Must Be Crazy.  Xi, an African bushman spends the entire movie trying to get rid of stuff.  In his case a coke bottle.  Practically the only material possession of his tribe, the bottle is nothing but trouble.  Part of me wants to be that free of stuff.

Another aspect of the problem is that we all seem to want our own stuff.  So, my neighbor across the street, the ones next door on either side of him and those on either side of me and the guy right behind me, my son-in-law, all have our own chainsaws, I have two!  What is up with that?  We all have our own lawn mowers, and myriad other things.  Wouldn't we all benefit if we could come up with a way to share fewer piles of stuff?  When I was in the Navy, the base had a rental place.  As we were quite nomadic as a group, the military thought it to be to their advantage if we had less stuff for them to move around.  Thus we could go to the base and rent everything from sleeping bags and tents to barbecue grills or chain saws.  As a group we collectively carried around far less stuff.  Maybe there's a lesson we civilians could learn from that.

Perhaps I need more drastic intervention.  Perhaps I need an exorcist.  Obviously, I'm possessed by my possessions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Its Time For A Regulation in the Church

In Alma 62:44 we read, " had become expedient that a regulation should be made again in the church."  Call it the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or Satan's influence.  Call it the foibles of mortality or the fallen state of the natural man.  What ever you call it, it seems to be the common lot of life here on earth; things tend to go downhill to a more corrupt and chaotic state.

Such is the case with Funeral Potatoes.  Back in the day, Funeral Potatoes were the cat's meow in my book.  I was often tempted to crash the luncheon following the passing of total strangers.  In those days that blessed concoction of shredded potatoes, sour cream, green onions, Campbell's soup and cheese was the most comforting, delectable, thing ever served in a cultural hall.

Now, please realize that I am one who never fails to step into the kitchen and express my gratitude to those wonderful sisters whose compassionate service has blessed us on such a day.  Far be it from me to criticize their earnest and much appreciated efforts.  They are earnest in their labors and are surely only desirous of doing what is right.  It is likely they, who are the most victimized by the corrupted recipes they've inherited.

It is probable that a mere typographical error or misplaced line of text has led their good intentions into such dreary darkness.  There are frequent stories heard of a child who, upon walking into the kitchen and seeing funeral potatoes emerge from the oven, has asked, "Who died?"  It seems most certain that no one ever tastes them at home.  Additionally, we cannot be influenced by social pressures to accommodate some gentile's distaste for onions.  Onions are not prohibited by the Word of Wisdom despite claims of some detractors who would have us settle for less than perfection.

When funeral potatoes first came on the scene one could count on their yummy deliciousness at every special occasion.  Gradually though, more and more presentations of the gem were declining in their wonderfulness.  My dismay led to a practice that, for a long time, remedied the problem for me.  I would be certain to be near the end of the parallel lines that moved the length of the serving table.  It always began with plates and utensils, then came the ham followed by casseroles of funeral potatoes.  Usually four were presented at a time.  I would take a small sample of each and step aside to taste test the four.  At first I was eliminating the corrupted version but gradually, I found I was seeking the ONE.

I've been to two funerals this month.  To my dismay and utter astonishment none, were even close to the divine standard upheld when the original recipe was revealed.  Some I could barely choke down.  This is when I determined to set upon a quest to regulate this blessed ritual in the Kingdom.

Here is our family's original recipe:
Funeral Potatoes
10-12 potatoes                                            2 bunches green onions
2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup                    1 pint sour cream
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Boil the potatoes whole and in their skins until just barely tender.  Cool, peel, and shred.  Slice or dice the green onions.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into a 9 X 13" pan.  Bake 30 - 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
I'll allow that frozen shredded potatoes be used in the interest of time and convenience.  It is a very simple recipe, so there is no need to further modify it.  Now, I am not so stubborn that I would not consider some other recipe and would be willing to try any suggestions you might offer.  Still, I cannot imagine anything better than the simple one shown above.

Brothers and Sisters, it is time that we no longer have our mourning exacerbated by this oversight of church standards.  Need we mourn the loss of funeral potatoes at the same time we are bereaved?  Our sainted mothers would  roll over in their graves if they knew of the dwindling of such hallmark tokens of our heritage.

