Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween 2007

The ghost of the chicken rider struts, triumphant . . . .

42 pictures. 10 minutes of "when can we eat our candy" whining. No pictures where all three kids looked at the camera at once. Must be the infamous "princess chicken-rider chewbacca curse."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Getting in the Halloween Spirit

We spent the evening tonight carving pumpkins, in preparation for Halloween. They make a sufficiently frightening sight, don't they?

Two little ghouls could not have been happier (Keegan was in bed by the time we finished, or he would have been all over those babies).

Last but not least, just another sunset. I know, I know, you are thinking "can't that guy take pictures of anything else?" But they are just so fun, I can't help myself. Sorry.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Few Comments from the Boy Maid

One of the fun features of our new house is a very large tub in the master bath that doubles as a hot tub, complete with very strong jets. The kids have discovered this, and now refuse to bathe anywhere else, particularly because, if you turn it on after washing with soap, the action creates a thick pile of bubbles. This evening, as Kate and Alden were basking in bubbles, Kate said, "I think I shall pretend that I am at a Spa!" I was in the process of picking up the clothes they had shed and mentioned that I would be right back as soon as I took the clothes down to their rooms. To this, Kate responded: "Dad, are you pretending to be a BOY MAID?" Yes, dear, I pretend that every dang day of my life.

In other news, the dog days of summer, which Keegan so enjoyed (he is definitely an outside person), seem to have left us. It has snowed the last three or four Saturdays in a row and rained the two before that. (It is like a maddening clockwork -- oh, Saturday, time to snow . . . . have I mentioned this before? Do I sound stir crazy already?) Anyway, Kate sure has enjoyed seeing snow fall. It has left us with two very sick little boys this week, though. Keegan's cough has been something fierce, and I know his throat really hurts him, because he has cried much more than ever. Just today Alden was so concerned about it, he went over to him and said, "don't worry Keegan, I right here." He has warmed up to his brother quite a bit lately, even giving him a hug a few days ago. Happy to see that developing, believe me.

This is a view of the Bountiful Temple, taken from our back deck. Posting it because Kath and I talked in Church today, and have had a wonderful spirit with us all day, which the Temple symbolizes so well. I'll post my talk below, and do Kath's tomorrow -- she did just a great job, but needs to edit it slightly before I post. By the way, has anyone ever heard of the Gospel/Christian group Selah? Listening to them right now, and some of their stuff is really good. Particularly like a song called "Rescue Me." Anyway, here is my talk.

Following the Prophet Helps Us Come Unto Christ

Good afternoon brothers and Sisters. First, I am so grateful to be here today. My wife failed to mention in introducing us that we each have special talents:
• Keegan’s is being happy, and charming you with his ever present smile.
• Alden’s is an uncanny ability to completely trash any room he enters within about two minutes, and still have you come away thinking he’s the cutest little guy on the planet.
• Kate’s is simply unconditional love for everyone she meets – it is truly a special gift and she is a really special girl.
• Kathleen’s talents are too numerous to mention, but my favorite is the inexplicable blindness that was crucial in convincing her to marry me.
• My special talent, evident already, is blubbering like a fool in Sacrament meeting, particularly when asked to speak. A good friend once told me that men don’t cry, but sometimes their eyeballs sweat something fierce. I have very sweaty eyeballs.

Bro. Gilbert asked us to speak on how following the Prophet helps us come unto Christ. I would like to suggest today that there is no other way to come unto Christ. In particular, I think the two most critical things we can do in coming to Christ are to listen, truly listen to the Prophet’s voice, and to serve as directed by the priesthood over which the Prophet presides.
To illustrate the importance of the first point, of listening to the Prophet’s voice, I would like to begin with a familiar scripture.

John, Chapter 10:
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

Here, the Savior teaches that we need to know his voice personally, so that we can follow him where he leads, and avoid being led away by those that are false shepherds. In the context of our topic today, I suggest that in order to come unto Christ, we need master the skill of hearing and recognizing his voice, and following it to where he will be.
So how do we become familiar with the Savior’s voice? Would you recognize it if you heard it? What does it sound like?

The Savior himself has suggested a way for us to know exactly how his voice sounds. Speaking as the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Savior told the Prophet Jeremiah:

5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee, that shalt thou speak.

9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.

So the Lord is clear that prophets speak his words, that he literally puts his words into their mouths. He again emphasized this strong identity between his words and the words of his prophets at the beginning of this dispensation. The very first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 38, declares: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” We know, of course, from Amos 3:7 that his servants are “the prophets.” To this I would add that if you think about the Temple Ceremony, it teaches very clearly about how Christ communicates through his apostles and prophets, and reinforces the strong identity between the words of the prophets and the words of the Savior.

In short, there is no better way to know the timber and pitch and cadence of the Savior’s voice than to listen to his Prophet, for those words are the Savior’s words. By just listening intently to the Prophet, we can learn to recognize the Savior’s voice, and follow it at critical times in our life. I think sometimes we may take for granted, or maybe just not realize, how lucky we are to be able to hear a true prophet, and how much listening to him can really teach us to recognize the voice of the Savior. I had a stark reminder of this just the day before yesterday.