I, therefore, call upon the General Relief Society Presidency, Stake Relief Society Presidencies, Ward Relief Society Presidencies and Relief Society Sisters everywhere to gird up your loins and go forward in faith that Funeral Potatoes might once again be enthroned in their Celestial place.  Terrestrial and sometimes Telestial potatoes will never do.  I for one would not be offended if Section 139 of the Doctrine and Covenants were to make this recipe to be part of the canon of truth.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It All Began With a Promise

I had the honor of speaking at my dear Mother-in-law's funeral yesterday.  There were several who requested a copy of that talk.  I include it here for them and those others who might be interested:

It All Began With a Promise

It all began with a promise -  when in that Great Council in Heaven, Jesus stepped forward and said, “Here am I, send me.”  It was a promise to set in motion, a plan to redeem His Father’s children, his own brothers and sisters, from the inevitable error inherent in their mortal experience.  He knew that in order for us to become like our Heavenly Parents we would have to have our agency in mortality.  He knew that with that agency we would, to some degree, choose to be in defiance of the laws of the Universe, the laws of happiness.  He knew that those wrong choices would prevent us from returning to live with our Heavenly Father and Mother, unless someone perfect and unspotted, without sin, could redeem us from our errors.
And so the Son of God, condescended to come to earth, to be born in a stable, to suffer the pains and sorrows of mortality, to endure the pain of our sickness, weakness, disappointment and sin in Gethsemane and on the cross and then die, that we might live.  That was a very personal promise made to you and to me.

In the church we do everything individually.  We take the sacrament individually.  We are baptized one person at a time.  The labor of the Temple could be greatly accelerated if we could do the work for groups, but no, we spend the hours and do the work for individual souls, one precious person at a time.  Mom knew and rejoiced in the privilege and spent untold hours extracting names and serving vicariously for such individuals in the temple, one person at a time.  So it was with Jesus’ Atoning and vicarious sacrifice.  I bear testimony that He took each of our names through the Temple of Gethsemane, one person at a time.  By so doing, he became intimately familiar with each of us.  He became acquainted with our grief, our disappointment, our fear and frustration, our anxiety and pain.  He did this that He might be able to understand and then succor us, that he might be able to lift us from our sorrow into the glorious light of His love and forgiveness.  Elder Boyd K. Packer explained the breadth of Christ’s most kind service thus:
“Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fullness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.”
That promise extends to all and is a promise that will enable us to not only return to live with God again, but also with Rae and Garth, Noble and Donetta, Willard and Inez, Angela and Annie and myriad other loved ones who have gone on before us.
After Jesus died on the cross He went to the Spirit World, where Mom has gone, to visit the millions who had left mortality through death and were waiting there for the further implementation of God’s Plan for our Happiness.  There He organized the righteous to go forth and inform the rest, of the blessed and still available opportunity they had to, through repentance, find the joy of redemption.  Thus, they might become righteous too.  The definition of righteousness is not nearly so much tied to our performance as it is tied to our willingness to repent and receive redemption through Christ, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Listen to these words of comfort as prophet and President Joseph F. Smith describes the place to which mother has gone:
Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants

 31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
  32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
  33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
  34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
58 The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,
  59 And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.

I believe that Mom will continue with her involvement in that great work, just as she did here in mortality.  Earlier in that same section of scripture we read:  (Think of Mom as I recite these words.)

  12 And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality;
  14 All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
  15 I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together

If anyone departed this earth worthy of such joy and rejoicing it is our own Grandma Rae.

You will notice that the chief characteristic of those joyful ones was that they had been “faithful in the testimony of Jesus.”  While it is important to bear testimony of Him, might this not also mean that we must be faithful in His testimony about us?  Everything Jesus ever did or said was a testimony that we, His sisters and brothers ARE of Divine Worth and Infinite Potential!   Mom tried to convey that truth to us as well.  We have within us the seeds of divinity.  Let us go forth from this day forward, responding to Jesus’ promise to redeem us with a promise of our own.  That like our Mother we will be faithful in accepting Jesus’ testimony that we are precious children of God who are indeed, of Infinite Worth and Divine Potential.

It all began with a promise.  On December 22, 1942, nearly 68 years ago, Garth Rasmussen and Rae Petersen knelt across an altar in the Logan Temple and made a promise of their own.  They promised that they would begin a new family in the earth.  One that would endure through eternity.  They have kept that promise. 

Along the way there were other, smaller promises that added up to that one big one.  Rae promised to follow Garth to the ends of the earth and Guam and Newfoundland and a dozen places in between were very nearly so.

They promised they would be faithful to one another, and so it was.

They promised they would do their best to raise their children and so they did.

Garth promised to build a house for his parents, a promise he kept.  And then to keep his promise to provide for his family, he expanded that house to what it is today, though not quite as yellow.

Rae promised to fill that house with love and memories and oh, how faithfully she honored that commitment.  But suddenly, have you noticed; it wasn’t the house, but she who was its very heart, which made it such a home.