Driving home from work, I was listening to NPR, and they were talking about Mitt Romney and how his religion is proving to be a real issue for him in the Republican Party. During the story, they played a piece of a sermon given by some prominent minister from one of those mega-churches in Texas. In the snippet he said: “Whatever Mormons are, they are certainly not Christians. They are a cult!”

His tone was filled with anger, and fear, and venom. It had nothing of the peace, the hope, the quiet confidence, and the true love that comes through every time the Prophet speaks. I was saddened to think that the people in that Texas congregation could not hear the harshness in that voice, or discern the nature of the spirit it brought. As I thought about that, I recognized so clearly that President Hinckley truly speaks with the Savior’s voice. Because of him, I know what my Savior sounds like, I know the spirit that his voice brings. I know which voice to follow. How grateful I am for that knowledge. I pray I will never take for granted the opportunity to hear a prophet speak. It is a gift most precious to those who are trying to find Christ in this crazy world.

My second point is that a critical aspect of coming unto Christ is to serve as directed by our priesthood leaders. Not just the Prophet, but all those who are called under his authority, and particularly our local leaders. I have the firmest of testimonies that following those leaders really gives us special opportunities to learn of Christ and come unto him. I’d like to relate some personal experiences from our time in California to illustrate this point.

Just over a year ago was one of the most stressful times in my life. I had been privileged to serve as Bishop of the San Rafael II Ward, but had really come to a point where I was so tired. I was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I had run faster than I had strength, and I didn’t want to do another thing.

Well, at just that low moment, President Wasden, a member of our Stake Presidency, told me he had been impressed that I should speak in Stake Conference, which was just two weeks away. Now don’t get me wrong, that is not the hugest of burdens to place on a person. It’s just that I was so tired I really didn’t think I could do one more thing. I had every intention of saying no when I opened my mouth. But for some reason I didn’t. I said I’d be happy to.

He said, great, the theme is Matthew 11:28-30, which reads:
28 ¶ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

This was one of my favorite scriptures, and seemed to promise that if I would just take another small step in the yoke, as encouraged by my Priesthood leader, that everything would be o.k.

Brothers and Sisters, that little step made all the difference for me. The following week, I sat down to watch General Conference. Up stood Dallin Oaks, first speaker of the conference, and the very first words out of his mouth were “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” As he said those words, it was like a spiritual floodgate just opened in my heart. There I was, in my living room, having what was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. I can’t really describe or explain this. I’m sure that no one else sitting in the room was having the same experience. But I knew that this was the church of Jesus Christ, and that he guides it. This experience was so profound that it was almost like I didn’t even have a testimony before.

Suddenly, it seemed as if every talk in conference was for me. There was Elder Ballard telling me that it is about people not programs, just love the people. You can’t get it all done, there is always more, do what you can. And there was Elder Holland, testifying that no matter my shortcomings, the Savior reaches out his arm all the day long after me. And so it continued. There in my living room, surrounded by clutter and playing children, I had one of the most treasured spiritual experiences I will ever have in my life. I received such a testimony of the church, of all of it, so much more complete and full and vibrant than it has ever been before. And then at priesthood meeting, when President Hinckley challenged us to “Rise Up!” I was thrilled, because I heard the voice not of a man, but of a Prophet of God. And I knew it. I knew it for my own self, and from no other. That is a witness that I will never forget.

That experience would not have been possible If I had not been following my priesthood leaders, and doing my best to serve as they asked me to. It was an experience that drew me closer to the Savior than I have ever been. I cannot even imagine what my life would be like without that experience.

Brothers and Sisters, I bear testimony that we need to listen to the Prophet’s voice, and to serve diligently as directed by our priesthood leaders. The blessings of doing so are beyond price, and will help you come unto Christ.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Up on a Roof

We have been so busy getting settled and into new routines that we hardly have time to do anything fun or of real importance these days, but somehow, we always manage to pause for our Bountiful sunsets. Hawaii notwithstanding, it is pretty tough to beat them. These were taken from our roof. Hopefully you can see why we make the time.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Oh Canada!

This past week I was in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada to assist local counsel in a land use trial. The city has about 100,000 residents, and is located on the Northwestern edge of Lake Superior, just north and west of Isle Royal National Park. The town began as a major trading post for fur trapping companies in the early 1800s, and soon became a port for Canada's other major exports -- timber and grain, shipped by rail from the vast middle of the country to this industrial town. The city itself is old and feels like a small Buffalo. Its outstanding feature is a series of huge grain elevators along the length of its shore line.

However, Thunder Bay (the actual bay for which the town is named) looks like this:

The pictures are taken from a lookout in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which lies just north and east of the City on a Peninsula jutting out into Lake Superior. Trial ended early on Thursday, and even though it had been raining, I drove out to the park rather than give in to my exhaustion. I found myself sitting on a cliff, surrounded by the colors of fall, watching the sun set. It did not suck.

Take a look at that last photo up close. Who would know that those grain elevators at the beginning of this post could be part of such a beautiful scene? Goes to show that with photography, as in life, it all depends on your perspective and on the quality of the light you have.