Mom promised a life of consecration and that was the life she lived.  She kept a journal of all the quilts she made and gave away.  We thought that was pretty impressive.  Then Darryl Wilson showed up last night with another journal of all the quilts her quilting group had completed in just the last decade!  How many lives are wrapped in the warmth of her great love and devotion?  How many names has she done in the temple?  How many more has she extracted from old, hard to read records?  How many sisters has she visited?  How many lessons has she taught?  How many meals has she prepared?  How many lives has she touched for good?  More than any of us can possibly count.

I used to go to the temple on Saturday.  I often wondered if I’d ever see some heavenly manifestation while I was there.  Then when I retired I switched to Monday; and there in the Temple I saw an angel, our own angel mother, I hesitate to add the in-law, for she is a dear to me as my own mother.  I have seen that angel in the Temple often and hope to, yet again.

I hope you all got to hear Mom pray.  I got to hear her bless the food one morning.  She was hoping to choke down a few spoonfuls of yogurt.  But to hear her pray you’d have thought she was sitting down to a feast.  Her humble, sincere, heartfelt gratitude knew no bounds.

Recently, as she and Cheya were closing an arduous day of sickness with prayer, Mom gratefully acknowledged the blessing she had so enjoyed of serving in the Temple.  As they finished and Cheya was tucking her in, Mom told her that the Spirit had whispered another promise; that she would yet enjoy many many hours of Temple service.  We take that to mean that she will be resurrected and serve in the Temple during the blessed years of the Millennium.

I’d like to finish with one final promise.  It is a promise delivered by a Patriarch, from God, to us, through her:

The Lord will make up to you, because of your faithfulness, for every heartache and sorrow that has come to you and they will be turned into joy and blessing for you for every righteous desire of your heart will yet be realized.  The Lord will eventually make up to you every blessing promised to you in the temple.  You will not lose any of them.  You can be sure of family life and exaltation eternally.  Nothing is impossible to the Lord.  Through the continued love, effort and prayers of yourself and children, the Lord will work upon your husband to where he will yet come to love the Gospel and give faithful service in it.

Then God promised:

I seal this blessing upon you Sister Rasmussen, and seal you up that through your faithfulness you will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection, with your loved ones, thrilled at the part the Lord has given you in mortality in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

With regard to God’s promise concerning Dad; Mom had a second witness of its truthfulness when Cory brought Audrey to the Vernal Temple to receive her endowments.  It was an experience too sacred to express here but affirmed that her beloved husband is indeed hers forever.

With regard to the rest of us, who all fall short of the standard of righteousness that lets us send her off so assured of her exaltation, may I close with this affirmation of the Patriarch’s certain promise.  From Orson F. Whitney we read:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home the painful experience will not have been in vain.

I assure you that Mom kept her promises.  She will have us.  Her love will draw us to her and not one of us will be lost to her.  I don’t know about you, but I want to respond to those tentacles of Divine Providence, tentacles I feel here today.  I want to respond to them sooner, not later, so that upon my own arrival in the Spirit World, I will be one found rejoicing, not still treading a thorny path.

Mom is forever ours, and we are hers.  I promise, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thank You

Our time of bereavement has come.  Rae Petersen Rasmussen has majestically returned to that God who gave her.  This morning all I can really feel is gratitude.  So, I just want to say thanks!

Thanks to Cheya, Steve, Jenny, Verona and Shaneen who faithfully took their turns caring for Mom over the past few weeks.  How they tended to her every need.

Thanks to Susan who rode to the rescue all the way from Virginia to help us carry on as we, exhausted, needed to redouble our efforts.  You never falter and we are so grateful you came. 

Thanks to Mark and Susan who so very frequently gave up their weekends and traveled so far to give the others a break and also give such love and service.   

Thanks to Uintah Basin Home Care/Hospice and more particularly to Rose and Kay, for their fine attentive service and kindness.

Thanks to Wayne and Greg, Kevin, Debbie, Melinda and Janna for coming so very far to love and to serve before she left, only to come so far again to see her off.

Thanks to Steve for doing all the work to get Mom and Dad's headstone so beautifully designed and set in place in time for Mom to see it.  Thanks for getting her out of the house on that one last, special excursion.

Thanks to Bishop Cook and President Case for coming to the house to renew her Temple Recommend.

Thanks to Jodi, Mom's Relief Society President for precious acts of service, accompanied by so many Sisters in Zion.

Thanks to Davis for being worthy to bless the emblems of the Atonement one last time for his dear Grandmother.  And for the Priests of her Ward who faithfully rendered that precious service all the while she was homebound.

A special thanks to Kevin for being Mom's house-mate these several years.  You eased our hearts, blessed our lives and broadened our smiles.  You most certainly blessed the life of your Grandmother.

Thanks to Kristi, Ronnie and Kevin, Jenny and John, Steve and Cheya, Shaneen and Mark for painting her house.  And to Steve and Eric, Scott and Ryan and John for shingling her roof.

A heart felt thanks to Jenny and John for mowing her lawn and shoveling her walks season upon season.  And thank you for washing her windows and cleaning her house and for rallying the rest of us for Spring projects and so many other good deeds.  No one's beat a more consistent path to Grandma's door than Jenny.

Thanks to Cheya for countless hours working on boxes and boxes of family photos.  Mom loved that project so very much.  You blessed her life greatly as you reminisced together through so many precious memories. We will forever be the beneficiaries of your tireless efforts to preserve and chronicle our lives together.

Thanks to Shaneen for paying all the bills and keeping Mom's financial affairs in order.  You did it quietly and without fanfare, but this great blessing didn't go unnoticed.

Thanks to Steve for his oversight of the property and for his constant concern for Mom and her welfare.  Your selfless service and constant concern make sure nothing falls through the cracks.  Additionally, Steve, your concern for others and your willingness to give us much needed breaks, have given us the vitality and perspective we needed to carry on.

The whole family is grateful for the NOBLE, pioneering, wisdom of Eric.  He has showed us all how to serve, to mourn, to have faith and great courage.

Mom's final night in mortality was a difficult one.  She was closely attended to by Susan, Steve, Mark, Shaneen, Verona, Scott, Jenny and Katie.  The vigil they kept through the night was one of devotion, prayer and concern.  A heart felt thanks to each of you.  Mark and Steve's words of comfort and encouragement fell on our ears as well as hers.  Most especially we are grateful for Mark's prayer and Katie's wonderful song.  It was certainly a sacred moment when she passed beyond the veil to her glorious and certain reward and happy reunion.

When Cheya arrived at her mother's bedside and found her body relaxed and at peace, she exclaimed a joyful, heart felt, "Yay!"  In celebration of a life well lived and a fight well fought.  In rejoicing that the long ordeal of suffering had finally come to its joyful end.  Thank you Cheya for your enduring faith and refined perspective.

There is a long list of others who because of work and distance and other difficulties, couldn't enjoy the rich blessings so abundant to those who could give her more constant care.  Loved ones who came by as often as they could and who did so much to lift her spirits, and ours.  Kristi, Julie, Cory, Audrey, Jason, Rachel, Alyson, Ryan, Julie, Cassie, Jordan, Stacey, Brett, Angela, Donald, Eleanor, Elizabeth, Billie, Molly Dean, Amy, and Darryl; thank you all so very very much for your love, devotion, encouragement and concern.

When, Brinli, Aubree, Ryker, Porter, Brooke, Robbie, Lincoln, Jeff and Megan, bopped in for loves and smiles, she was never happier.  And she often mentioned and asked about her more distant great-grand children in far away Virginia.  Thanks to all of them for their affection, prayers and expressions of love and concern.

Thanks to the Blackburn Vernal Mortuary for the warm, professional way in which they served our family and for the dignified way in which they cared for Mom.

Thanks to the Davis 1st Ward Relief Society for lovely arrangements and delightful food.  The luncheon was marvelous and gave us such a bountiful opportunity to mingle with loved ones.

Thanks to so many Petersens and Rasmussens and Harrisons who came such amazing distances to express their love and condolences.  Add to that the dozens of friends who also came to pay their respects and you have an amazing group of wonderful people whose lives were touched by mother and very much the other way around.  The flowers and other arrangements were beautiful and added such cheer to our sorrow.  They were a source of great joy.  Thank you.

Most of all, a special thanks to Mom.  You were faithful and determined to the very end.  Your example of sweetness, persistence, humility, grace and goodness will never be forgotten.  

You left your house clean and freshly painted, with brand new doors and a full propane tank.  You left our lives equally filled and bright with your love and attentive care.  We cannot imagine life without you and hope you are never very far away.  We trust we will see you again for the sake of your goodness if not for our own.  None of us has ever known a more perfect example of righteousness and womanhood.

Finally, a special thanks to Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, for giving Mom to each of us.  Thank you for comforting, lifting and touching our lives through her.  Thank you for giving us the promise of seeing her and Dad again one day.  Thank you for answering our prayers in her behalf.  Thank you speaking peace to our souls at her passing.  Thank you for orchestrating the theme and circumstances that made this difficult occasion a holy, memorable and blessed one.

Note:  I'm glad this is an adaptable medium so I can amend it when I discover that in my weakness I have overlooked someone, which I surely have.  If you know of such an oversight, please let me know.  I guess to be adequately thorough, I should have written a book.  Myriad are the kindly deeds of service that have been rendered incident to Mom's illness and passing.  This is but a brief overview.  I hope I can be forgiven for it's mistakes.  It's just that I could not restrain myself from expressing the profound gratitude I feel for all that has been done to ease and bless the life of our dear Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Sister, Friend, Aunt and dear one, Rae Petersen Rasmussen.

It has been a strain and a joy, as we tearfully remember our way through a house full of memorabilia.  A heartfelt thanks to seven wonderful siblings whose generosity, love and affection for one another has transcended worldly wants for something far sweeter and more meaningful.  You honor your mother richly by the way in which you conduct your lives and the care with which you maintain your family relationships.

A Great Heart

Sweetie's dear Mother is leaving us.  It has been a long slow process.  She has such a great heart that doesn't want to quit.  She is completely bedfast now.  She is mostly unable to respond to us.  For days now she has struggled for breath, but still she chugs on.  We've taken turns at her side around the clock for a couple of weeks now.  Each day we marvel that she continues to persist in living.

We've all said our goodbyes and are hopeful that she doesn't need to suffer much longer.  Two of our daughters spent the night with her last night.  I was just there, where she is surrounded by two sons, a daughter, two daughters-in-law and three grand children.  When Sweetie awakens from her exhaustion, we'll return to carry on.  Everyone gets a break but Mom.  Seems as though that's how it has always been.

In our prayers we wonder why she must suffer so, but last night Katie sang her a lullaby and her grandmother roused briefly in an expression of gratitude.  Numerous little incidents of closure like that have taken place during the long ordeal.  All we can do is trust Heavenly Father's wisdom in the matter.  For days we thought, "this is the day."  We think so today as well.  But who can really tell the strength of a great heart.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Choosing Up Sides

I answered the phone last night.  There was a sweet lady on the other end conducting a survey.  Ordinarily I don't have time for such things.  I also resist the fact that they just assume I have plenty of time and never even ask if their interruption in my life might be convenient or not.

For some reason, curiosity I guess, I said I would participate and asked how long it would take.  She couldn't tell me because she didn't know how long it would take me to respond.  That was my cue to take as long as I wished.

The premise of her survey was completely flawed as pertains to me, but still I persisted to the bitter end.  You see, all of her questions wanted to know if I were conservative or liberal.  It never occurred to those seeking the information that there might be people who are neither.

She asked me who I preferred Bush or Obama.  I paused, considering that for quite a while.  When she expressed curiosity as to why such a answer would take so long I answered, "I'm trying to decide if I prefer crap or poop."  She seemed totally lost as to what I might mean.  I explained that I didn't like either one and so was not in a position to honestly answer the question.  I asked if there might be a third alternative.  Nope.

I chose poop.  The next question was, "Do you consider yourself liberal or conservative?"  I answered, "Neither."

"That is not a choice sir."

"Do you want me to lie?"

"Of course not!" she exclaimed.

"Maybe I should just hang up then."

"Oh, no, we value your opinion." she declared.  I explained that if she valued my opinion she'd let me answer truthfully, but since she was restricting the answers I could give she was forcing me to lie."

"Can we proceed now," she impatiently asked.

"Of course!"

I decided the only way I could fairly represent my position was to answer the remaining questions alternately conservative and liberal.  She struggled with my inconsistency and accused me of messing with her data.  I tried again to explain that I needed to represent the unrepresented middle and that I needed to average the two poles.  This was way over her pay grade.  We discussed almost every answer so I could help her understand.  I explained that when the left goes to some extreme or other, the right feels compelled to counter with an extreme of their own and vice versa.  I pointed out that when this happens the two sides find less and less common ground.  I stand on that common ground, but nobody is representing me.  Common ground is the fertile soil of common sense and nobody I'm aware of in Washington has a lick of it.  Come to think of it very few of my acquaintances have much of it either.  Of course the Washington establishment is aware of that as well as I am.  They are not bumbling idiots.  They are greedy power mongers whose time is spent securing their own personal interests above those of the nation.  They are not going about this blindly, they know very well what they are doing.

This can only be fixed by term limits.

The economy, the environment, race relations, poverty, military, health and welfare are not the fundamental issues.  They are seen by the controlling elite as means with which to manipulate the country for their own power hungry ends.  We the voters no longer control the system, we are just fodder for it.  Their fundamental tactic is to divide and conquer.  They have succeeded in dividing us and the results are more than obvious.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Crunch of Sugar on the Kitchen Floor

I awoke from a nap just moments ago and as I walked into the kitchen, felt and heard the crunch of sugar spilled on the kitchen floor.  Sweetie is spending the afternoon at her mother's.  Katie is sleeping off a cold.  Neither are suspects.  The grandkids live through the back gate, one of them is.

Now, I'd rather those two didn't feel they had free rein in our house; especially when we aren't up or around.  Still, I want them to feel comfortable; as though they belong - which they do.  Megan has a lot of energy and ton's of initiative, she is my most likely suspect.  She's turning seven this month and is a whiz at First Grade.  I wonder how to approach this as they will arrive here to be babysat in a few moments.

I often look at the troubled kids at the Detention Center and ask myself, what happened that turned these children from sweet little kids to the pained hoodlums they've become.  Was it a 'sugar-on-the-kitchen-floor' moment when they were seven?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I'll wager that it all started with a gross over reaction to something.  Soon it became a series of somethings and the divergence between the two roads became wider and wider.

I wonder if a parent, grandparent or baby sitter looked at a pile of spilled sugar and thought only of themselves.  Who thought, "I'm tired.  I have to clean up this unnecessary mess.  What did I do to deserve a kid like this?  I can't take this any more. I....  I..... I...."

What if they'd have thought of Megan.  What if they asked, "What did you have in mind when you pulled out the sugar cannister?  Were you successful at making a batch of Kool-aid?  What flavor did you choose?  How did it taste?  Can I have some?"

I'll bet that during the last course of interrogation an apology for the mess, just might be forth coming.  I'll wager that the reason no attempt to clean it up came as result of being called home before the project was complete.  I can imagine that her intention was to surprise me with something sweet to drink...... (I just checked and was disappointed that the fridge didn't hold such a prize.)

It took me all of a minute to sweep and mop it up.  Shall I blow that all out of proportion and send little Megan down a more difficult road?  When you're seven big ideas don't turn out quite like you expect, shall I condemn her to the closet or the corner and commence building a barrier between us.  Shall I push her away when all she wants is to love and be loved?  Shall I punish her enterprise?  Shall I scold her initiative?

She just walked in the door.  I was glad I'd considered some questions in advance.  As a young father I might have sat her beneath a bare light bulb and used her Mom to play good cop, while I played the bad one.  Regrettably, I doubt I was playing.

Kids are quite capable to understanding the magnitude and appropriate consequences of their various mistakes.  Blown out of proportion, this little incident might have driven a wedge between she and I.  I think I'll let her help me decide how serious her little infraction should be.  Kids deserve at least the treatment citizens get in our courts.  They ought to be considered innocent until proven guilty.  A reasonable period of time might be granted before sentencing.  Careful consideration should be given to ensure the punishment is appropriate to the crime.

After supper we decided to have a trial and Jeff (nearly nine) accepted the responsibility to be Megan's Defense Attorney.

Court was called to order and the accused was asked to stand.  Her charges were explained and when asked she pleaded not guilty.  (Now what do I do?)  I proceeded with the trial and asked the Defense Attorney present evidence of Megan's innocence.  He called himself to the stand and confessed that it was he who had spilled the sugar, so it could not possibly have been Megan.  The case was immediately dismissed and the prisoner released.

Another trial was held with the roles reversed.  Jeff plead guilty and we moved right to the sentencing phase.  Megan suggested Jeff's punishment should be that he be required to put make-up on.  Jeff plead for mercy and suggested a week without video games.  "Commit the crime - Do the time," I said.  "Roll the dice - Pay the price", Jeff replied.

Sentencing guidelines considered both suggested punishments to be excessive.  The condemned was asked if he'd like to explain his actions.  He answered forthrightly.  He was conducting an experiment in the process of dissolving a solid in a liquid.  When asked why sugar was left on the floor he plead, "absent minded professor!"  His plea for mercy and understanding carried the heart of the court.  With an apology and a promise to be more thoughtful next time, the criminal was released on his own recognizance.

Best spent spilled sugar ever!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

General Conference Was Wonderful - But It Made Me Jealous

I love General Conference!  I was able to listen to every moment of the proceedings.  Each talk lifted and inspired me.

I was so grateful that such emphasis was placed on pornography and the certain possibility of recovery from that and other addictions.

I was also grateful that Elder Packer declared that homosexual promiscuity could be repented of.  I'm sure that will cause a fire storm in some circles.  Gays don't seem to understand that they cannot dictate to the Lord what is right and wrong.  He makes the rules.  As the church is nothing if it doesn't represent God; how can anyone suppose that capitulating to social demands would do anything but destroy the church.  If they honestly think they can influence church policy by protesting what the church stands for, they are of necessity, making the church out to be something it is not.  The church is, after all, a Theocracy.  If it were operated as a Democracy, it would represent the people, not God.

In my youth I was quite jealous of the General Authorities.  They seemed to have such a romantic life, traveling the world, teaching the gospel.  I wanted to be so engaged.  I was also jealous of the opportunities they had to sit in council with prophets and apostles.  I imagine those meetings to be uplifting, harmonious, full of light and love.  In my more mature years it is becoming more obvious how challenging, difficult and demanding their jobs are.  I imagine constant jet lag.  I conjure images of sleepless nights, strange food, tiring schedules and long absences from home.  I remember one day standing the the Salt Lake airport and seeing Elder Neal A. Maxwell walking down the concourse on his way home from who knows where.  He looked resolute, but utterly exhausted.  My heart went out to him as he carried his enormous burden.  I wonder how many birthdays and ball games and school plays and anniversaries they the are required to miss.

My grandkids live right through the back gate.  I am able to serve in meaningful realms right here at home.  I am no longer jealous of their busy lifestyles.  I was thinking today that I shouldn't be jealous of their opportunities to sit in council in their various quorums.  I have a quorum.  Somehow though, my quorum doesn't seem to be following the pattern that appears to transpire at church headquarters.  My quorum is more like a class.  A rather disconnected class at that.  We do precious little to promote brotherhood.  We don't commiserate or council together.  We just sit in the same room for a lesson; one that draws distressingly little comment even.  We serve as individuals, but we don't serve as a group.  We all have testimonies.  I dare say we all love each other too.  We don't socialize as a group.  We don't seem to have a collective purpose.  We accept Temple and Home Teaching assignments, but we seem to content to do no more than we're asked.

I'd like a quorum that was more like the School of the Prophets.  I think we can do this!  I think there a just a few things that would make a big difference.

  1. We could sit in a circle instead of rows.  I need to look into the eyes of my brethren, not at the back of their heads.
  2. We could actually take on a project, or three.  I can't count how many times I've been organized into a committee around the three missions of the church, never to actually meet or do anything with said committee.  To date, those committees have never actually committed to or accomplished anything they set out to do.
  3. We could actually have Personal Priesthood Interviews regarding our Home Teaching and our Quorum objectives.  I heard an example once of a Quorum Leader who held PPI's.  They were such a pleasure that no one missed them and everyone looked forward to them.  He would have his brethren say the opening prayer so he could "take their spiritual temperature" and then seek the guidance of the Lord as to what they needed to yet do to build the Kingdom.
  4. We could have a monthly pot luck social during which we could get better acquainted with one another, as couples.  No big deal.  No special preparations.  No assignments.  No dishes.  Just sociality.
  5. We could actually study the lessons, rather than have the teacher read it to us.
  6. We could actually explore the application of the Atonement to our lives, rather than pontificating about how much we know.
  7. We could identify problems and actually work on solutions.
Do you not suppose that this is more like what transpires in the Quorum of the 12 Apostles?  More than what we are currently doing?  I want to be part of a quorum like that.  I don't want to have to be called to Salt Lake City to get it.  I want it right here in the part of Zion that has been granted to me.

Earlier this week I praised the Freedom Ward in Star Valley.  Over the century they've been serving together, they been much like I describe.  The Priesthood has been the governing body in the town.  I remember the topic in Priesthood Meeting once was the acquisition of a fire trailer to be used in fighting fires in the community.  This was accomplished along with dozens of other projects.  They never even considered having the government take care of their needs.  The did that themselves.  They volunteered one another's equipment to help with the crops.  They cooperated in strengthening the gene pools of their herds.  They took turns watching their stock on the range.  They worked together on irrigation projects.  Their quorums had things to accomplish and they did them.

There are some very real challenges in my local, city ward.  We lack the kind of pressing community problems to solve that are part and parcel of everyday life in a farming community.  In the city, though we live closer together, we are actually more isolated and independent.  Also,some of my quorum members meet with Aaronic Priesthood quorums, some are in the Primary.  We need to find a way to include them.  We need their strength.  Additionally, we need to overcome the status quo.  Most of us have never seen the kind of quorum I envision.  It will be easiest to just stay the same.  While I hope not, it just may be that the only way to change things is to start with the boys in the Aaronic Priesthood.  The final problem I can think of is a matter of personal commitment. Like everything in the Kingdom, conversion is the key to motivation.  While many may be converted to the Church, some may not be converted the notion that a Priesthood Quorum may not be what we've always allowed it to be.  Like everything else in mortality, a vibrant quorum requires energy and effort.  It requires vision and purpose.  It requires faith and devotion.  Oh, how I pray we can do this.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Bridge Across the Span of Years

My Great Grandparents, Samuel and Verena's Grave in the Freedom Cemetery
That's Rex's farm in the background

Thursday I went to Star Valley to the funeral of Rex, a dear friend and first cousin, once removed.  He was a dairy farmer in the family tradition.  We all admired Rex greatly for his remarkable tenacity.  Rex was born on that farm in 1922 and never left it until Parkinson's drove him to the rest home about a year ago.  Rex never went on a Mission or off to fight in WWII, he had cows to milk.  When others gave up farming in harder times Rex persisted and carried on.  I wish we had statistics of how many cows, how many milkings, how many cold, hot, rainy, snowy, windy, miserable mornings he trundled out to the barn.  On the other hand, how many sunrises, sunsets, births, gorgeous star valley days, did he enjoy while we were stuck in our offices or tucked in our beds.

It stirs my heart to think of countless hours spent alongside his children as his work hours were spent at home.  Growing up I had just enough taste of the dairy business and enough pragmatism to make me glad my Dad had given it up.  I couldn't see myself happily showing up in the barn at 4:00 in the morning and again in the afternoon, with tons of chores to do in between.  But I sure admire Rex for having done so, day after week after month after year for eight decades.

Rex lived in the little town of Freedom, Idaho/Wyoming.  Main street is the State line.  Our farms were on the Idaho side.  There is one Ward in Freedom.  The ward has never been divided or changed appreciably in over 120 years.  That's pretty remarkable as many people have lived in several different Wards without ever moving from their original home.  Like Rex, Freedom has a kind of stability that anchors those who live there.  More than that are the myriad people who grew up and moved away, yet still call Freedom home.  I moved away 55 years ago.  Even so, I've returned for reunions and funerals and simple touchstone visits.  And so, I can name Sheri, Lynn, Dean, Elaine, Dee, Fern, Fred, Farrell, Kelly, Robert, Curtis and others who've never left; as well as Rhonda, Julie, Larry, Wayd, Teri, Trudy, Merrill, Joanne, Gerald, Jim, Dan, Polly, Steve, Clark, Marion, Don and others who have.

Up at the cemetery are rows and rows of headstones whose names I am connected to.  Robinsons and Izatts, Heaps, Crooks, Haderlies, Jenkins and Hokanson's as well as my own Webers.  It is a most beautiful cemetery.  It is where my parents, grand parents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins await the resurrection.  The cemetery overlooks the Weber farms that are gradually changing hands.  It is a place of peace and memory and I love to visit there.  This trip was unusual.  The weather was unseasonably warm for late September.  Most funerals I remember were cold and snowy.  My father was buried here in late September eleven years ago, the weather wasn't bad, but nothing like this.  Mom and Joseph, Grandma and Grandpa and Gerry were all buried in the cold and snow.  Statistically, the odds favor snow.  Dad used to say, "The trouble with Star Valley is that if Summer falls on Sunday you have to go to church."

Back at the chapel I sit down to eat ham and funeral potatoes while I visit with three of my kindergarten classmates.  Lynn, Rhonda, Larry and I were all in school together that year.  I left after two months, Rhonda after a year.  Lynn and Larry stayed, and grew up here.  We remembered the sloped wood desks with the lift up tops and having crushes on one another.  So much water under the bridge in the ensuing half century; we all turned 60 this year.  Only Lynn remains in the Valley, so I've seen him more recently.  I haven't seen Larry since 1974 nor Rhonda since 1967!  Still, because of our Freedom connection, we took up right where we left off.

I have not mentioned my brother Brad.  He and I drove up together.  Brad has never recovered from the loss of the farm and this place.  He returns much more often than I.  I remember, even when we were little boys, hearing him sing "Why Oh, Why did I Ever Leave Wyoming."  This trip he is investigating the purchase of a couple of Cemetery Plots for he and Wendy.  After 55 years the place is still calling him home.  He remains a farmer, avocationally at least, and has this place in his blood.

Last night after General Priesthood Meeting, I had a parking lot visit with Dan and his brother Jim.  Dan is a Star Valley expatriate, Jim still lives there.  Always we compare notes.  There are dozens of Star Valley ex-pats in the Basin alone.  You can go just about anywhere and find them.  Star Valley has produced a lot of children over the years but it's economy has never allowed the majority to remain at home.  I consider this a blessing because the result is that the place never really changes all that much.  This trip we noticed a new apartment complex in Freedom.  It looks and feels so out of place there next to the slough.  No body likes the change.  Perhaps with the loss of Rex a good bit of Freedom's long held stability has gone, certainly it will never be the same.
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